4 Major Arguments against Genetic Modification of Humans

father and childrenAldous Huxley imagined in Brave New World a society where the state manufactures different human classes, each designed to perform specific roles. In Anarchy, State and Utopia, Robert Nozick presents the genetic supermarket wherein becoming a parent is as simple as purchasing a new car: If you want a female, artistically gifted child with the blackest hair, the bluest eyes, and a superior IQ, then you only have to buy the necessary goods and services to create the exact child.

Many authors have commented on the morality in making "designer babies", and Hollywood films like Gatacca, X-Men, and Blade Runner have also delved into the subject. Critics have laid out numerous arguments attacking genetic modification of humans, but four are most commonly used: the uniqueness argument, the freedom argument, the authenticity argument, and the giftedness argument.

The uniqueness argument

This argument posits that cloning is a violation of the uniqueness of the cloned person. According to the President’s Council on Bioethics, this type of genetic alteration would naturally interfere with the cloned person’s individuality and thus weakens the creation of his or her own identity. It says: "Cloning-to-produce-children could create serious problems of identity and individuality… our genetic uniqueness is an important source of our sense of who we are and how we regard ourselves."

The freedom argument

This argument holds that genetic engineering interferes with the engineered human’s ability to make free choices in relation to the modified trait (Puppet Critique) and by increasing parental demands and expectations (Parental Expectations Critique). It also postulates that the process restricts the options of the modified person by limiting their life plans and range of behaviors (Open Future Critique).

The authenticity argument

This argument claims that genetic engineering weakens the authenticity of the genetically modified person’s accomplishments. It holds that the engineered person’s abilities and talents are no longer his or her own, that these accomplishments are because of the alteration. The President’s Council states that, "The naturalness of means matters. It lies not in the fact that the assisting drugs or devices are artifacts, but in the danger of violating or deforming the nature of human agency."

The giftedness argument

This argument postulates that genetic alteration treats humans as products that must be designed, perfected, and controlled; they are viewed as commodities, no longer gifts. Michael Sandel, a political philosopher, argues that genetic engineering is a problem because it represents "a kind of hyperagency – a Promethean aspiration to remake nature, including human nature, to serve our purposes and satisfy our desires."

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