The Human Genome Project
Science is a creature that continues to evolve at an ever-increasing rate. The transformation from tree shrew, to ape, to human far exceeds the time for the transformation time from an analytical machine, to a calculator, to a computer. However, science, in the past, has always remained distant. Science has allowed advances in production, transportation, and even entertainment; but never in history will science have an affect on our lives, as genetic engineering will undoubtedly do. For the last decade, science has made vast improvements in genetics, monitored by the Human Genome Project.
The goal of this organization is to identify and understand the entire genetic constitution. “They have the daunting task of identifying and mapping all of the eighty thousand genes, in human DNA, they are making new discoveries weekly” (Reuterlinkextra). With these discoveries comes many implications, In reviewing the literature genetic engineering needs to be banned because of the social, religious, ethical, and legal implications. The first step to understanding genetic engineering is to know the start of its creation.
Genetics achieved its first foothold on the secrets of nature’s evolutionary process, when an Austrian Monk named Gregor Mendel developed the basics of how genetics work. Using this, scientist studied the characteristics of organisms for the next one hundred years following Mendel’s discoveries. These early studies concluded that each organism has two sets of character determinants, genes (Stableford 16). For instance, in regards to eye color, a child could receive one set of genes from his or her father that were encoded one blue, the other brown.
The same child could also receive from its mother two brown genes. The conclusion is that the child would have a three out of four chance of having brown eyes and a one out if four chance of having blue eyes (Stableford 16). Inside every person is Deoxyribonucleic acid or more commonly known as DNA. DNA exist as two long, fine strands of DNA spiraling into the famous figure of the double helix. The discovery of DNA is attributed to three scientist, Francis Crik, Maurice Wilkins, and James Dewey. All were given the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine in 1962 (Lewin 1).
Each strand of DNA is composed of millions of the essential chemical building blocks of life, chemical bases. “There are four bases Adenine (A), Thiamin (T), Guanine (G), and Cytosine (C). These bases can only be paired in certain order, (A) only with (T), (G) only with (C), and vice versa” (Barnes 180). The order of in which these bases occur determine the information available, much as specific letters combine to form words in a sentence. DNA resides in the nucleus of all of our cells, except the red blood cells. In each nucleus, there are forty-six molecules of coiled, double stranded DNA.
Each one of these molecules is housed in a structure called a chromosome. Inside each chromosome are genes. Genes are the chemical message of heredity. “Genes constitute a blueprint of our possibilities and limitations, the legacy of generations of our ancestors, our genes carry the key to our similarities and uniqueness” (Genetic). Genes are made up of the chemical bases Adenine, Thiamin, Guanine, and Cytosine. These base in a certain order makes up codes, these codes determine if you are short, tall, fat, skinny, and etc. The sex cells are half of the forty-six chromosomes, twenty-three to be exact.
In these cells, by random only certain genes are carried by the cells. When the sex cell from a man, sperm, and a sex cell from a woman, an egg, combine their genetic information and a new life is created with the traits from its parents. Genetic engineering is isolating and removing a desired gene from a strand of DNA. In genetic engineering, many different apparatuses are used in removing the gene. One way DNA can be broken up is by ultra-high frequency sound waves, but this procedure is highly inaccurate way of isolating a desirable trait (Stableford 26).
A more accurate way of obtaining the desired trait is the use of restriction enzymes. These enzymes chemically cut the DNA at a particular location on the strand. Now that the trait is cut out, it can be joined to another strand of DNA by using ligases, another enzyme that acts like glue, binding the two pieces together. The final step is making the DNA self replicating by placing it in a cell (Clarke 1). The perils of genetic engineering are massive. “To unlock secrets hidden in the chromosomes of human cells is to open up a host of thorny legal, ethical, philosophical, and financial issues.
From invasion of privacy and discrimination to the question of whom should play God with man’s genes” (Edmen 70)! Genetic engineering is full of financial constraints. As in many cases, the question is who will pay. “It is inevitable that the lack of financial resources will make it difficult for some patients to pursue genetic engineering. Stratification of patients by risk will increase the availability. The cost will be high because, most health insurance agencies will not cover the cost” (Jones 1537). Only a select few will have enough money to correct their genetic blemishes.
