It is Unethical Not to Use Genetic Engineering


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When I hear that the conversation is about an ethical problem I anticipate that right now the people are going to put everything upside down and end with common sense. Appealing to ethics has always been the weapon of conservatism, the last resort of imbecility.

How does it work? At the beginning you have some ideas, but in the end it’s always a “no”. The person speaking on the behalf of ethics or bioethics is always against the progress, because he or she is basing their opinion on their own conjectures. What if the GMO foods will crawl out of the garden beds and eat us all? What if there will be inequality when some will use genetic engineering for their kids and some won’t? Let’s then close down the schools and universities – the main source of inequality. What if some will get the education and other won’t?

That’s exactly the position that ‪Elon Musk took by fearing the advances in genetic engineering. Well, first of all, there already is plenty of inequality. It is mediated by social system, limited resources and genetic diversity. First of all, why should we strive for total equality? More precisely, why does the plank of equality have to be based on a low intellectual level? How bad is a world where the majority of people are scientists? How bad is a world where people live thousands of years and explore deep space? It’s actually genetic engineering that gives us these chances. From the ‪#‎ethics‬ point of view things are visa versa. It’s refusing the very possibility of helping people is a terrible deed. Let’s not improve a person, because if we do what if this person becomes better than everybody else? Let’s not treat this person, because if we do he might live longer than everybody else? Isn’t this complete nonsense?

There’s another aspect of ‪#‎geneticengineering‬ – people always talk about improving the children, however genetic engineering first and foremost gives the opportunity to improve the already living people. Gene therapies already exist and it would be wonderful if we could live to see the moment when they are able to improve our health and intellect many fold. It is obvious that these technologies have to be safe. So, if we can help a child or a grown up, let’s do it immediately. This is the real ethic position.

I will also allow myself to speculate that genetic engineering is the fastest track towards Artificial Intelligence. The majority thinks that AI will arise in a computer, but I think it might be easier to grow the superbrain and train it. And yes, with the help of genetic engineering.

16 Comments

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16 responses to “It is Unethical Not to Use Genetic Engineering

  1. Socialists always seem irrational to me when they want to fight inequality by beating down those who have done well, when instead they could be trying to build up those striving to better themselves. According to rabble rousers, taxes may make “the rich howl with anguish” but in reality the very rich can afford to pay. It is those on the way up who can’t climb as fast because of the burden dragging them back. Wherever the limit is set, there will be those trying to cross it, and the message is “we don’t want you to.”

    A speed limit on the roads is **designed** to make people drive slowly, and largely it works. Is there any reason to suppose that a financial limit such as a gains tax can’t do the same to progress?

    The infamous Marquis de Sade wrote something to the effect that power over another person is as much fun as sex, and it is this power, re-enforced by the glow of righteous indignation, that drives many ethicists to deny life saving and suffering reducing treatments to sick people. A lot of them probably don’t realise this, they are not necessarily evil people seeking to gratify themselves, but it is this part of human nature that is driving them.

    • amperro

      Indulging one’s conscience at the expense of other is always impermissible. It does not matter how “well-intentioned” it is.

      • Agreed, which is why I would never vote for a socialist party, whether general or national. Approximately half the voters in democracies would disagree, though.

  2. Anonymous

    Conflating ethics about genetics with politics is fraught with problems. The first, unanswered question, that can be addressed to the article is this: who controls the genetic engineering? The brutal eugenics of Hitlerian extermination or the outcomes of misguided Lysenkoism both arose from the political power behind the science.

    Do I “believe” in genetic engineering: yes. Resoundingly so. Do I have problems with the political powers that would control it: again, yes. The “problem” is not “inequality”. Some people take an ethical stance that inequality is a good thing. For such people, genetic engineering that creates inequality is a good thing. Without a clear statement of your own ethical stance, there is no clear way to assert that “X is unethical”. Indeed, all you end up doing is voicing diatribes against “the Left” or “the Right” – the ubiquitous “them” of paranoia.

    Which is where there needs to be some realism. If I am personally allowed to dictate the course of genetic engineering for the next two hundred years, will you be safe? This is a far more useful question.

    • alanchais

      People always love to answer these questions with such a narrow viewpoint driven from their lack of imagination and too much lifetime programming. We knew Hitler’s motivations and intentions. Could it be possible to steer away from that focus on incentives to promote benign and benevolent intentions? Of course.

  3. hoohm

    I’ll answer to your why is equality is important to me. First off, there is no truth. There is no ultimate goal that has been written down somewhere as to what is life about. So in this sense, fuck equality and fuck inequality, there is no reference.
    Since we can’t conclude on what is good or bad from that, let’s use something else.
    I’m a curious person, I like to learn and understand things. I do believe, and it’s a fact, I have no proof of this, that animals, and more precisely humans are curious. So I would argue the following:
    Satisfying the curiosity of people makes them happy to have learned something. I do believe, again no proof/reference, that happy is better than sad. So I would want an environment that is helping out this “need”. Another thing is, the more people share, the more they learn. Books, knowledge from the people from before help us build on it today right?. So, sharing is positive in this perspective. Hence, having more equality encourages sharing. When you lack something, you keep it for you since it’s for your survival. So having plenty around pushes you towards sharing.
    One more important thing. We don’t live in a “natural” scarcity society. We have the power/resources to feed/sustain everyone. It’s only an economic problem that we impose to ourselves.

