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Genetic enhancement can not be a bad thing

Friday, 10 October, 2008

In discussing whether designer babies, human genetic engineering or even cybernetic enhancements should be allowed, the arguments can fairly well be divided into those arguing that the end results would be good/ bad, or those arguing that the methods used are moral/immoral.

The argument that human genetic enhancement will be expensive and therefore lead to a class-divide between the wealthy and the poor is perhaps the most commonly encountered ends-based argument. The issue with such an argument is that human genetic enhancement is not the only means by which such a divide could occur. Other enhancements, such as expensive schooling/tuition or higher-speed internet are similarly able to lead to such a divide, as those with these enhancements use their advantage to garner even more enhancements for themselves and their children. Therefore, such an ends-based argument against genetic enhancement, while not necessarily incorrect (if we accept that a class divide is a bad consequence), is inconsistent with other more accepted forms of enhancement.

In fact, the inconsistency runs deeper. Education, exercise, vaccination and other forms of enhancement are often considered to lead to very good results. Therefore, society encourages them, in some cases to the point of making them compulsory. If one is only looking at the results, genetic enhancement seems to promise even better enhancement of intelligence, health and happiness. It is hard to imagine why method of enhancing ourselves that involve schooling or training would be encouraged and yet biotechnological methods would be strictly prohibited.

When such inconsistencies are pointed out to those making such an argument, the usual response is that fiddling around with genes is incomparable to schooling or training, as direct modification of our bodies is an entirely different class of enhancement. This effectively turns the argument into a means-based one, as it argues that genetic enhancement is bad because it involves genetic modification of human beings, commodification of human life, insufficient respect for human dignity etc etc. Those arguments don’t suffer from the inconsistency of the ends-based arguments, and therefore are worthy of further investigation.

I’m a utilitarian, however, and therefore I think that the wrongness or rightness of any given means can only be determined by looking at the ends produced. That is, the ends can justify the means. Genetic enhancement, as I said above, seems to be just as good as schooling or exercise or any other form of enhancement. I’d encourage everyone to educate themselves, and I think education is a good thing, and therefore I think genetic enhancement is similarly a good thing.

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5 comments

  1. The problem with genetic enhancement, if it is a germ-line modification, is not it’s accessibility, it is that the enhanced cannot help but pass the enhancement on. So while one generation may have chosen enhancement, the subsequent generations have no choice in the matter. It is essentially experimentation on human subjects without their consent.


    • So youre saying, being smarter, faster, stronger, healthier and possibly with super abilities would be a bad thing to pass on to your kids?? Plus if its allowed by law to modify genes in society, they could always just change it back..


  2. Rebecca, I get what you are trying to say, but if germline modification is the ability to choose what genes you pass on, then any genes you have are not permanent at all (provided that each generation has access to this technology). In addition, somatic genetic engineering will allow people to remove or edit the genes they were given by their parents (see my blog post on this).

    Further, nobody has the ability to consent to what genes they are born with, though they will soon have the ability to change them if they please. This means that whether you enhance your children or not, you have still forced a choice onto your children.


  3. fuck that, the possibilities are obvious, if you can enhance us then there is a possibility that in later generations the gene or genetices may alter themself’s, this may be good or bad as it seems our dna has lasted a long time and there is no time bomb just human error on continuing life itself, there is no guaentee that the next generation sill strive to exist due to the possibility of depression, war, other species, alien’s!!! if we chose to do so we would need to seperate us from them and cut communication between normal civilisation due to love and mixing advanced and normal, really honestly enzymes and natural intake and less alcohol and drugs and we would all be much better and smarter, maybe even less crime and pain, though the earth would fill up very fast that way unless population control was obtained quickly, so for now as it has always been to each your own if you find it yay give yourself a fucking cookie, otherwise join everyone else in the soon party of of the fucking grave and hopeful, wishful, thinking of a new life after death in who knows what fuckng religion, I know what I have felt, seen and heard, I know that the human mind is much more capable than us lazy shit heads give it credit for and thank you everyone who strive’s to excell in mind exersize, you have done us all the enhancement we seem to seek


  4. Did anyone ever consider the mass inbreeding that comes from perfect similar genes?



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