It’s All in the Genes, Baby

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Creativity & The Divine

Supposing that The Divine created us, to what extent should we re-create ourselves?  That is, how much do we improve on the original design before we go so far as to destroy it?

Along the spectrum of self-improvements, we have hair dyes, anti-aging creams, plastic surgeries, organ transplants, artificial limbs, and so on all the way up to genetic engineering.

Some improvements are small and harmless, and do nothing to alter the fundamental structure of the original.

Other improvements propose to eliminate design flaws. For example, genetic engineering holds the promise of one day stopping genetic disorders such as Down’s Syndrome and Klinefelter Syndrome. The thought is that these disorders are not part of the original design and that getting rid of them restores the creation to its intended design.

Genetic engineering could also be used to enhance more desirable characteristics- eye colour, height, intelligence. This, then, leads to questions around the value of one human being over another.

Perhaps the most controversial of genetic engineering is gene splicing. This technique involves taking pieces of one type of DNA and inserting them into another. This could lead to an entirely new species- a completely new kind of human, an ‘improved’ human. Is this what we ultimately want?

When I started this post, I drew the line before eliminating design flaws. I didn’t think we should stop someone from having Down’s Syndrome. But then I asked myself: if I were given the choice to come into this world with it or without it, which would I choose? And now I’m not so sure about where to draw the line. What do you think?

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer      

Clone

If there were two of me, how much better life would be! I would always have someone who knew how I felt, agreed with my views, and enjoyed what I liked.

I could sleep in on Mondays and still be at work, not do my homework and still get straight A’s. I could skip the broccoli and just eat dessert, miss all the fights and just kiss and make up.

The only problem I see is if she were like me, she would want what I want and there’d be nothing left for me.

Image source

Use the comment field to suggest a topic, submit your writing on today’s 4 Minute Writer topic (Clone) or to comment.

 
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12 Comments

Filed under Creativity, Writing

12 responses to “It’s All in the Genes, Baby

  1. I think we might do better to leave creation to God. I am amazed that we have learned these things and hope that we will be cautious. I don’t know everything and don’t judge the motives of those fiddling with life, but I do wonder about it. Blessings to you…

    • It is amazing what’s possible these days. Before starting the post I was firm in not doing any genetic engineering that would alter life. However, researching some scholarly sites that do consider ethics made me be a little more open to some tinkering. If it were possible to prevent someone from having cystic fibrosis- one of the symptoms is difficulty breathing- would it be ethical not to ‘cure’ someone of it?
      I do wonder, though, at what cost the cure comes- what does it take to do the research? What are some negative consequences?
      I know so little about this that the best I can do is ask questions. The more advancements we make, the more important questioning will be.
      Thanks for wondering along.

  2. I agree with Carol – I feel better leaving the creating to God. 🙂 Movies like “Gattaca” have always both intrigued me and made me feel cautious to accept new technologies. I remember reading “A Brave New World” in high school and afterward felt so strongly that I never want to dull my feelings – both the good and the bad. If you’re sad, be sad; if you’re joyful, be joyful. Taking a pill to alter things just doesn’t sit right with me. Similarly, knowing about the condition of my baby before I have it doesn’t seem right either, partly because it’s like we’re messing with something natural and partly because I trust that God is not only in each situation but that He is sovereign – in control of each situation. And taking the bad with the good (or maybe better put the hard with the easy) and still living life to the fullest is the way I want to live. I enjoyed this thoughtful post, Zoe!

    • Thanks for the thoughts.
      Gattaca is such an excellent movie. Equilibrium is also a great one where people are given regular injections to eliminate their feelings. How much easier society would be to manipulate- and how terrifying that is!
      I can be a little fiery at times myself- that’s in my genes, I’ll tell you! I wouldn’t want anyone to have messed with them to change me, though.

  3. This is such a thorny one, Zoe. I think that only by consulting with the engineer who designed the blueprints can we hope to fulfil what we are really capable of and find the happiness that brings. Even in his strand of creation in my life, I have had moments where I had to be incredibly strong to say no. The opportunities available led to real glory: one would have had be spearheading a London museum to new heights. But it would have robbed my children of their mother. It was not in the blueprint and I could sense that on some level. We can deny that the engineer is making his wishes known, but I would argue those wishes are always there for the asking.

    • Consulting with the engineer- how easy to lose sight of this, talking about the engineer instead of with the engineer. Thanks for parting some clouds on this. Your example is a perfect one of priorities and whose we consider when making decisions. Children over museum sounds so right.

  4. This post is definitely food for thought and is generating some interesting discussions. I also tend to agree that genetic engineering isn’t something to be messed with, I think it’s our “flaws” that makes each of us unqiue and I would hate to lose that.

    • Kay Redfield Jamison, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, wrote a book a number of years ago titled An Unquiet Mind. It’s her memoir of how she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while studying to be a clinical psychologist and how her life unfolds.
      In the end, she decides that her “flaw” is essential to who she is and opts for a low dose of lithium to keep her highs and lows in check enough so she can cope with life, but not enough to take away her mercurial nature which she says is essential to who she is as a person.
      I think there’s a balance somewhere between flaws that make us unique and ones that prevent us from functioning. There are many ways to work through “flaws” that would leave genetic engineering out of the picture (thankfully!).

  5. Hmmm. This is such an interesting post. I find myself standing in the middle, able to see and identify with both sides. We are essentially taking about choice versus fate. And I believe in both. We already use and are completely comfortable with many scientific discoveries that change our lives every day. If it was my child who could be saved, I am not sure I would choose to leave it to “god” or “nature”. On the other hand, I admire and cherish the wonder that is each child’s individual uniqueness. It is a difficult line to draw. Great post! You got us all thinking!

    • Sometimes our views change when we are personally affected by an issue, like if your own child were in question. That would be the hardest spot in the world to be in.
      It’s true that things we were so shocked by before have entered into our societies- in vetro fertilization, surrogate mothers, etc.
      What a world we live in!

  6. Margaret Somerville suggests that what we need is “wise ethical restraint.” For a link to some of her writing see my post here: http://hungerandthirst4.blogspot.com/2010/04/science-spirit.html .

    For an award winning view of a future in which humans do not say “no” and do not use “wise ethical restraint,” see the writings of another Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. Her fictional book entitled Oryx and Crake (Seal Books, 2004) offers a particularly bleak picture of a world without ethical restraint.

    • This also goes back to the idea of ‘just because we can doesn’t mean we should’.
      I read your linked post. A couple of sentences jumped out at me in the quote you reference there. One was, “…to hold science and mystery in creative tension”. Amazing how this concept of dynamic tension/creative tension can be applied to so many realms- personal, ethical, etc.
      The other was, “Can the future trust us?”. Now there’s something to ponder!

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