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Whether or not you want it, it’s going to happen. Mankind is coming to a huge turning point in history, possibly a change in Evolution itself. Who knows how far off in the future it will be, but the technology of genetic engineering is inevitable and has already begun. Not only genetic engineering, but specifically the ability to alter one’s germline. The hereditary link between generations that characterizes a person. What if someone could design their children? Maybe make them taller, smarter, cuter, or skinnier. Krimsky from Tufts University made a startling point when he said, “We know where to start. The harder question is this do we know where to stop?” Most people would agree that creating genetically modified children can be deemed unethical, unnecessary, or means for potential dangers to society, but there are always two sides. First and foremost, a brief explanation of the technology should be given. Germline Engineering is defined as altering genes in an embryo to enhance intelligence or beauty or health, it is also known as Eugenics. A germline is a collection of genes that humans will pass on to their children. Manipulation of the germline is also seen as unethical by a majority of scientists since our knowledge is so limited, according to an article from BBC News Online Science Editor, Dr David Whitehouse. Also, it is illegal to do so in many countries. For instance, it is illegal to clone humans and alter the human germline in the Canadian Parliament, Germany’s Embryo Act of 10, Japanese legislature, and many other European countries. The U.S., though, has not yet outlawed either one from their country. But, the U.S. will not provide any funding for any such technologies.

Several scientists fear a massive change in society as a result of germline manipulation. For Instance, a book by Princeton geneticist Lee M. Silver, entitled In Remaking Eden Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World, includes stories and predictions of human life in 50. Marta Salij review his book and includes quotes and predictions that soon “designer babies” will be created in fertility clinics where In Vetro Fertilization will create an embryo and then from there, the parents can choose whatever personality, cognitive, or physical traits they desire for their child. After a few generations of these altered people, he predicts a somewhat of a split in society. He says, “The GenRich who account for 10 percent of the American population will all carry synthetic genes. Genes that were created in the laboratory….The GenRich are a modern-day hereditary class of genetic aristocrats….All aspects of the economy, the media the entertainment industry, and the knowledge industry are controlled by members of the GenRich class.” He splits society in to the synthetically enhanced form of humans, he calls the GenRich class, and the unenhanced humans whom he calls the Naturals. In addition, it is a primary worry that this technology will only widen the gap between the rich and the poor. The rich will be able to afford the technology whereas the poor will not. Silver is not the only one with these beliefs, but a number of Nobel laureate scientists, biotech entrepreneurs, social theorists, bioethicists, and journalists share the same political and technical view of mankind’s destiny with genetic engineering. It is very plausible that scientists may achieve the ability to supposedly ‘control evolution’. Scientists could create a new step for mankind. Whether or not that is a positive forward step or a step into a deep black hole of a trap remains unclear, but it is most likely so full of unknown possibilities that it could lead to certain disaster.

It’s scary to think that techno-eugenic future is possible at all, and most people probably don’t even think about it at all. If a techno-eugenic future does arise, it will change much of the foundations we have built considering the new laws that will have to be made in an effort to control it. Although, if laws here are made against certain genetic engineering techniques, wouldn’t that give other countries the upper hand? No matter what, humans will eventually use it and abuse it. Think of the endless possibilities such as genetically engineered armies, cloned armies, or a fight over a “GenRich” president or a “Natural” president. Most believe the drive to begin the technology will be not wanting to pass lethal diseases onto one’s children and the feeling of disadvantaging a child by not genetically enhancing him/her when the majority of others are.

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An article entitled Designer Babies proposed a somewhat different perspective on the germline manipulation issue. It focuses more on the medical cure aspect or perks of gene therapy. For instance, an artificial chromosome tould be injected into fertilized eggs during In Vitro Fertilization to elude a “family curse.” A specific example was given in the article, in which genes were created that carried orders for the cells to self destruct. Say the child is born, he gets prostate cancer (family curse). The cells kill themselves and the prostate cancer s gone. The cells copy themselves throughout the body, including his sperm so his children will beat the “curse” too. The article talked about diseases to curing the fetus of a deadly inherited disease before it’s born. In 187 the government vowed they would never alter patients’ eggs or sperm but times have changed and Dr. W. French Anderson of the University of Southern California will ask the National Institutes of Health for approval of this new technology within the next - years. Majority of scientists and biologists now think they have ways to circumvent ethical concerns for germline engineering. An example would be a way to design babys’ genes without violating the principle of informed consent. The designer gene would be paired with an on-off switch so the child would be able to have the choice to activate the gene with a drug or not. Another way is to make the genes that were specifically for one generation and not passed on permanently to their kids. This defeats the purpose of getting rid of inherited diseases but this way if certain genes proved to be more harmful than good, it wouldn’t be passed on. It is also easier to manipulate only a single cell from a fertilized egg than insinuating a new gene into millions of cells in a grown patient to rid disease. It’s easier to change kids’ genes. Those may be considered more of “somatic genetic engineering techniques” because somatic techniques are defined as medical cures through genetic engineering and helpful ways to use germline manipulation with control.

Additional reasons given for germline manipulation being unethical or a bad idea, are that people might lose purpose in life or their connection with one another. It is a belief that if a genetically enhanced human being were to accomplish something, there would be no feeling of accomplishment because you might feel as if your programmed genes were responsible and not yourself. A genetically enhanced life would be despairing only because of the unhappiness of never being satisfied or feeling accomplisehd. Also, whatever decisions a person makes in life would be questionable as to whether enhanced genes played a part in those decisions. A person might feel a loss of identity because of not knowing what thoughts or decisions are actually their own. Some people disagree and say that while you may be programmed, you might try your hardest to outstrip the expected capabilities of your genes like humans now try to outstrip our capabilities, and that the main loss for humanity would be human connection. Humans all have a sort of connection with one another, and separating the human race into two different ones would break that connection.

In the end, it is mostly about how ethical the majority feels germline engineering is. Whether or not I like or dislike it personally will not make a difference in the long run because the world market will reign supreme. Whatever sells is what worries most scientists and ethicists. In that, it seems like a desirable power to give children such advantages as to become a “super human race,” but it will create many more problems than it will good. Perhaps the world will find a way to make use out of the obvious good technology such as somatic engineering to help cure thousands of people without creating a different race of people or an unnecessary super power. All in all, germline engineering used as Eugenics, or solely for enhancement rather than medical treatment, is not only unethical, but will create a huge power uncontrollable by the human race, and the repercussions will outweigh the greatness of the new technology by far. “As opposed to every decision made in medicine, this involves more than the patient, the family and the doctor,” Anderson said, “The gene pool is not owned by anyone. It is the joint property of society. And when you manipulate the gene pool, before one attempts to do that, one needs the agreement of society.”

Works Cited

Begley, Sharon. “Designer Babies.” Newsweek Nov. 18 61-6.

Darnovsky, Marcy. “The New Eugenics The Case Against Genetically Modified Humans.” http//member.tripod.com/~ngin/technoeugenic.htm

Salij, Marta. “The Loss of Humanity.” The State 11 May 00, sec. E4.

Weiss, Rick. “Science On The Ethical Frontier Engineering The Unborn.” The Washington Post March 18, sec. A 1

Whitehouse, David. “Genetically Altered Babies Born.” 4 May 001. http//online.sfsu.edu/~rone/Geessays/gebabies.html

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