"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious." - Albert Einstein
Posted 05 May 2004 - 05:59 PM
The topic will be 'Genetic Engineering: For & Against'.
If you would like to take part in this debate, please post a reply to this thread to register you're interest. Once we have two participants, I will toss a coin to see which side of the arguement each of you will be arguing for.
Thanks to Blue-Scorpion for suggesting this topic.
I'm going to start the debate by declaring how bad genetic engineering is and will be for our future. Genetic engineering is human's way of playing God by manipulating genes that don't occur naturally in the environment. This creates a problem because it makes new species and new environments never seen before that are unforseeable and uncontrollable for the future. Once these new, genetically engeneered species are introduced into our environement and if the environment changes or if a problem persists, it cannot be recalled or changed back. That's a major problem with changing the natural effects of a species of animals or plants.
Genetic Engineering: The idea of genetic engineering is nothing new, in fact it has been around about 7000 years when it was used in a primitive form to increase the harvest of corn. Today, there have been leaps in modern medicine due to genetic engineering. For people with diabetes mellitus , prior to 1982 the only form of insulin, was derived from hogs, and only available in limited quantities. Due to genetic engineering, a human based hormone that is easy to mass produce in now available to diabetics. The possibilities for controlling diseases are endless. We are not playing God in developing better ways to control human nature, but are using God’s gift of intelligence to help humankind in fighting crippling illnesses and defects
It'll start with genetically engineering corn and now they're talking about controlling the sex, eye and hair color and even look of a child. That's playing God. How do we know that in doing this it won't seriously mess up the child's natural growing process. If you change the way nature wants it to be, it might lash out in uncontrollable ways. You may be able to control some diseases, but diseases change and learn ways to become immune. They always have.
Most of the fears about genetic engineering are in fact unfounded. People want to believe the worst of science and what a ‘mad’ scientist might do. While it is true that a single embryo can be encoded with certain genes or characteristics, and these particular genes are a very simple to encode at this time. It is unlikely that it will happen on a wide scale, due to the cost of this simple (Technically speaking) procedure. The primary cost are the isolation, detection, addition or removal of genes. Right now, the cost of genetic alterations is prohibitive on a small scale. Even for the richest parents, having the color of hair or eyes would be more of an expense than most would be willing to absorb, just so they have a child with a preferred hair color. And it would be a crapshoot at best. After paying to have a child with blue eyes, the doctors find the gene that said he would have been born with blue eyes anyway. I think parents would be more interested in having a healthy baby, in particular, if they knew that there was a proclivity for certain illnesses or disease that runs in the family.
Most of the human genetic engineering studies deal with removing certain genes or modification to lessen their effect on a particular person. The reason behind this is to remove or alter a family trait that makes one prone to certain ailments.
One of the common arguments against genetic engineering, is the mad scientist working for a rouge country and forming the perfect race so to speak. Many point to a new Hitler or Aryan nation type making a master race. While it is possible in theory, the practical aspect is a little more difficult to accomplish. It would take a certain number of embryos, plus the equipment to raise and/or hatch a great many test tube babies. This would all have to be done with the utmost in secrecy. In other words, damn near impossible to accomplish at this time. The rest of the world would be well aware of any master race prior to them ever leaving puberty.
However, there are areas that genetic engineering will be a great help. Such as childhood diabetes, were a genetic change could help eradicate this painful ailment. Other areas would be in cancer research, sickle cell, and a host of other diseases that are inherent to certain families or races.
Another aspect of genetic engineering is increased food production. As the population grows on this planet, we will have to increase the amount of food produced. Genetics can alter growing cycles crop sizes and nutritional values. Beef and poultry could be engineered to produce leaner meats, but in larger quantities.
The benefits of Genetic Engineering far out weight the possibility of radical abuse of this technology. A lot of human suffering will be removed or prevented by use of this fantastic discovery.
First, producing more food will not help to feed the hungry. This food will only help out those willing to buy it and the more beef or corn they have, the higher the price, especially since it's been genetically engineered.
