You are on page 1of 19

Human Genetic Engineering 1 

 

Abstract

Human genetic engineering could be very beneficial to humanity by disallowing children

to be born with genetic diseases. Future generations of humans could be designed to improve

upon the species. However, there are many potentially irreversible negative consequences that

could occur as a result of genetically engineering an unborn child. These negative consequences

do not involve debates surrounding ethics. The consequences instead revolve around the

potential destruction or alteration of American society and social structure, the economy, the

environment, the government, and the field of medicine. Each of those areas could be

individually or collectively affected in a negative way, and the damage would be seemingly

irreversible. The current path that human genetic engineering is headed down leads to the result

of genetically engineering children to the specifications of the parents. There are currently no

laws in the United States that prevent the advancement of human genetic engineering. Unless

laws are set to guide that path to a reasonable destination, humanity could face unseen

consequences. This technology could turn out to be the greatest achievement of humankind, but

the risks associated with it are too much to gamble with the amount of knowledge and wisdom

currently held by the field’s greatest minds.

Introduction

Genetic engineering is by no means a brand new technology, but like all technology, it is

rapidly expanding. Genetically modified food is already a field that is heavily debated, but

genetically modified humans may soon become the new topic of discussion. Without any laws

banning the practice of human genetic engineering in the United States, the stage is set for a

future filled with genetically modified children (Baird, 2007; Deneen, 2001; Van Court, 2004;

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 2 
 

Wright, 1999). According to Pray (2008) and Baird (2007), in vitro fertilization has led to

preimplantation genetic diagnosis which is paving the way for human genetic engineering and

genetically modified children. The promising benefits of human genetic engineering include the

process of avoiding genetic disorders and diseases by screening embryos for diseases that are

known to be linked to certain genes. The downfall of this is the number of aborted fetuses that

could result (Baird, 2007). That is where the future of human genetic engineering steps in. If the

technology continues to progress, embryos could be developed from the beginning without those

genetic diseases. Researchers and scientists will continue to make strides in understanding the

relationship between certain genes and the traits with which they correspond. In the future,

embryos will be able to be developed to exhibit more and more traits specified by the parents of

the embryo.

This concept of genetically engineered babies seems to be a likely destination for the

field of human genetic engineering, but the potential downfalls of the technology are not being

discussed in great enough depth. Deneen (2001) argues that if a system of genetically modified

babies arises, there will be consequences down the road that nobody on Earth could predict,

whether they be positive or negative. This research paper will explore the plausible negative

effects that could result from the process of genetically designing unborn children if proper

measures are not taken to regulate the technology. Specifically, society and social structure, the

economy, the environment, the government, and the field of medicine could all be severely

changed in separate or related instances. This paper takes the stance that the field of human

genetic engineering needs to progress with extreme caution so as to preserve the stability of the

human race.

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 3 
 

What is human genetic engineering?

Human genetic engineering is the process by which a desired gene can be placed

into a human in order for that human to express a certain trait or be protected from developing a

genetic disease. This technology can be applied to human embryos by way of germline

engineering. That means the genes that are placed in the embryo will have the ability to be

passed on to future offspring. According to Hayes (2000), germline engineering is only possible

when the gene is implanted into a sperm cell, egg, or very early embryo. The other method for

human genetic engineering is

called somatic engineering. By

this process, a gene is added to

a cell that is not an egg or

sperm cell, so the implanted

gene will not be inherited by

any offspring (Hayes, 2000).

Preimplantation genetic

diagnosis is also a key aspect

of human genetic engineering.

By the process illustrated in

Figure 1, germline genetic

engineering would be used to

implant the desired genes into

the embryo, but
Figure 1. Method for germline engineering
preimplantation genetic

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 4 
 

diagnosis would be used to determine if the desired genes were successfully incorporated into the

embryo.

History

Genetic engineering is a technology that has been used on plants and animals for many

years, and now it is being applied to the genes of humans. The origins of genetic engineering

date back to the 1970’s. It was then that scientists first used the knowledge of restriction

enzymes to isolate, identify, and clone genes and also manipulate, mutate, and insert those genes

into other species (Meyer, 2004). Restriction enzymes enable DNA to be cut at specific sections,

leaving a “sticky end.” If another portion of DNA is cut in the same fashion, the two “sticky

ends” can combine, forming a new hybrid molecule with the particular gene of interest (Hayes,

2000). With this knowledge, scientists found a way to use the genetic code from a living

organism and implant it into the stem cells of an unborn organism, producing a clone. After these

discoveries, gene cloning was researched and practiced worldwide. The following years were

littered with great advancements in the field including the creation of genetically engineered

human insulin, the hepatitis vaccine, and the tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) that dissolves

blood clots after heart attacks (Meyer, 2004).

