Ethics of Human Genetic Engineering Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Ethics of Human Genetic Engineering

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The idea behind perfecting the human genome is both exciting and frightening. Think about the possibilities. For the first time, there would be the ability to stop genetic misprints. No more hereditary diseases. No more disabilities from underdeveloped DNA strands. No more personality. No more individualism. No more humanity.

The idea behind the early research into genetics was a good concept - build the perfect human. No disease, no faults. Then the idea was perverted by scientific interests coinciding with the idea of a master race. As a result, an entire field of study was judged immoral. Not because it was wrong, but because of the way it was developed. Due to a regime that was more intent on perfecting what it saw to be as the ultimate in human evolution, the potential to improve humanity was destroyed by a victorious alliance of governments who saw only the horror of what had happened.

These days, however, there are more sophisticated controls over such research. Some even go so far as to say that research is being repressed. However, the potential is still there and potential covers a lot of ground. There is great potential for good, as well as great potential for evil. On the side of good, there is the advancement of human evolution, the elimination of hundreds of diseases and disorders that affect human life every day. If anyone thinks that this is still not enough to outweigh the dangers, try living with something like Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis. The potential for evil is as it has always been. Someone else might try to mould who and what humanity becomes.

Hundreds of studies have been conducted into the ethics as well as the practicality of genetic engineering. None of them can be called decisive or conclusive, simply because there is nothing of any scientific value in partial studies. Due to governmental restrictions, as well as those of the scientific community in general, cloning is something of a 'black' science, where it is not talked about openly for fear of losing whatever funding the institution has gained from public and private sectors who might not approve of this sort of research.

The often-used line is that we don't have the moral right to judge what is and isn't fit to be human. Well, as two million years of evolution have shown, we've got the inside track. Who better to determine how we should improve than the people who would benefit most from genetic engineering. This is not to mean that in 15 years everyone will walk around in a genetically perfect body with enhanced faculties. This means that people who now have disadvantages get a level playing field with the rest of us. The Researcher of this entry feels that instead of devoting years and millions of dollars into research of hereditary disease and genetic disorders, scientists can turn their attention to what we've already done to ourselves with other infectious diseases, viruses, and other medical problems. A slight alteration in someone's genetic structure might change nothing, but to someone who would otherwise develop Alzheimer's, it can be the difference between a productive life and a long struggle. If the benefit of genetic engineering includes that, at the cost of a little of humanity's freedom of choice, then that might not be such a bad idea. So long as it is limited to simple biological improvements, then what is the harm in improving the quality of life for sufferers of genetic disorders? Or so the argument goes.

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