Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Genetic engineering of us humans

  1. Yes

    8 vote(s)
    88.9%
  2. No

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. Unsure

    1 vote(s)
    11.1%
  1. Dec 9, 2003 #1
    What is your opinion of it? Do you approve of it? I think that there is no law which states that evolution of a species has to be a purely natural process that does not involve the 'artificial' intervention of the own species. If a species were developed and intelligent enough to tinker with their own genes, they could, and should do so, for their own benefit. I like to see it as 'guided' or even supercharged evolution. Evolution need not be purely the result of mutation and natural selection.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2003 #2

    Monique

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    There are many grades of human genetic engineering, some of it is already taking place today.
     
  4. Dec 9, 2003 #3
    Monique's right. Forms of human genetic engineering already exists today.

    I voted "unsure", however, mostly because there are types of human genetic engineering that I think are OK and others that I still question. The seemingly unlimited possibilities of the technology is my concern.

    One factor that seems important in my mind is that the individual gets to choose whether they should undergo some genetic engineering process. My fear is that there will come a time when such processes will be decided for us and for the next generation. I think this may become especially true for the design of children. Society tends to believe that it knows best for its children (almost as an absolute) and I think there will be a time when unborn children will be genetically engineered to our liking. In the end humans may become a manufactured product package. I fear the consequences if genetic engineering becomes a standard for humans rather than a choice.
     
  5. Dec 9, 2003 #4

    Njorl

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    It will happen, it is just a matter of how. It will be driven first by those trying to repair defects, but the same technology can be used to make improvements. The reckless will go first, and the fearfull will follow, desperate not to be left behind. When they have made sufficient mistakes, the technology will be mature enough for the public at large. Maybe.

    Njorl
     
  6. Dec 9, 2003 #5

    Monique

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I can tell you one form of human genetic engineering which was told to me by personal account.


    The director of the center I used to work at:
    http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/embor/journal/v4/n11/full/embor7400023.html


    He once told the story in a scientific retreat that we had, very impressive.

    I won't tell the whole story since I might get some details wrong, but basically there was a family with a young child with Fanconi anemia, an inherited blood disease, and the child was slowly dying. The only option was a donor with the same HLA type, a newborn sibling would be the perfect donor but the newborn would be at risk for being affected with Fanconi itself.
    After many ethical debates, finally an embryo was implanted which did not carry the disease gene and who had the same HLA type as the sick child already in the family. This new child could then be a perfect donor to the sick child, curing it.

    I can still very clearly hear him say the following:
    (also published by Fred Guterl for Newsweek International June 30/ July 7 issue)

    "I was very worried about it,” he says. “We had meetings. We published in a serious bioethics journal.” Hughes is not the kind of person who finds it easy to say no, and it’s not hard to imagine him taking pains to avoid the impatient parents. One day the husband tracked him down at his lab unannounced. “I’ll never forget what he told me,” says Hughes. “He says, ‘While you’re running around the world sitting at mahogany tables debating the bioethics of this, our daughter is dying.'
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2003
  7. Dec 9, 2003 #6

    chroot

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Monique,

    I read an excellent article about this. The parents conceived some 100 children in vitro, implanting only those which had the right HLA proteins and were not Fanconi children. The idea was to make a designer sibling, and use the umbilical cord blood (rich in stem cells) as a bone marrow transfusion for the sick child.

    I guess I don't feel any heartache for the 100 dead blastocysts, but the whole concept of what these people were doing ultimately horrified me. Why don't they just ****ING ADOPT HEALTHY CHILDREN? If someone is a carrier for a disease as awful as Fanconi anemia, they should do the world a favor and remove themselves from the gene pool. That doesn't mean they have to give up the experience of parenting a child.

    - Warren
     
  8. Dec 9, 2003 #7

    Monique

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Well, in this case they needed a correct HLA donor and a sibling would be the perfect donor especially after some prescreening.

    There are actually quite a lot of articles on the internet on this case.
     
  9. Dec 9, 2003 #8
    Unless you are talking about transgenics which are genetically modified after they are conceived, I don't see how genetic engineering can be a conscious decision for children. Can we unanimously agree that smarter, stronger, fitter and longer-lived is better? If we can, then I don't see why there is a big decision to make...just about anyone would want to be so. There is always room for improvement.

    Some might argue that such direct genetic engineering to 'unnaturally' improve the child rather than "fix" any health defects would lead to a society with not only wealth-based discrimination, but genetic discrimination. E.g. the poor not only have no money, they also have poor genes. But indirectly, doesn't that already happen? A rich person would have their choice of mates, and will probably choose an intelligent, good looking, healthy mate. Also, preventing this from happening seems to me to be just an arbitrary, artificial and contrived restriction.

    And what is the big deal if it does happen? The rich already get many perks, from a comfortable existence to first class health care. This is just another perk they get from being in the position they are...and another incentive for others to work hard and strive to be all they can be.

    At the end of the day, sticking to such an anachronistic law might make us come out tops in the ethical race, with dubious benefit anyway. But does it help us as a race if we can not take the reins of our evolutionary process and supercharge it?
     
  10. Dec 9, 2003 #9
    I stongly believe that we as the human race should reach to overcome our limits. The main arguments thrown against this is that we are disturbing natural balance or steping out of our alloted place. I say, why shouldnt we? Most agree that curing those with defects by nature is a good thing but many begin to have second thought when it comes to augumenting those that are allready healthy. It all comes back to such ancient storys of the Tower of Babel and Icarus and probably many more, where man gets punished for stepping out of line. A fear of God if you so will.
    I believe that if humankind is to actually survive we will need to overcome our own limitations sooner or later and sooner is allways better than later.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?