Genetically engineered plants began in the 1980’s, when it was first discovered that genes

could be transferred between different species of plants. Scientists quickly learned how to

recognize specific genes in plants and how they corresponded to the phenotype of the plants. By

implanting desirable genes into plants, crops could be cultivated to maximize yield and

nourishment while minimizing pesticide usage (Bevan, 2001). Now, genetically engineered food

is all sold far and wide, despite the ethical debates surrounding the process.

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 5 
 

Genetic engineering has also made its mark on crime scenes. The discovery of the

polymerase chain reaction led to the possibility of genetic fingerprinting with only the tiniest

sample of blood, hair, semen, skin, etc (Meyer, 2004). The polymerase chain reaction is a

process by which genetic material can be copied and amplified at a very high speed by exploiting

the natural function of the enzyme polymerase, which copy genetic material (Powledge).

According to Powledge, the process is carried out by first separating the double helix structure of

the original genetic material into two strands by heating in to 90-96 degrees Celsius. Then, two

primers consisting of nucleotides attach themselves to the complimentary pairs on the now

single-stranded DNA. Lastly, the polymerase enzyme reads the template strand and matches is

with the complimentary nucleotides, resulting in two new helixes with the same code as the

original genetic material. This process can be repeated, doubling the output every time; and each

cycle only takes one to three minutes (Powledge). All of these advancements were important to

the field of genetic engineering, but it was the completion of the Human Genome Project after

the turn of the century coupled with the process of in vitro fertilization that has paved the way for

the present day definition of human genetic engineering.

In vitro fertilization is a process by which a zygote is formed using an egg and sperm cell

in a laboratory setting, outside of the mother’s body (Bavister 2002). The fertilized egg is then

placed in the uterus of the mother to be born conventionally. Bavister (2002) claims that in vitro

fertilization is a common treatment for couples with fertility problems when other forms of

assisted reproduction have failed. Baird (2007) argues that the knowledge of the entire human

genome paired with the process of in vitro fertilization led to the process of preimplantation

genetic diagnosis, or embryo screening. By this process, embryos could be screened for genetic

conditions that could lead to genetic diseases (Pray, 2008). If the embryo shows signs of these

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 6 
 

genetic conditions, the embryo will most likely not be implanted. According to Pray (2008),

another use for preimplantion genetic diagnosis is for the controversial process of sex selection.

By screening the embryo, the sex of the future child can be determined, and the parents can

choose to accept or decline it based upon the findings.

The two forms of human genetic engineering in place are called germline and somatic

genetic engineering (Pike & Vo, 2007). Each has a different process and a different outcome.

Somatic genetic engineering was used far before germline genetic engineering, largely because

of its uses. Somatic genetic engineering revolves around adding genes to cells other than sperm

or egg cells. This is the process used for gene therapy to correct diseases caused by specific

genes. The disorder could be treated by inserting a healthy gene into the cells that are affected.

Somatic gene therapy is made possible by the use of viruses as a vector for carrying the gene that

is to be implanted. The viral gene is replaced by the therapeutic gene and then infects whatever

cells it normally infects, inserting the therapeutic gene into the cells that need it (Pike & Vo,

2007). The important difference between somatic and germline genetic engineering is that

somatic genetic engineering does not allow an implanted gene to be passed to any offspring

because it is not placed in any gametes. Germline genetic engineering represents the other form

of human genetic engineering. By this process, Pike and Vo (2007) explain that genes are

implanted into sperm cells, sex cells, or embryos in very early stages of development. This

means that the changes in the genetic code would be inheritable by any offspring and any further

generations that come to exist. Germline genetic engineering is the process involved with the

idea of having parents design their children to have more desirable traits by altering their genetic

makeup. Accompanied by the process of improving the genes of an unborn child is the idea of

eugenics. Eugenics is the process by which the human race would potentially improve itself by

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 7 
 

selective breeding. According to Van Court (2004), those with more desirable traits are

encouraged to reproduce, while those with undesirable traits are discouraged from it. In terms of

human genetic engineering, undesirable traits would not be implanted into unborn embryos, and

desirable traits would be, thus improving the genetic code of the human race.

