Writing Project 2: Genetic Engineering and Ethics Grading Criteria Does the paper carry out the assignment?: an analysis of a complex global/communal/cultural issue from multiple points of view? Has the writer presented a clearly defined and SPECIFIC thesis as a guide for how to read the essay? Does the writer present the issue by showing […]
We live in an era where research is very abundant in many places in the world. All kinds of new areas of expertise are being discovered in engineering and medicine. Genetic Engineering is one of the latest discoveries in medicine that could completely change medicine and many aspects of our lives. It could cure many currently incurable illnesses if it goes well. Genetic engineering is altering DNA to change certain properties of the cells that use this DNA sequence to duplicate. There is already a lot of research that has been done on genetic engineering, and some experiments were very successful, while most of them were not. In the end, it is based on trial and error, so it is expected that there will be failing experiments, but the fact that there are experiments that were successful means that we are heading in the right direction. Nonetheless, there is still controversy surrounding this topic, and that’s because of many reasons, mainly morals and ethics. The people’s opinion regarding genetic engineering research generally is that genetic engineering should be endorsed, genetic engineering should be stopped, genetic engineering should be allowed but with restrictions, and the adverse effects of genetic engineering on human civilization.
The first viewpoint is that the government should allow and fund genetic engineering. The premise is that genetic engineering could revolutionize medicine and bring forth different kinds of medicine to cure diseases we couldn’t assuredly cure before, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and genetic diseases. Gregory Stock is a biophysicist, biotech entrepreneur, and author. He received a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins and an MBA from the Harvard Business School and served as director of the Program of Medicine, Technology, and Society at UCLA’s School of Medicine. The main goal is to get people to accept genetic engineering and the change it could bring forth to our society. The benefits of genetic engineering are many, such as being able to possibly lengthen our life spans. This might be done by studying aging processes and somehow changing them in a way that could benefit us more in our livelihood. People think that this might have adverse effects on our society and culture as a whole, but in the end, an extension of the human lifespan will be widely accepted when it arrives, “as William Butler Yeats captured our yearning for immortality eloquently in his poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium,’ when he wrote, ‘Consume my heart away; sick with desire and fastened to a dying animal, it knows not what it is. Gather me into the artifice of eternity.’” (Stock. 2013). Another benefit is that we could use this technology to enhance our lives. According to international polls, 25 to 80% of parents in every country said that they would increase their children’s physical or mental capabilities if they could do it safely, and there is nothing wrong in doing that, as we have been using technology to enhance our lives and ourselves since forever as humans. Stopping when it comes to genetic engineering means that we are denying our past and what we were doing all along.
Here we have the first side of the argument, which is the opinion that is most agreed upon: that we should embrace genetic engineering and support it. The varying benefits that genetic engineering could bring to us are stated in this text, making it unique in trying to convince the reader that we need to accept this technology. This text agrees with the third in that genetic engineering should be allowed and that there are many benefits this technology could bring, but it’s different in that it disagrees there are ethical issues in some technologies, stating that it is a part of evolution, and we will come to accept these things. It similarly disagrees that we should ignore embryonic stem cell and cloning research, as every kind of research is beneficial overall.
In this point, Ron Epstein argues that Genetic Engineering should not be allowed because long-term consequences overshadow the short-term benefits that we will get from genetic engineering, such as the introduction of biological warfare in a wide scope. Epstein is a research professor at the Institute for World Religions in Berkeley, California, and a lecturer in philosophy and religion at San Francisco State University. This problem is very important because genetic engineering could completely change humanity for the worse. In the far future, where everything around you is genetically engineered, what would it feel like to start your life with your parents genetically engineering all of your aspects? Choosing your eye color, height, hair color, skin color, and sex removes aspects they do not like. They might also choose a genetic makeup that is presumed to positively affect your intelligence or manner or even make you a superior clone of one of your parents. Perhaps even design your genes for a particular job in mind, setting your future for you before you are even born and denying your decisions. On top of this, our environment is probably completely different because of the outcome of genetically engineering animals or bacteria, which could introduce new mutating bacteria that we cannot handle. All of this could happen in a future where genetic engineering has become normal in human society. In 1976, George Wald, Nobel Prize-winning biologist, and Harvard professor wrote: “Recombinant DNA technology faces our society with problems unprecedented not only in the history of science but of life on the Earth. It places in human hands the capacity to redesign living organisms, the products of some three billion years of evolution. It presents probably the largest ethical problem that science has ever faced. Our morality up to now has been to go ahead without restriction to learn all that we can about nature. Restructuring nature was not part of the bargain. Going ahead in this direction may be not only unwise but dangerous. Potentially, it could breed new animal and plant diseases, new sources of cancer, novel epidemics.” Epstein concludes: “For all the advantages claimed for genetic engineering, the price seems too high to pay in the overwhelming number of cases. In order to ensure megaprofits for multinational corporations well into the next century, we will have to mortgage the biosphere, seriously compromise life on the planet, and even risk losing what it means to be a human being. Genetic engineering poses serious risks to human health and the environment. It raises serious ethical questions about the right of human beings to alter life on the planet for the benefit and curiosity of a few.”
This text introduces the massive negative changes that genetic engineering could bring to our planet and civilization, stating that the effects could be too severe and are irreversible once done. It is similar to the fourth text in that they both agree genetic engineering could have many detrimental changes, but different in that it focused more on what could happen to our planet and lives in the future if this technology becomes the norm. It also disagrees with the first text to a great degree, stating that these “benefits” will completely change our humanity and planet, most likely for the worse.
