We may be making progress in understanding the genetic code, but how much of our moral code is under the same scrutiny?
The scientific community has been at it for decades. Talks of the potential for CRISPR-Cas9 to genetically modify organisms for better or for worse have infected our thoughts and discourse almost like a virus. It’s even gotten to the point at which I’m somewhat tired of how my newsfeed is blowing up with news of how genetic engineering is such a huge ethical problem with very little thought or opinion put into developing and finding solutions for it.
In this way, genetic enhancement may be seen as an extension or similarity to our current methods of breeding for specific traits. They should be viewed with greater regulations, though, with the moral costs that come along with them.
It’s better to establish a moral code and determine what problems might arise from them. This means that, with the number of ways we can and should carry out regulations, they should adhere to central ideas and principles that can be enforced and understood. This way, those problems can be addressed win the future with structure and clarity from the way humans carry out actions. We shouldn’t behave in such a way because it produces the best outcome nor because it might appear to be the safest. Protecting fundamental ideals can give us something to hold onto through precarious and changing innovations.
To do make some sort of system of rules, we must analyze our pieces of knowledge and oft-repeated statements in our discourse of genetic engineering.
Some have considered comparing genetic engineering to natural selection. It might seem reasonable to think that genetic engineering is an extension or similar vein as natural selection that we observe in nature and can, therefore, be viewed with less suspicion and fear. But evolution’s dissimilarities with genetic engineering, notable in how serendipitous and amoral the former is, show that this comparison couldn’t hold any weight. Darwin himself wrote, “What a book a Devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low & horridly cruel works of nature!”An approach to genetic engineering viewed the same way natural selection works would fail to understand the implications and power of our artificial tools.
Others have suggested that the ethics and scientific progress are at a race with one another. I often hear people say “Science has so much potential that humanity hasn’t caught up to it.” But this metaphor breaks down considering science and ethics aren’t at odds with one another. Science lacks a moral direction and makes no humanistic statement outside of our own interpretations of scientific knowledge. It’s also a very scientistic statement that could imply we are now facing new moral questions when the moral questions we are asking ourselves are the same questions we’ve been asking ourselves since the beginning of mankind.
With these thoughts in mind, such a moral code should be grounded in what the philosophy or humanistic disciplines dictate as necessary and beneficial to society, as opposed to what science has shown to be beneficial. To avoid the pitfalls and shortcomings of these metaphors and comparisons, we need to understand the moral codes of genetic engineering and enhancement in terms established through critical thought and speculation. Science will be useful in the future, though, when using policy-based models of social research and data-driven theories, but, as of now, we need a firm foundation before we can get there.