The term genetic enhancement, when used in scientific circles, means the use of genetic engineering skills to modify the characteristics of an individual that are non-pathological in nature. It has come to the fore in the last few decades, thanks to tremendous technological advancements that have been made as far as the human genome is concerned. Of particular importance is the completion of the human genome project which has, now than ever, made it very easy for the scientists to accurately describe the specific gene responsible for certain characteristics in an individual, be it physical, emotional or intellectual. The question remains, when exactly did this genetic enhancement ever enter human minds and what has led to its overnight soaring popularity? And despite its current popularity, is it desirable in the human world or does it come as another technique that humans are seeking to hasten their perceived need to evolve into super humans (Bostrong, 2003). The following argument seeks to elucidate on the origin of the concept of genetic enhancement and the implications it has in the world today.
Much of the current resentment and resistance directed at the enhancement technologies have sprung from the beliefs held that the human race has never done anything close to human enhancement before, hence the feeling that we are starting off in a new, never travelled before and dangerous direction. However, a close look at normal daily life and the evidence of a highly enhanced human race is evident. Many people than ever before are busy in enhancing their physical characteristics, both health related and those that are not health related, which are the same characteristics that were cited earlier as the candidates for genetic enhancement. Nobody is yet to object the use of vaccination to protect individuals from disease, nor the use of glasses to correct sight problems leave alone the ever increasing use of calcium supplements in a bid to counter osteoporosis. Those interested in working longer resort to taking coffee and other possible and legal stimulants, the use of healthy diets to enhance child growth in height and weight in their tentative years. Indeed, the major reason for children clinics is to measure these growths after every short time. Women, over the centuries, have been always critical in choosing males, also seen in the animal kingdom, with the major criteria being strength and height, which are possible indicators of the health status of the male hence, possibility of siring healthy children with her (Savulescu, 2009).
The intellectual enhancement is not left behind, with this being taken care of through selection of an intelligent mate in the belief that he or she will sire intelligent children. Even after the birth of these children, a lot of resources, in money, energy and time, are spent to enhance their intellectual capability through education. The best attempt in this direction is the use of a computer or a calculator. Behaviorally, the parents tend to encourage a certain set of behavioral traits among themselves in the hope that their offspring is going to emulate them. This is among the subtlest forms of enhancement, with the psychologist finding it fit to term it social learning. Given the glaring facts that both genetics and environment have a great effect on the physical, intellectual and behavioral characteristics of an individual, and that the human race has over time sought a way to manipulate this to its own advantage, the agitation for genetic enhancement should not be harshly condemned as it is now. This is because it is lessening the human effort by giving means through which the specific genes can be modified rapidly, shortening the tedious process of generation-long evolution and also reduces the costs (Köberle, 2005).
Despite the outcry against this technology, what are some of the possible benefits to the human race? Great promise is in the health-related physical enhancements for instance in the manipulations of the immune system in an attempt to modify the body’s response to invading microorganisms like bacteria, viruses (Bohlin, 2000). This can also be applied in the prevention and treatment of immune dysfunctions like autoimmune disorders and allergies. Some of the conditions seen in aging, hence can be termed normal, can be genetically modified. These include osteoporosis, presbyopia and benign prostatic hypertrophy (Polle, Janz, & Teichmann, 2013). This will help the geriatric population to live a much more quality life as they approach the end of their lifespan. Also, on the same population of old people and in the human race in general, it may help to counter the aging process which lies in the non-health related physical enhancements. Questions have been raised as to whether the prolongation of the human lifespan is ethical, from a religious point of view, but no agreement has yet been reached. On the other hand, if need for sleep could be reduced to 2 or 3 hours a day, then the functional day want to increase to between 21 and 22 hours, which to some, especially the industrialists, will be a great advantage with the possibility of very high profits from increased production. Much argument has been raised against this possibility, terming it dehumanization of the human race but it is still a possibility; in any case, there has been an ever increasing demand for labor for the time immemorial. Behavioral traits like conscientiousness and agreeableness are very much desirable in any society. In an attempt to create a ‘good’ society, behavioral traits like aggressiveness may need to be altered, though much debate is on as to the individuality of every member of society concerning behavior (Agar, 2008).
