Boston, Massachusetts, US
The choice to alter the genetic makeup of one's offspring is not immoral under the right constraints. A series of regulations would have to be made regarding what genes you were allowed to edit, limiting them to things that cause unquestionable harm in a vacuum of any socially imposed inequalities. If something can be labeled as a disability, it is not something that should be allowed to change with this technology because one is only disabled if society imposed disadvantages on them, and their problems could be solved with accommodations; such things would include autism, adhd, dwarfism, blindness, deafness, physical mutations, or down-syndrom. It should have to be something that is life threatening, and/or causes immense, consistent, and incurable pain. In some ways, it can be called a matter of reproductive freedom, because someone who has a genetic condition that causes them harm, might be less likely to have a child for the risk of them inheriting the condition, therefore limiting that person’s reproductive freedom. Someone might be more cautious about having children if they had cancer once in their life, for the risk that the child could have it - especially since many types of cancers - like brain and blood cancer - always have a risk of coming back - or a person with sickle cell anemia or a family history of it, since sickle cell anemia is a chronic condition. There are immense risks when it comes to the use of this technology, as there is with any new scientific breakthrough. The risks of this technology are heightened both by the US history with eugenics and its exaggerated potential for harm, but the benefit of no child ever having cancer, of eliminating chronic conditions that cause people to be in constant physical pain and die young, outweighs the risks. The risks simply mean that we need to be more cautious when it comes to regulating the research and application of genetic engineering.
“In China, in Dr. He’s case, you have someone who’s (allegedly) broken national law and scientific conventions. That doesn’t mean you should halt research being done by everyone who’s law-abiding.” -Harvard Law Professor Glenn Cohen. It is obvious that the history of eugenics in both America and across the world makes it hard to protest the banning of such technologies, because their potential for evil is great. But if human beings allow themselves to limit technological advancements and human progress simply because of the potential for evil, it could lead to a less advanced society. As many classmates said during the debate, these technologies have the potential to bring great harm to the human race, beyond simply the resurgence of eugenics. The dangers to the environment, the increase of systemic issues, or the risk of misuse in what can be altered in a child; as well as the resurgence of laws that were popular during the eugenics era that are detailed in the eugenics website project - anti miscegenation, forced sterilization, mandatory IQ testing and how it influenced education, and laws limiting immigration. But despite this, the natural insinuation of a slippery slope argument is that the possible endpoint is in fact inevitable, when this is not true. As the NLM says, “It is, however, a different matter for couples to undertake their own efforts to use genetic technologies and knowledge to improve the potential of their offspring. Eugenics has not, until the advent of genetic engineering, offered this option. Efforts to change the inherited genetic makeup of a particular person may be the result of third party involvement, but it is far more likely that such efforts will be the result of individual reproductive choice.” The idea of this technology being used voluntarily completely changes its meaning, and could prevent it from becoming the slippery slope it could be. It is just important to keep people - such as governments, the church, communities, or individuals - from attempting to change the opinions of others regarding this technology. These technologies can be used safely and ethically, as long as more research is done, and close watch is kept on the policies regarding their use.
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Originally posted by
fridakahlo216 on November 12, 2023 14:14
Eugenics, even when it is voluntary, is dangerous and reckless. Though it may appear to be beneficial in theory, in reality, it will lead to many devastating consequences that humanity is not prepared to face. Assuming that people’s genes are always successfully edited and that no life-threatening errors are committed—though they inevitably will be—gene editing will still pose many threats to our world. Nature operates through a system of balance. If one particular species becomes too powerful, either because it is better suited to its environment than any of the other species or because the gene pool is so much stronger, the entire ecosystem will suffer. Thus, if gene editing is successful, it will produce a species of humans that have a much lower death rate and much higher life expectancy. This would result in immense overpopulation and the overuse of resources, two problems that humans are already suffering from as is.
