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  Should we use genetic engineering to improve the human race?
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Author Topic: Should we use genetic engineering to improve the human race?  (Read 8044 times)
David S
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« on: September 21, 2004, 06:08:00 pm »

Should we use genetic engineering to improve the human race? Suppose that in the near future medical science is able to screen the genes of prospective parents to produce a fertilized egg with the best characteristics of both parents. Possibly we could give our offspring desireable characteristics, such as high intelligence, good health, resistance to diseases, good looks etc. If this becomes possible should we do it or would that be playing god? I'm curious what other forum members think about this.
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A18
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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2004, 06:11:05 pm »

NO!

All forms of human genetic engineering should be banned, as well as cloning and other practices that degrade the value of human life.
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bgwah
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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2004, 06:21:40 pm »

I don't care what people do to themselves.
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A18
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« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2004, 06:23:23 pm »

Custom made children?
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bgwah
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« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2004, 06:27:52 pm »


Whats wrong with improving ourselves. Why not eliminate blindness and other problems? Why not get rid of retards? Why not make ourselves smarter? When we start colonizing the universe we need to make sure we'll be able to stand up to any super-alien race we may encounter.
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A18
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« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2004, 06:37:48 pm »

It might end one kind of blindness, but I'm worried it may start another.
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John Dibble
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« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2004, 09:17:26 pm »

Maybe. If we did, it would be best to have it available and affordable to everyone. The playing field between rich, poor, and everyone inbetween is acceptable to me now, because even a rich person can be born dumb and lose his wealth and a poor person can be smart and determined enough to become rich. But if a rich person can be born smarter than everyone else every time then there will be no change, and we'll move back to a version of the nobility and aristocracy. If available to everyone, then the playing field in terms of intelligence and ability is virtually equal, resulting in a society where hard-work and merit are the only major determining factors in your lot in life.

One serious, and very likely, problem that would be a result is a war. It is not unlikely at all that a extreme militant anti-biomodification group would arise - trying to kill off any modified humans they find, blowing up engineering clinics, ect. all in the name of keeping the human race pure. And eventually the modified people will fight back - likely with technology more advanced than the 'naturals' since they'll be more intelligent and thus better able to design such things. If the war didn't go nuclear, it would be a long, bloody struggle for survival that would make the extremist Islamic jihad against the U.S. look like a food fight.
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Brambila
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« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2004, 09:28:57 pm »

Probably not. I support genetic engineering for certain items- to prevent diseases, etc. But to make the kid have red hair and freckle-less? Seems a bit immoral.

Has anyone seen the movie Gattaca? That explains the reason why we shouldn't do genetic engineering very well.
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John Dibble
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« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2004, 09:39:46 pm »

Probably not. I support genetic engineering for certain items- to prevent diseases, etc. But to make the kid have red hair and freckle-less? Seems a bit immoral.

Has anyone seen the movie Gattaca? That explains the reason why we shouldn't do genetic engineering very well.

Gattaca also showed the dangers of only a few being able to get engineering. You are right that we shouldn't try to engineer in thing like looks(eye color, hair color, ect.) - just basic enhancements like immune system strengthening, intelligence ehancement, and perhaps physical strength and reflexes.
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A18
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« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2004, 09:56:57 pm »

Sounds like the Nazi philosophy to me.
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David S
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« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2004, 10:16:26 pm »
« Edited: September 21, 2004, 10:24:00 pm by David S »

I was thinking there might be two reasons for doing this.

1. It would be nice to free our kids from birth defects, inherited diseases, and other characteristics that diminish their lives.

2. While I am a Christian, I also believe in evolution. But it seems to me that maybe evolution has been stopped in humans. Evolution is dependent on survival of the fittest. Which means that the less fit are weeded out and prevented from  entering the gene pool.  In Nature survival is rare. For example among salmon only a tiny percentage survive long enough to spawn, about 1 in 1000 as I recall. So only the best of the best are able to reproduce and pass their traits on to the young. Even among Lions, the king of the beasts, survival is the exception. Less than half reach maturity. The weeding out process eliminates the weakest half.  This was also true among humans in the past.  But because of modern medicine, survival is now the rule for human children. This is undoubtedly a good thing from the perspective of giving everyone a reasonable lifetime. The disadvantage is that if everyone survives then the weeding out process cannot work. Maybe genetic engineering offers a way of preserving our desireable genes and even advancing them, without the unpleasant effects of the weeding out process.  

