Counter Arguments Against Genetic Modification of Human

Much has been said against genetic modification of humans, but four arguments have been used over and over again in attacking this technology: the uniqueness argument, the freedom argument, the authenticity argument, and the giftedness argument. These assumptions are obvious versions of false genetic determinism, and are therefore unsound.

Argument # 1: Uniqueness

The uniqueness argument posits that genetic modification of humans violates the uniqueness of the genetically modified person. However, based on the significant behavioral and physical differences observed between identical twins, it seems that genetically identical clones would display very different traits. Strip away determinist assumptions and it will become clear that cloning is unlikely to deprive a cloned person of personal identity or uniqueness

Argument # 2: Human Freedom

According to the human freedom argument, genetic alteration interferes with the clone’s ability to make free choices (Puppet Critique), increases parental expectations (Parental Expectations Critique), and limits the clone’s life plans and range of behaviors, thus restricting the modified person’s options (Open Future Critique).

This argument relies on uncertain psychological and biological assumptions. First, the future of the child depends on both developmental and environmental factors, not only on the process of cloning. Second, the image of overexpecting parents who want a perfect child through genetic modification is no different from parents who avail of assisted reproduction technologies. Third, how can different possible futures be compared? What are the roles of environmental factors in limiting life plans?

Argument # 3: Authenticity

The authenticity argument holds that genetic alteration weakens the authenticity or genuineness of the engineered person’s accomplishments. However, a genetically engineered person takes an active role in developing most traits concerning authenticity: athletic ability, intelligence, musical ability, or social skills. Even a person who has the ideal genotype still needs to invest significant time and effort in practicing, performing, and perfecting his or her craft or talent to become, for example, a world-class dancer or musician.

Argument # 4: Giftedness

The giftedness argument assumes that genetic engineering treats humans no longer as having gifts but as commodities that need to be designed, perfected, and manipulated. However, this argument loses its persuasive power once you see through the deterministic postulations that support it.

Once you realize that you cannot significantly control your child’s genetic composition, or the traits he or she will express, you are likely to view your child just as you have usually regarded him or her – as a gift that must be accepted instead of a product that must be perfected.

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