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Genetic Engineering (1781 words)

Genetic Engineering
The world of science has experienced many profound breakthroughs and advances in
the twentieth century, but none perhaps as great as that of genetic engineering.

However, the twentieth century society is not prepared or even willing at times
to accept the moral and ethical controversies genetic engineering is creating.

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Genetic engineering, defined as “the use or manipulation of an individuals
genetic material in order to produce desired characteristics or results in the
same individual, other individuals of the same species, or other species,” is
undoubtedly changing society’s relationship with nature, medicine, and perhaps
its own cultural values (Thro 69). It has been predicted for the year 2020,
“people will have new definitions of health and illness” (Oleksy 108). The
completion of genome mapping will allow a health plan for each person,
preventing genetic disease and promoting a better life (Oleksy 108). However,
genetic engineering, also called gene splicing or gene cloning, is not being
welcomed with open arms. It affects the moral values of human beings, as well as
other living things. The competing goods in genetic engineering, i.e. creating a
stronger, more advanced human race vs. a natural selective process created by
God, are virtually impossible to avoid and have placed a temporary hold one the
progress of this new technology and society’s moral view. Our society must be
persuaded that genetic engineering is of great value in order to become an
accepted social practice. This is something that society obviously lacks the
conviction for thus far, making genetic engineering an object of continued
scientific, as well as philosophical study. 1 Throughout history, science has
allowed for advances in production, transportation, and even entertainment.

Although, never in history has science been able to so deeply affect our lives
as genetic engineering is undoubtedly doing and will continue to do in the not
so distant future. Genetic engineering can help us create a stronger and more
advanced human race by increasing food production, revolutionize new medicines,
even enhance human intelligence, physical beauty and strength. Diseases could
become weakened and cleaned out of humans’ genetic makeup. For example, if one
parent had a bad gene or some type of hereditary disease, it could be removed
from the embryo and replace with another “clean” gene. This process is
called embryo screening (Oleksy 48). Embryo screening is used to determine if an
embryo has received a defective gene. Several embryos could be genetically
cloned, the DNA from one of the embryos could then be removed and standard
genetic testing would be used to detect whether or not that embryo contained the
genetic disease. If this cloned embryo contained a disease, then one of the
other embryos could be used for implantation in a parent, thus, guaranteeing
that the child would be free of genetic disease (Oleksy 49). This process would
certainly be beneficial for couples who are infertile and want to have children.

Genetic engineering would enable the couple to produce a baby with their
characteristics. In fact, they would be able to pick and choose the
characteristics of their unborn child. Another benefit of genetic engineering,
is the possibility of cloning body organs. This process would prove to be very
beneficial to people who have lost a body organ such as a kidney. Scientists
could clone a particular organ of an individual. This process could have the
potential to work better than a transplanted organ, because the genetic makeup
of that individual would be used in the re-creation of the organ. 2 Not only
does genetic engineering present the possibilities of saving lives; it can save
entire species from extinction. Genetic engineering could be used to increase
the population of endangered species of animals, thus saving them from total
extinction. This would help maintain a natural balance, and provide a continuous
life cycle. Even though there is the belief by some that genetic engineering is
overall beneficial, many suggest that genetic engineering is unnatural and not
ethically correct. Also, we know too little about this technology to understand
the long-term effects of replacing old genes with new ones. Genetic engineering
is triggering an ethical emergency within society, and causing this new science
to be cast in a dim light. Anti-technologists, political extremists, as well as
numerous individuals of society believe that genetic engineering is not natural
and defies the order of things. There are many religious groups that feel
genetic engineering should not be considered for any reason whatsoever. Rev.

