An Ethical Attack On Genetic Engineering

What was once considered science fiction, is becoming embedded within our reality much like many other ideas of the 20th century that came to life before our species eyes. Simple questions with complex answers are surfacing at ridiculously quick rates as each new answer gives us multiple new questions. Genetic engineering is no longer science fiction as one would like to believe. Things like CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), and other bioengineering methods will soon allow us to genetically alter genomes in the human body. 

Endless possibilities and millions of doors to new things are now open to things like permanently getting rid of diseases, new medicinal methods to treat injuries, and so forth. However, this might also open the door to modifying human genetics such as creating intellectuals on par with Leonardo Da Vinci or physical characteristics like Olympic athletes. Why not make these changes to the human genome all at once? While this may look like a benefit to society, we must ask ourselves, should we? 

If we can genetically create any type of human we want for a particular environment or particular purpose, how do we know we will not create the dystopian world from Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”? Where people from birth have a predetermined fate never to be able to do other tasks. A society with certain classes in which people cannot change their status. 

One might argue that the solution is to just give everyone the highest qualities, the problem with this is that naturally some people will still appear better then others. Or in other words, using one of Alan Watts’ arguments on why having a large amount of virtuous people might not be a good thing. If you have a virtuous person, it can be easy to see that. If you put a bunch of virtuous people together, some suddenly become better than the others, despite them all being virtuous. Conclusively if you give everyone high quality and “good” genes naturally, a sort of hierarchy forms, because some suddenly appear better. 

Thus, similar to the Alpha, Beta, and Epsilon classes in a “Brave New World”, even if you tried to give everyone equal qualities, these classes would appear on their own. The only real way to eliminate this from happening is for everyone to have the exact same genetic structure, or in other words, you would have to clone someone. Everyone would be the exact same person and obviously we all know this would not work well at all. If everyone is not a clone, then there must be an imbalance somewhere for things to be different. But if there is an imbalance this implies something is better then something else, which leads to the classes once again. It is paradoxical trying to escape from this.

Another problem is how do we prevent determinism, or anti-free will? If we can change every gene in a child before they are born, this is practically determining everything about them, and their entire future; even though Nietzsche has taken quite a stab at free will, refuting the idea of free will without any genetics. 

This genetic editing is not such an easy question as it appears to be. This is just one example of a serious issue Huxley tries to portray in Brave New World, it is sort of a warning flag. Or as Peter Parker’s Uncle said, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”