DNA: The Stuff Life is Made Of

In 1995, at the Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh, Scotland, the birth of two lambs heralded what many scientists believe to be a period of revolutionary opportunities in biology and medicine. Megan and Morag, both carried fully to term by a surrogate mother, were not produced from the union of a sperm and an egg. Instead, their genetic material came from cultured cells originally developed from a nine-day-old embryo. That made Megan and Morag genetic copies, or clones, of the embryo. The success of this experiment led researchers to clone animals from cultured cells taken from a 26-day-old fetus and from a mature ewe. The cells from the ewe gave rise to Dolly, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult. The announcement of the cloning of Dolly in February of 1997, attracted an enormous amount of attention. Perhaps this is because the cloning of Dolly drew attention to the theoretical possibility of cloning humans. This possibility leaves many people wondering just how far scientists should delve into these new possibilities. Genetic engineering will make it possible to wipe out virtually every disease known to mankind, allowing humans to live much longer, fruitful lives.

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First, many people think genetic engineering is a very bad idea. People feel that it is not up to the human race to play God. When it is time for someone to die, humans should not interfere, the ill person should give up and die. Does not the human race already play God though? Scientists have discovered that chemotherapy and radiation can cure many forms of cancer. Scientists have also learned how to transplant various organs in the human body. They have even learned how to take organs out of animals, such as a pig, thus prolonging the life of the ill person. All of these medical discoveries prolong the life of a human, thus going against the will of God. There is a story in The Bible about a man who has three gold coins. He finds three men and he gives each one a coin. One man goes off and turns it into an abundance of money. The second does the same as the first man. The third man goes off and buries his coin. When they meet up with the man who gave them the coins the two men that turned their coins into an abundance of money were rewarded. The man that buried his coin was punished. God gave each person one life. It is up to the human race to turn this one life into an abundance of lives, not bury it in a hole and do nothing with it.

Secondly, genetic engineering is a new gateway to fighting disease. The capacity to create new biological organisms, such as super-efficient cows or tomatoes, has already arrived. With the benefits of gene therapy there are hopes for equally dramatic alterations of the human genome. Some of the possibilities include the following: total elimination of diseases such as cancer, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis and the enhancement of a variety of human capacities such as intelligence, and enhanced sensory organs. Genetic engineering also aims to improve desirable traits. Anders Sandberg, a young Swedish scientist, not only recommends the removal of genetic defects and less harmful undesirable traits such as drug abuse, aggression, and wisdom teeth but proposes a wide selection of enhancements to benefit the entire race. Systemic improvements involves reprogramming cells to be more resistant to aging, toxins, and fat.

Finally, the prospective benefits of genetic engineering outweigh its vague risks. The potential medical benefits of genetic engineering are too enormous for society to let them pass by us. It would also be immoral not to use the technology that the human race has been given. Humans accept a fairly strong commitment to the goal of equality of opportunity. It would not be very responsible of the human race not to take advantage of a technology that is so powerful that it could save millions of lives. Failure to use this technology would be an even greater failure than a failure to use other medical technologies, such as new surgical techniques, drugs, medical testing devices, that could prevent harm to people and benefit them immensely.

In conclusion, genetic engineering will make it possible to wipe out every disease known to the human race. The Human Genome project is one rich in promise, but bogged down by social implications. Through research of the human genome, scientists hope to learn the underlying causes of many genetic diseases. Genetic information might also be used to predict sensitivities to various industrial or environmental agents. Imagine being able to figure out that a certain chemical is harmful to the human body before having someone die from being exposed to it. The possibilities of genetic engineering are endless and many good things can come from researching it.