Its just a thought, and maybe I'm out to lunch. Smiley
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Lunar
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« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2004, 10:50:55 pm »

One serious, and very likely, problem that would be a result is a war. It is not unlikely at all that a extreme militant anti-biomodification group would arise - trying to kill off any modified humans they find, blowing up engineering clinics, ect. all in the name of keeping the human race pure. And eventually the modified people will fight back - likely with technology more advanced than the 'naturals' since they'll be more intelligent and thus better able to design such things. If the war didn't go nuclear, it would be a long, bloody struggle for survival that would make the extremist Islamic jihad against the U.S. look like a food fight.

You ever play Deus Ex 2?  Your analysis sounds very similar to the entire plot/theme of that popular game.
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freedomburns
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« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2004, 12:18:25 am »

Selective eugenics is exactly what the Nazi's were into with their goal of creating a "master race".  Genetic modification reeks of that.  Huge moral questions abound here.  There may be a way through that minefield, but it looks very dangerous to me.

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True Federalist
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« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2004, 12:23:10 am »

No.  We don't know enough yet about the side effects.

Consider the gene responsible for sickle cell anemia as an easily understood example.  The same gene that acts as a recessive trait for sickle cell anemia also acts as a dominant trait for making humans more resistant to the effects of malaria.  That's why the gene is found primarily in people who live in areas where malaria has been endemic for millenia or are descended from such people.  In those area the benefit of malaria resistance outweighed the penalty of sickle cell anemia.  If genetic engineering were used to "improve" the human race, it is all too likely it will be used in a way that reduces the genetic diversity of humans and hence leave us vulnerable to some future disease.
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cwelsch
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« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2004, 02:13:31 am »

People should be allowed to do it, provided they do not destroy life in the process.  I would not manipulate my children except maybe to eliminate genetic diseases, etc.
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John Dibble
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« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2004, 05:30:26 am »

One serious, and very likely, problem that would be a result is a war. It is not unlikely at all that a extreme militant anti-biomodification group would arise - trying to kill off any modified humans they find, blowing up engineering clinics, ect. all in the name of keeping the human race pure. And eventually the modified people will fight back - likely with technology more advanced than the 'naturals' since they'll be more intelligent and thus better able to design such things. If the war didn't go nuclear, it would be a long, bloody struggle for survival that would make the extremist Islamic jihad against the U.S. look like a food fight.

You ever play Deus Ex 2?  Your analysis sounds very similar to the entire plot/theme of that popular game.

Just finished playing it for the second time. I also got it from Gundam Seed, an anime where there is a war between genetically enhanced 'coordinators' and naturals. There's even a radical organization called Blue Cosmos that is dedicated to destroying all coordinators. As I said, radical anti-modification groups would not at all be unlikely. We've seen such radical groups arise over lesser issues.
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David S
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« Reply #16 on: September 22, 2004, 08:02:16 am »
« Edited: September 22, 2004, 10:09:49 am by David S »

No.  We don't know enough yet about the side effects.

Consider the gene responsible for sickle cell anemia as an easily understood example.  The same gene that acts as a recessive trait for sickle cell anemia also acts as a dominant trait for making humans more resistant to the effects of malaria.  That's why the gene is found primarily in people who live in areas where malaria has been endemic for millenia or are descended from such people.  In those area the benefit of malaria resistance outweighed the penalty of sickle cell anemia.  If genetic engineering were used to "improve" the human race, it is all too likely it will be used in a way that reduces the genetic diversity of humans and hence leave us vulnerable to some future disease.

Of course the subject should be approached with caution. And yes there is risk, but all great developments involve some risk.

Using your example of sickle cell, if someone inherits two genes for sickle cell he will develop the disease and could die from it. But, if he inherits only one gene then he will not get the disease and he will not die from it but he still gets the benefit of resistance to malaria. Maybe the screening process would involve just making sure that there are not two sickle cell genes.
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David S
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« Reply #17 on: September 22, 2004, 08:36:25 am »

OK since we're talking about SCI FI another possible scenario was presented in a book I read many years ago. I can't remember the name, but the plot is that an individual from our time is transported a few hundred years into the future. After mingling with the people for a while he quickly realizes that they are all idiots. He then meets one man who is very intelligent and who explains to him how the planet came to be populated by people of low intelligence. It seems that intelligent people were limiting their family size to one or two children. People with less intelligence on the other hand were having babies left and right. The result was that the average IQ of the population began to fall until it reached a level that we might call borderline retarded. From that point the story got really far fetched. The intelligent people hatched a plot to trick the low IQ people into taking a one way trip to the moon or something like that.

Of course the conclusion is ridiculous, but the basic premise sounds somewhat like what is happening right now. In fact there was a more serious book called "The Bell Curve" which postulated a lowering of the average IQ through the same process.

Anyway a little bit of genetic manulipulation to raise the IQ seems like a much more humane solution than sending people to the moon. Smiley
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