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I have a story based around DNA manipulation by biological creatures that evolved into what they are today, but can gain abilities by taking the DNA of other creatures.

The story is set in the present with the current technology we have, with the exception of more human-like robots than we are capable of now.

As the story is in the super powers / mythology genre how can I avoid science-based genetic engineering becoming more advanced than my creature's ability?

If the creature's ability gets into the hands of scientists, I can only imagine with our existing success with CRISPR and other work in the field plus all our other technological advances, scientific DNA possibilities would make the creatures almost pointless.

I'm also trying to avoid the creatures having a need to work with scientists to boost their power or help meet their needs.

So how can I give an almost correct view of our current technological abilities at present but almost ignore scientific genetic engineering maybe coupled with robotics or other technologies as they could easily trump my character?

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    $\begingroup$ Almost by definition you can't. CRISPR is itself derived from biological sources; it comes from the bacterial immune system and is how bacteria and archea defend against foreign DNA (i.e. viruses). We're just co-opting it to do what we want. If you're changing DNA, you are, by definition, doing genetic engineering. Whether that "engineering" happens "naturally" or "artificially" is irrelevant, and often those terms are themselves nebulous. $\endgroup$ – stix Oct 2 '19 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ @stix agreed but I just meant I don't want teams of scientists involved in progressing the story $\endgroup$ – Aizen-sama Oct 2 '19 at 17:34
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Even in your world with advanced semi-modern technologies, scientists are baffled.

In your world, just like today, genetic modification exists. But even after experimenting and dissecting these creatures, the way they function remains a mystery. Scientists keep trying - and failing. Maybe one day they will finally understand, but for now the special ability of these creatures simply can't be replicated.


Take a look at today; technology is impressive. And yet, even humans are still being researched, because learning everything about a species is just so complicated. Cancer hasn't been cured. Psychiatrists still struggle with patients. And the world around us continues to evolve, but human-related technologies are evolving much slower.

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    $\begingroup$ nice I like this idea, can easily wave the scientists away for the moment as not being a threat or too necessary other than validating how impressive the creatures ability is during the story. $\endgroup$ – Aizen-sama Oct 2 '19 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ @ragharan Later down the line, you can have the scientists finally figure it out, and that could make your story interesting. The scientists could be bad guys using their new technology for selfish gain, or they could be the saviors that help defeat an even greater threat. $\endgroup$ – overlord Oct 2 '19 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ that is what I wanted to avoid lol but your right and maybe overtime I might find a way of bringing scientists into the story in a way I like. $\endgroup$ – Aizen-sama Oct 2 '19 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ @ragharan Of course, whether or not you want the scientists to figure it out some day is entirely up to you! It's your story :) $\endgroup$ – overlord Oct 2 '19 at 18:12
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The best way to defeat scientific inquiry is with more science.

If your creatures are themselves the product of genetic engineering by a long dead genius who took most of his secrets to the grave, then its genetic code could be both encrypted and artfully designed, with subtle interactions between apparently unrelated genes producing unexpected effects.

Imagine Thomas Edison trying to figure out a microprocessor. He'd probably apply too much juice causing it to burn out, then declare that the purpose of the microprocessor was to turn electricity into heat. If the gap between your current day geneticists and the long dead genius was similarly wide, then the secrets behind your creatures abilities might remain hidden for centuries.

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  • $\begingroup$ interesting idea but I did want the creatures to evolve to what they are. $\endgroup$ – Aizen-sama Oct 2 '19 at 17:39
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Tardigrades and DNA Absorption

Nasty little creatures called Tardigrades with almost a sixth of their dna being foreign - that is, from both animal and bacteria genes. One theory is they "absorbed" these genes while in a type of "suspended animation" (these guys can survive in dead space for a short time).

As such, there's a real-world example of a creature which can "steal" genes from both plants and animals. I don't think it's too far fetched to believe a sentient creature could also perform such a function.

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  • $\begingroup$ oh nice, I didn't know Tardigrades could do this with genes, very interesting, thank you this can really help with my story. $\endgroup$ – Aizen-sama Oct 2 '19 at 21:39
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Magic

As discussed ad nauseum on Worldbuilding, shapeshifting is impossibly energetically expensive, and real-time rewriting of DNA doesn't result in the immediate acquisition of abilities. So if your creature can, by sampling another creature's DNA, gain some of its abilities, that's not based on science.

So if the creatures evolved to have a species-wide ability to exercise the magical Law of Sympathy to borrow another creature's traits by sampling its DNA, that's not something that science can duplicate, because it's not something that's science at all!

Scientists can then be baffled indefinitely, because under the existing laws of nature, the creature's ability is literally inexplicable. Eventually, someone might codify and make a science out of magic, but if this critter is one of the few things that can manipulate it, that'd be a long, long time coming.

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  • $\begingroup$ it is science to some degree as it is based on my previus question about a conscious virus colony , the closest I will get to magic may be the Asian chakra thing which could be scientifically blagged off as energy and hormones. $\endgroup$ – Aizen-sama Oct 2 '19 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ @ragharan - I understand that you want it to be science, but unless you want to wait six months to a year for minor physiological changes and a generation for major ones, magic is your only option. (Also, I'd note that all the answers to your conscious virus colony effectively say "magic" as well, so what's one more magic ability?) $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Oct 2 '19 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ fair point, I guess I associate spells with magic, as you reminded me I just accepted the answer I preferred which was hypothetical quantum physics answer, good point on the energy and time scales for changing the physique but its my fault for not clarifying that the creature has existed for millions of years and doesn't instantly use stolen abilities the information is taken and processed over time for it to understand what is creating it and then make the organs nd other biological processes $\endgroup$ – Aizen-sama Oct 2 '19 at 18:34

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