Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right

A physician will never prescribe more medicine to an individual who was hospitalized for an overdose. So why would more genetic enhancement be the solution for negating or eliminating genetic enhancement from prior generations?

In the essay “Human genetic enhancements: A transhumanist perspective” Nick Bostrom exemplifies the many great benefits that genetic enhancements can bring. Bostrom refers to the increase in intelligence, health, life span (Holland 105), the reduction of diseases (Holland 106,113) and the ability to gain new human capabilities (Holland 105, 112). In other words power. In Bostrom’s eyes, genetic enhancement provides power. However, this ‘power’ can cause larger problems that will affect the balance of society and can even cause health risks that have not yet been resolved or discussed.

The balance of society can be greatly affected with the introduction of widespread genetic enhancements. Through the access to genetic enhancements, “ inequities grow much larger thanks to genetic interventions that only the rich can afford, adding genetic advantages to the environmental advantages already benefitting privileged children (Holland 112). Bostrom believes that “…the increase in unjust inequalities due to technology is not a sufficient reason for discouraging the development and use of the technology,” (Holland 113).  However, this access to genetic enhancements for certain communities will undoubtedly affect the balance in society. Some may be unable to provide themselves or their children with the “gift” of genetic enhancement, just as some families are unable to send their children to private schools.  The poor and underprivileged will not only be fighting against poverty, but  these individuals will be subject to being ridiculed and mistreated because they are of “average” height, build, intelligence, etc. simply because they could not afford genetic enhancements. And yes, these differences will undoubtedly bring about societal issues, let’s not forget about slavery, the Holocaust, and the massacres in Sudan, which all erupt because individuals feel superior in comparison to others.  Society will split into parts, with the rich and genetically enhanced on one side, breeding amongst themselves, and with those that cannot afford or utilize this technology in another group.

Genetic enhancement is believed to be of value to human health. Bostrom also incorrectly supposes that “If we become healthier, we are personally better off and others are not any worse off,” (Holland 111). However, this statement contains a great deal of false assumptions. One would think that at least the healthier individuals are better off and can benefit. However, those that are “healthier” can catch a virus or infection which their bodies will not be able to combat because of the lack of exposure to these illnesses and thus they may end up more sick than the “less healthy” individuals. If the antigens in our body are not exposed to any sort of illness, it will be unable to act strongly enough to fight off a common cold, fever, etc and thus the individual will remain sick. (More about antigens).  Those that will be unable to utilize genetic enhancements to “improve” health may lose resources that provide medicine and treatments because these resources may be changed in order to cater to the new illnesses of the genetically altered humans.

Genetic enhancement also caused the premature death of the cloned sheep Dolly. So we increase the value of human health, by diminishing life span?

Picture from
Picture from

As stated by Darren Shickle, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”: rather than use a man-made solution to a man-made problem, it is better not to create the problem in the first place. If difference was accepted (or even appreciated), then there would be no prejudice to eliminate tendency of mankind to pursue short-term advantage without considering the long-term consequences.” Why combat problems that come from genetic enhancements, such as medical illnesses and shortened life span, by providing more genetic enhancements? If  an individual does not want his genetically enhanced unnatural height to pass to an offspring, him or his offspring will have to undergo even more genetic engineering to reverse the former procedure?

And with genetic enhancements, just as new Iphones and Ipads are presented to society each day, new human norms will be presented each day. No one will feel “good enough” because there is a new genetic procedure that can make then 10 times as fast, 100 times as smart, and 1000 times as strong. Our natural baselines will be looked upon as elementary and substandard.

Plastic surgery can be addictive and also life-threatening. I have no doubt that genetic enhancements will do the same thing, and government regulations may not be of much use.

There will never be a way out of the compelling “power” of genetic enhancements. This won’t make anything right.

Maybe 7 fingers will one day be the social norm?
Maybe 7 fingers will one day be the social norm?

Bostrom, Nick. “Human genetic enhancements: a transhumanist perspective.” In Arguing about Bioethics, edited by Stephen Holland, 105-115. New York: Routledge, 2012.

Shickle, Darren. “Are “Genetic enhancements” really enhancements?” Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 9, no. 3 (September 8, 2000): 342-52.

McPherson, Jerry. Disabled World.

Medline Plus Trusted Health Education for You. NIH. “Immune System.”

7 thoughts on “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right

  1. While your argument against genetic enhancement is thought provoking, I do not believe that your statement about Dolly, (you refer to the sheep as Molly) the infamous cloned sheep, is correct. In the blog post by Sasha Barghachie, she outlines the underlining causes of Dolly’s premature death, one possibly caused by the faultiness in the cloning procedure NOT genetic enhancement itself. She died of sheep pulmonary adenomatosis (SPA) inflicted by a virus that is common among sheep. Dolly also had arthritis, which is unusual in young sheep. Since Dolly was cloned from adult cells via nuclear, scientists have speculated if those adult cells caused premature aging. A group of researchers have discussed how telomeres, units at the end of all chromosomes, are related to the premature aging issues of clones ( Telomeres serve to stabilize chromosomes during DNA replication. However due to the natural processes of DNA replication, not all of the chromosome is replicated during each cycle, which decreases the length of telomeres. Telomere length correlates to the number of cell divisions and indicates the molecular age of the cell. If a cloned animal inherits these shorten telomeres, as speculated in Dolly, then perhaps the clone will match the age of his or her donor. Another group of scientists did find that the telomeres in Dolly were shorter when compared to control sheep of her age ( While there are limits in the research of cloned organisms, the decrease in telomere length, a result of nuclear transfer, seems to be correlated with premature aging of clones. Based off of this conjecture, Dolly’s premature aging conditions cannot be associated with genetic enhancement.

