Good Example Of Ethics In Scientists: Thoughts On D’souza’s “Staying Human” Research Paper
Dinesh D’Souza, in his piece called “Staying Human”, outlined the benefits and dangers of transforming life itself. From the simple cloning of sheep, he says, men of science broadened the horizons of molecular biology and biotechnology by developing techniques in creating cloned species of other animals. This eventually leads to the idea that man, in any race, shape or form, can be cloned and made for a specific purpose according to the needs of the world.
He gives examples that support the idea of scientists who call themselves techno-utopians that this can be done. Of course, the famous example is Dolly the sheep, which in 1997 was the first cloned sheep in the world. This was a moment of triumph for science of course, but a clash of ideas for everyone else who believe science can have the power to go so far.
Then there is the idea and the actualization of genetic engineering in plants. This is followed by the idea and reality of gene therapy, genetically modified organisms, and such.
With these ideas floating around through history, from the discovery of the double helix model of the deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA to the modern day Human Genome project, it seems that the next logical, yet unethical step of progress in this field is the creation of the first cloned human. Even further, techno-utopians say, may be the idea that man can be designed according to the needs of the community or the wishes of the family by adding genetic code to future offspring that can enhances certain attributes. These can range from increased athletic activity to increased intellectual stimulation.
They say, in addition, that man now has the ways and means to which a future child can be cloned. The question that now lies in the eyes of everyone in the field of molecular biology and biotechnology is: will we do it?
Why do it anyway?
We must admit one thing about the nature of man itself: man does not stop pursuing knowledge.
Man strives to push the boundaries of everything in this world because we know in our minds that we could do so. We are all hungry for the next big thing: the next innovation, the next medical discovery, etc. In short, it is in ourselves that push ourselves to the known boundaries of the universe and expand that limit to cover more ground.
We did not survive thousands of years without our passion for such things. Without modern science, we could have been wiped out on Earth by diseases, natural calamities and even human conflict.
It is in the view of the techno-utopians that in order for our whole species to improve itself and become more prosperous, stable and happy, future offspring and their characteristics or traits or attitudes or behaviors must be dictated by the needs of the world – much like a business complying with the laws of supply and demand.
They believe that through this way of thinking, we can avoid wars that are made by people who are hungry for honor, power and glory because we can manipulate one’s genes to remove aggression, social injustice, racism, discrimination, among others. We can avoid life-threatening diseases due to problems in the human genome such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, autism, most cancers, and the like. We can improve the skills of future generations by identifying what genes should be added for him or her to become an athlete, a scientist, a musician or a worker.
In short, man can do this because he wants to and because he can do it.
Conflicts of Interest: Ethics and Science
Now that we have established the fact that because man will do anything because he can do it, there is another question attached to the premise. It’s simple: will he do it?
D’Souza points out that even the human endeavor has its limits.
Proponents against the idea of techno-utopia argue that while such things are good in theory, the application will cause disastrous effects on us all.
Some point to the idea that man is not perfect, therefore experimenting on humans will indeed cause problems for future generations. What if by inserting additional genes for increased athletic ability would also cause increased chances for rage? What if instead of creating future scientists they become madmen and plot to destroy the world? So many questions can come out of this.
Some point to the idea that instead of inserting genes to future children would cause a new set of division in man: those who have advantages in genes and those who have not. Those who are rich and famous will definitely have a head start in such things as they are financially capable of selecting the genes that they want. This causes superiority in everything. Those who are poor and are incapable of doing this will find themselves going deeper in poverty as they become more disadvantaged by this time. This will result into a greater gap between the two.
Some go back to the idea of pro-life and pro-choice, where although in the United States this applies in abortion cases may be applied to this one as well. Imagine if, for example, one tries to have a child with the traits that they want, but in the middle of the process something goes wrong and the resulting child becomes error-prone in some aspects. Will the parents accept the child as it is or send him or her back to correct the change, or worse kill the child and start a new one? It is certainly a scary thought to think about.
Many of those who do not subscribe to the idea of techno-utopia are opposed because of moral, legal, and humanitarian reasons.
Questions like these triggered a lot of criticisms from other sectors of society and even among scientists across the world. They say that man should also control his ambitions with what is practical. They include that limits on these endeavors, no matter how bitter or outrageous they may be, should be in place. Ethical considerations, they say, should also go hand in hand with the ambitions of scientific discovery and improvement.
Limiting the human advance into techno-utopia
We see D’Souza going against those who say that man should be able to create other man in his image and likeness as well as the needs of the community. The overall thought of people choosing the future of their family like vending machines and fixing them like auto repair shops seems really scare to all of us.
Of course, simple analogies like these are actually too simplified for such a complicated situation. But sometimes these things can sum up our fear of man that we believe we have gone too far in applying things we should not even do.
Another thing about this is if we do this, then we took away the freedom of future generations to choose or be what they want to be, like in the book and movie Insurgent, where after a child goes to another class, they cannot change classes anymore and thus have the possibility of being away from their families. Doing so will cause them to be labeled as deviating from their stature and will cause them to be outcasts.
Doing this may also cause us to form new kinds of slavery, where those born with lesser traits and abilities being manipulated or used completely by those who have superior traits. The quest for the perfect being may be attained, but what happens after?
The “Superman” analogy and Ethics in Science
D’Souza points out in the end a story about Frankenstein where the monster he creates defies everything in this world, including human mortality. An updated version of this may be in the movie “Man of Steel”.
We recall the description of Jor-El in the movie that the citizens of Krypton employed the same tactics described by the techno-utopians as genetic engineering at the grandest of scales – determining what the population really needs and make children out of them to solve the problem while prolonging their lives. At first, lives did improve across the planet Krypton and everyone was happy. Eventually however, people became discontented and made more, causing an imbalance in their needs and go into distant planets just to support the demand. When resources dried out, they resorted to war and eventually to the destruction of the planet itself.
Will this play out too if we do indeed push the limits in this field and become like the Kryptonians?
Science in itself has proven to be dangerous. Yes, it indeed causes the improvement of health, strengthens communications and travel across the world and eventually made it a better place than before. But science is also destructive. For instance, studies in the theory of the atom resulted to the study of radioactivity which led to the atomic bomb – forever changing our lives after the Second World War. Ignorance and improvements in transportation actually became the root causes why HIV is now spreading around the world and not contained at the source. Chemical testing and experimentation led to gas attacks and massive death and destruction.
Therefore, we should still aim to limit such efforts and focus on how science can be helpful to the community by increasing crop yields, building healthier and greener cities, promoting mass transport, etc., all of which are problems with practical and useful solutions.
Yes, man can do all things if he wants. But he must know when and how to properly use it.
Please remember that this paper is open-access and other students can use it too.
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