Cohabitating in an ever-changing society can be a challenge to all people, some more than others. Within our changing society, we can also be challenged with the idea of new technology to advance our development. With the societal norms causing people to conform to certain standards and the new technology of Genetic Engineering, is it right for people to have the ability to select their child’s traits to live up to a standard? Through an ethical standpoint, it goes against all moral laws of natural selection and the idea of our traits coming from our parents. From a scientific standpoint, it could be the next biggest medical breakthrough to cure the world. This idea of so-called “designer babies” is a very controversial thing in society today and if it becomes a reality there must be many regulations put into place.
Genetic engineering is conscious changing of an organism genetic makeup in order to cause a difference in the outcome of traits. This idea has been used for centuries to create better breeds of dogs, food that looks or tastes better and even makes bacteria that can form certain things we need. This idea is not new, but using it on humans is very new. According to Alex Matthews-King of Independent.co.uk states, “A change is needed as we continue to expand our understanding of the human genome, and which gene instructions affect different diseases and traits. The arrival of precision genetic editing techniques like crispr has made correcting damaged or undesirable genes a real possibility.” CRISPR is a technique that has been studied and found to have the possibility to completely stop the passing of certain genetic diseases to offspring. This possibility could be life-saving to many children who would be born illness free. Along with this, there would be the ability of a longer lifespan in people who had their genes edited before they were born. These ideas are great for our society but as a whole are they really worth the risk?
Gene editing in human-related situations is a slippery slope that could lead to the eradication of society and virtually no genetic differences in the populations. First of all, the idea of changing a human’s genes ethically wrong because it is going to be used to select traits that are superior to others. It is seen as the portrayal of scientists trying to “play God.” All people were created differently for a reason and it would fully eradicate that idea. The idea of conformity, especially to social standards is a significant theme in the book 1984 by George Orwell. One quote really shows to this theme in saying “He obeyed the Party, but he still hated the Party. In the old days he had hidden a heretical mind beneath an appearance of conformity. Now he had retreated a step further: in the mind he had surrendered, but he had hoped to keep the inner heart inviolate.”(3.4.24) The government in 1984 controls all past present and future and with that comes supreme power. The power to punish those who are outcasts or who do not conform with society. The introduction of gene editing could potentially have the power to make these ideas in 1984 become a reality. Along with this, the idea of taking out a certain gene that could carry a disease could be passed onto the offspring of that person and no one knows how that will affect future generations. An article from Conserve Energy Future states, “What if we manage to wipe out one disease only to introduce something brand new and even more dangerous? Additionally, if scientists genetically engineer babies still in the womb, there is a very real and present danger that this could lead to complications, including miscarriage (early on), premature birth or even stillbirth, all of which are unthinkable.” These are just minor risks compared to the loss of entire populations by a significant gene mutation. And with the loss of diseases comes the loss of diversity, natural selection will not be able to work and the world will become overcrowded.
In society what we are told not to do, we do, so there is no stopping the advancement of this new technology. In a similar fashion with the advancement of these new ideas, there must come rules and regulations. I believe that it is only right that editing and changing of human genes must only be limited to the eradication of life-threatening diseases. People have existed on this earth for centuries and the diseases are here for a reason. In this perpetual race very extensive precautions must be taken because if this technology were to fall into the wrong hands we could be looking at another severe war. Bloomberg writes, “…despite all the ethical concerns, it’s important for the U.S. government to push ahead with research on human-genetic engineering…If American genetic-engineering research proceeds with strict safety and privacy controls, and with vigorous and open debate about the ethics of various genetic technologies, it’s likely that American companies will be the ones to eventually bring safe, reliable products to market.” Unfortunately, there have already been claims in the medical community that a man in China has successfully edited genes in a set of twins to fully eradicate any possibility of HIV in their genes. This could be a huge advancement for China that could bring incredible opportunities. But we must think, in the long run, is it worth the risk? Would you genetically engineer your child?
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