As our technology continues to advance, new breakthroughs in medicine are
discovered. With these new developments serious ethical and moral questions
arise. Advancements in genetic engineering, reproductive technologies, cloning,
organ transplanting, and human experimentation are all causes of concern. The
Human Genome Project, an incredible scientific undertaking determined to produce
a map of the human DNA code, will tell us how each gene or group of genes
function (Lemonick and Thompson 44). With this map, scientists and doctors will
be able to figure out how genes can malfunction and cause deadly diseases.
course, they will also know what each gene controls, and how to manipulate and
control our genes to get the specified, desired results. This is exactly the
type of tool researchers need to perfect the science of eugenics.
"Eugenics"- a powerful word from the Greek stem meaning "good in
birth" (Gray 84). In the past, it was thought that we could improve the
quality of the human race by making it impossible for those with undesirable
traits to reproduce. Charles Davenport once said that he hoped "human
matings could be placed on the same high plane as that of horse breeding" (qtd.
in Gray 84).
Many states in the United States have put into place laws that
required people in custody with hereditary defects to be sterilized (Gray 85).
The false science of eugenics and purification of the human race swayed these
states. One such example of this is the 1927 Supreme Court case of Buck vs.
Bell. The result of this case was the sterilization of Carrie Buck, the
seventeen year old daughter of a "feeble-minded" mother; the mother a
seven month old daughter, already determined to be of "subnormal
intelligence"; legally declared a "moral imbecile" herself. But
the concept of purging our race was not present in the United States alone.
Hitler’s concept of eugenics consisted of sterilizing the blind, schizophrenics,
and those with terrible physical deformities (Gray 85). Now, with the
advancement of genetic engineering, genetically altering the human race has made
a huge leap forward. Soon scientists will be able to genetically pre-determine
nearly every characteristic new-born children are likely to have. Doctors will
be able to determine how tall a child will be, what type of body they will have,
what illnesses they will be resistant to, and even their IQ and personality (Lemonick
64). As Jeremy Rifkin, a critic of biotechnology, says, ;It’s the ultimate
shopping experience: designing your baby. In a society used to cosmetic
surgery, this is not a big step" (qtd.
in Lemonick 64). However, the
gene or combination of genes that make up these favored characteristics have not
yet been found, so it is not yet possible to engineer a variety of genes, both
in and out of the fetus (Lemonick 64). According to a TIME magazine poll, if
given the choice of which traits a person would choice for his or her child,
sixty percent of those responding would choose to rule out a fatal disease.
Thirty-three percent of the people would request greater intelligent, twelve
percent desired to influence height or weight, and finally, eleven percent of
those questioned would determine the sex of the child (Lemonick 64). Also,
according to the same survey, thirty-nine percent of those polled believe that
parents with genetically linked diseases ought to be required to test their
children for them, while fifty-five percent did not (Lemonick 64). When speaking
of genetically altering genes to obtain the proverbial "perfect baby,"
one must address the issue of genetic discrimination.
If researchers are able to
locate the exact genes that determine our mental traits or characteristics,
could zealous parents or possibly the government use this ability to destroy any
characteristics they see as undesirable and remove them? Then proceed to add the
traits they consider good and guarantee everyone receives them (Yount 86)? The
issue of genetic discrimination will become more and more prevalent as society
continues to strive toward perfection, and new methods of obtaining this are
developed. As geneticist Karl A. Drlica said in 1994, "What we now call an
average child may eventually be considered defective" (qtd. in Yount 80).
This is a relatively easy point to defend. When a group of parents is
genetically altering the future generation to perfection, those not engineered
will be at a disadvantage.
Soon we will have the technology to escape having
children with certain "defects," such as attention-deficit disorder,
below-average height, lower intellect, homosexuality, or a possible genetically
linked disease. Will those individuals still possessing these traits be
ostracized and made to feel even more .