The following response is a contribution from a student at Youth Initiative High School in Viroqua, Wisconsin.
Stepping into a society where genetic modifications of the human being is part of its culture would bring along some of the biggest and darkest moments of humanity back to the present, along with a strong unbalance of power. As we know, anything related to DNA testing, experimentation, and research is very expensive. Due to our society’s organization, based upon class and social status, any kind of eugenic application to human life would be reserved or rather affordable to the higher classes of society. The gaps between people with different incomes have become greater and greater every day, which is due to many factors such as religion, ethnicity, wealth placement, and different levels of intelligence. Thus, implementing genetic modifications would only make the gaps bigger, causing the divisions to be even more permanent and climbing up the capitalist ladder would become unattainable for lower classes. Perhaps it would become yet another way for our civilizations to become even more superficial and shallow, slowly stepping away from culture and ethnical differences because of the aspiration to look and behave a certain way.
Another downside of gene drives is that we start to cross a very thin line of what we “can” do and what we “should” do. There is a natural order of things, which we are challenging constantly, and by being able to change what is meant to be “luck” or “destiny,” we would assume a power we have never been given before, which could potentially challenge many religious ideals as we start stepping into “God’s shoes.”
Politically speaking, it would be almost impossible to manage eugenics from a government’s point of view, as the laboratories and corporations behind such a powerful tool would become even more powerful than the government itself. It would lead to a strong unbalance of power and economics in society. In the 21st century, people in the lower classes simply do not want anymore injustice and unbalance of power, so moving onto a world in which genetics plays a role in what job you get, how much money you make, what education you can have, and what place in society you have, would go against many of the privileges/rights citizens have earned through protesting, coming together, and creating a solid front against inequality and division.
Another very important aspect to consider is the idea of “individualism” that we have in the present; we find it morally and ethically right for every individual to make their own choices and decisions based upon their beliefs, habits, and culture. And this is where gene drives might be a no for many, due to the fact that the parents of the yet-to be born baby, will make him/her based on their own ideas of what they want, what their ego drives them to, and what they feel will make this new human successful in life. Many will say that we as humans have no right to plan the life of others, however, it is also a very natural instinct to want the best for your child, you want them to be happy, to succeed, and to live without any major complications such as illness. Genetic drive would get help get rid of hereditary diseases, many of which today are either unpredictable or non-fixable. Many lives would be both saved and improved thanks to this, which could potentially increase the population at a slow but steady rate.
There is one problem with coding DNA in similar ways over and over again, and it is that it stars to lose variation and diversity, thus becoming more vulnerable to deadly diseases that could potentially eradicate massive amounts of humans at a time if they all carry similar treats. This is why sexual reproduction is key for creating better and stronger offspring, which over time can evolve and improve upon new environments and settings. This could potentially be another way in which medicaments could become even more dependable than before, thus always keeping humans at the intake of pharmaceutical drugs.
Another important thing to consider is what we are willing to risk if heading into a new era of genetic perfection, especially because of how strong we would be defying what we as mortals are meant or “allowed” to do with our own kind (and other living creatures). Natural order has always been the status quo, and altering the order and sequence of life can be dangerous, even more so for human beings, as we tend to let our ego and our avarice make the path our feet will walk. If gene drive was possible, it should be a right (of course, consent would be also part of it) and not a privilege, it should be yet another powerful tool for us to overcome death in its most tragic forms, and to improve upon the steps we have built for the past thousands of years.
Published on 6 March 2017