Vorschlag C "Designer-Babys bevorzugt" by C. Fux
Hinweis: Die Prozentangaben in Klammern zeigen die Gewichtung der einzelnen Aufgaben.
Teil A – Sprachmittlung: You are participating in a project on ethics and genetics. To keep your team informed, summarize the article at hand. (Material 1)
Teil B – verkürzte Textaufgabe:
- Outline the characteristics of the human beings planned by the Paradice Project. (Material 2) (30 %)
- Relate the attitude towards human perfection favored in the text (Material 2) to that found in other material dealt with in class. (40 %)
- Comment on the advantages and disadvantages of genetic engineering. (30 %)
You are participating in a project on ethics and genetics…
Recently I found a very interesting article in an online magazine. This article is about designer babies and thus perfectly fits our topic. Read it yourself.
British surveys have stated that some people would prefer designer babies for a higher IQ, as educated parents wish to have intelligent children.
Today, scientists are able to do a lot of things. They can check the genetic blueprint in many points before implanting an embryo. This raises the question of whether all this is ethically acceptable.
Following surveys of an English university, both men and women do agree with the possibility of influencing the baby’s health, but it would still be an ethical problem to get rid of unwanted embryos.
Furthermore, we can read that the participants in the survey are confused about what ‘healthy’ really means. Is any kind of disease a reason to decide against the embryo?
Many people are worried that at some point it will be more important to create designer babies than to create healthy ones. In theory it is not only possible to exclude genetic diseases, but also to define the natural sex of the child. The so-called social sexing is already practiced in some countries.
Finally, the scientists have found out that the participants favor different characteristic features for boys or girls.
The given extract deals with the creation of a race of genetically modified people.
The Paradice Project intends to grant 99 % accuracy of the ideal population in a post-apocalyptic world. The new human beings could even have pre-selected characteristics, which will be explained in more detail in the following. The project has already developed features like UV-resistant skin, a built-in insect repellent or immunity from microbes (see ll. 4-6). Next to that, they are able to change unintended reproduction into a planned one.
The Paradice Project has eliminated destructive features in the “ancient primate brain” (l. 13). Thus racism, for example, is non-existent because Paradice people do not register skin color (l. 16). At the same time, hierarchy does not exist any longer, because the brain does not accept such a concept. Additionally, the feeling of territoriality has been eliminated. The new population only eats leaves, grass, roots and berries (l. 20), and they are able to recycle their own excrement.
Finally, it can be said that the new basis models show what is possible. Potential customers can create a baby following their individual imagination and ideas about every single characteristic feature.
Referring to the given text, human perfection means creating genetically modified and perfect people: people whose characteristics can be chosen by their prospective parents, and who do not suffer from any disease, or who are immune to microbes. Perfect people fit completely into society without questioning anything, or without seeing others as inferior or superior to themselves. The brains have been cleared from distracting elements. Moreover, feeding the people is easy because they do not need much. Consequently, the population is in harmony with nature and itself.
In my eyes, the idea of human perfection is pure utopia. It will never be possible to create individuals, animals or plants that are totally perfect, because this would mean complex interference with nature.
I remember a book which we read in class: Cloning Miranda by Carol Matas. Here, a young girl seems to be the perfect teenager: She is highly intelligent, her academic results at school are really good, she is very mature for her 13 years of age, but she is shy and lives a quiet life.
One day, Miranda finds out that she has a tumor behind one of her eyes and thus needs a transplant. In contrast to her parents, she is very desperate. In hospital she accidentally learns that she has been cloned, and meets one of her clone sisters who herself needs a liver transplant, but could provide Miranda with an eye.
The story of Miranda clearly shows an advantage of cloning humans: You can breed new organs to help people who need transplants, and thus save lives. But, on the other hand, we are shown a moral dilemma: Should clones live a human life as long as they are not needed? Shall we look at them as providers of human spare parts? It is not possible to clearly predict the consequences that cloning humans would have for our society.
Supporters of human cloning say that there is a wide range of positive effects. Infertile couples, or those with family histories of genetic diseases, or homosexual couples would be able to reproduce. Arguments against cloning are often discussed as well. Scientists say it is wrong to duplicate a person. Also, a child who is produced by cloning may be treated as a freak.
Just imagine a time when human cloning does not only aim at helping the individual, but at reaching financial or even political advantages. Those who can afford it create creatures that have special characteristics and abilities which can be chosen in advance. This way, people would be able to interfere with almost every situation - whether political or terrorist or, of course, personal.
For the reasons mentioned above, I would like to say that moral and ethical aspects should weigh much more than the longing for human perfection - and thus perfect humans who can be preselected and individually designed. Personal aspects like character, attitudes, the way of interacting, or intelligence and interests should be the features that make up a human being.
Genetic engineering enables scientists to create plants or animals by manipulating genes in a way that does not occur naturally. Thus, new organisms can spread through nature, contaminating future generations in an uncontrollable way. Furthermore, even people’s genetic codes can be influenced. Is this a dystopian nightmare?
The term ‘genetic engineering’ covers different fields, like curing human diseases, improving qualities of crop and livestock, or cloning. Additionally, one should mention modifying food to make it more resistant against natural disasters or herbicides.
The often-discussed genetic engineering provides both advantages and disadvantages. Let us first look at the impact on plants. Growing crops which are modified to be herbicide resistant, or to have better nutritional values, or which are resistant to natural disasters and droughts can help with feeding millions of starving or underfed people in developing countries. Additionally, these people get the chance to grow these plants in their own countries, and do not need to import expensive food. Unfortunately, there is also another side of the coin: Long-term effects cannot be predicted: Because of adaptation, new kinds of pests may develop. Animals which eat the genetically modified plants can get infected by toxins, and thus infect other animals or even humans.
Another point of genetic engineering is medical research. Scientists, for example, have bred new bacteria which can produce insulin. This is why people suffering from diabetes can survive. They can live without restrictions as long as they regularly give themselves injections.
Stem cell research is another aspect of genetic engineering in medicine. These cells can develop into any kind of cell, and can reproduce themselves very often. Stem cells are helpful in treating leukemia, for example. They can also support the healing process after a heart attack. Stem cell research is often a topic in ethical discussions, because stem cells of embryos are better suitable for reproduction - and thus for healing - than stems of adults. Should embryos be bred just for providing their genetic material but not for living? Another question that arises is whether prospective parents should have the chance to preselect an embryo that is free from genetic disorders. Designer babies would be the result.
Closely connected to stem cell research is cloning. Who has never heard of Dolly the sheep? It was cloned from an adult stem cell, which proved that reproductive cloning is possible. Today, this type of cloning is forbidden on humans in most countries for ethical reasons. In contrast, therapeutic cloning aims at developing tissues or even whole organs which are needed for transplants. In my opinion, this is an important step towards healing and curing people and thus giving them back the power and will to live a life without serious health restrictions.
In the final analysis, one can say that genetic engineering has lots of advantages and disadvantages. It makes real sense as long as it is useful and if it poses little or no risk. It is acceptable in medicine when it helps to cure people. Animals should not be bred and used as providers of spare parts (i.e. organs) for humans. Biological weapons must not be developed, and already existing ones, which, for example, can spread bacteria that cause cancer, have to be banned. But all this requires a lot of responsibility from the human race. First, politicians and scientists must find out about possible consequences of their actions, and then they can use genetically modified material or plants or animals subject to internationally acceptable political and ethical regulations.
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