However, the possible advantages do not overweigh the dangers of allowing the technology to permeate every facet of human life. The constant assertion by genetic engineers that human is nothing more than their genetic endowment is a misguided conclusion that makes human life look like a generation of robots, driven by the intrinsic programs called genes. It has been asserted by many other disciplines, including psychology that humans are made up of what they inherit and what they encounter on the outside. The mere summing up of what makes human life in one sentence robes the human race its unique identity and makes people less than individuals. It is simply wrong. Another danger posed, which may yet have been considered, is that once the genetic engineers introduce a new gene into a germ cell, thus altering its effects on the offspring, the genes will always be passed on to the generations to follow. If we suppose that the gene modified is that of increasing the height and weight of the individual, it means that the generations that follow that offspring will all be ‘giants’ which, as can be expected in any given society, will offset the normal state of things. Many people agree that the variety of characteristics exhibited by individual human beings is the core to the existence of the human race. Thus, being tall does not mean best, and being short means having advantages that the tall person does not have. Equally, having low intellectual capacity academic wise has led many to pursue other fields, like sports, which are beneficial to man, but do not need the faculties that they lack. Having a hot temper and being docile have led to both war and peace which has worked both to keep the man improving him gradually and being also sensitive to the needs of his neighbors. There is a general feeling that if this genetic enhancement is indeed allowed to be carried out on humans, some nations and individuals are going to use the technology in a malicious manner. It will not be a surprise that some nations will modify a section of their population to form very ruthless individuals, lacking human feelings of mercy and love, whom they will use in taming and even exterminating their perceived enemies. There is no need for much imagination on how such technology would have been the best tool for Hitler to accomplish his mission of forming a pure Germany race (Hogle, 2005).
Some of the genetic enhancements currently in use are overtly harmful, despite their few benefits. For instance, the current increase in cardiac diseases that are giving medical personnel hard times trying to cure has been traced to use of androgenic steroids, self administered, whose major purpose is to increase strength and speed. This example, it has been challenged, cannot be used as a reason for banning the use of steroids since no nation has banned professional football despite the glaring facts that it is not a predisposing factor to bone and joint diseases nor has any body suggested banning of hang-gliding despite predisposing one to imminent death (Gardner, 2005). However, the most important part of the steroid debate is that though the effects on an individual may be actively assumed, its effects on the sport are far reaching. Those competitors who do not use these drugs are at the losing end, and the pressure in the competition is too high for many of the competitors (Simmons, 2008). Thus, it is not news that the sport’s governing bodies, in a bid to preserve the honor and integrity of their sport, have found it inevitable that they should ban the use of the performance enhancing drugs, both in prescription, training techniques like blood doping and over the counter agents as catecholamines used for asthma. However, these sports professional bodies are thus urged not to call the use of such enhancements as illegal. This is because the designation of their use as illegal will attract more legal penalties on any participant found guilty which will carry far more reaching consequences as would have been necessary than the simple option of not allowing him or her to compete.
The method most suitable for delivering the genes sometimes becomes a challenge even to the scientists with the effects of unprecedented errors having far reaching implications. For instance, the use of living attenuated adenoviruses as the gene carrier is both beneficial and dangerous, given the possibility of these viruses reverting back to virulence and causing untold damage. Also, when viruses are used, not even the scientists can accurately predict for how long the delivered gene will be expressed in the individual, which further makes it hard to predict the other effects it will have on an individual other than the intended therapeutic ones.
The fact that this technology is not available to all the members of any given society for the simple reason of societal stratification, it means that it will because more social gaps then bridging them, which is the main aim of any human advancement. This technology of genetic human enhancement is expensive, thus the rich people who can afford will readily have its benefits while the poor will be left hoping for some miracle. This will be a form of extermination, with the rich becoming more adapted in various ways while their poor counterparts are left behind ‘evolutionally’.
Form the above argument, it can be said that the field of science that has now taken interest in human genetic enhancement promises both and threateningly dire adverse effects to the human race (Lyons, 2013). The effects, both good and can be summed up as an attempt at making ‘artificial beings’, which, except for a few medical reasons in which case it helps in disease management and treatment, it is entirely undesirable. It is my belief that humans were created as perfect beings, not defective creatures needing their own invention to perfect their lives. Nevertheless, others do embrace this new advancement with enthusiasm, either because they will be direct beneficiaries be having their characteristics modified according to their wishes or for other reasons as running businesses in this lines and making profits out of it. This thus means that to outlaw the use of this technology will result in an uproar, thus making it necessary to allow those interested to use it in such a way that is not harmful to them or to others.
In order to allow this to happen, it is necessary to make laws and regulations that will both restrict the scientists use of the technology and at the same time allow those who need such enhancements, if they will make their lives better, to make informed decisions that will not be detrimental to the concerned parties. This thus demands the formation of legal systems and committees, managed by the relevant governments, as a measure to curb its possible misuse (Hanna, 2006).
Based on the above argument, I do not see the reason genetic human enhancement should be thus popularized. It is unnecessary given the fact that humans are capable, through their own wills which may be conscious or unconscious, to because enhancements in the areas they deem need them. Thus, the idea of using science to hasten the process is both unnecessary and even prone to result in more problems than the good it is hoped to bring (Fleisher, 2006). Nevertheless, given a free will bestowed on individuals by virtue of being human beings, they have the rights to choose as to whether they should embrace this technology of they reject it, partially or as a whole.
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