The third point is the line between the previous two: genetic engineering research should be allowed, but not in all areas, and with strict restrictions. Richard Hayes is the executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, an organization working to encourage responsible uses and effective societal governance of new human genetic and reproductive technologies. Genetic engineering is a fairly new subject, and that’s why neither the public nor policymakers have had the time to consider what the consequences could be in the face of the benefits that it could bring, which is why we should draw a line from now and point out acceptable and unacceptable uses of genetic engineering from this stage before we begin to research. For example, human cloning and engineering embryos to have the parents’ “perfect child” are areas that definitely have ethical concerns, whilst the genetic engineering of an embryo to remove a debilitating genetic disease is something we should strive for. Another example is stem cell research, which is a sub-topic of genetic engineering research. There are ethical concerns about how most stem cells are obtained through the destruction of a human embryo obtaining embryonic stem cells. Meanwhile, a substitute that has been partially ignored is induced pluripotent stem cells, which are created by taking sample tissue from someone, such as skin cells, and genetically engineering them so that they would behave similarly to embryonic stem cells. Why should we pursue research that raises ethical concerns when we have alternative ways to solve the same issue?
Here, the author agrees that genetic engineering is beneficial but says that some types of genetic engineering should be stopped, as alternatives have been introduced but ignored. This text is unique in that it discusses alternative, less ethically problematic solutions instead of simply stating this technology’s benefits or detriments. It is similar to the first text in that they both agree that we should pursue genetic engineering research, but different in that it does not agree with everything, so a line is drawn. At the same time, it is similar to the second text in that they agree there are many issues regarding genetic engineering, but different in that it doesn’t regard all kinds of genetic engineering as an issue.
In this viewpoint, Mark Lynas talks about what genetic engineering could bring into the fray if it goes wrong, bringing about irreversible changes to humanity. Lynas is an environmental activist and a climate change specialist. He is the author of High Tide: News from a Warming World and Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. The pain of losing a child is severe, but the alternative can be much worse. Lynas says: “When my sister-in-law and her husband lost their first child—a baby just four months old—to cystic fibrosis. Tests soon confirmed that both parents were carriers of the CF gene, so any future baby would have a worrying one-in-four chance of inheriting the condition. But reproductive technology offered a solution: embryos were created through in vitro fertilization, and cells were screened for the disease, after which only CF-free embryos were implanted. The process worked, and Sue and Chris now have two happy and healthy children.” This story shows the positive outcome of technology, but in another true story, the first human embryo bank was launched in Texas, United States. For only 5000 pounds, parents can buy embryos with pre-specified aspects for the child, such as blond hair or brown eyes. “The Abraham Centre of Life boasts that all its sperm donors have doctorate degrees,” says Lynas. This shows that one technology can have both good and bad applications, as the technology that creates atomic bombs can also cure cancer. The problem is when the public does not have sufficient knowledge of the topic; some scientists take advantage of this to push their agendas, obscuring the ethical issues that their research implies. An example of this is when a group of senior scientists was against the creation of human-animal hybrids, suggesting that this could advance research in Alzheimer’s treatment. Lynas says, “this may or may not eventually help people with Alzheimer’s, but the implications of this technology are highly disturbing, even at this early stage.”As the American writer Bill McKibben said, genetic engineering is the greatest micro-scale environmental challenge. Genetics raises anxiety about how it could change human civilization, so if denying the benefits of genetic engineering would stop the worse consequences, Lynas says he will oppose these trends.
This text is different in that it contrasts the benefits and the detriments of genetic engineering and concludes that the negative consequences outweigh the benefits of changing human civilization, and what could happen in our society if this came to pass is terrifying. It is similar to the first text in that it acknowledges that there are benefits to genetic engineering but states that the risks outweigh the benefits, so it is more similar to the second text in that it agrees that we should not accept genetic engineering but focuses more on the moral aspects of the topic, unlike the second texts that focused on changes to our planet and civilization. It is also similar to the third text in that it did not completely agree or disagree with genetic engineering like the first or second texts but focused more on looking at the topic from both sides, ultimately choosing which side the author views as better instead of being in-between like the third text.
Genetic Engineering is a very controversial topic because it’s a relatively new type of science. That’s why opinions are divided a lot; some say genetic engineering should be endorsed; some disagree, saying genetic engineering should be stopped; some say genetic engineering should be allowed but with restrictions, and some say it could have adverse effects on human civilization. These are all opinions on how we should go about a topic that could completely change human society and our lives as we know it, and will probably be a big part of history, which makes our decisions now way more important. All authors debated the many benefits and negative consequences, and each came to their conclusion, endorsing genetic engineering or not, or even being in-between, showing how complicated this issue is. I think this is an issue we should not take lightly, and that’s why the public should know more about it. Researching genetic engineering, putting restrictions, and banning certain technologies like cloning sounds like the best idea. This way, we can obtain the most important benefits of genetic engineering while avoiding technologies that could have detrimental changes to us, our society, and our planet.
Epstein, Ron. “Genetic Engineering Will Not Benefit Society.” Biomedical Ethics, edited by Roman Espejo, Greenhaven Press, 2003. Accessed 28 March 2017.
Hayes, Richard. “New Genetic Engineering Technology Needs to Be Regulated.” Genetic Engineering, edited by Noël Merino, Greenhaven Press, 2013. Opposing Viewpoints. Accessed 28 March 2017.
Lynas, Mark. “We Must Stop Trying to Engineer Nature.” Genetic Engineering, edited by Noël Merino, Greenhaven Press, 2013. Accessed 28 March 2017.
Stock, Gregory. “From Regenerative Medicine to Human Design: What Are We Really Afraid Of?” Designer Babies, edited by Clayton Farris Naff, Greenhaven Press, 2013. Accessed 28 March 2017.
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Published On: 01-01-1970