Has Science Gone Too Far?

Humans may not be ready for Genetic Engineering.

This+diagram+illustrates+how+CRISPR+technology%2C+as+in+the+case+of+the+genetically+modified+twins%2C+allows+for+DNA+to+be+manipulated.
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Has Science Gone Too Far?

This diagram illustrates how CRISPR technology, as in the case of the genetically modified twins, allows for DNA to be manipulated.

This diagram illustrates how CRISPR technology, as in the case of the genetically modified twins, allows for DNA to be manipulated.

This diagram illustrates how CRISPR technology, as in the case of the genetically modified twins, allows for DNA to be manipulated.

This diagram illustrates how CRISPR technology, as in the case of the genetically modified twins, allows for DNA to be manipulated.

Katie Swanson, Reporter

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In the last several years, it seems like news coverage of advancements in the field of science, especially pertaining to advances in genetic manipulation and cloning have been swept under the radar while daily developments in politics and economics are considered “BREAKING NEWS” worthy. Just because we aren’t cognizant of the subtle developments relating to genetic engineering and cloning, doesn’t mean they’re not happening. 

 

Unbeknownst to most Americans, celebrities like Barbara Streisand have spent tens of thousands of dollars to clone their most beloved pets, and now cloning pets is becoming fairly mainstream. In late 2017, the first primates, twin macaque monkeys were successfully cloned using the same technology that gave us Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned in the late 90’s. Last year, Chinese scientist Jiankui He created the first genetically modified babies using CRISPR technology to alter their DNA and diminish their risk of contracting HIV.  

It seems like technological advancement is progressing faster than our ability to comprehend the implications of such groundbreaking technology. These recent technological innovations beg the question of whether science can, in fact, go too far, and whether it already has. The existence of the first genetically modified humans may be an indication that the threshold has already been crossed; something once thought to be science fiction has now become reality.

 

EHS biology teacher Bob Wolf posits that science can never go too far, but the application of science as technology certainly can, and perhaps will. “Genetic engineering is overall good, but it has severe possibility for bad,” Wolf said. 

 

While genetic modification could have unlimited medical benefits and utility in eradicating diseases, disorders, physical and mental defects, and negative genetic traits; thus improving the lives of millions of people, it could also be detrimental for those who are “imperfect.” There are significant ethical concerns about the recent developments in genetic engineering and and how the pursuit of perfection seemingly devalues preexisting life. This is especially concerning as the genetic modification of humans is now a reality.

 

Wolf said, “You could make the argument that genetic modification and cloning devalues life because it is searching for perfection, and whenever you’re looking for perfection, you’re extenuating the negatives of those that already are [in existence].”

 

For example, people who do not meet the societal standard of perfection may be judged as inferior. This could potentially lead to the development of a caste system based on a genetic hierarchy. If this were to be the case, genetic modification would only exacerbate the inequality of classes, as only the wealthy would likely be able to afford to modify their offspring to be “perfect,” while people of a lower socioeconomic status would not be able to.

 

Chinese researcher Jiankui He may have opened Pandora’s Box with his creation of the first genetically modified humans. Humanity may not be ready for it.