Genetic engineering

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Genetic Engineering

     In a world of seemingly endless advancing technology it is hard to judge the ethics of medical issues, especially newly developed ones, such as genetic engineering. Many people can see the usefulness of this technology now and in the world to come. However, the actual application of this new advancement in the world of medicine brings up very real and very controversial ethical issues. Genetic Engineering involves the alteration of specific pairs of genes in the DNA strand. Each alteration can drastically change that person's physical, mental or possibly even emotional characteristics. This kind of power places the scientists potentially in control of almost every aspect of human development. Can this kind of power be practiced freely among us, with all of human fault and imperfection? Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein discovered the consequences of trying to create and alter human life, and he suffered tremendously for his sins. Genetic engineering contradicts basic human rights, is religiously unethical and environmentally unsound.
     Continued use and marketing of genetic engineering will lead to a diminished value of human rights and disregard for human nature. This technology not only has the power to alter our genetic makeup, but it can also determine our worth. Greedy and unscrupulous industry will snatch up the technology and proceed to "milk it" for all it is worth. World Watch magazine published, "...markets will supersede human rights, supply and demand will determine the value of each person, and economics will dictate which traits should be adopted"(World Watch July 2002) The world today is too willing to follow the old saying, "He who has the gold, makes the rules." Added to their obvious monetary advantage big business will be able to control the very makeup of our being, if they wield the power of genetic engineering. The individual as it is now known will fade into a commodity, a product of science. And what will become of these products of science? Can they really be considered their parent’s children, just like all other natural children? According to Bill McKibben, an expert on humanity’s impact on the environment, "The advent of inheritable genetic modification...could change the meaning of ‘parent’ as we always thought of it—and bring to an end our once universal connection between each generation and its successor" (World Watch July 2002). The decision to apply genetic engineering today will not only have severe immediate consequences but also drastic long term consequences for generations to come. Like Dr. Frankenstein, our pride in our own accomplishments can lead us to rashly attempt to apply these sciences without thought to the creations we may be spawning. Frankenstein’s creature was so miserable that he sought, and succeeded in making everyone around him as miserable as himself. He was shunned by even his creator. Will the genetically engineered children of the future be vexed with the same curse? Can they be accepted as a part of this society? A new class may arise separating the natural from the enhanced. And if this does occur, who will come out on top? Suddenly in our eagerness to become an advanced civilization we have jumped back to a period of class distinction and discrimination. These facts cannot be denied, "That DNA... does not constitute the ‘essence of human life nor tell us what we are’...are ideas that have become so strange that they are virtually unthinkable" (Howard 1998). It is the make up of who we are--our minds’ map. Allowing the practice of genetic engineering is placing this map in the hands of pirates to seek out our inner treasure by whatever means necessary. Our very human nature hangs in the power of genetic engineering.
     The practice of genetic engineering is in direct contradiction with time-honored religious values and ideals, and is disrespectful to our creator. Once again it must be emphasized that this decision cannot be made solely on the consideration of our present society. The society of today is the effect of God’s divine plan for our creation. Genetic engineering is a direct assault upon His principles. David Bromell, a superintendent at Christchurch Methodist Mission, suggests, "No aspect of creation is merely fuel or fodder for human use. As that part of creation which has evolved to critical self consciousness, we humans bear responsibility for other forms of life...as caretakers of the planet" (Bromell 1999). It is our responsibility to preserve all forms of life as God made them in their perfect state. Although He gave us dominion over the earth he cautioned against misuse. The idea that humans have the right to alter and control life because they are further advanced is a rationalization for those who cannot face the reality of their sins. The truth is that because humans are further advanced it is their responsibility to protect the planet. Also, the record of God’s