Genetic Engineering: Is it time to fix what God got wrong?

Group 69

The human race has long-sought to improve itself, be this by the implementation of education, or the development of certain technologies. We are now, however, on the precipice of a whole new era of human improvement: genetic engineering. Editing the human genome has been a hotly debated topic for some time; the scientific community drew a line in the sand that no experimentation or research on genetic editing in humans should take place until it is fully and completely understood. This line, however, was recently crossed by a Chinese scientist He Jiankui­[1], acting practically alone with no support from ethics boards or governments. He not only edited a human embryo but had them born by IVF. This has sparked mass outrage and debate across the world; however, at the beginning of this new era we ask: ‘How far should genetic engineering go to achieve desirable traits in humans?’.

Should genetic modification happen in the first place?

Firstly, we should consider whether human genetic modification should take place at all. We can already see that genetic modifying will bring some clear benefits to humans, one clear advantage bein the opportunity to mitigate a vast number of preventable and genetic diseases in unborn children, eliminating a great deal of future suffering. From a utilitarianist point of view this is clearly the correct course of action; however, many people, particularly religious groups, are against modifying the natural human state.

Christians, for example, teach that ‘God made man in his own image’ (Genesis 1:27), and as such many may feel that genetic alterations are at odds with God’s work. From this religious duty ethics perspective, genetic editing would not be a moral practice. Many parts of the world still value religion very highly in their culture, and many practises and opinions are formed based from doctrine. With Christian and Islamic populations alone reaching 4.1 billion people worldwide[2] (more than half of the planet’s 7.5 billion people[3]), would this conflict of utilitarian and religious duty ethics be enough to cause a rift in the populace? And would that, therefore, act against our duty of care? Starting to profane our bodies, which ‘are temples of the Holy Spirit’ (Corinthians 6:19-20) may spark mass outrage, violence and lead into internal or international war. Considering this, do we therefore have a duty of care not to release this upon the masses when it may spark war in our shifting times? Actions reverberate globally, and so care must be taken in considering both the benefits and risks in implementing this technology.

Economics

Looking into the future, we must now consider the potential effects this modification could have on humanity’s productivity and technological advancement. We live in a society dominated by money and economics and so it makes complete sense that genetic enhancements may be tuned to focus on these factors. There is potential to create a far more productive human species by editing genes that may allow us to have less sleep, maintain concentration for longer periods of time, and retain more information. This could greatly benefit humankind as it would allow the rate of scientific development to exponentially increase; furthering the human race to create a ‘super-productive species’. Examples of this idea that productivity benefits the economy can be seen in countries such as China[4], where people working longer hours can increase the nation’s financial power. By bringing together the best of humanity it would be possible to accelerate the growth of the human race towards its full potential. Therefore, from both a utilitarian and deontological ethics perspective, the scientific community has a duty to develop this technology.

However, from a care ethical perspective this type of modification may be a step too far. Are humans simply just machines that can be optimised? The understanding of what this may do to families and the happiness of individuals is of paramount importance shown by how in countries with a poor work and life balance there is a less happy population[5]. There is also an ethical duty side to this economic argument as it is very debatable that editing humans to make money is far from a moral path to take.

Effects on individuals and society

With the eventual advancements of genetic editing it is likely that, given the opportunity, most humans would choose for their children to ‘inherit’ desirable traits such as greater intelligence and physical prowess. This may result in a higher standard of living due to heightened intelligence, greater physical ability and a healthier populace. Human intelligence and physicality, therefore, may be able to contest future developments of workplace robots and allow for job availability to remain more viable into the future. These are positive effects from both a utilitarian and care ethics point of view.

However, we must again consider the implementation of this technology. In today’s society, many people aspire to achieve the ‘ideal’ version of themselves and spend a lot of money, time and resources in order to do so. If we were able to edit aspects by which people are judged presently in society such as height, predispositions to sport, and our appearance, would this cause a loss of individuality due to parents editing their children to be ‘ideal’? Is editing a human’s predispositions and appearance before they are even able to be born moral?[6] If we are to consider this from our present society’s duty ethics as well as from a religious duty perspective, this is morally wrong. Changing a human before they are born may be considered to be murdering the old version of the human to replace it with a more perfect copy of the ‘ideal’ human.

It can also be speculated that the implementation of this technology would most likely only be available to the rich to begin with.[7]This would therefore cause rich children to be born with even more advantages and so perpetuate the ‘rich getting richer’ cycle in our society, as well as creating a new breed of people that may be considered ‘freaks’ or outcasts by the general populace without any choice by them in the matter. Therefore, considering this situation from a care ethics perspective, it is morally wrong.

