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Where do we draw the line on human genetic engineering?
in Science

At what point do you decide that human genetic engineering is not appropriate, especially in the case of the unborn? Is it when it provides an unfair advantage? Is it when it has unforseeable consequences?

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  • It is a high risk, but unavoidable path forward.  At some point the line will be blury between humans and technology.  We should establish regulations early on to control how it develops before it gets completely out of control.
    Live Long and Prosper
  • We must experiment or aliens will abduct us and experiment mercilessly.
  • If you are changing the fetus' DNA just because you want a certain trait. For example, if you want to have blue eyes.
    I could either have the future pass me or l could create it. 

    “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” - Benjamin Franklin  So flat Earthers, man-made climate change deniers, and just science deniers.

    I friended myself! 
  • There should be little to no genetic engineering for humans or others.
  • You draw the line at perfection. Why not?
  • First off, let's be clear about this: people screen their babies regardless of whether or not genetic engineering exists. Especially if they're doing in vitro fertilization, where each embryo is checked for genetic illness, screening is a regular part of the process. People do abort children worldwide for a variety of reasons, ranging from the incidence of genetic illness to the sex of the child. That's not going to change without genetic engineering. All that really changes is that human beings are able to make designer children, i.e. they're able to program in specific traits rather than rolling the dice and then deciding if they like the outcome or not.

    Second, I don't think we can reasonably draw a single line. The difference between treatment for an illness and enhancement is not so blatant in many cases. Sure, if you're changing eye color, that could be a little more obvious. But what if you have a child that is deficient in human growth hormone (HGH)? They might be only 4 feet tall when full grown, and come with a host of health issues. So you engineer in a better promoter for the production of HGH. Now, let's assume there's a child that produces only slightly more HGH. They'll be 4.5 feet. Should they be allowed the treatment? How about 5 feet? Where do we reasonably draw the line? The answer is that anywhere we draw the line will be arbitrary. Sure, we might be able to get some agreement on some of the basics, but not on issues like this where there is a sliding scale. Moreover, even on basic issues like eye color, do we really prefer a system where potential parents screen through embryos until they find the one that has the right traits? I'm not so sure.

    So, where do we draw the line? I'll present the unpopular opinion here: we don't. Genetic engineering isn't at the point where we can modify humans, but when it does come, it's going to come with a lot of promise and concern. All of that is reasonable. We don't want a future like Gattaca where genetics becomes part of the social strata, but I don't think we can reasonably stop it. Sure, genetic engineering should be regulated to prevent parents from doing terrible things to their children, but in the presence of a line, there will be a black market for genetic engineering, particularly for parents who have genetic illnesses that fall on the wrong side of that line. I think driving it underground is likely to make the process dangerous and lead to its own host of problems.
  • @whiteflame, I support your position that regulation will just lead to an unhealthy black market with even worse society implications 
  • Genetic engineering for humans and for everything or everybody has to be regulated by an international government such as the UN due to the issues which may come with that technology or development.
    DebateIslander and a DebateIsland.com lover. 
  • @joecavalry The UN is corrupt to its core.
  • I don't know that the UN is the best body to regulate genetic engineering. It doesn't have a means to enforce any regulations without getting buy-in from individual nations, and they're unlikely to take those steps just because one nation is using genetic engineering to do something untoward. When the technology arrives in humans, individual nations or small groups of nations will have to implement their own regulations, and there's bound to be some discrepancies between them. That's fine, though, because it means we can test a whole bunch of different kinds of regulation at once to see what works best. 
  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 1278 Pts
    edited August 2018
    I have a pretty ruthless view on science in this regard, generally considering that "the end justifies the means". This does not mean that I see non-consensual experiments on living humans as allowable (after all, human rights should be supreme no matter what) - but I am in general in support of trying out risky and dangerous ideas, given they do not harm anyone existing at the moment against their will.

    Suppose we have an idea of altering certain genes that could, in theory, produce a human much superior in physical and mental characteristics to regular humans. But we are not 100% sure about our theories. Would it be reasonable to perform the genetic operation on a fetus and see what it grows into? I would say, yes. Granted that the scientists have a way to quickly and painlessly dispose of a twisted organism that could emerge as a result of horrible miscalculation.

    It goes without saying that adults giving consent on altering their genes should have the right to have the genetic enhancements performed on them. I personally would gladly try out a genetic technology on myself, after getting familiar with all the documentation and seeing the risks as relatively small. Science is amazing, and risk is one of the parts that make it so interesting. Without taking any risks and often failing miserably, we would still be living in caves.

    So, to answer the popular question: should there be any regulations? I would say, no. Nothing beyond the already existing laws defending human rights is needed.
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