Additionally, the practice of gene editing alone is a slippery slope. The original eugenics movement was also said to be for the better of humanity, with specific diseases and harmful conditions targeted. However, that quickly spiraled into a much wider range of diseases and conditions, along with personal traits that were simply considered “undesirable” and extremely targeted in society. Who’s to say that the same thing won’t happen with the new eugenics movement? Can we really have so much faith in humanity that we don’t worry that a technology that can physically change people won’t eventually move beyond characteristics that are objectively bad and include characteristics that are simply less favored? And this is not simply a hypothetical question. He Jiankui’s experiment, according to the Harvard Gazette, was not actually on babies with diseases that he was “trying to cure. The motivation for the intervention was that they live in a country with a high stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, and the father had it and agreed to the intervention because he wanted to keep his children from contracting AIDS. AIDS shaming is a fact of life in China, and now it won’t be applied to these children. So, are we going to decide that it’s OK to edit as-yet-to-be children to cater to this particular idea of a society?”
Furthermore, gene editing being incorporated into the definition of reproductive freedom is also a slippery slope. In this case, people are saying that parents have the right to choose at least certain traits for their children or future descendants. Should this logic then be applied to a wider variety of traits? Does this mean that parents should be able to reject their children because of certain traits since they do not have the genes that their parents wanted them to have? Should parents be able to reject their children for non-genetic traits as well, such as if they are LGBTQ+ or have a mental illness? The possibilities of such an experimental and unreliable technology causing great harm and destruction are too great for it to be allowed to continue.
Finally, how can we ensure that this new eugenics truly stays voluntary? If people believe that this technology is for the greater good, then people will likely be pressured into it, as not undergoing the procedure would mean that their “bad” genes are still within the gene pool. This peer pressure may eventually become enforced, just as the original eugenics movement did.
I agree with what you're saying about the specific traits parents would be able to chose for their children when it comes to things like mental illness and LGBTQIA+ ideas, and its making me think about regulations less about when the technology can be used, but also who can use it. I think that there should be some level of interview process when it comes to being able to use these technologies, to prevent what you're talking about from happening. I also agree with what you're saying about the dangers of peer pressure when it comes to this technology staying voluntary, so it really does become dangerous in that sense without the proper regulations.
Boston, Massachusetts, US
The Ethical and Moral Questions of the New Eugenics
When it comes to altering eugenics the biggest concern is morality, misusage, and repetition of history. All babies are born differently with different features that make them unique but some are born with genetic markers that cause things such as diseases, deformities or mental health issues. There are many advocates for technology, like CRISPR, that allows you to change these genes, which can be helpful to avoid struggles such as; cancer, HIV, and much more but it’s important to take into account things like dwarfism, down-syndrome, or autism that have grown communities based on wanting to be seen as equals because they see their differences as gifts. So as humans how do we choose which genetics get to be changed for children before they are born? We don’t, because throughout history it has been proven that everytime humans try to play god it ends up being a matter of race. Just like how the article Perspectives on Gene Editing mentions, “One open question is where to draw the line between disease treatment and enhancement, and how to enforce it, considering differing attitudes toward conditions such as deafness”. Usually the people already on top, that being white raced people, get the first grabs at technology like this. This kind of science could be used not just for curing diseases but changing feature of your baby in whatever way you wanted like their hair, nose, eyes, or physic but the only people who would be able to afford this kind of technology are the rich and it happens to be that most of the wealthy are white therefore further increasing the gap between the wealthy and regular citizens. The first prototype cost more than some wealthy people will ever have, as this kind of science is only for the truly elite of society. Along with the fact that science wants to cure diseases of “imperfections” that socially are not seen as so, the people who currently have them are living good lives and don't see their differences as a problem that needs to be fixed. So how does one decide which matters get to be fixed and who gets it first when it comes to sick people who have diseases that could kill them. In order for a science like gene editing to be able to work there would have to be strict rules put into play about how it gets used. But history has also proven that everybody has a price, humans will do anything for money even if it means breaking the law. Morals become useless once the human mind has fixated on what it wants and if that means having a genetically “perfect baby” nobody can tell how far people will take it. The children of the world are already so divided through race, economy and religion so why further push the divide of humanity by producing children that could be deemed better. In the article What is Immoral About Eugenics? It further talks about the advantages genetically edited babies would have, “It is hard to argue in a world that currently tolerates so much inequity in the circumstances under which children are brought into being that there is something more offensive or more morally problematic about biological advantages as opposed to social and economic advantages”. These babies won’t only be better physically but this technology would be used with only the rich so they widen the divide of economic equality. When it comes to the eugenics of gene editing it’s a very hard matter to debate about and the dinner debates showed me that it’s hard to be pro gene editing when there are too many current problems to make this type of technology successful. In many cases gene editing could be seen as immoral, a disadvantage based on economy and a “slippery slope” which is why despite how much good it could do, humans should not be trusted with this kind of technology.