As outlined in this article, there are many arguments of differing levels for and against the genetic tuning of humans, and so this topic is very divisive, with opinions differing from person to person. We therefore ask you for your own opinion, how far should genetic engineering go to achieve desirable traits in humans?

22 thoughts on “Genetic Engineering: Is it time to fix what God got wrong?

  1. The article is interesting, well written and comprehensive on the socio-economic, socio-religious aspects of genetic modification of the human genome. Furthermore, the discussion about the effects on individual lifestyle and the quality of life is articulated well. It should be appreciated that the article is not biased and puts forward the points for and against very well. The authors should also consider discussing the health factors in a biological aspect as well. For example;
    – When the human gnome is modified to be more productive with less sleep how will this effect the aging proses, short term and long term memory etc.
    – The vast complexity of the human gnome and how when one small part is modified gives rise to unpredictable ripple effects.

  2. I disagree with the idea of genetic engineering . Like mentioned, it would result in only the rich being able to afford. Creating even more of a disadvantage for working class families. Humans need to have flaws for us to have areas to work on, however if people are trying to genetically engineer the perfect race, it may result in less cultural diversity. furthermore, I believe that a child should pick up the traits of their parents, whether it be bad or good. Genetically engineering your child to be ‘perfect’ with high intelligence levels could results in the lack of people doing labouring jobs (plummers etc) which we need as a society.

  3. After reading this article I believe that genetic engineering is wrong. Even though many good points have been made suggesting that people’s work performance may be enhanced so that people will be able to work for longer hours and even make people more intelligent, I just think it is morally wrong that people are willing to modify the genetics of a person to try and make them ‘better’ than they naturally are. People should only be able to do as much as they can without having to be genetically modified.

  4. I would only condone genetic engineering if it was to prevent human suffering, e.g. to stop a person having cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, Friedrich’s ataxia, motor neurone disease etc etc.
    Surely an all loving God would wish for this to happen as he created us and our species has evolved in other areas since creation, we have become highly intelligent and have invented so much since creation to enhance our lives, surely this would be a natural step.
    This would result in both economic and human benefit to any country.

    I would be opposed to genetic engineering for the “perfect human”. Who is to say what is “perfection”?
    The human race is so wonderful because of our differences. A successful team works well together because every individual brings their uniqueness with them. How dull if we were all the same!

    To be able to prevent suffering and enhance the human race’s quality of life would be a worthwhile goal.
    It should not be used to create a living robot.

  5. Gene editing for social engineering is clearly unacceptable. There must be a real concern that this may be offered to those willing to pay, by unscrupulous scientists not subject to regulation.
    Gene editing for specific diseases has some merit, but is controversial even in that setting.

  6. Firstly this is not the easiest interface to use as it continually times you out and asks you to verify you aren’t a robot.
    I can understand why parents may want to alleviate or prevent their child from suffering certain illnesses/disabilities.
    Genetic engineering, if used, would need to be very closely monitored and legislated for and would need to be available to all regardless if cost. It should only be used for the babies well being and not for appearance, economical or political gain.
    Unfortunately, history shows, genetic engineering would be abused by unscrupulous powers with hideous results with inhumane and painful experiments.
    Genetic engineering makes a number of assumptions; that a person with an illness or disability has less value, that someone whose physical appearance is different is less important etc.
    As such I can only conclude genetic engineering has more scope to ultimately do more harm than good so should not take place.

  7. Very interesting and well written article.
    I believe that while there are clearly a multitude of benefits to genetic engineering, these benefits come with (arguably greater) risks that may jeopardise the human race as we know it. If such a practice were to go ahead, it would need to be strictly controlled and governed to ensure it does not become uncontrollable. You have given me a lot to think about, great job!

  8. A brilliant article. Have looked at almost all the aspects that came to mind while reading it. Well unbiased opinions on the topic. I do agree that in the current world with so many deceases and illnesses, genetic modification can be a major solution. And and a fast moving world, it will be beneficial to have enhanced genes so that people are able to cope with the fast paced world. Like discussed it does brinf economical, health and social benefits. But as the article says, it does break ethical principles. Although being an atheist, i still believe that somethings are mot meant ro be changed. For a fact, constructions which are made replacing forests, use of fossil fuels instead of walking, fast food instead of natural resources, all these modifications on nature have brought a dark side with it. So the question os, if we go as far as to change the biology of humans what adverse effects will we have to face. Will the pros out weigh the cons and will this be the limit we as humans are not supposed to cross. IN all fairness to He Jiankui­, he did manage cross the line without any consequences but this was just one experiment. If genetic modification is done in a larger scale, could the result still be the same. Is it worth sacrificing whaf makes us human to make a more ideal place? I think the article has successfully voiced both sides of this argument and open our minds to both sides of the genetics development world.