  2. I found this argument particularly interesting in that it brings across some valid points regarding the downside of genetic enhancement. It is very much the case that genetic enhancement can increase social dysfunction in making the playing field even more uneven for those lacking access to genetic engineering. As stated by Ananda, in Genetically Modified Babies, human gene therapy “will lead to designer babies and a new class of underdogs – those who cannot afford genetic enhancement”(Ananda). Similarly, the book, Wondergenes: Genetic Enhancement and the Future of Society (Mehlman)- digs deeper into the concept of social inequality brought about by the economic costs of genetic enhancement, yet its desire to many. Mehlman predicts a future lacking democracy and full of social issues, because unequal access to genetic enhancements makes certain members of society genetically dominant to others. Even further, “Mehlman considers it possible that eventually the “genobility” may be so genetically different that these intelligent beings will no longer be considered human.”(Mehlman). If genetic enhancement were to go as far as to make humans so unnatural that they are no longer humans then there is clearly some immorality involved in the process. Another point you brought up that I found interesting was that medicines might ultimately be converted to help genetically altered human beings which could put the natural human beings at risk. This is a valid point, but possibly too extreme because I’d assume that medications for both genetically altered human beings and natural human beings would be available unless society wants people who are not genetically altered to die off. However, there could be larger quantities of medical opportunities available for the genetically altered human beings if that becomes the norm.

  3. I do agree with you that two wrongs don’t make a right. In reference to Bostrom’s quote, we would technically be doing more harm than good. In their efforts to make things better it would be making things worse. I also agree with your statement that government regulations won’t do much! This is a major concern of cloning in general of whether or not there will be sufficient control over cloning. There are many things today that have been used and abused, so it’s difficult to see how cloning would be controlled completely. Cloning comes with risks and benefits, but would it really be worth it, or should we just leave well enough alone and let nature take it’s course. One researcher has stated reasons that cloning has been banned ( If someone has found a reason to an it, but it hasn’t been legalized yet then we should consider researching more. Due to the motions that have been made to ban cloning we should learn more about cloning and it’s consequences before performing the action.

  4. I really enjoyed your argument against genetic enhancement. I especially appreciated your comments towards the end where you basically mentioned that people won’t be happy with what they have because, in essence, there will always be something better. In terms of genetic enhancement, I agree with you when you say that there’s always going to be more plastic surgery that someone can do, or more changes someone can make about his or her body because he or she isn’t happy with it. The more technology we have and surgical opportunities to change ourselves, the less happy and satisfied we are going to be. It seems that there will always be something available that’s more desirable. The more genetic enhancements that become “the style,” the more people will want to do more with themselves.

  5. Though your argument about the human race constantly trying to improve itself using genetic enhancements is very compelling, I find that without genetic enhancements the human race is still always looking for something better. People already don’t feel “good enough” because of the media, plastic surgery, Hollywood stereotypes, etc. Humans will continue to make enhancements anyway they can. The medical field is constantly evolving so that people can enhance themselves, though it may not be genetically. As humans, we strive for perfection and fail to see that we just might have everything we need right in front of us. We try to prevent death, a natural process that will inevitably affect us all, but instead we sometimes increase the chances that we will die. A good example is how very useful technology such as iProducts emitting carcinogenic radiation. Perhaps, genetic enhancement will be just another thing that will help destroy the human race, rather than help it. Or maybe the reverse is true and it could greatly benefit humanity.

  6. While I think you make a multitude of valid points, I feel as though some of your concerns are misplaced. Who is to say that the genetically modified would not be exposed to any fewer illnesses than people without genetic modifications? I’m also not so sure if new diseases would arise that would only affect those who are genetically modified. Much of health is not just the absence of disease. Behavior and the choices we make influence health as much as anything else. This is not to say genetic enhancement wouldn’t decrease chances of developing certain chronic conditions or what have you. Additionally, if genetic enhancement ever hits the market I do not think there will be any concerns with decreased life span. If anything, I think genetic enhancement will improve quality of life for those who elect to partake in it specifically because of the huge possibility for cognitive improvement. If such technology becomes reality one day, why forego making it available because of concerns with equality when society as a whole could be improved from the ideas of these incredible thinkers? If genetic enhancement can truly make us smarter, the potential benefits to everyone (even those not genetically enhanced) should not be overlooked. Solutions to many of the world’s problems could arise from someone who can think at a higher level than today’s average human. I think that this is reason alone to allow genetic enhancement. Alas, what we will eventually be able to actually enhance in the human genome is mere speculation at this point.

  7. In general, people think genetic enhancement can lead to immorality, that only the wealthy will be able to use it, and that there could be adverse outcomes. However, isn’t this what we once thought about plastic surgery?
    A lot of the concerns for plastic surgery seem to parallel those for genetic enhancement. Generally, the wealthy have been the ones to use (and sometimes abuse) plastic surgery- there is an element of immorality with this, and it seems like the wealthy are striving for that same unattainable goal of perfection. Also, people die under the knife. People have died from breast implants, facial lifts and anesthesia accidents. But we still allow plastic surgery and it’s not considered a preposterous field of medicine. There are many positives that are being left out of the discussion, though. For example, plastic surgeons improve the lives of so many people! There are those who have improved “self-esteem” and “self-worth” after the surgical removal of excess skin, “pinning back” ears, or breast reduction. Why can’t the same kind of positives exist in genetic enhancements? Some people can be perfectly happy with their bodies, while others may want to pay for genetic enhancement to become taller- and that could be great! It could improve the life of the genetically enhanced person, and society actually might not collapse…

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