Genetic Engineering and Cryonic Freezing: A Modern Frankenstein?
In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a new being was artificially created using the parts of others. That topic thus examines the ethics of "playing God" and, though written in 1818, it is still a relevant issue today. Genetic engineering and cryogenic freezing are two current technologies related to the theme in the novel of science transcending the limits of what humans can and should do.
Genetic engineering is widely used today. Genetically altered bacteria are used to make human insulin, human growth hormone, and a vaccine for hepatitis B. Two vaccines against AIDS created with genetic engineering have begun clinical trials here in the United States ("The Genetic Revolution" 10), and genetic engineering is used to detect genetic defects in human fetuses ("The Controversy over Genetic Engineering" 18).
Many are now considering using this technology to change humans, such as developing methods that could be used to regenerate or repair faulty organs. It could be also used to find a cure for diseases such as cancer, eventually (Fitzgerald), or to repair genetic defects. Parents could choose the sex and height of their offspring and be able to have more intelligent, more athletic, and better looking children. Also, genetic engineering could also be used to clone humans (Kevles 354), a topic of much discussion of late.
Kevin T. Fitzgerald divided potential scenarios for using cloning technology into three categories: "Producing a clone in order to save the life of an individual who requires a transplant; making available another reproductive option for people who wish to have genetically related children, but face physical or chronological obstacles preventing conception through intercourse alone; cloning a child who is dying from a tragic accident or a non-genetic disease in order to create another genetically identical child" (Fitzgerald). Another facet of genetic engineering, gene therapy, has shown promise. This new process aims at removing genetic defects and certain personality traits (Begley, 61).
Most people do not like the idea of cloning humans. Many also disagree with being able to use genetic engineering to prevent genetic defects or to choose certain trait for their children. Many fear that children would become objects rather than human beings. President Clinton stated, "Banning human cloning reflects our humanity. It is the right thing to do. At its worst [this new method] could lead to misguided and malevolent attempts to select certain traits, even to create certain kinds of children - to make our children objects rather than cherished individuals." Besides, who can say for sure that this technology will be used in a beneficial way? Someone, somewhere is likely going to do the unethical thing (Kevles 354). Kevin T. Fitzgerald said cloning is not needed because alternate solutions to these problems already exist,...