    About genetic engineering I would argue that we are not able today to understand repercussions that those could have on our environment. More or less like chemistry becomes a problem today. 40 years ago we started to use lots of small chemical molecules in plastics/pesticides/etc… not knowing it would affect us today. Now we pay the price, cancer sexual growth problems and probably partially obesity. (look for endocrine disruptor)
    There is also a paper presenting evidence that mRNA from rice affects directly the cholesterol metabolism in liver: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23763670
    Normally, we assume that everything we eat is cut down in small pieces and reused like lego bricks. Seems that is not completely true and that there are some pieces that are not cut down, go into our organism and affect us directly. But there is probably a strong link between human/animal evolution and plant evolution.

    I hope I could shed some light on a few key points that seem quite “simple” according to your article.

    Have fun

    Hoohm

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  5. tobinyo

    “How bad is a world where the majority of people are scientists?”
    Then who is going to do the manual labor that can’t be replaced by technology? A majority population of scientists would end up without working utilities and degraded infrastructure. The trades are necessary and the people who do (mindless) labor are crucial.

  6. poop
    poop
    poop…..now

  7. Jt

    TL;DR: “It’s okay for us to completely take away the options of those who do not want to take the risks associated with our new methods, but it is not okay for them to completely take away our food.

    As usual, both sides demanding their way or the highway. GMO advocates want NO non GMO foods and people who don’t like GMO want NO GMO foods to be available. It’s fucking ridiculous. Isn’t the answer COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY OBVIOUS? Let people do what they want. Don’t make laws about what people put in their body.

    Fuck you, liberals.

    Fuck you, conservatives.

    You’re a bunch of asshole fucks who want to control the world.

  8. Perhaps someday aspiring parents will be able to purchase a kit from a drug store that anonymously communicates with medical databases to inform them of the probability that their potential children have of contracting an inheritable disease. If they felt the risk was too high, they could then contact a medical professional who could help them conceive an embryo that did not contain known genetic disorders – using only combinations from the parents’ natural DNA.

    If parents did not decide to screen for genetic disorders, and their child was born with a disorder, then the probability that their child would chose screening when attempting to conceive their own children should be very high. Over time a voluntary system such as this may converge on a significant reduction in the occurrence of known genetic disorders without the need for coercive eugenic practices.

    The procedure would need to be universally accessible, monitored by diverse regulatory bodies and based on peer-reviewed scientific research. Offering government subsidized embryo selection to voluntary participants only, should pay for itself due to a reduction in the occurrence of serious childhood sicknesses. Genetic diversity would need to be measured and monitored, along with the health and well-being of every child conceived. Samples of unmodified DNA could be kept in case there is a need to reintroduce genetic diversity into a population. Perhaps one could be given the rights to all DNA samples within one’s direct lineage. If the selection process has been used for several generations, then genetic diversity could be reintroduced by using the unmodified DNA from a direct ancestor.

    At some age of consent, individuals could be allowed to opt-in for enhancements to their bodies. This should give all humans the common experience of being a human child and respect their right to make decisions about how to modifying their body once they are old enough to do so.

  9. anna

    I had some friends come over from Germany and they were absolutely freaking out about our gmo produce and ‘How is an apple this big? Why does everything taste like water? Why would your government do this to you?”, I had to explain what the word “organic” means. Little to say it was a huge eye opener. I think people get very frightened when they hear the words genetic engineering, mostly due to massive amounts of negative propoganda and our god awful, fish-tomato, tasteless, nutrition-less, food. I do believe in the positives of genetic enhancement, but how do you close the door to negative profiteering and um, weaponizing?

  10. Recently I had some discussions on #GMO. I think that as we spread to outer space we might need to use it (greater efficiency).

    However, in the current state it is mostly driven by profit and meat production which is not cool.

  11. Dens

    К сожалению, луддиты (а также вякающие “это не этично”, “не идите против природы”) будут всегда. Однако как показывает историческая практика – они способны лишь слегка замедлить прогресс, поскольку технологии становятся дешевле и доступнее (раньше редактирование было доступно лишь крупным лабораториям, а лет через 10, прогнозирую, что даже студенты смогут это делать).

    Короче, я думаю, есть смысл создать супер-мышь. Mouse 2.0. Где будут изменены некоторые гены (например, увеличить число копий p53, и интегрирован механизм рыбы данио-рерио по регенерации постинфарктного сердца). И вуаля – мы продемонстрируем мышь, которая живет гораздо дольше и ей не грозят онко и сердечные патологии. И затем незамедлительно сделать то же самое на человеке.

    • With regards to
      >>>
      Unfortunately, the Luddites (and blather “is not ethical,” “do not go against nature”) will always be. However, as shown by historical experience – they can only slightly slow down the progress, as technology becomes cheaper and more accessible (before editing was available only to large laboratories, and in 10 years, it is projected that even students can do it).

      In short, I think it makes sense to create a super-mouse. Mouse 2.0. Where some genes are changed (for example, increase the number of copies of p53, and integrated mechanism for fish zebrafish heart regeneration postinfarction). And voila – we will show a mouse that lives much longer and it will not get any oncology and heart disease. And then immediately do the same in humans.
      <<<

      It will require a rebellious student to do the mouse, put his results on line, and watch a war between the thanatophiles (people who are excited by death) and the rest. Initially there will be more deaths and suffering, until the thanatophiles lose.

  12. Pingback: It is Unethical Not to Use Genetic Engineering – Disbanding: Boundaries

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