Genetically Engineered Society Essay, Research Paper
Imagine a world where only the genetically elite could get jobs. People who couldn t afford the gene-therapy would be left by the wayside. Why hire someone who s imperfect when there are thousands of genetically perfect people to chose from? These genetic alterations could be defined as anything that allows a parent to make a cosmetic decision about their unborn child. For example, genetic-tinkering would include any genetic alterations of intelligence; physical traits such as strength, speed, agility, balance, dexterity; and immunity to recoverable illnesses such as the flu or the common cold. It s the ultimate shopping experience: designing your baby, says biotechnology critic Jeremy Rifkin. In a society used to cosmetic surgery and psychopharmacology, this is not a big step. These genetic alterations would be unfair in many ways. There s a good possibility that only the rich could afford it, that it could cause problems with jobs and health insurance companies, and it may cause problems for children at school. This could be our future, unless we support laws to ban genetic-tinkering before it catches on.
This technology would be a huge breakthrough for parents who carry the genes for cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson s disease, just to name a few. If they could have children without the worry that their children would either be born with the disease or develop the disease later in life, their lives and their children lives would be much improved. Eventually, all the genetic deadly diseases would have a cure . Perhaps the fetus could be screened for any non-recoverable diseases in the womb, and if any were detected then the doctor would apply gene therapy techniques to fix the unborn child. However, the genetic alteration of sicknesses needs to stop at the curing of deadly diseases. All illnesses that we already have a vaccine for, or that are recoverable and treatable need not be genetically altered. If this were to happen, it could possibly have adverse effects on insurance and the job market.
Insurance companies may charge higher premiums to applicants that aren t genetically immune to sickness. That s if they can get coverage at all.
Genetically enhanced immunity to common illnesses could affect the job market in that it may be more difficult to get a good job. Why would an employer hire someone that is likely to get sick, when they have a genetically engineered applicant who is immune to all sickness? The un-enhanced workers may be forced to take on lower level positions, jobs that no body else wants. The same would probably happen if intelligence were altered as well. More intelligent people could potentially be more qualified applicants. That would leave the applicants that weren t genetically enhanced at a severe disadvantage. The effects of this may be seen in a slight shifting of wealth, due to genetically enhanced workers getting the better paying jobs. They would be more successful financially and would most likely be the only people that could afford to enhance their children.
If the technology was so expensive that only the wealthy could afford it, then it s possible that this technology could create a sort of new social class of the genetically elite. It is a tendency among mankind that intelligent people become attracted to other intelligent people, thus potentially producing even more intelligent offspring. Intelligent people are more likely to work in the better paying professions. If wealthy couples are given the chance to produce beautiful, intelligent, immune children, they will most likely jump at the chance and be willing to pay however much money is needed to do so. Parents with the resources will feel pressured to make sure that their children have the right genetic stuff . says Philip Kitcher, philosopher of Columbia University. If the pattern continues as predicted, the intelligent attracted to the intelligent who thus produce more intelligence, it may be that people would almost be discouraged from marrying someone not on the same level. This would produce two very distinct and different social classes. In essence, it could create a sort of master race and a subservient multitude.
And what kind of parents would you be if you couldn t scrape together enough money to perform the enhancements? Mostly all the other parents in your neighborhood put a second mortgage on their house to get their child all the advantages they could afford. Will your child blame you when they re sick in bed while all they re friends play outside, or as they struggle with a math problem all the other kids in the class got right on the first try? These are all problems that we need to think about so that we can make sure that this is a reality that we never experience.
Another problem is that genetic engineering could have unknown side effects that may only manifest themselves many generations down the line. Dr. W. French Anderson, professor of biochemistry and pediatrics at the USC Keck School of Medicine stated that Engineering the human germ line would result in permanent changes in the gene pool. What happens when women start giving birth to malformed and mutated children? Might we ultimately engineer ourselves to the point where we are no longer human beings? (Anderson)
Some people say that we shouldn t prevent the evolution of the human race. If we can make better people, then we should do so. But if we were to genetically alter unborn children to be better people they we would be undeniable supporting Adolph Hitler s ideas for the perfect race of people. All it would take is one person to decide that all un-enhanced people are germs in society and there could be another Holocaust. You may think that this would never happen in the United States. But, as Anderson says We as a society have yet to end discrimination, including its most virulent expression, ethnic cleansing. It has already happened once before in the 1920s.
A little less than a century ago, socialist reformers were working on the idea of eugenics . They wanted to refine the human race by selective breeding. They were disturbed with the fact that human beings were failing to reproduce from the best specimens and were actually permitting the worst of us to have the most children. In 1910 Theodore Roosevelt said Some day, we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty of the good citizen of the right type is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world. During the same year, Winston Churchill worked for compulsory sterilization of the mentally handicapped: I feel that the source from which the stream of madness is fed should be cut off and sealed up before another year has passed.
Britain never did pass a law such as that, but in America the states were beginning to pass laws that allowed mandatory sterilization. These laws were fought against but the Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated that Three generations of imbeciles are enough!
The government then conducted a series of tests on people that lived in specific areas of the country or in hospitals for the mentally handicapped. The people whom the government decided were not intelligent enough to reproduce, were forcibly sterilized. The United States Government funded the compulsory sterilizations of over 100,000 people. Many of these people didn t know what the surgery was for. This action of the government was later wholeheartedly supported by the Nazi regime.
And now, we are once again practicing a form of eugenics. We abort fetuses that would be born with Down syndrome or inherited disorders. In New York, Ashkenazai Jews who carry the Tay-Sachs mutation can avoid marrying each other through blood testing organized by the Committee for the Prevention of Jewish Genetic Disease. (Ridley)
Who s to say that the government won t one day decide to force mandatory sterilization on those people who aren t genetically enhanced?
Kitcher says, When talking about how to groom human beings from the womb on, something has gone awfully wrong in our society. Part of the solution lies in legislation but part lies in modifying the culture of the affluent society. In the American culture where everything matters, from appearance to financial security, I think we are at a higher risk to be tempted to use every scrap of technology we have available. Used carefully, [genetic engineering] will increase health and human happiness. But if used unwisely, the genetic engineering of human beings could endanger everything we value including who and what we are. says Anderson. Genetic engineering will no doubt improve the lives of many human beings, but at what cost? We need to start considering the implications that a genetically enhanced society may bring upon us now, before the technology is available. Only in this way will we be prepared to better our society and not destroy it.