Science versus Nature

by Taylorcl on September 12, 2016 - 11:20pm

Science versus Nature

            Science continues to vigorously advance and evolve at a rapid pace, sometimes much faster than the pace of social acceptance. In the case of genetic engineering, the scientific world has reached a turning point in which the role of ethics has become crucial and increasingly relevant. The recent advancements in the possibility of permanently altering human genomes are not shy of disagreements and contradicting views in the scientific world, but also socially. Science has long held the power to cause drastic social and cultural changes; the recent findings can do exactly so and require deep consideration and discussion.

            Genetic engineering is the process of editing parts of the genome “by cutting out, replacing or adding parts to the DNA sequence” (What is CRISPR-CAS9?). Genetic engineering in the germline would permanently change the gene that will be passed on through generations. It is currently illegal to modify any human genomes. However, in many countries the law allows for scientists and researchers to keep human embryos alive for thirteen-days. It is only recently that researchers have advanced their understanding and technology enough to be able to keep the human embryos alive in laboratories during the permitted period. Technology in this field has reached a point where the next step is applying the technique and making modifications on the human genome. Researchers are also questioning whether the thirteen-day period should be extended to twenty-three days, which is a day before a heartbeat can be heard. This would allow researches to further their understanding of how the human system works.

            The pursuing of genetic engineering would allow for the advancement of treating and eliminating life-threating diseases on human embryos and humans. The most compelling aspect of gene therapy is that it allows you to target and permanently alter certain genes. The advantage is that it could be possible to eliminate genes for hereditary diseases and eliminate certain diseases before a child is born. Essentially, it would be possible to treat and eliminate certain diseases such as cancer, Huntington’s, HIV aids and many more detrimental diseases. There is no denying the possible benefits to advancing research in this field of technology and that is beneficial to improving human health. One moral principle associated with this technology is that human life is fundamentally valuable. Another is always acting for the greater good, meaning advancement in genetic engineering should be applied when discovered. Many researchers in medicine and scientists have values that would promote the research of genetic engineering, such as the importance of saving lives, helping those suffering and innovation to ensure better health for the population. These are all valid and well-founded reasons to encourage this field of research.

            There are several values at conflict when assessing the possibility of furthering research and legalizing human genetic engineering. There is a clear division between the possible benefits and consequences to the advancement of this technology. The biggest concern is that there is no way to predict the consequences of permanently altering genes to the next generations. There is also a chance of creating mutations during the process where the consequences are greatly unknown. Furthermore, if the law were to change, researchers could keep embryos alive for up to twenty-three days. It is arguable that although the embryo is in the early stages, it is also considered a life and is therefore equally valuable. For some, the longer an embryo is allowed to progress, the more it ceases to be an embryo and approaches human life. This human life has no power to give its consent.  This would raise an ethical issue regarding the moral principle that people should not be used as means to an end. The process of altering certain characteristics goes against the natural process of nature. This same technology could potentially be used to enhance certain characteristics such as IQ, or certain physical characteristics, which could possibly create inequalities in our society for people who could afford this technology.

Values and moral principles can be found supporting genetic engineering as well as going against it. Evaluating which values are more significant is problematic since it is subjective to personal values and beliefs. In my opinion, pursuing research in genetic engineering is for the greater good. I do encourage the development of genetic engineering for the use of creating treatments for diseases. There is no harm in pushing the research and learning all the potential this technology may have. However, I do think that values such as order are extremely relevant to this topic. Researchers must follow thoroughly the guidelines, restrictions and laws imposed by the government. The laws put in place are essential to controlling the use of genetic engineering and ensuring it does not cross any ethical boundaries. How far would you allow the pursuit of genetic engineering?





You wrote a very interesting post. Yes, science has been developing for many years now and it has already arrived at a point where we question about whether it is morally right or wrong to alter human genomes using genetic engineering. I can also add one moral principle to the counter side of your argument : You should not interfere with life. As you said, there is no way to predict the consequences of future generations if genetic engineering is legalized. People are afraid of the unknown. We don't know, maybe using this technology can enhance our life to the greater good, but it may also do harm or even modify human traits. If genetic engineering ought to be legalized, we must take precautions because we are dealing with life. However, I also believe that the greater good is important to this issue. Therefore, I agree with your opinion that we should consider accepting genetic engineering because it may help treat diseases or solve problems that we presently can't, but like I said, we must be careful. If we already tried to genetically modify plants and food using current technology, why not also change human life and see what future it may bring?