Why are advances in the field of genetics regarded by some critics as "playing God"



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Question 1

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Why are advances in the field of genetics regarded by some critics as "playing God"?

Hint:

Read the document "Confucianism's Challenge to Western Bioethics."

Feedback:

The metaphor of "playing God" has become common in the era of the biological revolution. It is often used by those who fear that humans are going beyond appropriate limits in remolding or "recreating" the human's nature. These critics suggest that genetic engineering and the "manufacture" or "fabrication" of new human beings takes us beyond the normal mission of medicine—to save life, cure disease, and relieve suffering. They believe that we are on the verge of changing the species so radically that we can be said to be changing its fundamental nature. The underlying question is whether it is moral to make these radical changes. Some commentators, often influenced by conservative religious traditions, hold that the human is a finite creature prone to make mistakes. Their premise is that basic changes in the human species will lead to sinister biological effects that, on balance, are bound to be terribly harmful. For others the objection goes beyond the seriousness of the consequences to a more fundamental issue: moral limits on how far humans should go in using their knowledge of science to change their nature. They point to the religious symbolism of a Biblical creation story in which the human sins by eating of the forbidden fruit of knowledge.

See "The Human as Created and as Creator."








Question 2

Type:
Essay



Why is the distinction between gene therapy and gene enhancement considered to be a blurry one?

Hint:

Read the document "Relativistic Perspectives of Genetic Enhancement: A Challenge to Future Progress."

Feedback:

Gene therapy refers to genetic engineering designed to correct a genetically caused medical problem. Gene enhancement, on the other hand, refers to genetic engineering designed to improve on the normal genetic constitution of an individual. This distinction between therapy and enhancement rests on some hypothetical point that can be called "normal health." Bringing people up to that point could be considered therapy while taking them beyond that point might be considered enhancement. This dividing point between them is very hard to define. For example, it raises the question if someone who comes from a long line of very short people who is himself short be considered normal (compared to his ancestors) or abnormally short (compared to the rest of the population).

See "The Human as Created and as Creator."








Question 3

Type:
Essay



What is cloning? Discuss some of the ethical controversies involving cloning.

Hint:

Read the document "Biotechnology and the Reconstruction of Humanity."

Feedback:

Cloning refers to the asexual reproduction of an organism by taking the nucleus along with its chromosomal material from a cell of an existing creature and implanting it into an enucleated egg cell or other cell of another creature. The real controversy involving cloning is ethical. Cloning involves decisions about what constitutes benefit and harm, whether parents should have the autonomy to choose to pursue creating a clone, whether the risks to the clone can be justified when there is no being, no patient, to benefit prior to the act of cloning, and whether resources are justly and fairly devoted to such reproductive technologies.

See "The Human as Created and as Creator."









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