The Dark Side of Genetic Modification

by Karim Abdelwahed

            We currently live in a world that is single-handedly being dominated by technology, where almost anything and everything that we are using these days incorporates some kind of a technological process. One of the more recent technological discoveries goes by the name of genetic modification, whereby genetically enhanced human beings are being created through the alteration of an embedded genetic code. While this may be perceived as being revolutionary, opponents of the technology, myself included, feel that genetic modification is not the way to go, as its implementation may result in fatal consequences and implications that can potentially alter the very face of humanity. As for a definition, the Cambridge English Dictionary (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/genetic-modification) describes genetic modification as the process of changing the genes of living organisms, with the aim of creating superior forms that are smarter, that will grow faster, and are less likely to get infected with diseases.  Ultimately, genetic modification is a very significant issue as it can upend human nature, potentially creating a world completely dominated by genetically modified individuals (Rothman, 2017). Thus, genetic modification should not be used in reproductive cloning to make designer babies because it involves altering the structure of our predetermined genes to make genetic enhancements. These genetic enhancements may be the cause of the creation of the flawless, 'perfect' children in the wealthy parts of the world, which, in turn, may lead to the genesis of an imbalanced two-tiered society that will force the poor to deal with insurmountable genetic disadvantages.

          Genetic modification involves defying the impermanence of the human nature by both enhancing and making changes to the fine structures of our predetermined genes (“Designer Babies,” 2019, Hollinger, 2012). This practice may prove to be fatal and can end up costing the victim's life during the process. As Wexler (2011) states, “Many attempts to clone mammals have failed, and about one-third of clones born alive suffer from anatomical, physiological, or developmental abnormalities that are often debilitating” (para. 1). Making alterations to our genes is simply a situation where all bets are off; considering the novelty of the technology, it is very possible for anything unexpected or unusual to take place. This was seen in the clones that have been produced as a result of genetic engineering, some of which were either defected or ended up dying (Wexler, 2011). This, therefore, urges me to unequivocally state that forcing our children to undergo any type of genetic change should neither be supported nor encouraged. By changing the genetic make-up of a human being, we are therefore not only subjecting them to permanent, dangerous and irreversible changes that will dictate how their identities will be shaped up for the remainder of their lives, but we are also redefining human procreation as a form of manufacturing. Rather than viewing children as unique beings, we are creating this faulty notion that children are commodities that can be ‘produced’ at any time through genetic modification. 

        Such notions have brought about ethical issues, which, in turn, have forced individuals to reconsider their supporting stance towards genetic modification. As “Designer Babies” states, “Some people object to genetic enhancement on religious or philosophical grounds. They argue that scientists should not “play God” by interfering with biological processes and changing the natural progression of human evolution” (2019, “Arguments Against Genetic Modification”, para. 3). By playing God’s role through the manipulation of our genes, we are basically debunking one of the quintessential reasons for our existence: mortality. Even though genetic modification represents the technological, revolutionary progressions that have been brought about, it still does also suggest that we have rashly crossed our lines, through the alteration of our innate features. Therefore, it is imperative to consider the abolition of genetic modification and the avoidance of such practices, should the natural balance of our precious world be maintained (Rothman, 2017, “The Implications of Human Genetic Modification”, para. 2). To put this more into perspective, life involves going through hardships and surmounting adversities, and by using genetic modification to alter this concept, we are creating an entirely new medium to live in, one that goes against the beliefs that we were supposedly born to embrace. Genetic modification not only contradicts the law of our existence but is also extremely dangerous; a simple mistake during the process can lead to the death of an embryo, which ultimately is a potential human being. Hence, it would be better for us to be safe rather than sorry, by not making alterations to our genes and embracing life just like the way it is. 

         Another dangerous implication of genetic modification is that it will be used for eugenic purposes, to potentially create the ‘perfect’ child that will be enhanced and gifted in all possible aspects (Hollinger, “The Technology and Purposes of Cloning”, para. 3). This prospect of using genetic modification to achieve a sense of enhancement or completeness is dangerous and can produce unprecedented societal consequences that we might have never anticipated or experienced before. As Hawking states, “[Humanity is entering] a new phase of what might be called self-designed evolution, in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA” (as cited in Stanley-Becker, 2018, para. 5). By improving our genetic disposition, however, we are not only selling our precious identity but also creating a marginal imbalance in our world. The fact that we, human beings, are attributed to a partial sense of faultiness or incompleteness is what really defines us. It is what incentivizes us to improve ourselves and become better beings, by striving to eliminate our imperfections and turning them into strengths. If we will all become merely perfect at everything through genetic modification, then we should honestly ask ourselves: what is the point of our existence? In summary, it would be better for us to live life the way it is, and not to modify the very face of our humanity, if we do not want to be the cause of an uncontainable ubiquitous disaster that may follow as a result of this heinous modification. 

         In addition, producing genetically modified children, particularly by the wealthy, may ruin societies, by limiting the extent of the diversity of the population. According to “Designer Babies”, “[The] routine correction of genetic differences could reduce the diversity of the human gene pool and leave everyone vulnerable to new diseases and environmental threats” (“Arguments Against Genetic Modification”, para. 3). Through genetic alteration, we will be potentially creating a one-dimensional, diversity-deprived society where each individual is going to be perfected in all possible manners. Thus, the word ‘talent’ is never going to exist anymore, as no one will get the opportunity to outshine the other. This, therefore, brings about the question, how will we be able to collectively coexist if we will be sharing the same features of perfection?  The idea of coexistence predominantly lies in the need for the presence of diversity; it lies in the need for the presence of varying opinions and perspectives, through the possession of varying identities. Plainly speaking, it requires us people to be distinctively different, something which genetic modification is not striving to achieve. Because of the elimination of all imperfections and weaknesses, genetic modification is going to cause humans to no longer be humans, rather genetically modified beings that lack any sort of individuality, identity, or character.