Boston, Massachusetts, US
The gene editing of human embryos is immoral unless the child will be born with a genetic condition that is guaranteed to be fatal. Similar to the development and use of AI, gene editing software such as CRISPR will inevitably be available to the public. However, it should not be used beyond absolute necessity due to the biological and societal implications. One of the most immediately identifiable issues with editing the genes of embryos is that all cells of the child will be impacted, including the reproductive cells. Therefore, the choices made by the two parents of the embryo will impact all future generations of the family. Two people will be making decisions that determine the entire biological future of possibly thousands of people. During an abortion, no conscious being is harmed, which is part of why it is a reproductive right. In contrast, after gene-editing, people will be born with unnatural genetic alterations they did not choose and probably cannot remove. In many scenarios, it is akin to the secret surgeries performed on intersex infants and young children to ‘fix’ their bodies, although their physicality may not hinder their health or wellbeing whatsoever. In many cases, although not all, to classify genes as good or bad is to make misled assumptions about what makes a healthy life.
America’s history of eugenics signifies that the decisions Americans make about how to edit their embryos could be very misled and biased. For example, the historical eugenics-based institutionalization, stigma, and demonization of neurodivergent people and people with mental disabilities still impacts public opinion about mental health, and who is mentally ‘wrong.’ If a parent is determined to edit out a mental disability from their child, which many parents will be, the biological and societal repercussions could be disastrous. It is true that many mental disorders are genetic, but scientists still do not have a confident understanding of exactly which genes code for them. This will not prevent some people from going through with editing those genes. Also, neurodivergence and mental disorders could be seen as even more fundamentally undesirable than they are seen now. This second societal result factors into the other negative cultural impact of gene-editing: the way the world will view those who are not edited. If someone needs to go to therapy sessions, should they pay more or face extra stigma because their parents did not edit their anxiety or depression out of them? On dating apps, will people include information about their ‘gene quality,’ and filter out people who haven’t been genetically edited to have all of the ‘best’ genes? Will being ‘genetically worse,’ or even ‘genetically average’ become something children will bully each other about on the playground? Even the current conversations around gene-editing software are negatively impacting people currently living with disorders. In the article The Dark Side of CRISPR, Sandy Sufian and Rosmarie Garland-Thompson argue that their physical genetic disabilities do not mean they are one-dimensional, eternally suffering and malformed women. They write that by aiming to eliminate all ‘bad genes,’ people are making assumptions about their entire quality of life based on one aspect of them, and that “the vision of a future without people like us limits our ability to live in the present.” The authors claim that, by that logic, most gene-editing procedures are ableist.