  9. Lovely article, the topic has been addressed very thoroughly with multiple perspectives. Genetic engineering may hold many benefits, but I personally believe what God has designed should be left as it is. Many arguments have been covered here. Today, humans deserve equal and fair rights and I believe that the design of one’s genes before being born may seem unnatural and unfair in comparison to a life that couldn’t have the opportunity to have its genes designed beforehand. This eye-opening article definitely opens a new chapter to think about for humans.

  10. Great article, there are some interesting points raised; as a Biological Engineer, I feel that genetic engineering has brought great benefits in the pharmaceutical industry. The product of certain drug molecules, such as insulin prescribed to diabetic patients, is often made by “cell factories” through genetic engineering (insertion of the insulin gene into bacteria). As a tool, genetic engineering has allowed scientists and engineers to think about global problems outside-the-box. The recent case in China where an embyro was genetically modified to prevent passing on HIV from the parents, is a debatable case, as addressed by this article. On one hand, it renders the child to lead a more healthy and “normal” life, however, there are unknown risks involved in such a procedure due to its novelty and complexity. So while genetic engineering could help prevent diseases, it also has the potential to create side effects that we currently don’t know of.

    Personally, I am against the idea of using genetic engineering to alter physical appearance and intelligence in the race to create “super humans”, but more open to the idea of using it as a therapeutic tool to prevent disease in a carefully-constructed and standardised therapy. To make this possible, governments will have to work with doctors and scientists to create policies which will allow the positive use of genetic engineering of embryos (once unknown risks have been identified and mitigated to a reasonable extent), in addition to creating laws that prevent its use for artificial enhancement.

  11. I do not think faith based human constructs such as God or religion are relevant within to this discussion. The fact is that gene technology has started to be developed and will not stop. The genie is out of the bottle and won’t be going back into it. Mankind will develop this technology for every reason imaginable, good and bad depending upon the perspective of the observer. The only real question worth discussing is whether it can be controlled. Isaac Asimov devised the three Robotic Laws which are purely fictional, so far. The closest thing to a working global technological constraint is the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty from the United Nations and there is an international treaty covering activities in space. Both areas are quite visible and/or detectable but not so gene technology as it could happen in a bunker laboratory in North Korea without any detection for centuries. The true discussion question is are we going to control gene technology development and based upon what principles; moral, financial or developmental?

  12. An interesting article that has a good balanced discussion.

    I’m cautiously for gene editing. There are cases where editing to prevent illness and disease would be acceptable to many. However, editing to increase natural advantages could allow the rich to increase the advantages they already have. Although this may not make the majority unhappy (since they mat just want to become rich themselves) it could make them envious.

  13. This article is a well-written and comprehensive piece of work on the view that our current society has on genetic engineering. As a student studying genetics, I understand the important role that gene editing plays in the medical field and why so much of caution is taken when using it. I belive that gene editing should be used to cure or at the very least improve the life expectancy and standard of living of patients, who have a genetic disease that is incurable or uses difficult methods of treatment, such as cystic fibrosis and spinocerebellar ataxis. I also agree with being vary of these methods, as you never know what rogue scientists are capable of creating (looking at the way that He Jiankui had genetically modified human embryos for HIV resistance and implanted them into a surrogate). This article is also correct when it talks about how the rich will be able to use this to make their ‘perfect’ child and the possiblity of such ideal children to become outcasts in society. I am personally against using gene tools to edit embryo genomes just because the parents are not happy with certain physical trait the child may inherit.

  14. From an entirely economic perspective, genetic engineering can lead to the job market being segregated in two if a genetically engineered individual possesses traits that the job market finds as beneficial.

    This can lead to a wage discrepancy and more importantly, discrimination. It is very likely that genetically engineered individuals are more likely to be sought after if they are smarter or simply more healthier than the average man. This can lead to a larger income-gap between the rich and poor as genetic engineering is likely to be expensive and therefore only affordable by affluent people. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it can lead to some industrial disputes by non-genetically engineered individuals in similar industries, who believe it isn’t fair that they should be paid less for doing the same job.

  15. Your article critically analyses all aspects of genetic engineering in humans and while I agree with a majority of the content of this article there are certain aspects where I would like to add to the arguments made.

    I believe that at the end of the day it is the balance that we choose to maintain in the implementation of genetic engineering in humans. While it is widely agreed that producing an “ideal” human is merely absurd we must also look into the medical advantages this development will have on the society. Various genetic diseases may be completely eliminated and there rather than just ‘praying’ and ‘hoping for the best’ for the individuals victimized by genetic diseases we might actually be able to give possible victims actual hope of a healthy life ahead.

