Friday, September 24, 2010
The Fascination of Eugenics
Genetic engineering is often mentioned as a means of producing "better" people, starting with the children. Our children, he says, are to be accepted as given and not to be considered as products that we can design at will to meet our tastes and ambitions. Using our recently developed technologies in this area to design our offspring for "success" is an evil, he says, we all should acknowledge. Any attempt to control the future of children by these means is to ignore the mystery of life and belittle the gift that it is.
It is true that when sickness comes our medical practitioners do everything possible to correct the problem. It is an attempt to return the person to health, health that was enjoyed, or that we should expect. This is medical treatment, a therapeutic intervention, and not genetic engineering.
In the sports world, using drugs to enhance performance is prohibited, yet throughout the world of sports it is widespread. If genetic engineering becomes part of the attempts to enhance performance, this will obviously not be detected with urine samples, and the athlete will become yet another victim of commercialism, the writer acknowledges.
But even in areas that appear benign--improving memory and taking hormones to make us taller--who are most likely to benefit? The wealthy. Obviously unfair, but does this mean that if we can make it accessible to all there is no problem? We are playing God, he says, when we use the new science to make radical changes in our bodies and mental faculties.
This genetic manipulation to improve the species is not accepted by the Church; gene therapy to cure a disease or eliminate defects of an embryo and similar interventions are permitted, with appropriate restrictions. The professor believes that efforts to change the makeup of our species will intensify in the years ahead. Being captivated by the same fascination that prompted the Nazi atrocities and the racial discrimination in the United States, we are coming closer to the day when we play at being masters of our fate. A prospect that should be a concern to all of us.