Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Genetic Enhancement

Almost everyone has probably heard of this move before, but if you haven't, it's an interesting one to watch some time and is very relevant to this topic: Gattaca. It grapples with the question of how genetic engineering will affect daily life, and follows a man who is born without genetic enhancement living in a society rife with it.

Genetic engineering may be possible far off in the future, but I'm not sure if it should be pursued for humans.  It is done in many crop species already.  One problem with those plants is that they are nearly identical in genetic code, which leads to them being susceptible to disease.  If large swaths of people decided to get muscle, memory, and height enhancements, they could open themselves to the same types of vulnerabilities.  Another problem is that genes interact in myriad and sometimes confounding ways.  They may be simple to control in model organisms, but a recent study on the human genome found that over 400 genes contribute to height in some way.  To attempt to change those genes could be to sacrifice many people in the attempt of progress, since one single change in genetic code can mean the difference between life and death; how many would have to suffer to find the right combination of over 400 genes so a person could be slightly taller? It may be possible one day, but I certainly won't be signing up for any genetic engineering trials. 

1 comment:

  1. In the “Mastery and Gift” chapter of his Case Against Perfection, Michael Sandel says
    "A Gattaca-like world, in which parents became accustomed to specifying the sex and genetic traits of their children, would be a world inhospitable to the unbidden, a gated community writ large."
    "The awareness that our talents and abilities are not wholly our own doing restrains our tendency toward hubris. If bio-engineering made the myth of the “self-made man” come true, it would be difficult to view our talents as gifts for which we are indebted rather than as achievements for which we are responsible."

    When “choice, not chance” becomes our way, we’ll slip into an attitude of contempt for others and excessive regard for ourselves. Prometheus Ascendant will harden our hearts, and shrink them to grinch-size. We’ll be left with “nothing to affirm or behold outside our own will.”

    Continues at Up@dawn