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John Locke

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Genetically altering - Is it morally wrong or a new way to control evolution?

We alter plants, we can alter animals, and now we can alter ourselves. We can activate our genes, create organs, make ourselves taller, etc. So, is this the new way to control how we evolve or is this morally and ethically wrong and should be banned?

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  • Nov 12 2011: Hi Jake.

    I personally don't see the "either/or" of your question. It could be right/wrong and new/not-so-new at the same time.

    But let me ask you this: is it morally wrong to build a house? Doesn't it matter if I'm using recycled paper or virgin forest wood; if the house blocks the sun of a neighbor or provides shelter for the homeless? In other words, doesn't the morality of any creation depend on the way it is done and what it's results will be? And, when there are competing interests, how would you decide which creates a moral or immoral outcome?

    How is genetic engineering different from building a house?
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    Nov 11 2011: Its just evolution. Everything is evolution. Even technologies evolve. There is no real, total "controlling" of it.
    • Nov 12 2011: Hi!!
      Mr Jake is talking about altering DNA. Alter DNA, would smack down evolution? I give up! You humans are too smart for me! Take care and smile!! :) With Respect to Ya All!
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        Nov 12 2011: But even altering DNA is evolution and itself subject to evolution.
        There is no special "natural evolution" which is the right one.... every change is evolution.
  • Nov 19 2011: Cultures / societies dictate ethics and mores (although there may be some universals relative to homo sapiens in general - interpretation dependent). Science does not. If we wished to "control" evolution (Hitler tried as have many others before and subsequently) we should be desperately afraid of what will replace us (the historical record of any species survival). Given these couple of statements then let's separate the issues. The moral question is personal. Evolution continues whether we like it or not. If we can morally see the benefit to improving our species then it will happen sooner rather than later. The science of genetics has the potential of translating to longer life, reducing disease and more than I can imagine used for good. It could also be used for "bad". Banning genetics with respect to humans is morally wrong in itself. Banning it's use for "bad" would not be.
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    Nov 15 2011: Humans have been "controlling" evolution in plants and animals for thousands of years, as you pointed out. Perhaps that is a 'natural' thing for us to do.

    Maybe genetically altering ourselves is natural because while other species seem 'fixed' in their instinctual molds/ behaviors, their biology, their environment or (?), we seem to be able (and willing) to break many barriers we face.

    So that begs the question--are we 'defying' our nature when we break those 'barriers'?

    or

    Is it, essentially, in our nature to do so? Is it our version of 'instinctual behavior'-to break the ties that bind whether they be figurative, or literal?

    Now having said all that, there is evidence that other animals 'change' themselves, or others too (ie just look at bees, although I forget which species, where the Queen will literally alter other females bees born in her hive so that they don't become queens too).

    I was having a conversation with one of my sisters the other day about how we live so unnaturally long, compared to past human history for example, and that prolonging life could be considered 'unnatural' (one of those barriers we are breaking with technological advances)

    But then she brought up a good point. Paraphrased she said something like--Nothing in life feels very natural, really,so if modern life with all its pollution, and processed food etc., it has become an unnatural world, therefore doing what is unnatural (like prolonging our lives synthetically via medications, for example) is what we are supposed to do.

    Therefore, either it's just in us and 'natural' to genetically alter, in general, because it is our "instinct" to do so

    or

    in an unnatural world, perhaps it's just 'natural' to do the 'unnatural'?
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    Nov 15 2011: Genetic engineering is just another technology. It is neither unethical nor "an effort to control evolution". If some "religious" person believe that it is unethical, then use of almost any new technology, not mentioned in religious scriptures, (not approved or mentioned by custodians of "religion"- person or book) should be equally "unethical".
    Just like any technology, its use sometimes can bring undesired, unwanted negative consequences. That's why we like to have some regulation & control on that technology and/or products developed through the technology. For more detail one can go through my blog on "We can do something does not mean that we have to do that": http://jaychatterjee.blogspot.com/2009/12/i-was-watching-sixth-sense-technology.html

    But that is a totally different discussion altogether.
  • Nov 13 2011: Haven't we as a species evolved to be able to understand this technology? It is powerful and with great power comes great responsibility. However, like owning a firearm, if used responsibly this power can do great good. A realted question is " Can men with great political aspirations be trusted with this much power?
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    Nov 13 2011: To me, it's wrong. I am a Christian and we're not supposed to play God. I'm pretty sure other religions have the same sort of philosophy, along those lines. I believe that in the future, we'll see that modifying foods will harm us just like they have for years, but we're busy with our cell phones, microwaves and other devices that emit radiation in some form (regardless of testing, lobbyists can be VERY persuasive) that mix into the other factors and create a perfect storm for cancer.
  • Nov 13 2011: Hi there sinlsa, (apologies) , altering DNA is not evolution.? Isn't evolution a natural process? If we were to alter by technology, it is not a natural DNA? ( I am confused, oops and crap) :) With Respect to this thread.
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      Nov 13 2011: Evolution can be both natural or artifical. Altering technology is a lot different than alter lifeforms because technology is not alive. It has no DNA and to change it, you simply change its circuts, wires, software, and hardware.
  • Nov 12 2011: Hi Mr. Jake,
    I say, yea go for it!! Let humans mess it up, even more. My question, is how would be able to ban it? It is wrong. We will never understand DNA, let alone clone it. Good post Mr. Jake. :)
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      Nov 13 2011: Science has taken great leaps forward to be understand DNA, alter DNA, and even replicate DNA. I am not saying they can do everything right this moment but, in the future, scientist will be able to change our DNA. If you change the DNA, you are creating evolution. Evolution can be artifical or natural and soon we will be able to control how we evolve. So, is this a good thing, or a bad thing?