Genetic Enhancement and Politics
Since the beginning of organized government there has always been a clash between science and politics. Whether it is as complicated as a new drug's detainment of federal approval or whether it is as commonplace as the social acceptance of a new medical procedure, politics has performed an integral part in the formation of science; this integrated unit is what greatly affects most of the society at large. Thus, it is no surprise the scientific discussion of genetic engineering is peppered with political rhetoric.
Before entering into a discussion of genetics and politics, a few scientific definitions are essential to fully understand the arguments which will be presented. First, genetic engineering is the manipulation of heredity or the hereditary material; its goal is to "replace the activity of a defective gene by activating a dormant gene which has a similar function" (Suzuki & Knudtson, 135). There are two types of cells involved when discussing genetic engineering, somatic cells and germ-line cells. The first, somatic cells, are also known as "body" cells for they are short-lived and bounded by the life span of the individual patient. These "body" cells are not used in reproduction, and therefore not considered eugenic. For clarification purposes, eugenic is the "science which deals with all the influences tat improve and develop the inborn qualities of a race to the utmost advantage" (Suzuki & Knudtson, 213). The second type of cell associated with genetic engineering is the germ-line cell. Germ-line cells, also known as the reproductive cells, are passed on through the reproductive cycles. Since this type of cell has the ability to permanently alter a specific characteristic of a species, germ-line cells are discussed more in political discourse. Moreover, since germ-line cells may be used (and some say misused) as a eugenic drug, many scientists and legislators are hesitant to further research them.
Gene therapy is defined as the medical replacement of defective genes in living human cells; its aim is to replace the activity of a defective gene by activating a dormant gene which has a similar function (Wheale & McNally, 212). Under gene therapy comes the politically controversial Human Genome Project, a fifteen-year, $3 billion federally-funded biology program. The goal of the project is to isolate the defective gene on the chromosomes which comprise the human genome (Fletcher, 2). In this manner, the Human Genome Project may be able to rid the cancer-ridden genes from human DNA, thereby curing cancer permanently. The project has been the focus of much scientific and political controversy over the past few years for its possible ramifications are extensive to all of human existence.
Finally, genetic reductionism is the tendency to "stigmatize, ostracize or eliminate individuals or groups not meeting a genetic norm" (Butler, 369). Reductionism is the biggest...