Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Nobody's Perfect

Fifty years ago genetic engineering was merely an idea present in science fiction movies or novels. However, with the scientific advancements, we have today, genetic engineering could soon be a reality. Is this a positive reality for our culture? Does the good outweigh the bad? In my opinion, this advancement can yield positive results, however, it can be quickly taken advantage of.

                The Human Genome was completed in 2003. This opened doors for geneticists that we could only dream of in previous years. One of these dreams was the ability to alter, or correct, genes in humans. This idea can be made possible by CRISPR CAS9. CRISPR provides the ability to target the mutated, or unwanted, gene and introduce a new gene. CAS9 provides the ability to cut out the unwanted portion of DNA which allows the new base pairs to replace the removed segment.

            At first thought, genetic engineering may seem ideal. One may imagine a perfect world, where all the inhabiting humans are genetically perfect. Imagine the discoveries that could be uncovered when everyone has an impressive IQ. Imagine the inventions that could be introduced. Imagine how advanced our athletes would be. Although all this sounds great, what are the costs? Are we losing our sense of humanity by tampering with this process and creating “perfect” humans?

                Earlier in the semester we were asked the question: If you knew your happiness, athleticism, height, or some other distinctive personal trait had been selected for you by your parents, would you consider yourself any less free than if you had simply inherited those qualities in the "genetic lottery"? I would consider myself less free. For example, my distinctive personal trait is my speed. I have loved to run for the majority of my life; I ran track for six years and cross country for three years. This is something that I consider part of my personal identity; knowing that I was good at it because that is what my parents selected for me before I was born, and not my years of hard work and dedication would be devastating. Our strengths and weaknesses define us. Special or unique traits about each individual would lose value because one’s destiny would be selected for them before they can think for themselves.

                Michael Sandel made a worthy point in his book, The Case against Perfection. In the early years of genetic enhancement, some people will agree and be first in line, and others will not. Sandel uses height as an example, “as some become taller, others will become shorter relative to the norm…As the unenhanced begin to feel shorter, they too might seek treatment, leading to a hormonal arms race that will leave everyone worse off, especially those who cannot afford to buy their way up from shortness.” Parents will feel obligated to genetically enhance, or design, their children so they will have a chance to be great, or simply to compete with others. Another example of this is in the film, GATTACA. This is a science fiction film set in a future where designer babies are the norm. In this film, citizens are required to allow businesses that they are applying to access to their genetic information. If someone is genetically perfect they are more likely to be hired. If someone has a health condition, they are more likely not to get the job. Most genetically imperfect citizens are only hired as janitors. Would we want to live in a society similar to this?

1 comment:

  1. "Would we want to live in a society similar to this?" I would not, nor would I want to live in a "perfect" world that had no tolerance for the normal range of human variety and difference. And yet... I want lab researchers to keep "working on it" until we really understand all the conditions of optimal health. I just don't want the research to run so far ahead of ethical reflection that we lose the chance even to raise these questions.