Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ethics Class - Final Paper

Note: This last semester I've been taking an Ethics class at Shasta College. "Ethics - Understanding Right and Wrong" The following is my paper, which I actually wasn't so sure of when I wrote it. Sort of thought it was kind of rambling. But happily, I guess, my professor liked it, so I thought it good enough to share.

Here are my professor's comments

The paper could use a good edit, but I am delighted to have a paper that actually makes an argument and supports it. Yours is the first real argument I have read so far, and I am over half way through reading finals. Thanks for giving me a spurt of energy to keep reading!!

Happy Holidays!!!

The assignment was to pick a moral issue from our textbook that we had covered during the course and argue for/against it, using the moral theories we studied. (utilitarianism, Kant, natural law, etc)

So Here it Is....

December 13, 2007 was a landmark day in professional sports. It’s the day the Mitchell Report came out, a document that detailed use of performance enhancing drugs by a number of major league baseball players. Some of the most well known players in the game were named in the report, as well as several little known mid level players who were just scrounging out a living in the big leagues. In the three years since the report came out, Major League Baseball has instituted one of the toughest drug policies in sports. Instead of home run races fans now count no-hitters as the steroids and HGH have left the game, supposedly. But what is this hypocrisy that allows us to eat Belgian Blue cattle, yet cry foul when our athletes pump themselves up? If a gene therapy is developed, that is not harmful, how can we protest using it to create a super athlete? It brings to mind the “ick” factor. We think of the old tales of the East German Women’s Olympic teams and how they were supposedly more male than female. What’s the real truth to all this? The problem is modern science is much better than the old myths. Care must be taken, but in the end, to deny and disallow genetic engineering is to deny and disallow the further evolution of our species.

One of the main issues with genetic engineering is that to see results obviously there must be experiments done with human subjects. This is a valid concern, and one not to be taken lightly. We don’t want mad scientists running around, creating Frankenstein’s. That is why government oversight and regulation remains an important factor. Tying the research with federal funds allows control and keeps the science from falling into the hands of James Bond-type super villain billionaires who may use the knowledge for evil doings. One thing the steroid scandal of baseball showed us, there’s never a shortage of people willing to risk experimental procedures with their bodies if the results can help them achieve some sort of ultimate good. I might be worried about the long term health consequence to my body by a genetic manipulation, but if it helped me hit 75 home runs and hence make $25 million dollars in one year, I would probably say the cost benefit ratio makes sense for the side of risking the genetic manipulation.

Then there is the other counter that genetic engineering allows man to “Play God”. This is bad they say because man is not meant to determine godly matters, only GOD can determine these matters of chance. To err is human, they cry, and before long during all this time of experimentation, humans will create an error and “the genie will not be able to be put back into the bottle” as they like to say. To them, it is inevitable that humans will screw it all up, only their God is perfect, or can create perfect things. So anything humans create must be evil and will eventually destroy us.

Genetic engineering is just an unnatural thing the common argument goes. We are creating things that should not be. A strain of corn can be modify to resist a parasite. Similarly, a human can be modified to resist a cancer. This seems to go against what some people see as the natural order of things, because apparently death is a natural occurrence. Yet if we take the thing causing death out of the equation, we are now being unnatural in the way we do things, even though we are using only our natural given abilities, our intelligences and thought processes, to do so.

If genetic engineering is unnatural, then all technology is unnatural. The guy who invented the wheel? How dare he play God!- Enabling humans to get from point A to point B faster than they could on their own two feet. He was manipulating the world to make things better for us, and only God should have the power to do that. So unless a giant hand reaches down from the sky and hands you a Michelin, then you have done something unnatural and therefore have partially played God.

There also rises the concern that the great pharmaceutical corporations and research giants who pioneer and develop the genetic therapies would profit the most by them and would protect their investments by doling out their services only to the highest bidders. This is a well-founded worry and one that I also addressed earlier with the question of human subjects in experiments. Obviously the government cannot afford to be involved in every single genetic experiment going on however. Our free market economy dictates that these companies must be allowed to somehow recoup the millions of dollars they spend on studying and increasing our knowledge on these subjects.

We have a duty, to put into the categorical imperative, to maximize our potential as human beings. Part of this maximization is pursuing every advancement we can in scientific study that can lengthen and enhance our lives here on earth. To ignore these obvious opportunities is to invite death when we know we could have life. It just goes against our nature as beings to survive. Science has made great strides and we simply cannot ignore solely for the purposes of someone thinking that we are too scared to make mistakes.

Religion doesn’t necessarily have to take a back seat either. Why would a God not want us to reach our full potential? To think like that is to think like the Mennonites. Yet most modern people reject that kind of thinking as na├»ve and rightly so. There is no shame in using our brains they way they were designed to work. If the ultimate result of our efforts is less and less ways to die, than that is what is meant to be. Maybe the opposite is true. Maybe our genetic experiments unleash some new horrific super killer that wipes out most of the planet. Could this not as easily be a result of God’s Will? How conceited it is of Man to assume that only he could invent such a killer.

The millions of dollars spent today will pay huge dividends in the lives saved and the dollars earned tomorrow. The cost benefit ratio is not even a contest. There could be millions of lives saved in Africa, for example, with new crops that could be grown in lower quality soil or in drought years. Or perhaps these same crops could be genetically engineered to provide a greater amount of the needed nutrients for a healthy life. These lives saved would then grow and become worthy members of their societies and maybe even someday make scientific discoveries of their own. The amount of good brought about by genetic engineering dwarfs the amount of bad that can possibly come from it by an exponential margin.

To go against genetic engineering is to go against our own nature. The advancement of the human race is dependent upon it, and the science simply cannot be denied. Instead of looking at the advancements we have made as “letting the genie out of the bottle” or a “Pandora’s Box” rather we should look at what these great achievements really are – major breakthroughs that benefit and better our lives on earth. Sure, maybe the old stat geeks and newspaper men who refuse to allow Mark McGuire into the Baseball Hall of Fame because he used PED’s will never see the truth of reality. Remember however, that these same people are the ones who’ve allowed baseball to fall from grace as the once National Pastime has now become nothing but another video game (and not even a good one) to today’s youth. Science is the future, and it should not and cannot be denied. The progress of our kind is dependent upon genetic engineering and even God will allow that is good.