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The Argument Over Genetic Engineering

Updated on September 9, 2012
Dolly The Sheep
Dolly The Sheep | Source

Technological advancement seems to be a blessing and a curse due the moral issues it raises. Though genetic research could hold the solution to finding a cure to diseases or help infertile couples conceive there is much debate to whether it is morally acceptable or not. For example Natural Law may disapprove the genetic engineering because it is not seen as natural by human reason; they believe that tampering with genes is unnatural and that we should only follow paths that doesn’t involve using technology to sustain us. This could be countered by asking what makes a ‘good’ reproductive system? According to Natural Law it would be one that works properly, so therefore if it does not produce a child then it is not a ‘good’ reproductive system. On the other hand it is possible, with technology and embryo research that it can help make it ‘good’ because they can help creating a child. This argument can also be used for genetic engineering, by asking ‘what makes a good person’? The answer could be ‘One that does its job well’ meaning a person, whose body work properly. Genetic engineering can help bring this about by trying to eradicate genetic flaws. However, Natural Law may counter this by saying ‘what makes a good person is not how well it functions, but if it is morally good; if genetic engineering is not morally acceptable, then neither can the people who carry it out.’

Catholics might oppose genetic engineering on the terms that it will not provide the sanctity of life, their main example being cloning. Sexual reproduction gives a variety of two different strands of DNA, which allows for individuality, the understanding of differences and the acceptance of everyone being unique. However when it comes to cloning, only one strand of DNA is used so there will be no genetic variety in the clone to the original – only environmental differences are likely to have a change in appearance – which means they would not be unique. Catholics say that a clone will not receive the sanctity of life for many reasons, one being that because God did not create this child, but technology, then their life is not sacred; another reason is based on the quality of their life. Since they are different compared to everyone else who has been made with two strands of DNA and has two parents, the clone may feel like they don’t belong and start to lose their identity. As well as this, when cloning was done on a sheep named Dolly, - in which there were two hundred and seventy eight attempts and only one success – the clone had severe genetic problems, resulting in health problems, leading to an early death. Because of this Catholics believe that clones would not lead a happy or life fulfilling life and are therefore against genetic engineering. Then again some people may argue with this and defend genetic engineering by saying that not all cloning has these results, for example therapeutic cloning only clones the organs of a person as a fail safe in case their current organs need replacing at any point in their life. This would mean that there would be less demand for acceptable donors because there will already be organs available, which would be compatible.

Kant would also be likely to find genetic research as morally wrong because it is treating life as a means instead of an ends. If cloning is taking place then it purely for the benefit of science, not for the benefit of the clone, which means that the clone is being used as if it were an object rather than a person – which in many cases, some scientists could actually consider them as ‘things’, not living beings. Kant sees this as unacceptable.

Utilitarianism might however agree with genetic engineering because their stance is to ‘create the greatest happiness for the greatest number’. Genetic research could provide this because when it comes to the right to a child and an infertile couple want to conceive, they could be provided with IVF, which could give them a child and give them elation. This could also be the case with embryo research, which one day might provide the answers to find cures for diseases, which would not only bring happiness to the person whose disease goes into remission, but also to the family of that individual. Utilitarianism might also say that genetic engineering can also bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number because therapeutic cloning can solve many of the problems we face today of finding a suitable donor to an ill person who desperately needs a transplant. Some people would disagree with this, feeling that because there is so much debate as to whether it is morally correct or not clearly indicates that it won’t bring about the greatest happiness.

Though all these religious theories can be applied to issues such a genetic research, no firm conclusion can be made at the end of it because the debate is on going; because there are so many different view points a final compromise is never likely to take place, so it depends on which ethical theory is the most persuasive towards the governing bodies of the country to whether these sorts of activities can take place.

It is a continuing debate as to whether genetic engineering can be ethically justified, and despite the fact that this argument has been going on for several years, no firm answer has been reached because there are so many different sides to the argument with so many different opinions that they could never agree with each other on what is right and what is wrong and even what to do about it.

Some people believe that genetic engineering is ethically justified because it provides a look into the future; it has the possibility of finding cures to diseases that are being suffered from all over the world, or might discover why some genes have abnormalities and how solve the problem. Genetic research and engineering could lead to so many scientific advancements in the future that could save, extend and improve people’s lives. For example, therapeutic cloning allows the cloning of organs for people in case they need replacements in the future and research had made it possible for infertile couples to conceive with the help of IVF treatment. Despite all these great wonders genetic engineering may hold, there are several people who do not believe it is ethically justified because they feel it is interfering with the natural balance of things. However an argument could be raised against this because if people believe that using technology to help with medicine or creation is morally wrong because it is unnatural, then it must also be taken that all forms of technology are unnatural, so even simple things such as listening to the radio would be morally wrong because by human reason technology could not be natural because it was made by man and was not designed by God in the grand scheme of things, therefore is unnatural. There are few people who don’t use or at least benefit from technology today, which would mean that even those who support Natural Law would be using technology and going against their very own sentiments.

Other reasons some people don’t believe genetic engineering is ethically justified is because it would mean that anyone born this way would not have the sanctity of life, or would be used as means to an end instead of an end itself. In my opinion, genetic engineering is acceptable to an extent, such as therapeutic cloning and searching for cures to diseases, but I don’t think it should be used to help a child be born or cloned, not for moral reasons however, but for practical reasons; our planet is already becoming over populated, so creating more children through ways other than method of sexual reproduction would be insensible because we will end up not having enough resources to keep everyone alive.


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