Having your genes screened has its downfalls. There are many psychological impacts. “First there are the emotions of one that is likely to develop a disease. Studies to date show three to six weeks after the screening, the people identified as gene carriers experienced persistent worries, depression, confusion, and sleep deprivation (Genetic). “You are entitled to know this information just as you are entitled to know your blood type, or your cholesterol level” (Kinghorn 1538). By drawing a dimple vile of blood, you would be able to know your future.
In that vile you would know your expectations and limitations. By knowing this information it would throw you into a psychological suicide. You would be worrying am I living up to my expectations, or you would make up excuses blaming your downfalls on your genetics. Life is what you make out of it. A vile of blood will not determine your destiny; you make your own destiny. Do not be a Miniver Cheevy, by dreaming your life away, because of some circumstances. Get up and make your dreams come true. “Drawing a tube of blood maybe an unfair way we judge people” (Kinsley 102).
Insurance companies make their money by spreading risk over as large of a population as they can. By calculating that, the healthy people will pay for the sick people. Unless state law prohibits, insurance companies can discriminate legally, by raising the premiums. With this information insurance companies can look at your genetic information and raise the premiums if the notice that you will develop a disease in the future. The same will hold true with employers, they do not want an employee to work for them and then be struck down with a disease they want an employee that would be healthy.
For centuries, humans have been trying to alter their genetic destiny, in most cases with disastrous results (Greengad 38). The most frightening, are the Nazi atrocities of the 1930s and the 1940s. A period in time; where millions of people were killed because of their genetics. This type of genetic purification is known as “Eugenics-a concept of improving the human race by depriving some people of their reproductive rights” (Reuterlinkextra). If genetic engineering persist, we will be performing a type of eugenics, not by depriving the reproductive rights but by altering the genes of their offspring.
Every parent wants a healthy child. Until just a few years, ago making a baby was a hit or miss. Parents with the access to the latest genetic engineering can now determine a baby’s sex before conception. In a few years, we will be able to know how tall, what body type, hair and eye color, and even their IQ. They will know this information almost right after conception. With this information parents can weed out the genetically unsuitable children, or balance out their family. Procreation is supposed to be a miracle, not like going to the store and tossing out a shirt because it does not go with your pants.
These are human lives although they are under the size of a penny. If genetic engineering lives up to, all of its hopes and dreams parents one day might be able to go beyond weeding out their genetically impaired. They might be able to go to the doctors and pick out genes much like going to a car dealer and picking out options on a car. This will not be available to just anyone only the ones with money. If this is allowed to happen, we will see a new crisis much worse than the suppression of the blacks. It will not matter sex, race, or creed but only if you are not genetically ideal.
The future will be the high and mighty society of the perfect beings verses the genetically inferior, the invalids. In this society, the genetically altered would be in superior jobs while the invalids will be made to feel inferior and do grunt work. Every person will have a genetic dog tag crammed full of information, With this information about every persons details, you could go to a place to find out whom you are genetically suitable to marry. By having this technology it would make one of Hitler’s dreams come true, the perfect human race.
With this ultimate race, a simple virus could wipe them all out, because they share so many like similarities. Mother Nature intended us to be diversified. In a diversified society it is a more unlikely to share the same genes so the virus would not affect us all. Genetic engineering will turn the world to chaos. Our society is not ready for all of the benefits of this technology, some people in this world do not know how to handle and control this technology with the proper safeguards to make it useful.
With out these safeguards we can have scientist making animal people, or high insurance, no privacy, loss of work, and weeding out the genetically inferior. ” The new science of genetic engineering wants to take a shortcut in the process of evolution” (Stableford 25). In genetic engineering scientist aim to remove one gene from an organism’s DNA and place it into the DNA of another organism. This would create a new strand of DNA, full of new encoded instructions; a strand that would have taken Mother Nature millions of years to develop by the evolutionary process. If you mess with Mother Nature, you will be in trouble.