The first unit of my Biological Anthropology course focused on Darwin, genetics, and evolution. During class this unit of learning proved to be controversial because of religious and personal beliefs that conflicted with science. Similarly, for our class research paper we had to select from one of three topics, and I was immediately attracted to the polarizing topic of genetic engineering in humans. The research paper was setup as an argumentative paper that discussed whether genetic engineering in humans should be allowed in United States. Though I can see the value of both points of view on the topic, I had to argue the pros for the in-class debate with an estimated 36% of the class agreeing with pros by the end of the debate.
In the words of national guest speaker and my insurance course professor Cary Phillips, “There is no good or bad, right or wrong, only pros and cons.” Those words have resonated with me during my career and even more now as I approached this research. Anthropology and scientific advancements in pioneering phases are often riddled with negative comments because uncertainty breeds fear which leads to paralyzing effects. Genetic engineering in humans is the artificial modification of human genetic material for the purpose of enhancement. Around the world techniques have been developed to support work in genetic engineering and 2,000+ trials have been conducted with many showing positive results. There are ethical implications to consider despite the positives and those are what bring this scientific advancement to a halt.
Below is a summary of pros and cons that came up during my research:
|Modification of somatic cells in existing individuals can be used to treat & prevent disease. |
An example being the use of CRISPR to eradicate cancer cells from a human diagnosed with a form of cancer.
|A rise of eugenics may be expected because genetic engineering may be used to create a “master race”. This is a concept that dates back to the Hitler movement by the Nazis.|
|Genetic engineering is in its infancy and can be launched with proper registration, reporting and regulation to avoid misuse.||Unforeseen consequences to future generational lineages may be expected because changing the genetic material of an embryo because it can be born has an impact to the genes being passed from one generation to the next.|
|Germline therapy (phrase referring to the genetic engineering of human genetic material at the embryonic level) can be used to enhance human skill sets to help regain workforce for humans that has been otherwise replaced by technology.||Statistics show that mutations have been found in cells that were not modified genetically, in individuals whose cells were genetically modified, up to 60% of the time.|
Regardless of how you feel about this topic being aware of the scientific community’s findings is important to understanding what is happening in the world around us.