Opinion on Genetics in general?

Possible apocalyptic consequences aside, what are your opinions on the subject of human genetics? Specifically, the ability to grow and harvest human organs? To be honest, I’m completely fascinated by the idea. People on organ donor lists, save those with congenital diseases, could get replacement organs in a matter of weeks. But while I personally love the idea of science marching on there are a myriad of ethical questions to consider. Is it ethical to breed pigs that are essentially sacs of human organs? The idea isn’t that farfetched, pigs are roughly the same size as humans and their biochemistry is very similar as well, so it may be more cost-effective to grow the organs in a living body rather than from a petri dish. Would it be okay to eat the piggoons? It’s gross but would it be cannibalism? Could we trust companies to make ethically sound decisions? (I’ll answer that for you, no.)

But walking organ farms is just the tip of the iceburg. The ability to manipulate genetics will naturally produce technology to “read” DNA. With this technology it will be possible to “read” children before they’re even born. The rich would be able to ensure that their children literally have the best possible pedigree. Imagine it, a whole caste of wealthy Steve Rogers. Is this ethical? It’s essentially natural selection sans the messy trial and error of being born and dying before having children.

It’s little wonder that so many people recoil when they here the phrase “genetic manipulation.” However, I truly believe that this country, perhaps even humanity, has a genuine phobia of progress and that science, as the driving force behind progress, is often vilified because of this. This attitude isn’t anything new, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein was written in 1818 and clearly displays this distrust of science.

How often have you heard this phrase?

I think that if a society approached these issues with a clear mind and an understanding of the risks involved we could come up with a safe, responsible way of taking humanity’s next step towards the future.

 

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2 Responses to Opinion on Genetics in general?

  1. Bri says:

    Is it ethical to harvest a pig’s organs? Is it ethical to raise a pig to be eaten? Animal abuse is nothing new. We’re already on the slippery slope to accepting the idea of pigoons.

    No, it’s not ethical, but there are no easy answers. It’s easy to call it a bad idea when you’re not on the list of people in need of a heart or liver. Oryx and Crake depicts gene transplanting gone amuck (with scientists making snake-rats for kicks), but you’re right that judicious genetic engineering would probably benefit a lot of people.

    The idea of creating a wonderbaby sounds awful in the book, because it involves “[recycling] the parts” of the ones that don’t measure up (250) — but if preferable children were simply chosen before birth to be carried to term, it doesn’t sound quite as bad. Down syndrome and club feet may happen naturally, but as I see it you get to live exactly one life, and you should be able to live it fully, free of self-consciousness, and outside of a hospital as often as possible.

    I look forward to a debate in class about whether or not Oryx and Crake is anti-science.

  2. Heather Houser says:

    The Telegraph UK reported in June 2012 that researchers are closer to being able to grow human organs in other animals.