Do we have a moral obligation as a society to ensure that genetic engineering is pursued, or should we do everything possible to ensure that we do not open this Pandora’s box?

More recently, the human race stands at a threshold like never before. The human race now has the tools to restruct its own hereditary capacities (Kevles, 2016).The enhancement of human beings has materialized into an ever expanding topic in recent years. As science and technology continues to develop, people are beginning to realize that some of the basic factors in the human race may be altered with, in the future. The human condition could be altered with through the improvement of basic human abilities (Bostrom & Roache, 2008). Genetic Engineering can be defined as the intentional manipulation of genetic material so as to attain an intended and desired result. The process of Genetic Engineering employs various molecular techniques to manipulate the genetic material of cells and/or organisms to alter hereditary traits or produce biological products (Kumar & Sahal, 2014). This post looks at various considerations relating to genetic engineering.

Life extension

Among individuals who live on through infancy and childhood to the age of 15, life expectancy is more/less 54 years of age. Recently, Japan has continuously shown to have the greatest life expectancy. Individuals born in 2006 could expect to live for +- 81 years. In saying so, there has been a major increase in the life expectancy of humans. This increase has been, primarily, as a result of social and technological expansion rather than evolutionary changes in human biology (Bostrom & Roache, 2008).

To further advance the human life expectancy, it is necessary to slow down or overturn facets of human ageing. If the processes of senescence are left undisturbed, this eventually leads ones death. The aging process is inevitably the cause of most deaths in industrialized countries and in the developing world. Retardation of senescence would result in us being able to grow older without actually aging. We would be able to stay fit and healthy for an indefinite period of time instead of only seeing our health peak within its first few decades and then decline. This will provide individuals with opportunities to learn and experience various opportunities which may not be possible with the normal life expectancy (Bostrom & Roache, 2008).

It can also be said that increasing lifespan would lessen the meaning of life and exacerbate the existing social problems related to an aging population. According to Bernard Williams, an immortal life is worse than a finite life. This is because the ventures that gives one’s life meaning would eventually be concluded or terminated, leaving an infinite amount of years during which there may not be any remaining ambitions or desires to fulfil. Providing that individuals do not inflict significant harm unto others, people who live in a democratic society are allowed to carry out any lifestyle of their choice. ‘That there may be reasons to believe that an extremely long-lived life would not be worthwhile, then, does not in itself justify preventing those who wish radically to extend their lifespan from doing so, if the means of doing so and the resulting extended life do not significantly harm others’ (Bostrom & Roache, 2008).

Keeping people alive for an indefinite period of time would lead to overpopulation. This in turn places an increased financial burden by elderly people on the young. Attempts to prolong life surround us all. Medicine, seatbelts, health warnings on cigarettes, and the fluorescent jackets that roadside workers wear are all created for the extension of life. If we are to discourage the prolonging of life, we should not only do without enhancement, we should also reconsider how we commit to less cautious lifestyles (Bostrom & Roache, 2008).

Many elderly people alive today, who are unable to work, are reliant on government support. In saying so, the additional years that modern medicine has afforded them to live, sees them have a more negative economical contribution toward society .However,  life extension in disparity, would increase the health span, enabling the elderly to contribute financially and otherwise to society, further and  beyond the + – sixty-five years expected.

Taking all of the above into consideration, extension of life would not cause overwhelming damage to society and nor does it have negative effects on the standards of living.

PHYSICAL ENHANCEMENT

There are various ways of improving stamina, strength, dexterity, flexibility, coordination, agility, and conditioning. We can exercise, eat healthily, take dietary supplements, avoid pollution and visit physiotherapists. For those who enjoy physical activity and have the time to do so, this can be seen as enjoyable. For others, this can be seen as a time-consuming burden (Bostrom & Roache, 2008).

Many individuals are not happy about the way that they look. Some of which have a physical appearance they have no control over. Some people were just born looking a certain way due to disease or illness. Some people have had misfortunes such as being involved in a motor vehicle accident or fires. The aforementioned incidents leave individuals feeling unhappy, anxious and socially excluded (Bostrom & Roache, 2008).

Is it fair to deprive these individuals from living a trouble-free lifestyle? I think not.

Mood and Personality enhancement

A complexity underlying this enhancement is that it is not completely comprehensible because it is not necessarily known what is seen as an enhancement of mood or personality. To varying degrees, traits such as shyness and aggression are apparent in all people. This then has a corresponding effect on how these people live their lives on a daily basis. Simultaneously, however, we can conceive of cases in which drug-induced emotions would undermine authenticity. It is essential that our emotions respond to life events in appropriate ways (Bostrom & Roache, 2008).

Cognitive Enhancement

There are various ways in which we look to improve our cognitive capacities. That is, those capacities that we use for attaining, processing, storing, and retrieving information. There are various factors that can play a role in improving aspects of our cognitive performance. These factors include and are not limited to language, education, drinking coffee or energy drinks, meditation, exercise, sleep, and taking herbal or vitamin supplements (Bostrom & Roache, 2008).

This enhancement however becomes an ethical issue when considering the fact that this gives others an advantage with regards to intelligence and attention. This could play a role in determining ones future e.g. getting into university.

 However, enhancements in cognitive abilities could have great benefits as well. Having an enhanced cognitive performance will enable us to resolve essential political and social problems, and make scientific breakthroughs. Many research studies show that more intelligent individuals earn more money and are therefore less likely to be victim to a range of social and economic misfortunes (Bostrom & Roache, 2008).

With this enhancement, the question of cheating also arises. Similarly, when using drugs to enhance one’s strengths is seen as unfair in professional sport, using drugs to better one’s memory in order to perform better in a test or exam could be seen as cheating. People with radically enhanced cognitive abilities may be in an advantageous position with regards to income, strategic planning, and the ability to influence others.

It is however worrisome that those individuals with enhanced cognitive performances, could unite and use these superior skills to rule and exploit the unenhanced. If the cognitive enhancements were gained through germline genetic intervention, these resulting enhancements could be inherited by the decedents of the enhanced. These successive improvements may eventually result in the enhanced individuals developing a new species. This may serve as a threat to the unenhanced (Bostrom & Roache, 2008).

Selecting the Best Children

Enhancement technology may assist us in ensuring that future generations are genetically disposed to be smarter, healthier, and happier than previous generations. Human mating preferences evolve to discriminate based on traits that in our environment of evolutionary adaptation correlated with fitness. This should be taken into consideration when selecting traits for our children. It can also be said that specific traits which we may want/have for ourselves and thus believe to be beneficial for our offspring may in actual fact not be beneficial for them. Certain traits which are valuable today may not be valuable in years to come as the world is ever-changing (Bostrom & Roache, 2008).

In conclusion, genetic engineering has its pros and definitely, its cons. It is however essential that these pros and cons are dealt with in the correct manner, with appropriate laws and protocols put into place. If carried out correctly with the appropriate structures put into place I feel that genetic engineering should be perused and that this Pandora’s box should be opened.

 

Bibliography

Bostrom, N., & Roache, R. (2008). Ethical Issues in Human Enhancement. New Waves in Applied Ethics , 120-152.

Kevles, J. D. (2016). The History of Eugenics. ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY , 32 (3).

Kumar, V., & Sahal, D. (2014). Genetic Engineering. ULLMANNS’S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF INDUSTRIAL CHEMISTRY , 1-80.

 

Advertisements

3 Replies to “Do we have a moral obligation as a society to ensure that genetic engineering is pursued, or should we do everything possible to ensure that we do not open this Pandora’s box?”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s