08 September, 2017

The Other Side of Genetic Engineering

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For the last two centuries, the humanity has been experiencing incessant scientific explorations and inventions that have been changing our life enormously. Most of them were welcomed as they seemed to make our life better, except, of course, the weapons of mass destruction. However, there is one discovery that frightens us a lot even though it has many advantages; we learned how to change the DNA of a human. Now we are standing on the verge of being able to improve the health, intelligence, and skills of offspring in a stage of the embryo but are still having questions. Is it right or wrong? Does it have negative ramifications? What should we do with this? In “Designer Genes” Bill McKibben tries to answer these questions and raises new issues.

McKibben writes that gene engineering would be good in eliminating serious illnesses, but as we start using it, it will be difficult not to succumb to the temptation, and if we think that we can change gene however we want, then we should consider all possible negative consequences. Gene race will never stop having been renewed year by year as iPhones and Galaxies. This would alter the responsibility and attitude towards our children. Therefore, the author inquires, “What if you had a second child five years after the first, and by that time the upgrades were undeniably improved: How would you feel about the first kid? How would he feel about his new brother, the latest model?” Moreover, today, if a child could not behave and conduct in a way that parents want we can say that it is his nature. But in the upcoming new era, he or she will be a defective product.

All of these are perfectly illustrated in Gattaca, an American science fiction movie, where we can see gene discrimination in action. Vincent Freeman, a protagonist, was born with nearsightedness and predicted to die within thirty years because of heart failure. Few years after his parents decide to conceive a new baby but this time with genetic selection. When his little brother Anton is born Vincent immediately becomes a castaway as his newborn sibling outclasses him in almost everything. In Gattaca world, everyone who was conceived in a natural way is subjected to do a menial job and treated condescendingly. From this point, both in the article and in the movie we can see a violation of categorical imperative which invokes to treat humanity as an end and never merely as a means.

Genetic modification has also involved three more ethical systems. First, its supporters may refer to natural law ethics by saying that it is natural for the humanity to improve itself in terms of heartiness, physical appearance, intellect and academic prowess. Second, in most religions, in-vitro fertilization is against nature and the God’s will. Those religions acknowledge only traditional way of making offspring and according to them any other way of conceiving is the infringement of divine command. Third, in terms of food production, genetic selection allows increasing the productivity of vegetables and fruit as well as domesticated meat animals for several times. As long as it serves to feed billions of people we can justify the use of gene alteration under the utilitarianism ethics.

Are we our bodies?

The body is essential in our existence as it affects our life, profession, and career, the people whom we choose and who choose us. If Michael Phelps, a famous American swimmer, did not have his body, he almost certainly would not have won 23 Olympic gold medals or probably would not have become swimmer at all. Most of successful actors and actresses, fashion models, sportsmen, and sportswomen made their career because they had the right physical appearance. Some people may succeed in their life only because they are conventionally beautiful or handsome. However, it does not entirely define who we are. In long term relationship, we start to pay attention to completely different features a person such as kindness, reliability, and honesty. When we think of our best friends, teachers and colleagues or family members our recollection comes from their characters, not from their beauty or health. Consequently, when we meet new people, no matter are they old or disabled, we should always bear in mind that they might be as good as those whom we love and respect.

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