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IS THE GENETIC ENGINEERING OF HUMANS MORALLY ACCEPTABLE?

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As humans, we live our lives in a constant search for knowledge, in a constant race against our own existence to progress further in the world as we know it. From the domestication of fire, to the Theory of Evolution, humans have made major strides in science. Now as our technology and ability to adjust the physical world around us, from not only infrastructure but also on a microscopic level changes, humanity faces some extremely controversial ethical issues. One of those being, Gene editing. Today, I will aim to narrow down the key aspects of gene editing and differing perspectives, in order to understand and welcome global and inclusive debate for ethical movements forward in science.

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Efforts to advance human medicine relies on the strength of public engagement. In looking at the individual/consumer, questions of human health and safety are raised. Mara Cray who is 19 from Mount Laurel, New Jersey, was born with cystic fibrosis, and she is optimistic that genome editing could one day possibly benefit others with her condition. She said that, “When you’re going into science that is new and intricate, there’s bound to be something you don’t see coming”. Mara takes the viewpoint that if anything can be done to remove the possibility of other’s having to suffer from her disease, it should be done. However, this idea portrays a sense of ignorance to what an error in gene editing actually means, placing her perception in a more self-orientated area when referring to Kohlberg’s ethical principles. Now, in order for any advancements to actually occur the responsibility lies on research institutions that are at the forefront of genome editing. Now although 78-85% of genetics professionals agree that gene editing will open up major opportunities in health-care, there are arguments in the scientific community, addressing the fact that actually editing the genes ‘may alter things we are not aware of’. Overall however, more than 75% of scientists do support future clinical therapeutic applications. So, from a collective understanding, scientists are operating at a conventional level.

Now, with any global issue, there will always be, or has always been a religious influence on society’s decisions in regards to moving forward. Islam as a religion has had a profound global impact since it was founded in the seventh century, at one point holding status as the centre of intellectual activity. In order to formulate a general understanding, there are several ethical principles that can be drawn from Islam. In order to ensure validity of the Islamic perspective we’ll look purely that the Quran. Al-Isra 17: 70 says that ‘God has created man in the best form and elevated him above all other creatures’ (Dr. M. Siddiqi, 2002). Therefore, any tampering with man’s basic constituents would be in violation of man’s supposed God-given dignity. In addition, al-Zumour 39: 9 asserts that Islam is a religion of knowledge and science and imposes no restrictions on constructive scientific research. And thirdly, Islam recommends the safe-guarding of human health, which is mentioned in al- Baqarah 2: 195, and the avoidance of harm. Islam recognises that gene editing represents a valuable addition to medical and health sciences, taking the view that mapping out the full human genes is part of man’s endeavour to understand himself and appreciate God’s assumed powers of creation.

On reflection of the discussed perspectives concerning whether genetic engineering on humans is morally acceptable, I can conclude that an issue such as this is extremely complicated. However, I will aim explain the understanding I have formulated based on the information that has been provided. So, in assessing the most valid arguments I’ve come to formulate the understanding that if official research into genome editing was established, and a deleterious gene was passed onto the next generation, it wouldn’t be the catastrophic event come see it to be. Because if you adopt that definition, unedited genes are a catastrophe happening right now. A catastrophe has global, widespread effects, not ones that affect one family. We’re more likely to have a globally catastrophic event from the editing of corn genomes because corn is extremely promiscuous. We’ve had a few characters in history, usually conquerors like Gengis Khan that manage to ‘insinuate’ their genetic material into large parts of the modern population. But most of us do not have that good a social life.

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