All of the aforementioned procedures and ideologies contribute to the focus of the

research paper, which is the imminent possibility of parents “designing” their children based on

specific genes that pertain to specific attributes of personality, appearance, and health. If that

process becomes a reality, certain historical processes and ideologies would be replaced.

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis would no longer exist as it is; it would be altered such that

embryos would be designed based on the requests of the parents, and then chosen to match those

requests. In vitro fertilization would become a customary process for child birth, not just a

treatment for couples unable to conceive by natural measures. Somatic genetic engineering

would be completely irrelevant in humans born by this genetic engineering process because no

children would be born with genetic diseases that need fixing by way of somatic gene therapy.

Also, eugenics would be redefined to pertain to improving the human race by actually adjusting

the genetic code of future generations, instead of using natural child birth as the foundation for

change.

There is no history strictly on the process of designing children with genetic engineering,

because it does not exist, but the technology that would be involved in that process already

exists. In terms of technology, nothing is stands in the way of the advancement of genetically

engineered babies. Scientists are certainly eager for the chance to give every child the right to a

life without genetic diseases, but it may be possible that their judgment is clouded by visions of

fame, fortune, and praise. There are many areas of known drawbacks to this technology, so it is

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 8 
 

logical to wonder if there are also unknown areas of drawbacks that will not be discovered until

it is too late to reverse the effects.

Niche

Human genetic engineering undoubtedly has mystical allures. It doesn’t take much of a search to

encounter a variety of convincing arguments for the development of human genetic engineering

with a purpose of bettering the human species. Adams (2004) argues that the human race is

running on outdate software, and in order to make any more positive progress, we need to update

our genetic code with human genetic engineering. The most promising notion of human genetic

engineering is the possibility of phasing out genetic diseases completely with germline genetic

engineering; if no genetic diseases are passed on to offspring, they will cease to exist (Baird,

2007; Shanks, 2005). A more radical possibility of human genetic engineering includes the

ability for parents to choose the genes of their children to code for a certain appearance, intellect,

and even personality. This ideology might seem closer to science fiction than reality, but if

scientists can link a gene to a trait, it can be genetically engineered. For instance, if scientists

discovered a particular set of genes that controlled the ability to recognize patterns, those genes

could be optimized and placed into embryos. This theory could even extend to the possibility

implanting animal traits into humans. Children could be born with the eyesight of an eagle or the

scent recognition of a dog. With all these potential benefits, one could find it hard to imagine

why anyone would argue against it. However, the potential downfall of humankind could be just

the case to go against human genetic engineering. Is the allure of controlling our own evolution

and natural selection overshadowing the imminent threat to our species posed by genetically

engineering ourselves?

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 9 
 

This paper aims to point out the possible pitfalls and negative effects that may be

overlooked when discussing the future of human genetic engineering. Some may be blind to the

many possible outcomes from a lack of knowledge, but others could have their judgment clouded

by the excitement of creating genetic superhumans. Obvious ethical arguments focus on the

notion of “playing God,” but ethical arguments are purely opinion-based. Ethical debates about

human genetic engineering naturally turn into political and social debates, and ultimately into

debates about who should have jurisdiction over the research (Evans, 2002). Therefore, ethical

views cannot be cited as evidence for or against human genetic engineering. When debating the

topic of human genetic engineering, certain fields need to be taken into serious consideration: the

effects on the future of our society and social structure, the economy, the environment, the

government, and the field of medicine.