teachings the bible offers enlightening insight, "All things were made by Him; and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3). How can man presume to directly defy the word of God? Prometheus thought himself higher than the gods and defied their word, also with good intentions, but he was punished cruelly, as we will also be. The modern Prometheus, Dr. Frankenstein, was forced to watch the miserable death of all of those close to him, only to be followed by his own infamous death. The power of creation was not given to man, and it should not be attempted. The bible offers additional counsel, "Therefore all things, whatsoever ye would that men would do to you, do ye even so to them..." (Matthew 7:12). People are so eager to test the effects of this new technology, but not many of the scientists themselves are standing in line. It is not right to do to others what you would not be willing to face yourself.      And if the argument is made that the unborn cannot speak, let it be considered that had you been the unborn, would you at least want the choice? Genetic engineering holds a power that is not ours to neither wield nor control.
     Even when not used directly on human beings, genetic engineering can have an effect by negatively altering the environment—the basis of human life. By producing stronger plants, more resistant to bugs, cold, or whatever else imaginable, it does not cure a problem but rather transfers it elsewhere. World Of Health magazine printed an article that explained some of the dangers of genetic engineering in plants, "The development of herbicide resistant plant, for example, only means that farmers will use still larger quantities of herbicides, critics say, not an especially desirable trend" (World of Health Nov. 1999). The increased use of herbicides will only lead to the detriment of the natural plants. The eventually extinction of all previously natural crop will lead to an even greater demand on the genetically engineered crops, leaving millions of people out of work and a few executives very rich. The increased use of herbicides will also contaminate the food that may be eventually consumed by humans, causing sickness. Accordingly, it is still uncertain the exact effect genetically engineered plants themselves will have on humans when consumed. However, "There are already documented environmental risks from GE crops, including the transfer of engineered traits to neighboring crops, effects on non-target insects, impacts on soil-ecology, and potential threats to endangered species, among others" (Greenpeace 2001). These plants, although possibly useful in the future, are very detrimental to our environment now. If they are allowed to multiply the problem will only increase and then the future may no longer be an issue. There are no sureties that the plants will not affect humans. Perhaps some of the genetics alterations of the plant could be transferred to us and we all end up as maroon carrot people. Therefore, "If ecology is the ‘house rules’ of the planet, then the challenge that confronts us is not how to change our environment to suit us but how to adjust our needs and desires to the house rules" (Bromell 1998). Humans are assumed to be the superior species, yet we are hopelessly dependent upon plant-life. Plant-life however could get along perfectly fine without our intervention, perhaps better. As dependents, it is not for us to change a system that is obviously running smoothly. It is not man’s place to manipulate nature to their every desire and whim.
     Our environment does not need it, our creator shuns it, and our human nature cannot live with it, therefore genetic engineering cannot be an acceptable practice in the eyes of this society. We must open our eyes and look beyond the immediate promise of monetary rewards and farfetched hopes of "perfect people", to the reality of a future with much pain, as a penance for the sins committed against ourselves, against nature, and against God.
•     Biomedical ethics. "Genetic Research Threatens the Concept of Humanness." Kaye, Howard. Greenhaven Press, Inc. San Diego, California, 1998.
•     "Genetic Engineering." Bromell, David. November, 1999. http://www.socialissues.godzone.net.nz/ge/gebromell.htm
•     "Genetic Engineering." World of Health. Gale Group, 2000. Reproduced in Student Resource Center—Health Module. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale Group. 2000. http://www.galenet.com/servlet/SRCHealth/
•     "A landmark issue." World Watch. Gale Group, 2000. Reproduced in Student Resource Center—Health Module. Farmington Hills, Mich.. Gale Group. 2000. http://www.galenet.com/servlet/SRCHealth
•     "The human rights perspective." World Watch. Gale Group, 2000. Reproduced in Student Resource Center—Health Module. Farmington Hills, Mich.. Gale Group. 2000. http://www.galenet.com/servlet/SRCHealth
•     "Pharm Crops – A Food Accident Waiting to Happen." Greenpeace. Washington, D.C.. September 2001.

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