It was a unanimous decision. Whatever their religious backgrounds, they were all united. The Supreme Court ruled that Myriad Genetics cannot copyright a human gene. “A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court. But what did the supremes mean by a product of nature? Is nature a company like Apple that designs products, or a manufacturing facility like Ford that produces output, or an owner like Warren Buffet who rules over entire companies?
To say that genes are a product of nature, to me, assumes some kind of output. Maybe nature is a massive machine on a cosmic scale? Then human genes are one of the products of that machine? Apple seems to have required Steve Jobs to put out new products. Once the genius was gone, the company has stumbled and the inventions are no longer so amazing. Yet nature puts out products that cannot even be compared in their beauty and complexity day after day and year after year without end. Where does the genius come from? The supremes didn’t say. All they said was that human genes are a product of nature.
And why should nature supersede Myriad? Whatever we call nature, is it a higher ownership than Myriad? Do I own my genes? I didn’t have anything to do with them; I don’t even know what they look like. Does the human race collectively own my genes? But nobody else had any more to do with my genes than I did. Does the universe own my genes? If so, then to whom in particular do we award the patent for my body?
Bruce Meyer writes about the relationship between the physical universe and the pursuit of spirituality.
Actually, I am glad to know that the University of Michigan no longer owns a piece of my son. The held the patent on the NF-1 Gene. The ruling was that no one owns what is in nature. If I create a synthetic gene such like Craig Venter and his team are doing (biofuel making microbes) then he owns them. But the gene that is causing my son’s condition, no one can own it.
That’s great that no one can own the NF-1 genes! It’s great it was a unanimous decision.