If genetic engineering reaches the point where it is possible for parents to design the

genetic makeup of their children, society will no longer function as we know it. Classism has

existed in the past to a certain degree, but the basis for that classism was unfounded. Despite any

argument made to make one human seem superior to another, there is no argument that can

disprove the fact that every human is inherently equal in the sense that every human is the same

species. If parents have the ability to improve the genetic code of their children, the human

species cease to be just one species. On the way to that conclusion, several things must be

assumed to be true. The first is that the opportunity for parents to design their children would

come at a cost. The second is that the majority of the population would not be able to afford such

a procedure for their future children. Last is the assumption that such procedures would be

performed by privatized companies, not government-owned facilities. By these assumptions,

families with enough money will design their children to be more attractive and intelligent than

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 10 
 

the average human, thus more likely to be successful and grow up to have enough money to

design their own children. This trend would continue, and the lineage of those families would

continue to get richer with future generations. With the consumers of the child designing service

getting richer, the privatized companies would be able to charge more and more for their

services. This seems like a natural trend of economics, but the importance lies in the distance that

has been created between the families that can afford to design their children and the families

that cannot. That system would not allow for the gap to ever be bridged; genetically designed

families would begin occupying more positions of power and wealth, driving all other families to

lower class positions, closing the door on the dream of designing their own children. Looking far

enough down the road, genetically designed humans would occupy a certain percentage of the

uppermost echelon of society, while all others would subside to being labor workers and holding

positions with minimal power. By this time, one might wonder what the effects have been on the

actual genetic code of “humans.” It would not be surprising that such extended periods of

germline genetic engineering have changed the actual genome of the human species. The result

of this would be the separation of humans into two non-mating species – the genetically

engineered population and the non-genetically engineered population. The most difficult

question will be to decide which species will be considered human. Speculating as to the long-

term results of such an occurrence is unimaginable because an event has never transpired among

a species with enough self-awareness to understand what has happened.

The role that the government will play in the advancement of human genetic engineering

could go two separate ways. It is goes one way, capitalism in the United States has a chance to

continue existing at the consequence of de-humanizing its own citizens. If it goes the other way,

equality among its people could continue to exist at the cost of turning the country into a socialist

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 11 
 

or communist regime. The first way mentioned would require genetically engineered children to

be products of privatized companies. The government would remain a separate entity, collecting

heavy taxes from the rich. As the technology progresses, society would begin to separate itself

based on the methods previously mentioned. The government would receive a larger and larger

percentage of its money from the rich, genetically engineered group. At the same time, the lower

class, non-engineered population would become more and more financially dependent on the

government. As this trend continues, the separation would grow, and the non-engineered

population would be diminished to working class slaves. The other direction mentioned that the

government could take would require the government to be in charge of all human genetic

engineering processes, in essence making it a part of universal healthcare. This move would

likely create the onset to a socialist country, with the possibility of become a communist regime.

The extent to which these genetic engineering processes could be carried out would depend

totally on how much money the government is able to put into it. Depending on the future

financial state of the nation, everyone could have the opportunity to design their children, or

nobody could have the opportunity to design their children. This solves the problem of the

potential rift between species, but it compromises the basis on which the nation was formed. A

democracy would be unable to function, and genetically engineered humans would be solely

exclusive to government positions, because the government is in charge of it.

Predictions

The future of human genetic engineering could take many shapes, some that would

improve humankind on a revolutionary level, and some that would destroy humankind on a

disastrous level. It seems likely though, that the future of human genetic engineering will take a

path somewhere between the two extremes. There will always be those in favor and those

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 12 
 

opposed, so as long as the debate continues, it will not be allowed to get out of hand. Humans

have proven themselves capable of making great advancements for the benefit of the species, but

with those advancements have also come instances of dehumanization are corruption. So this

aspect of life should follow suit.

With many of the countries in the world placing bans on human genetic engineering

research, the idea of genetically designed babies does not seem to be a common interest of the

entire globe. Unless some groundbreaking, humanity-saving breakthrough is made in the field, it

seems as though the trend will continue with more countries placing bans on the technology

instead of lifting them. Since countries are instituting such bans, it alludes to the idea that the

potential negative consequences are being realized more and more, and until solutions are

formed to prevent those consequences, human genetic engineering is a box that should not be

opened. This is not to say, however, that advancements will not be made in the field. Scientists

will continue finding cures for genetic diseases with human genetic engineering technology, and

controversial experiments will continue despite ethical debates. Looking farther down the road,

natural human progression suggests that scientists will eventually find a way to genetically

engineer unborn babies to be smarter and more attractive. This process will never be lawfully

recognized, though. Instead, extremely extensive screenings will be carried out by doctors to

provide in depth analyses of early-stage fetuses. These screenings will be able to predict virtually

all aspects of the child’s personality and appearance. Parents will have to pay a price only

affordable to upper-class citizens. Similar to today, parents will then be able to decide whether

they want to keep or abort the child based on the findings of the screening. The difference will be

in the reasons for a fetus being aborted. Instead of making the decision to abort a fetus because it

will be born with a genetic disease, parents might choose to abort it because it will not be as

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 13 
 

intelligent or attractive as they would have liked. It cannot be ignored that future scientists and

doctors could be willing to illegally genetically engineer a child to the specifications of a parent

for an extremely high price. Such an operation would be highly punishable by law, and one

would certainly be hard pressed to find a provider willing to carry out the procedures.