           On the social echelon, the introduction of genetic engineering may actually lead to the dichotomization of all societies, where people who fall in the bottom tier are going to be suffering severely, as opposed to those who are wealthy enough to undergo genetic modification. To put it simply, the victims that will be impacted are basically the ones that will not be able to afford the vast expenses that will come along with such a process. As Hawking states, “Once such superhumans appear, there are going to be significant political problems with the unimproved humans, who won't be able to compete. Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant” (as cited in Stanley-Becker, 2018, para. 9). Since genetic modification is going to be only an option for those who can afford the substantial expenses, others who don’t are going to be entirely left out of the equation when it comes to being part of society (“Designer Babies”, “Arguments Against Genetic Modification”, para. 2). A manifestation of this may be seen in academic institutions, where genetically modified children will be able to perform much better than those who have not undergone genetic modification. Those poor beings may never get the opportunity to shine their star bright, as they will be forced to spend the entirety of their life behind the shadow of their genetically modified counterparts. Consequently, they may develop all sorts of mental illnesses and disorders such as depression, not because they really wanted to, but because they were unfairly forced to live at a time where humanity was blinded and deluded by achieving genetic perfection, rather than simply living a dignified humane life.

            Likewise, another important group that will be affected in this two-tiered society are the disabled: those who do not have enough money to undergo modification and treat their disabilities. As “Designer Babies” states, some people with disabilities resulting from inherited factors resist the idea of genetic intervention. They argue that it encourages the belief that they are abnormal or inferior and should be fixed, which can lead to discrimination (“Arguments Against Genetic Modification”, para. 3). Because the norm of society is going to be based around that of genetic perfection, those who are not able to undergo the process, such as the impoverished disabled, are going to be disparagingly looked down upon. These people are going to be identified as the ‘abnormal’ group of society, leading to them being continuously singled out and even discriminated against, up to the point where they will be forced into accepting such treatment. Thus, the inequality that genetic modification can potentially engender between people is frightening. Once the door for genetic engineering is fully opened, the downfall of all societies may follow closely behind as a result.

            As for a solution, one key way of avoiding a genetic pandemic is the imposition of specific restrictions on the cloning of humans, through the creation of a regulatory panel that monitors such procedures (Magner et al., 2002, “Reproductive Cloning”, para. 4). By monitoring every single step that goes into the research of genetic modification, we will be ensuring that genetic engineering is being only used for certain purposes that will potentially benefit society, such as its use in medical research to develop new techniques that can bring an end to many incurable diseases around the world. Appointing a monitoring body to supervise such procedures is going to eradicate any attempts directed towards cloning the ‘perfect’ beings, through the enforcement of substantial fines and imprisonments for those who decide to break the law. In addition, the government can raise awareness about what cloning actually is, and how dangerous of a threat it can be for society, should it be implemented on a global scale. Through the powerful tool of education, many people will be correctly informed about the deleterious effects of reproductive cloning, thus leading to the birth of a self-reliant generation that will be specifically raised to embrace the fundamental aspects of the human nature, rather than ever think of altering the fabric of our society through genetic modification.

            In conclusion, the door to genetic modification for reproductive cloning should not only be closed, but it should be shut and locked down forever, that is, if we really want to maintain the peace and order of our world and its inhabitants. Should human cloning be permitted, the world may enter an unprecedented phase of genetic procreation, where people are going to compete against each other in ‘acquiring’ the best genes, resulting in perfected clusters of the community that would lack any sort of individuality or identity. Not only that, but those who cannot undergo the modification process, such as the poor and the disabled, are going to be completely left out and ostracized from such communities, leaving us with a genetic dilemma that will eventually take its toll on an imbalanced and soulless world. As showcased in this paper, genetic engineering is extremely dangerous, and by constantly deterring the people from pursuing this practice, we will be ensuring that our precious world is never going to get into a catastrophic situation that it might not be able to resolve.

References

Designer Babies. (2019). Gale Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/PC3010999192/GPS?u=971sharjah&sid=GPS&xid=ec3a14c4

Hollinger, D. P., & Langwith, J. (Ed.). (2012). Human Reproductive Cloning Is Ethically Problematic. Opposing Viewpoints. Cloning. Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Press. (Reprinted from The Meaning of Sex: Christian Ethics and the Moral Life, pp. 218-222, 2009, Baker Publishing Group) Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/EJ3010383241/GPS?u=971sharjah&sid=GPS&xid=fd9c1bab

Magner, L. N., MacKay, C., & Allenbaugh, M. H. (2002). Should the cloning of human beings be prohibited?. Science in Dispute, 1, 194-207. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3411400031/GPS?u=971sharjah&sid=GPS&xid=26b8e023

Rothman, N. (2017). It’s time to think about the implications of human Genetic Engineering. Gale Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/JXXZWS453103082/GPS?u=971sharjah&sid=GPS&xid=858e8fc5

Stanley-Becker, I. (2018, October 15). Stephen Hawking feared race of 'superhumans' able to manipulate their own DNA. The Washington Post. Retrieved from   https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A558341380/OVIC?u=971sharjah&sid=OVIC&xid=57fa7347

Wexler, B. (2011). Reproductive Cloning. Information Plus Reference Series. Genetics and Genetic Engineering. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/EJ1529400108/OVIC?u=971sharjah&sid=OVIC&xid=28ffc064

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