Legitimacy of Genetic Engineering
In recent years advancements in technology have been rapidly increasing. With the advent of the computer age new concepts and possibilities have become feasible. The practice of genetic engineering is one of these technologies that has been the cause of heated controversy. Moral and scientific issues have arisen in the debate, some valid and some well off base.
Brownlee, Cook, and Hardigg s article Tinkering with Destiny , Lee Silve s The Virtual Child , and Virginia Postrel s Fatalist Attraction: The Dubious Case Against Fooling Mother Nature each present different issues that call for examination. The emphasis in Tinkering with Destiny is placed on the ability of genetic engineering to control disease. Nobody really wants to produce a child with life shortening diseases such as cancer and heart disease when given a choice. Today s technology enables scientists to pick out various portions of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that result in traits such as disease. Aspiring parents wishing to have a child that will live a healthy life is a valid argument in favor of genetic engineering.
A similar argument arises from The Virtual Child . The complete control of physical and mental characteristics is also possible through genetic engineering. One of the problems spouting from this is elitism. If parents were allowed to chose which traits their children have then it is probable that
they would chose perfect children. While nobody is truly perfect, the genetically altered offspring would be considered the elite. Discrimination would most likely result because people not genetically altered would be considered inferior. This would mean most parents would not want to have their child be so harshly treated and will turn to genetic engineering to perfect their child. If the preceding situations became reality another problem would be forthcoming, lack of diversity. With a lack of diversity in society life would most likely turn drab. This would also become a cause of decline in scientific advancements because people are needed who think differently in order to be truly creative. Some of the greatest minds in history, such as Einstein, Edison, and Ben Franklin would have never been born if people selected children as described above. These issues brought up by Silve are very valid; they would affect almost all aspects of life as we know it.
While ethical issues are widely discussed in the articles aforementioned purely scientific reasons for practicing genetic engineering must be also be evaluated. Postrel s article addresses the issue of genetics as being a science that may need to be aloof from ethics and control by the government. Some scientists believe that scientific research should be done for the sake of advancement in science itself. They do not necessarily intend to undermine the works of mother nature but instead just to explore possibilities. This is a valid issue because people question whether or not nature should be our standard of value. Nature, after all, can be a breeding ground of suffering.
As ethicists and scientists observe the issues involved in genetic engineering more discoveries in the field occur almost daily. Can humans survive in an increasingly demanding world without some advantage produced by genetic engineering? That is just one more question to add to the ongoing debate that would change the fate of the world.