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?
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.
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. http://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/genetic-engineering.shtml.
Medline Plus Trusted Health Education for You. NIH. “Immune System.” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000821.htm