Robert A. Martin states: “It appears that from the beginning, God reserved for
Himself the right to create living souls” (Epstein 2). Others claim that many
of the ethical issues being raised about genetic engineering are based in
theology, the concern for preserving human dignity and individual freedom. This
somehow parallels to the issue of abortion and whether or not it is morally
right. Religion is the root of many individual personal values and beliefs about
social matters such as genetic engineering and abortion. Many also believe that
genetic engineering will cause unseen disasters because once we decide to begin
the process of human genetic engineering, there will be no logical place to stop
and there will be no turning back. If diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and cancer
are to be cured by altering human genes, why not proceed to other”disorders” such as myopia, color blindness, and left-handedness? It is
possible that scientists will go too far and genetically alter characteristics
that will corrupt society. This scientific 3 information could get into the
hands of the economically or politically powerful and used for ill purposes. For
example, with the use of genetic engineering, individuals could be created for
the sole purpose of fighting war or for creating a perfect society. Already,
there is the possibility of creating new animals to be used as medicine
factories. If we pick and choose the characteristics of our children, we will
become a society of made-to-order humans who have lost forever the great gift of
genetic diversity. A society of eugenics would be created. Eugenics is a theory
that deals with the improvement of hereditary qualities by controlling human
mating (Tagliaferro 71). In other words, eugenicists believe the human race can
be improved by deliberately encouraging people with “superior” traits to
reproduce, while discouraging people with “inferior’ traits from bearing
children (Tagliaferro 71). One very strong view held by society is one that
compares genetic engineering to other technologies, such as chemical pesticides
and nuclear energy, which were welcomed in their early stages. However, they
were later revealed to have dangerous side effects that still threaten society (Tagliaferro
8). I believe that genetic engineering is a part of our natural evolution. Our
ancestors evolved by using their hands and minds, creating language and
civilizations which advanced society. Genetic engineering is what will advance
our society if used ethically in curing diseases, as well as deformities and not
in total re-creation of man or animal. Throughout the centuries disease has
plagued the world, forcing everyone to take part in a virtual “lottery with
the agents of death” (Stableford 59). Diseases and deformities are painful, as
well as useless. Genetic engineering can aid to the evolution of humans by
cleansing our bodies of such ill and in some cases deadly burdens. This
isolation and removing of a desired gene is a process that would have taken
Mother Nature millions of 4 years of natural selection to develop. I agree that
“God created the world with a mathematical structure and He had created the
human mind with the capacity for grasping that structure” (Pearcey, et al 22).

I also understand the view held my many that genetic engineering is unnatural
and not ethically correct, however, so would be taking medicine when sick. For
those who disagree with genetic engineering, I am sure if their child could be
saved from a genetic disease, they would reconsider. Genetic engineering is a
powerful tool that will yield unprecedented results, specifically in the field
of medicine. It will usher in a world where gene defects, bacterial disease, and
even aging are a thing of the past. However, I feel that cloning, as well as
genetic preference in characteristics is essentially the altering God’s sacred
creation. I believe that society fails to “understand fully enough, correctly
enough and makes mistakes. If the atomic bomb revealed original sin, the era of
genetic engineering will reveal it much more” (Epstein 4). It has been said
that science is the study of nature. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, analyzed
all processes of change in categories borrowed from the growth and development
of living organisms. Even prior to modern genetics, it was obvious that the
development of living organisms must be directed by some internal pattern that
ensures that acorns always grow into oaks, not maples, and that chicks always
grow into hens, not horses (Pearcey, et al 60). Aristotle believed that “each
individual has its built-in specific pattern of development and grows toward
proper self-realization as a specimen of its type. Growth, purpose, and
direction are thus built into nature” (Stumpf 95). Therefore, it is my belief
that Aristotle would conclude that genetic engineering is not ethical because it
is not a natural process, it is man made. I further believe that Aristotle would
claim that genetic engineering is immoral, particularly cloning, because it is
not possible 5 to use this process in moderation. Aristotle believed in the”golden mean”, which means that everything in moderation gives life meaning
(Stumpf 101). In contrast, the philosophical view on morality held by Kant was
that morality was regarded as a set of rules which prescribe the means necessary
to the achievement of a given end; its rules must be obeyed without
consideration of consequences that will follow from doing so or not. (Stumpf
315). Kant states that an act is good which is properly motivated; proper
motivation stems from a sense of duty (Stumpf 316). Other motivations for action
are self-interest and inclination, which result in either amoral or immoral
acts. So, according to Kant, genetic engineering would be an act in accordance
with duty because it is the social belief that technology is the means for
finding advanced medical solutions. This social view, in Kant’s terms, is the
universal maxim that applies to all situations. Genetic engineering will promote
world good even though there are consequences. It is not known whether or not
genetic engineering will go beyond the laboratory and affect lives of
individuals, as well as society. However, what is known is that genetic
engineering seems to be very appealing in some aspects and very frightening in
others. This is why genetic engineering will continue to be an object of
scientific and philosophical study for many years to come.

Thro, Ellen, Genetic Engineering: Shaping the Material of Life. New York:
Facts on File, Inc., 1993 Stableford, Brian, Future Man. New York: Crown
Publishers, Inc., 1984 Tagliferro, Linda, Genetic Engineering: Progress or
peril? New York: Lerner Publications Company, 1997 Pearcey, Nancy R. and Charles
B. Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy.

Illinois: Crossway Books, 1994 Stumpf, Samuel Enoch, Philosophy: History &
Problems. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994
(7/30/99) Ron Epstein “Ethical and Spiritual Issues in Genetic Engineering”
AHIMSA discussion forum on March 17, 1998 and published in Ahimsa Voices: a
Quarterly Journal for the Promotion of Universal Values, 5(4), Oct. 1998, pp.

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