Having a healthy baby is important for parents, yes, but taking care of the baby while it's in the womb is particuarlly important on how the baby deveops. Mothers will now feel free to be able to drink and smoke during pregnancy because of this new option that makes sure the baby is perfect when it comes out. Yes, this will create perfect children, the way the parents want them to be. That's not fair to the child. All diseases can be treated and some do kill, but that's a part of life. Soon we're going to find out ways to make sure no diseases and illnesses can be aquired and people will be living far longer than normal and become immune to everything and it would only put a larger strain on the population. As cold and calculated as it sounds, death is important to life. If everyone started living longer, that takes the food out of someone elses mouth, takes up more living space and is a burden. The right world is one in which the birth rate is equal to the death rate. We shouldn't be messing around with nature, trying to make it better, trying to control the circumstances we want. It's not about what we want, how we want our children to look and act. Diabetes can be aquired by other means than by genetics and removing that gene leaves room for another gene in it's place. How are we going to fill the gap?
Your points are valid to a degree. We currently have genetically altered corn and other vegetables on the market, and the current price is equal or lower than standard raised veggies. The fact that genetically enhanced crops allow farmers to produce higher yields at lower cost will help drive down prices. Countries that are blighted with droughts and insects will be able to produce drought and insect resistant crops. Beef is a major concern to health professionals due to fat content and cholesterol intake. A genetically altered cow that has a higher lean meat content and lower bad cholesterol will benefit humans in that over time, their intake will be healthier.
As for FAS, this cannot be altered by genetics. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome destroys brain cells and the normal development of tissue and bone structure. Genetics would not alter this, as they would have to develop a way to prevent the ETOH of alcohol from reaching the fetus. Genetics cannot do that.
As for the surplus population, we have enough ways to kill them off already. Between wars, drive by shootings, drug over doses, auto accidents and all the other stuff that we manage to do to ourselves. Not to sound cruel or uncaring, but producing healthier babies and riding our selves of certain genetic defects will not add to population as much as the nay sayers think it will.
Reason for above statement: At this time, there is no way to either delete or add a gene that will prevent any certain illness or disease. We can only assist in altering or preventing future ailments or defects. The human gene does not work that way. Most genes work in tandem with other genes to form the genetic code of life. So altering a genetic string may or may not have the desired effect. However, there are certain genes that can be altered and/or replaced to help prevent certain illnesses, or to promote growth of other required biological effects. As it stands right now, there is no magic bullet that will cure birth defects, only reducing the chance of an infant from developing problems later in life.
I am sure as advances in medicine and genetic engineering improve, there will come a time when science understands which combination of genes are prone to cause defects and ill health in infants and as time goes on, acquired problems with aging.
Uninformed people see genetics as a cure all for bad habits, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. These cannot be controlled by gene engineering, but by healthy choices in life.
Yeah, but AIDS isn't an epidemic in Africa because the people don't want to stop having sex. It's an epidemic because they don't know that sex spreads the disease, just like people are going to believe that their children are going to be perfect babies and genetically altered and there's no reason to take it easy. We don't know what genetically altering a child's DNA will result. We can only theorize what we can and and pretend that it will work. What if it creates something horrible? What if it harms a child even more so than imagined? There's no turning back and claiming it was an accident, but scientist won't stop after one attempt. They'll try again and again until they get it right, at what cost to the human race? What if we find out that genetically altered veggies are actually harmful to our bodies, that they add genes our body cannot ingest? There's no going back. No matter how much you change the corn, it will still need water to drink and insects will always feed on it because it's a source of food. All the disease you think that genetically engineering will correct will only morph into stronger versions of itself. Scientists have found that insects have become immune to current pesticides. Now what, use stronger pesticides? No. It's been proven that veggies grow bigger and healthier if left to itself. You can grow all the corn you want, but once again, those who cannot afford it will not buy it.
Throughout history, there has always a fear of new ideas in general, and science in particular. In the 1600 and 1700 men who worked on science and medicine were often considered witches, warlocks or the devil himself. If these men had not pushed forward in their quest for knowledge, we’d all be working at our computers by candlelight. All joking aside, there will always be a certain amount of ignorance in the world, some of it due to religious practices, some of it due to cultural heritage. And sadly enough, a lot of it is due to poverty. But to discontinue a study of the human gene system and ways to improve it to better the health and well being of mankind, would be wasting the God given talents of scientist who work hard to understand why things happen to the human body.
As for insects becoming resistant to chemical agents, this is a simple process of evolution. The bug world, just as the animal world has to either adapt to its surrounding, or perish. Many have adapted, and a great deal have become extinct. Chemical control of insects was a bad idea in the long run, but done out of ignorance. We humans chased off the insects natural predator by encroaching on habitats of birds and other natural predators to the unwanted bugs. With out a natural balance, these pest where able to multiply in larger numbers. But by genetically engineering crops to be resistant to insect attack, we could cause them to move to a less insect friendly environment.