The government should regulate the use of CRISPR with scientific guidance, but should not use CRISPR for a national agenda. The original eugenics movement was ethically flawed because institutions desired to change the gene pool in a certain way they found appealing, based on ideas of superiority. In the modern day, to limit risks, gene-editing should only be used if the disorder is guaranteed to be fatal. Other cosmetic, intelligence/personality-changing, or physical edits could prove problematic. Overcomplicating the available applications of the technology could lead to vast inequalities and the politicization of gene-editing. Also, if the US government pursues non-essential gene-editing projects as a reaction to foreign countries’ actions, the country is setting itself up for a series of policies and projects based in fear and competitiveness. As Anna pointed out during the dinner table discussion, the government could use CRISPR to create children designed for specific occupations. This is a form of weaponizing the technology, because it will quickly spiral into designing people capable of strengthening the military. Additionally, this use of the technology would place an unfair pressure on children to work in the assigned occupation and remain in America to protect it, regardless of where they want to work or live.
Boston, Massachusetts, US
The choice to alter the genetic makeup of offspring is not necessarily immoral, but it can raise ethical questions: is humanity able to use these modern technologies responsibly, how far will we go in determining what traits are “unsuitable” and therefore should be erased? As these choices are made voluntarily, and not forced upon with previous forced sterilization laws in the United States during the 1930s, they are not immoral. Is it moreso a matter of reproductive freedom because it is the parents who are making the decisions for their children. This new gene-altering technology will be able to do good for many families whose offspring may have potential birth defects or inherited disorders. Although blurred vision is not negatively viewed as a birth defect, those in low-income families who might reproduce a child with this trait may not have the financial resources to afford glasses or eye appointments. This is similar to one of the many reasons why some women may opt for an abortion: they are not financially inadequate to provide for their child. Caplan emphasizes this idea by saying “Allowing parental choice about the genetic makeup of their children may lead to the creation of a genetic “overclass” with unfair advantages over those who parents did not or could not afford to endow them with the right biological dispositions and traits” (Caplan, National Library of Medicine). Those who are pro-life argue that these women are killing their children, but a mother knows best and would want their child to grow up in a safe and secure environment. If a parent wants to prevent their child from carrying a gene that causes sickle cell disease, it is understandable, as that is one of many devastating diseases that permanently impact one’s life. The mother may not be financially stable enough to provide her child with the proper care. Although it can be an interference in the process of life, it is not an unethical one. There should be a “line” between what genes should and shouldn’t be altered, and it can be achieved by implementing laws regarding the limits of gene-editing technology. Even if not 100% successful, it can still be beneficial in ensuring these methods are used ethically and responsibly in order to prevent a repeat of the past with forced sterilization. With gene-editing technology like CRISPR, careful precision may be implemented as botching a single gene can further increase complications with multiple other genes.
Like many other medical procedures, they always come with risks. Procedures like breast augmentation and Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) have become more popular in modern times from the influence of influencers and celebrities. The average cost of breast augmentations and BBLs ranges from $4,000-$10,000, and though considered significantly inexpensive compared to the average cost of gene therapies (at least $1 million), it can be presumed that these procedures are not considered affordable by the general public of the working class. Since bigger breasts and butt size have increasingly become new “ideal” features in a woman, is it reasonable to assume that smaller sizes of these attributes will become looked down upon, similar to how traits like deafness or autism will be regarded as “imperfect”? As expected, there will always be risks if gene-editing technology becomes highly popularized. It may eliminate disorders, such as autism or down syndrome, which have ultimately made the human race unique and aided us in understanding and accepting our differences. Some parents could choose to eliminate genes that cause such disorders, which brings forth the question of whether those disorders are considered “unsuitable” in a child. Modern technology has become more advanced into fulfilling “fantasies of “improving” humanity where we would all become some aspirational version of personhood that is somehow better, stronger, smarter, and healthier” (Sufian, Scientific American). Though this correlates to Darwin’s theory of natural selection where the fittest were more likely to survive and therefore pass on their more-suitable traits, throughout evolution, society has created labels for what are considered “good” and “bad” genes. It can further emphasize the stigma and unknowingly promote exclusion towards those with mental or behavioural disorders.