15 February 2011
More Human than Human
Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past twenty years. What was once considered science fiction is now yesterday’s headlines. In just a hundred and fifty years we have gone from the first combustion-powered motor vehicle to space exploration and now we are managing our lives from handheld mobile devices. So let’s face it, technology evolves at a faster rate than humans. In fact it moves at such a rapid pace that it may even surpass our moral compass in its application. In the essays, Cure or Quest for Perfection? by Goodman and Designer Genes by McKibben the authors present the possibility of genetic testing and cloning becoming a common place practice in life. In both writings the authors state the possible pros and cons of the science, while leaning towards the more detrimental effects of it. Can genetic testing and cloning bring a positive light to health sciences and therefore humanity or is it opening Pandora’s Box, ultimately leading to our destruction.
In Cure or Quest for Perfection? Goodman brings her audience into the ongoing bioethical debate on human cloning. She states the benefits of therapeutic cloning for the treatment of diseases like cystic fibrosis and Parkinson’s disease. On the other hand, she condemns the practice of reproductive cloning for any reason. Stating, “There’s no compelling reason that justifies the risk or the results” (Goodman pg. 499). She also poses the question of the moral status of an embryo by weighing it against the suffering of an adult. “Is an embryo an unborn child”, she asks (Goodman pg. 499); or just a cluster of cells. This question brings religion into the realm of science.
Designer Genes written by Bill McKibben dives deeper into the bioethical debate by telling his audience his views of the possible outcomes of human gene manipulation, a process called Germline Genetic Engineering. This is the Genetic manipulation of an embryo within the first week of conception to guarantee favorable traits. Throughout his essay he informs the reader of the hypothetical ramifications this emerging science may have on the human condition. He presents his rhetorical argument using parents wanting to give their child a boost in the world in an already competitive world. He asks questions that would be difficult for some parents to answer. A concerned mother says, “You want to give your child the edge no matter what” (McKibben pg. 509). It’s the “no matter what” he wants his audience to question and think about. Are they willing to distort their morals to give their child the advantage?
Both the Goodman and McKibben essays target those that may be in the dark on these issues. They inform the reader about the momentum this field of science has picked up in recent years. McKibben almost forces his intended audience to make a decision regarding the future. Is this something they would want to be common place in the world? Or does it go against their inner most morals. He insists, “If Germline engineering is going to be stopped, it will have to happen now, before it’s quite begun,” (McKibben pg.509). Goodman, however, wants her audience to see between the lines of good and bad science. She is more direct in her views of bioethics being a double edged sword, even though, she condones stem cell research for the sick and dying. She admits, “Using these clusters of cells to cure suffering of existing humans surpasses the moral threshold test” (Goodman pg. 500). Ellen Goodman begins Cure or Quest for Perfection? on familiar ground, with literature. She recalls the beginning of a Council on Bioethics and the reading of Nathaniel Hawthorn’s The Birthmark. The premise of “scientific hubris” and the search for perfection in the short story sets the foundation for her argument. That genetic testing in the pursuit of perfection is unjustifiable, on...