All things considered, the likelihood of a science fiction future resulting from human

genetic engineering in farfetched at best. Pop culture seems to magnify the reaches of technology

to impress the audience. If life progresses according to science fiction predictions, we would

already be deep into the age of flying cars and robot servants. The topic of human genetic

engineering is in its infant stages, and the technology will become understood in far greater detail

in the years to come. As of now, genetically designed babies are not an issue of extreme

importance; it is the ideologies that provide the greatest opportunity for scrutiny. What matters is

the ways in which society would handle such a technology. It is reassuring that the realization of

such a technology is far off, because if it were suddenly upon us, humanity would be at a loss for

ways to successfully and safely implement such a practice without sacrificing the ideals we build

our race around.

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 14 
 

References

Adams, M. (2004). The top ten technologies: #7: Genetic engineering of humans . NaturalNews,

Retrieved August 16, 2009, from http://www.naturalnews.com/001337.html

Baird, S. (2007, April). Designer babies: Eugenics repackaged or consumer options? (Cover

story). Technology Teacher, 66(7), 12-16. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from Academic

Search Complete database.

Bavister, B. (2002). Early history of in vitro fertilization. Retrieved August 30, 2009, from

http://www.reproduction-online.org/cgi/reprint/124/2/181

Bevan, M. (2001). Information and guide to plant genetic engineering. Retrieved August 30,

2009, from http://www.genetics.org.uk/files/pdf/Plant%20Genetic%20Engineering.pdf

Bohlin, R. (2000). Human genetic engineering. Retrieved August 16, 2009, from

http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/humgeneng.html

Deneen, S. (2001, January). Designer people. (Cover story). E - The Environmental Magazine,

12(1), 26. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Evans, J. H. (2002). Playing god? Human genetic engineering and the rationalization of public

bioethical debate. Cicago University Press.

FitzGerald, K. (2002, August). Knowledge without wisdom: Human genetic engineering without

religious insight. Christian Bioethics: Non-ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality, 8(2),

147-162. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 15 
 

Hayes, R. (2000). The politics of genetically engineered humans. Loka Institute, Retrieved

August 30, 2009, from http://www.ratical.org/co-globalize/PoGEH.html

Meyer, R. (2004). History of biotechnology and genetic engineering. In Genetics Encyclopedia

[Web]. Retrieved August 30, 2009, from http://www.answers.com/topic/history-of-

biotechnology-and-genetic-engineering

Pike, G., & Vo, H. (2007). The genetic engineering of humans. Retrieved August 16, 2009, from

http://www.cs.ucdavis.edu/~rogaway/classes/188/fall07/p28.pdf.

Powledge, T. The polymerase chain reaction. Breakthroughs in Bioscience, Retrieved August 30,

2009, from http://opa.faseb.org/pdf/The%20Polymerase%20Chain%20Reaction.pdf

Pray, L. A. (2008). Embryo screening and the ethics of human genetic engineering . Nature

Education, Retrieved August 16, 2009, from

http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/Embryo-Screening-and-the-Ethics-of-60561

Shanks, P. (2005). Human genetic engineering: A guide for activists, skeptics, and the very

perplexed . New York, NY: Nation Books.

Van Court, M. (2004). The case for eugenics in a nutshell. The Occidental Quarterly, Retrieved

August 16, 2009, from http://www.eugenics.net/papers/caseforeugenics.html

Wright, R. (1999, January 11). Who gets the good genes? (Cover story). Time, 153(1), 67.

