As science progresses and we learn more about genetics, we become more capable of manipulating genetic codes. The human genome has been mapped, and we’re gaining new understandings as to how our genetics influence our lives. Some people are genetically predisposed to certain kinds of cancers. Genetic defects lead to lifelong diseases, some fatal, some debilitating. With time and additional research, scientists hope to devise ways of treating such diseases.
|Image courtesy of Caroline Davis2010/|
As we look upon this new frontier, we need to understand where this new frontier might lead us. It’s one thing to use our existing knowledge to cure existing diseases, but it is another altogether to use that knowledge to engineer humans to circumvent these issues in the first place. In the film Gattaca, parents can choose which traits should be eliminated from their children. This includes diseases, but can also include myopia, a propensity for obesity, and other things of that nature. Parents can select eye and hair color. Embryos that do not meet the specified requirements are discarded.
Countless people who have revolutionized our world would never have been born in this world. Is this a valid argument against genetic engineering, or could the case be made that the generations of genetically enhanced people might accomplish even more? Does that even matter? Is it unethical despite any positive results that might come from it? Or is it simply our fear of the unknown that makes us hesitant? Would it be more unethical to allow people to suffer from debilitating diseases that could have been prevented altogether?
Science fiction has also explored the possibility of splicing human DNA with that of other animals in the interest of enhancing our strength or other physical attributes. What are the ethical implications of this? What unforeseen consequences might result? How would this kind of experimentation change what it means to be human?