World hunger has always been, and more than likely will always be a problem. But to say that fear of the genetically enhanced crops is due to unknown digestive or an absorption problem, is again unfounded. It is less hazardous to feed starving people with a genetically altered or enhanced crop than a chemically treated one.
As far as helping in controlling birth defects and later life problems it is a gamble. But we have here in the U.S. a thing called informed consent. Knowing what you are getting into before you agree to allow a procedure to be performed. A parent that is told the possibility a child will be born with Down’s Syndrome, is given a 50/50 chance of having a healthy baby with genetic alteration, as opposed to a 10% chance of having a healthy child. While the odds are not great, I would go for it based on the fact that it gives the child a chance at a normal life. Prenatal care as you pointed out would be a problem. And you are correct that a certain percentage of people would feel free to do as they wish in regards to their own, and their baby’s health. But this is nothing new. We have that now. With all the available information and services that are free, we still have fetus abuse by mothers that are more concerned for their own pleasure, than the health of the baby.
Human genetics is still in its infancy. It is still unknown if a change in gene formation or alteration will help or hurt. But to dismiss it and scrap the research would be a grave mistake.
As I have said, the only way to research it is to test it on REAL LIVING SUBJECTS! That's entirely too dangerous not knowing what the effects of these procedures may do. This is effecting the life of a human being and creating something that may be hazardous to someone's health, not creating electricity or a new computer. Genetic engineering is indeed playing God and it shouldn't be classified as the same kind of technology as electricity. TO say that my theories about genetic engineering being a problem being unfounded is the exact same way to look at genetic engineering. There's no way to know what exactly it does unless actually testing it. Changing the genes of a mouse may not have the same problems it will concerning a human being. This isn't the 1600's anymore. People aren't afraid of science and technology anymore than they are lynching witches, but this is something that may hold hideous side-effects.
If insects can (and the have) adapted to survive a chemical attack, which is designed strickly to kill them, what makes you think they won't adapt once again to be able to feast on the new crops? I also don't see how genetically engineering them can create more crops. As far as I know, they would only make a crop "better", not grow more. You can't grow two crops with one seed so this science won't make more plants. If the plants do prevent insects as you say they will, that will only cause more havoc because the bugs will all die, then the birds will die because they don't have any food and so on and so on. It will be ecologically damning. So either way, genetically engineering crops will make no sense and I'll say it again, if the poor don't have the money to buy the crops, they aren't getting fed.
There's nothing wrong for scientists to study the human body and to code the human genome because we may find medications to help cure things such as cancer and diabetes by understanding how they attack the body and the kind of medicines it will take to treat the disease. Everything about genetic engineering is wrong and both socially and religiously unacceptable. Scientists need to take a step back and realize that they are not the Creator and they need to stop taking his place.
Genetics covers a wide range of sub topics, from plants to animals and finally to humans. All living matter is coded by nature to do certain things, grow a certain way, and its ability to survive and evolve, are all embedded in its microscopic genetic code. Understanding how the code works is the first priority to successful genetic engineering. Once the codes are understood, then alteration of, or enhancement to, is possible.
Genetically enhanced food is certainly within our current abilities, and is in fact already being marketed. Corn was one of the first plants to be altered on a large scale. While you can’t get two plants from one seed, you can increase the number of ears of corn per plant. You can also increase the vitamin and nutrient content in each plant, making it healthier to consume.
Animal experimentation is a controversy in and of itself, as many feel that we should not be using animals for laboratory experiments. When it comes to hair spray and deodorant, I would tend to agree. We know these chemicals are bad for animals as well as humans. But most medical discoveries have to follow a prescribed chain of events, first rodents, then pigs, and on up to primates. Finally, when there is some certainty that it will work on humans, clinical studies are done in a controlled setting. It is possible that human volunteers can be acquired through the prison system, a practice we already do here in the United States. And for my part, and not to sound callous, but the use of a few babies bred for the purpose of experimentation, is more humane than having the massive numbers killed through abortion. It is a sacrifice of a few to help the many.
As a man of faith, I don’t see it has we are trying to play God. Of all the animals created, God gave man the ability to think, reason and achieve. He also gave us a desire to know more about our lives and where we came from, what makes us tick so to speak. We are created with an intelligence that is unmatched by any other animal on this planet, and to waste our abilities out of fear we will be seen as ungodly, would be against every reason He put us here. Man is supposed to help man. Genetic engineering will allow science to defeat certain birth defects, ailments and other diseases that claim not quantity of life, but the quality of life.