Retrieved August 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 16 
 

Appendix

Annotated Bibliography
Adams, M. (2004). The top ten technologies: #7: Genetic engineering of humans . NaturalNews,
Retrieved August 16, 2009, from http://www.naturalnews.com/001337.html
Adams has an optimistic view about the future of humankind with the implementation of
genetic engineering in humans. He describes our current genetic code as “outdated
software” that needs to be upgraded if humans want to continue to make positive
progress. By deciding what kind of being we want to be in the future, we can solve all the
problems we are likely to have. Adams recognizes the dangers involved with this idea
though; he offers that humans are not even close to being mature enough to make a
decision about changing who we are as a species. Furthermore, scientists are extremely
far from understanding how our genes relate to human behavior, and could not possibly
begin to discuss a method for controlling one’s personality through genetic engineering.
Adams ends with the final thought that genetic engineering in humans would be an
essential step in the betterment of our species, but the time for doing so should not be in
the near future.
Baird, S. (2007, April). Designer babies: Eugenics repackaged or consumer options? (Cover
story). Technology Teacher, 66(7), 12-16. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from Academic Search
Complete database.
Humanity is moving in the direction of self-modification, and the allure is very difficult
to dismiss. The benefits could be outstanding, but the drawbacks could be equally
terrible. The basic science behind genetic engineering is discussed with its roots going
back to in vitro fertilization. In vitro fertilization paved the way for preimplantation
genetic diagnosis (PGD). The advancements in the field that would make “designer
babies” possible are then discussed. Advanced reproductive technologies, cell and
chromosome manipulation, genetics, and genomic are the major fields that pave the way
for human genetic engineering. Arguments are then made for and against the notion of
“designer babies,” citing the ability to cure genetic diseases as a benefit, and the
consequence of having to terminate a large number of embryos as a drawback.
Bohlin, R. (2000). Human genetic engineering. Retrieved August 16, 2009, from
http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/humgeneng.html
Doctor Raymond Bohlin answers several pressing questions about human genetic
engineering. He explains how genetic engineering could potentially be used to treat and
cure genetic diseases in humans. However, Bohlin suggests a cautious approach to
dealing with genetic diseases. He worries that gene therapy will soon be used for mere
inconveniences instead of life threatening diseases. On the issue of creating genetically
modified super humans, Bohlin cites the views of “anti-change” Christians and “pro-
change” authors and scientists. Bohlin opines that the idea of selecting a child’s sex
should not be taken casually. Even though there are many innocent reasons for choosing

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 17 
 

a child’s sex, there are many discriminatory reasons as well, and distinguishing between
the two could prove difficult.
Deneen, S. (2001, January). Designer people. (Cover story). E - The Environmental Magazine,
12(1), 26. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
The possible future that could result from the successful implementation of human
genetic engineering is far different from the world today. What begins with targeting and
curing genetic diseases could end with children being designed by their parents for a
price, thus creating a separation of species. The timetable for all this to occur seems to be
extremely far off according to scientists in the field. The article claims that the debates on
ethical issues are almost irrelevant because the box has already been opened. The
question to ponder is not if human genetic engineering will occur, but when. The author
then speculates as to what kind of traits could be modified by parents in the future and
where the line would be drawn with respect to designing a child. A warning is also given
pertaining to the plausible environmental effects that would be almost impossible to
predict. Without understanding the implications that follow breakthroughs like this,
significant harm could fall upon humankind. Lastly, the likely path that technology will
take in the future is discussed in relationship to human genetic engineering and human
life in general.
Evans, J. H. (2002). Playing god? Human genetic engineering and the rationalization of public
bioethical debate. Chicago University Press.
Bioethics has become an increasingly important topic in the field of biomedical research
in the past 30 years. The book explores how bioethics has become such a popular subject,
and how far the jurisdiction of bioethics can actually reach. The debates about human
genetic engineering have come a long way since the topic was first discussed, and those
debates are beginning to “thin out.” That means that instead of debating about both the
long term goals and how to get there, debates are focusing only on how to get there. The
book also explores the tendency of human genetic engineering debates to evolve into
social and political debates about who should have the jurisdiction over the research
being performed. Lastly, the role that bioethics will have in future debates about new
technologies in the field of human genetic engineering is discussed.
FitzGerald, K. (2002, August). Knowledge without wisdom: Human genetic engineering without
religious insight. Christian Bioethics: Non-ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality, 8(2), 147-
162. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
Significant benefits resulting from human genetic engineering have yet to be seen, but the
outlook looks promising. New technology in the field seems to point in the direction of
beneficial knowledge about human genetics and the associated genetic engineering.
Because of that imminent possibility, questions must be raised about how that technology
will coincide with healthcare, or if it will even coincide with healthcare at all. The newest
and most promising practices in the field of human genetic engineering are discussed in
depth. Also discussed is the relationship between human genetic engineering and the
previously held theories about human nature. Lastly, in regards to these new practices,

