This was the paper I read during episode 5 of the podcast. I moved it here because it made sense to be a part of this website, and because I’m trying to phase out my old blog and much of that content here. This was the one of the longest research projects I did during my undergrad bioethics class, under the advisement of biology professor Dr. Amy McMillan and philosophy professor, Dr. Jason Grinnell. It has been highly edited in order to be submitted to Ball State’s Undergrad Philosophy Journal… but, unfortunately by the time it was submitted, I no longer qualified as an undergraduate. And so, here it is.
On my website! I guess that’s almost as good, right? 😛
Most of us would do anything to help our children have the best future possible. We would make sure they had the best prenatal environment, the best diet and be sent to the best schools, all so that they could have the best possible future opportunities. But what would we do if we could, before they were born, alter our child’s genes in order to guarantee that advantage? The choice of genetically engineering our children is rapidly becoming a scientific reality, and we are faced with the question: If we are able to safely engineer a child at the genetic level… should we?
Genetic engineering is a topic that is greeted with a combination of curiosity, skepticism and apprehension. Those in favor of genetic engineering have been accused of “playing God”, whereas those opposed have been characterized as being against scientific progress. Many people view genetic engineering as something confined to the domain of science fiction; something so far in the future that it needn’t be worried about. However, with the advance of modern technology, this attitude towards genetic engineering is not only misguided, but can be dangerous.
Nearly every advance in technology comes with unanswered questions, and genetic engineering is no different. What should we do? What will happen if we make certain decisions? How will our decisions affect society? If we have the ability to do it safely, is it ethically permissible to genetically engineer our children? Is there an ethical difference between genetic enhancement and genetic therapy? As people living in the time where genetic engineering is a real possibility, it is vital that we address the bioethical issues surrounding this controversial topic. If we procrastinate in this area and do not address these issues before they come up, we will inevitably make poor decisions that could have been avoided. Like many advancements in science and technology, genetics provides us with an opportunity to be good stewards with what we have. But it also offers us a unique opportunity as well; “… we can begin to determine not simply who will live and who will die, but what all those who live in the future will be like” (Harris & Burley, 2004) Read the rest of this entry »