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The dark side of genetics ?

May 13, 2006 | Comment icon 8 comments
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The seeming innocence in the phrase "Genetic Testing," or, "Genetic Counseling," can be deceptively misleading. Many would argue on grounds as simple as standing for or against the subject. Both choices, however, have inherent risks involved. The simple reality and way of genetic testing & counseling is like Pandora's Box: Out of it may come many misuses and negatives, but remaining will be the seductive power to do good and carry on.Genetic testing, in essence, is testing of the human genome, usually before birth, to determine the possibilities of certain traits or more commonly, impediments that may affect the life of the human. With our ever expanding knowledge of DNA and its specific genetic makeup, in theory, we would be able to counsel the parents of the individual if and when diagnosed with disease or the similar (Kass, "Genetic Engineering Threatens Human Dignity").

In theory, genetic testing is also an innocent practice; By finding the problems before birth, we can hope to correct the problems or get a head start and educating the parents about the problems their child may encounter in life. Readiness today to ensure a better tomorrow. This readiness should be a path to victory over such problems. Preparation and lessening methods are often helpful, although they cannot defeat the very genetic makeup of an individual that is the inexorable source of the problem.When our knowledge of how DNA works and the specific coding for specific traits increases to its paramount, the human race will have achieved something that has plagued every living creature for all time: Mother Nature. It is through the domination of this eternal mother on playing field after playing field that we, as a race, agree we have advanced as a result of. However, can there really be true reassurance and prosperity with the true nature of DNA at the command of the very beings it programmed? Such a claim seems reminiscent of stories detailing conflicts by man and the machines he has created that, in time, excel beyond man. This time, however, it would be the supposedly perfect versus the deemed imperfect (Peters, Genetic Screening is Ethically Problematic).The benefits of genetic testing to determine what problems a child may have before they are even born are almost unfathomable. Instead of relying heavily on prayer and pharmaceuticals, humanity – or those who could afford the hefty price of DNA synthesizing – would be immune from disease, saved from negative heredity, and all would have the opportunity to embrace an iron immune system that only a few conditioned humans have today.With the downfall of disease, life expectancy would, in turn, shoot through the roof. Genetic testing and counseling is in no way the Holy Grail in our losing battle against inevitable Father Time, but it is another nail in his coffin.
With disease and sickness out of the way because of empowered immune systems and DNA perfected before birth, only war or the slowed degeneration of cells from the toll of time would poison our body and lead to our demise. In the best scenario, it could be an Earth where all can enjoy her fruits and sweets longer, and explore the joys of life without the problems that have plagued previous generations since the very creation of life; old age (Kass, "Genetic Engineering Threatens Human Dignity").It is after we think of the conquering of disease that all humans must ask themselves one simple question: "What else can be altered and determined with genetic testing?" Once contemplated, the initial ramifications are frightening. With the ability to screen and determine traits, we would also have the ability to alter traits. A racial supremacist's dream-come-true. It is likely some parents would simply end the modification of their laboratory child's DNA at the level of susceptibility to diseases. With little doubt, though, others may desire to alter other things about their child: Expected height, hair color, eye color, skin color and an infinite amount of other genotypes and phenotypes. The alteration of the human genome can quickly leap from fighting disease to giving rise to a hopeless ideal of perfection (Peters, "Genetic Screening is Ethically Problematic").

In the past and even now, striving for perfection has almost always led to complete failure, simply because perfection is different in the eyes of each person. As it has also happened in the past, when humanity finally has the capability to do something, someone is going to do it regardless of law. Human cloning, for example, is current a hot topic and generally looked down upon. Regardless, several groups of scientists have already claimed to have cloned a human. Because genetic testing & counseling is already an option today and in practice, the possibility that it could spiral out of control is a real problem indeed.Today in the workplace, the more qualified individuals are more likely to get hired, just as in nature the healthier individuals are likely to get more mates and become more successful. If genetic testing and counseling could lead to an outrageous epidemic in which humans were being modified far beyond given a better chance against disease, it will be a breeding ground for segregation and bias. If a man is born more capable and healthy, it would seem he is more likely to succeed than someone who did not receive genetic testing before he was born for any number of reasons - most likely the reason of money or faith ("Dossett, Genetic Testing Can Benefit Human Health").The benefits and risks put into play by genetic testing and counseling are something very new. In the past, humans have fallen back on religion and faith for reassurance that their children will grow up to be healthy, strong, and successful; yet as we venture deeper, the role once left in the hands of the Fates and the Gods is quickly falling into our own hands.

As technology progresses more and more we will, in a sense, be able to play God (Kass, "Genetic Engineering Threatens Human Dignity").It is in these times and the times in the future that will be upon us sooner than many of us realize, that we must take responsibility for our actions and our technology. Genetic testing and the counseling that follows could be one of the greatest uses for our knowledge of genetics, or it could be one of the worst. Either way, we trod on dangerous ground. We can only have hope that someday in the future our children or our children's children will live without disease, plague, or illness. Those are the times that science today is helping to ensure. Comments (8)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by frogfish 18 years ago
The pros of genetic testing grealy outweigh the cons
Comment icon #2 Posted by frogfish 18 years ago
Genetic testing can lead to early findings of genetic disorders...especially at Birth...This can greatly increase the chance of survival by improving life style.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Master Sage 18 years ago
Plus, studys in the genes of other species could also benifit. Imagine that we could grow crops all year round with antifrezee seeds, or save species from extinction by implanteing them into reletives, and then mating them eventuly to get more back.
Comment icon #4 Posted by zandore 18 years ago
It is not the science it's self that is/could be bad but how it is used. I agree that "the pros outweigh the cons".
Comment icon #5 Posted by frogfish 18 years ago
It is not the science it's self that is/could be bad but how it is used. Exactly Zandore.. Original Quote deleted ...It's called genetic some research. or save species from extinction by implanteing them into reletives, and then mating them eventuly to get more back. That might not work...The better way is to establish breeding programs and strict regulations....This saved the Asiatic Lions and Californian Condor.
Comment icon #6 Posted by zandore 18 years ago
Perhaps "the unknown poet" should remain unknown.
Comment icon #7 Posted by frogfish 18 years ago
Perhaps "the unknown poet" should remain unknown
Comment icon #8 Posted by slurpygloop 18 years ago
It is not the science it's self that is/could be bad but how it is used. I agree that "the pros outweigh the cons". True-but as I posted in another story, it's what "somebody" can do with these results that is disturbing. Case in point, Stalin's attempt to create an army of "ape men" and Hitler's desire to create a "super man." Some in the occult cirlces believe he (Hitler) may have been successful or had summoned some sort of dark entities. Regardless, a fascinating read...

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