A Brief Analysis on Modern Genetic Engineering

Updated on August 25, 2017

IMPORTANT: This article discusses several key contemporary pieces which discuss the moral and technological implications of genetic engineering. I highly advise that a reader be exposed to the following before engaging with what I have to say:

I. Dan Brock's "Genetic Engineering"

II. Walter Glannon's "Genetic Enhancement"

III. Jonathan Glover's "What Sort of People Should There be?"

IV. William French Anderson's "Genetics and Human Malleability"

Source

Generally speaking, we should be most eager to provide those genetic therapies which target serious diseases. After all, it is clear we have an innate value for life, and any action that promotes life while its absence hastens death would likely get a societal stamp of approval. Anderson was keen to point this out. And as good medical practice warrants, we should be seeking and providing treatments where the probable benefits do indeed outweigh the probable risks. That’s just good healthcare. Otherwise, Anderson’s argument dances around the idea that genetic enhancements would make us feel dehumanized and unnatural—we would be undermining the “dignity of man” in both a theological and secular manner.

And Glannon too articulates several significant fears. The idea that discrimination may occur, that some attributes and resultantly specific types of people may dominate, and that money will dictate the recipients of the benefits which arise from enhancement are all probable if a system of genetic enhancement is left unchecked. And, of course, what if we make a bodily change so detrimental that we lose our capacity to achieve happiness?

But frankly, similar things were also said of the Manhattan project, particle accelerators, secularism, GMO’s, and ‘unconventional’ sexuality. While genetic engineering is, admittedly, a different kind of beast, and the above worries are indeed legitimate, there is, in my mind, absolutely no way to stop a societal transformer with such high prospects from making its way into the world. People are too curious. If the US bans genetic enhancement, then China will do it. If China bans enhancement, then somebody else will develop the technology. In the last few years—even in the last few months—CRISPR has become a world wide research project. And it may very well lead scientists to discovering a cheap and reliable way to alter both embryonic and adult somatic cells in vivo. Just this last week, scientists in the US (at OHSU, in fact) completed the first genetically engineered embryonic stem cell as a preventative measure of disease. The point should be clear. I don’t think our problem is whether or not to allow genetic engineering, but to rather proceed with substantial, thoughtful, and innovative caution. Because of this, I find Glover’s analysis to be most compelling. Rather than avoid the technology, we should spearhead its development in order to control the manner in which enhancement is controlled and viewed.

As far as the debate about changing what it means to be human, I cannot help but approach this from a purely secular manner. From this, I could easily see how the characterization of human beings would change, though rather than suggest that we become something other than human, we would more likely change the definition of what it means to be human—and we change the understanding of dignity. Within our discussion of involuntary euthanasia for children, we acknowledged that we had to account for the perception of the infant. We could not judge the quality of a genetically defective life by standards of our own otherwise healthy lives. And now we are discussing enhancements, which if we are careful, may very well have an elevated quality by our current standards. Is that not something we should either prefer or, at the very least, choose not to judge, as different standards should continue to go un-compared?

Someone might still argue that the quality of one’s life could be impinged beyond measure—so much so as to live in misery—or that modernity would be plagued by genetic uniformity or gender disproportionalities. Perhaps we could find a way to abstain from gender alterations? Perhaps our genetic enhancements could lead us to overcome whatever societal sexism we currently deal with, and there will be no desire to pursue one sex over the other. Perhaps we will be able to reverse any change that we make with a technology like CRISPR. And perhaps we can keep the technology from being fully privatized, and instead choose to create a “mixed” system of governance over genetic engineering as Glover suggested. It’s obviously an uncertain future, because that is the nature of futures and technologies we are afraid to approach. But to this, I would only further stress the necessity for appropriate early control and adequate investigation. Establish the careful research now to prevent someone from haphazardly offering the technology later.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, soapboxie.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://soapboxie.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)