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Genetic Manipulation

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Dylan Humenik

on 9 December 2013

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Transcript of Genetic Manipulation

What's Wrong With Enhancement
-Michael J. Sandel
Perfection and the Blue Guitar
- John Harris
Prevention vs. Enhancement
Where is the line drawn between curing and improving?

Kant and the
Utilitarian Perspectives
What would the utilitarian's perspective be on genetic manipulation?

What would Kant say about it?

The use of bioengineering for enhancement would promote an immoral attitude.
Objections to Genetic Manipulation
Changing what nature gave us is unsafe and unpredictable.
It undermines autonomy for the unborn "designer" children.
It is unfair for athletes.
It undermines athletes' achievements.
It can be used for discrimination.
It tends to produce uniformity.
Genetic manipulation, also known as genetic engineering, is the manipulation of an organism's genome using biotechnology.
Benefits vs. Concerns
preventing problems
enhancing the human species
In humans, genetic manipulation can be used to:
certain problems
and enhance
"It's better to stick with nature."
Curing an illness can be seen as going against nature, yet we see this as morally right. Why is enhancement any different?
Objections to Sandel's Objections
"The Hubris of Mastery"
"The trouble resides not only in the means but in the ends being aimed at."
-pg. 41
We aim to be more than what nature gave us.
"...enhancement threatens our humanity by eroding human agency."
-pg. 41
A bioengineered athlete would would not be celebrated, his creator would.
Moreover, this represents a
"hyper-agency, a Promethean aspiration to remake nature, including human nature, to serve our purposes and satisfy our desires."
-pg. 41
Sandel implies that we have this aspiration to "play God" and control nature for our own satisfaction.
"What the drive to mastery misses and may even destroy is an appreciation of the gifted character of human powers and achievements."
-pg. 41
Would watching sports be enjoyable knowing that the athletes used more than their own human power?
1. excessive pride or self confidence.
Sandel suggests that attempting to manipulate our genes for enhancement throws away our appreciation of the giftedness of human life. Instead of having a
humility of acceptance
for what nature has given us, we adopt a
hubris of mastery
when attempting to enhance.
"It is commonly said that genetic enhancements undermine our humanity by threatening our capacity to act freely, to succeed by our own efforts, and to consider ourselves responsible - worthy of praise or blame - for the things we do and for the way we are. It is one thing to hit seventy home runs as the result of disciplined training and effort, and something else, something less, to hit them with the help of steroids or genetically enhanced muscles."
Our technology will get better. Any technology is unsafe initially until we improve it.
The unborn child doesn't have autonomy anyways; he's still in the hands of nature.
It's not unfair if everyone has access to it.
Even with manipulation, athletes still need to train themselves to meet their potential.
People are worried about discrimination because of history. Eugenics is associated with Hitler. But we can use it without discrimination.
Genetic manipulation may produce some uniformity, but people will still be individuals because a person is not defined by their genetic code.
Changing what nature gave us is unsafe and unpredictable.
It undermines autonomy for the unborn "designer" children.
It is unfair for athletes.
It undermines athletes' achievements.
It can be used for discrimination.
It tends to produce uniformity.
Sandel's Objections
Harris's Objections to Sandel

In "Perfection and the Blue Guitar", Harris argues that Sandel's position is conservative and closed off to change. He points out that Sandel calls for acceptance of the way things are rather than being open to progress.
Key points:
Progress and enhancement have been a part of human history since the beginning.
Enhancement is part of the evolutionary process.
We already control our destiny.
There is no such distinction between enhancement and prevention. Controlling disease is already an enhancement from nature.
Accepting nature implies that we shouldn't control disease. Disease control is a form of enhancement
More key points:
As we gain the technology to genetically enhance, we must choose how we want to use it or not use it.
We are responsible for whether we use it or we don't.
Sandel is correct in saying that a new moral landscape would open up; however, the correct moral choice would be to enhance since it will benefit us.
If a child is born with a disability when the parents had a chance to enhance, it is immoral on the part of the parents.
"...but Sandel is offering not only arguments to prefer his world view and reject another, but arguments to prefer his worldview and
-pg. 121-122.
Harris argues that Sandel's position imposes an ideology of acceptance on people who should be free to choose their destiny.
"Even steroid-enhanced athletes need the maximum degree of practice and training to have a chance of both winning both against their competitors who don't also take enhancing drugs and against those who do. Isn't it rather that effort is still needed but the athletes start from a higher threshold?"
-pg. 111.
Harris points out that enhancement does not allow for effortless achievement. Athletes still need to train their bodies to meet their enhanced potential.
Sandel argues that enhancement takes the merit out of achievements.
The utilitarian would be pro-genetic manipulation because it would increase the happiness of everyone by curing disease and enhancement.

Kant would be anti-genetic manipulation because genetic manipulation focuses on the ends and disregards the means to get there.
Discussion Questions
Scenario: Lets say that you are against genetic manipulation and someone important in your family died but could have been saved if their DNA had been manipulated at birth. Would you change your mind or still want nature to take its unpredictable path?
Do you think genetic enhancement would allow us humans to enjoy life more? Does a more enhanced life correlate to a more enjoyable life, or are utility and happiness unrelated?
Harris argues that since we are capable of the technology, we are morally obligated to enhance. Moreover, we've already been enhancing ourselves with vaccines and language.
John Harris Interview
This video discusses many possible ramifications of genetic manipulation, including changing nature, using it immorally or maliciously, the debate about stem cell research, the morality of human cloning, society becoming uniform, and the possibility of using it corruptly.
Full transcript