    Nevertheless, I strongly believe that genetic modification with intentions of making a more productive or advantaged human being must NOT be encouraged. We as humans must pay a lot of appreciation for the uniqueness instilled in each and every one of us naturally and that originality must not be tampered with for the cost of being more productive.

  16. I believe that this article is well written with extensive research and the benefits of Genetic engineering are clearly depicted through the description of social, economic and health aspects.

    Genetic engineering is guaranteed to make a change. Many of those changes are positive, creating more and healthier foods. Some of those changes, however, can be negative and unexpected. Making a plant become more tolerant to drought might also make that plant become less tolerant to direct sunlight. Animals may be modified to produce more milk, but have a shortened lifespan at the same time so farmers suffer a greater livestock.

  17. The article is very well written, as it delivers a good knowledge of what genetic engineering is. Of course genetic engineer will be beneficial for the human race, while i want to believe that so badly, I still personally don’t agree with it.
    Our genetic is the result of thousands of years of evolution and adaptation, which is still going on, and I truly believe that this should not be altered.

    Genetic engineering as suggests is tampering with nature and creating something artificial. When done in the right way it is beneficial, but yet this is a very conflicting question. As all over the world medical researchers and scientists make sure that whatever genetically engineered product they release is the outcome they have hoped for. Yet something good is being proved bad by someone else. So genetic engineering to say good or bad, is yet under review.

  18. It’s a clear and very well written passage discussing several aspects regarding genetic engineering. Well, I believe throughout history the latest technology was used to overcome difficult situations. For example, plastic surgery was an effort to ease the lives of the ones physically challenged. However, it evolved into a part of the beauty industry, while having a huge impact on the economy and on society’s beauty standards.

    Hence, I believe genetic engineering if at all does become a reality on humans, that it would initially be constricted to the use of medical issues. But the danger or the unforeseen circumstance would be that genetic engineering would evolve to be commercialized and leave the rich with an advantage over the poor.

    The gap between the rich and privileged as compared to the poor is already seen as a major issue and further enriching the wealthy could tarnish our society to an extent like no other. Hence, strict regulations must be imposed to ensure that all sects of the society are entitled and can access this service.

    All in all, aren’t we as humans anyway stepping away already from the general description of a “homosapien” with our strong dependency on technology. If at all genetic engineering happens, it would be just the next evolutionary step of our species. Great work anyway!

  19. A very interesting article with a very balanced perspective of the topic where the social,economic and health aspects have been taken into account.

    Personally, i disagree with the idea of genetic engineering.Genetic engineering has the potential to solve many problems in the human world. Like anything else, it can and may even be abused, but it is the abuse of genetic engineering that is unethical, not the act itself. For example the use of genetic engineering to alter physical appearance and intelligence in the race to create super humans and also the fact that it widens the gap between the rich and the poor as stated in the article.

  20. Genetic Engineering is one of many scientific advances that has come to the fore front of debate in recent times. It has the potential to cause a lot of good through the eradication of diseases that are otherwise hard to eradicate. With that said it has a lot of room for misuse not to mention for personal gain or pure profit. I haven’t come up with a stance on this issue due to it being a gray issue rather than a black and white issue. However I do know that whoever has access to it will have been given great responsibility. I think it is also time that main stream media address it rather than just the scientific community.

  21. This article is very well written, specially at a time when genetic engineering is a hot debate topic. I think some of the main questions covering the areas of economics, individuals and society has been covered.

    In my opinion, I believe genetically engineering a human before it is born is unethical, unless in circumstances where the baby may have to live with a fatal genetic condition. I believe using the tools we have today to improve our lives (curing/avoiding genetic conditions) as individuals should be considered. However, as one of the papers cited in this article suggest it is important to consider if using these tools solely for the purpose of driving an economy forward whilst sacrificing human health and happiness is unethical to me.

  22. It is an interesting article, and the argument for gene editing to eliminate genetic diseases is certainly convincing. My concerns look at two areas, one who is it that decides what traits in a human are desirable and what are not, who has the moral authority to do that? While clearly some genetic diseases are undesirable, there are others (such as autism) which people would strongly disagree are diseases in the first place. The other major issue is the idea that the economic benefits would somehow make this ethically right. This is based on an incredibly capitalist perspective, especially that human potential can be measured by economic growth. If anything recent events, such as the extinction rebellion protests, highlight that this is not the case and is infact an unsustainable way to live which would very much be to the detriment of the human race, making this unethical from a utalitarian perspective.
    My response would be in support of gene editing but only if it comes after rigorous scrutinity as to where it is appropriate with clear, defined and strong international laws and regulations carefully regulating the practice of gene editing.

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