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 18 
 

FitzGerald discusses the need for humans to gain wisdom about the subject and not just
knowledge.
Pike, G., & Vo, H. (2007). The genetic engineering of humans. Retrieved August 16, 2009, from
http://www.cs.ucdavis.edu/~rogaway/classes/188/fall07/p28.pdf.
Pike and Vo explore the realities and possibilities of genetic engineering in humans from
a social and scientific standpoint. The term “eugenics” is used to describe a form of
genetic engineering used in the past to try and improve the human race. The term “direct
genetic engineering” is used to describe what is thought to be the present day definition
of genetic engineering by use of somatic engineering and germline engineering to
actually change the DNA of a human. Pike and Vo discuss the rights of to want to better
themselves, and that could mean genetically engineering themselves. The opposition is
also acknowledged, and how genetically engineering humans would be like “playing
God” and could potentially lead to a social classification system based on a person’s
DNA screening. Pike and Vo finally settle upon the opinion that despite all the
drawbacks, genetic engineering in humans has the ability to be very beneficial to
mankind.
Pray, L. A. (2008). Embryo screening and the ethics of human genetic engineering . Nature
Education, Retrieved August 16, 2009, from http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/Embryo-
Screening-and-the-Ethics-of-60561
There are two very opposite sides to the debate over human genetic engineering. The
process of “reprogenetics” to select and modify genes in embryos before they are born is
a very controversial topic. Pray also explains the process of preimplantation genetic
diagnosis (PGD), a form of embryo screening, to ensure offspring will not inherit certain
genetic diseases. PGD is also used to determine the sex of an embryo so as to avoid
certain sex-linked diseases. A more controversial use of PGD is to screen for individual
diseases. Lastly, Pray discusses how the opposition feels about PGD and why a large
amount of people are skeptical about the process.
Shanks, P. (2005). Human genetic engineering: A guide for activists, skeptics, and the very
perplexed . New York, NY: Nation Books.
Technology surrounding genetic engineering spans across a wide range of ethics. Some
practices like targeted drugs and genetic testing are largely accepted practices. While
other practices like genetically engineered babies and the creation of new species is
mostly seen as unacceptable. This book discusses many important issues surround genetic
engineering, as well as some of the less talked about issues. It provides the reader with
insight as to how genetic engineering works and to what extent it can be used by modern
technological standards. Lastly, implications are discussed that could result if genetic
engineering is completely successful in the future.
Van Court, M. (2004). The case for eugenics in a nutshell. The Occidental Quarterly, Retrieved
August 16, 2009, from http://www.eugenics.net/papers/caseforeugenics.html
Eugenics is a practice that has been around for centuries, and the idea might not be as
farfetched as one might immediately assume. A bridge is made between the idea of

 
 
Human Genetic Engineering 19 
 

eugenics and human genetic engineering with a main focus on intelligence. Van Court
claims that intelligence is mostly hereditary, and civilization is directly related to the
level of intelligence present. Van Court also states that the higher the degree of
civilization that exists, the better off the population will be. The main point is that we are
currently evolving to become less and less intelligent because the less-intelligent people
are reproducing more than those with higher intelligence. Van Court’s final argument for
eugenics is that our civilization will invariably decline unless we reverse the trend that is
occurring, and eugenics through use of genetic engineering is a possible vessel to achieve
this.
Wright, R. (1999, January 11). Who gets the good genes? (Cover story). Time, 153(1), 67.
Retrieved August 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
With the dawn of human genetic engineering upon us, the discussion must be had as to
who will be in control of the probable eugenic processes. Though science fiction might
scare people away from the notion of government regulation, it might be the better
option. Putting the eugenics in the hands of perfection-driven parents could be far more
disastrous that a government controlled operation. If the government doesn’t get its hands
dirty with human genetic engineering, it would become a privatized company only
accessible to families with enough money to design their children. If done correctly, the
government could ensure that poor and rich families alike have the same opportunities to
improve the quality of life of their children. Unless our country suddenly becomes a
totalitarian regime, the likelihood of A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley becoming
reality is extremely small.