TEXT OF ESSAY

The goal of science has always been to cure disease and to improve the human condition. Relieving pain has always been a motivation of science, and it has improved with each new technology. Discoveries such as vaccines and antibiotics have saved millions of lives, and as such once common diseases such as polio and smallpox have almost been eliminated. As we learn about our essential building blocks of life, we have come to the realization that we can read it and eventually we will be able to change and manulipate it ourselves. But to the extent that we can alter ourselves- and direct the course of our evolution- means that we have to come up with a definition of what disease is, among other things. We all consider childhood leukemia and cancer as diseases, but as we understand more about DNA, what else can be considered a disease? Being less intelligent? How about being gay? Being shorter? Having a certain skin color? If we go down this path of modifying ourselves, when will simply being "human" as we see it now become a disease? In my opinion, the technology of genetic engineering should not be used on humans. Manipulating our DNA can put us on a dangerous path- a slippery slope, which could lead to a dangerous future. Our imperfections and variability with each other is what makes us such a diverse and unique species. And to the extent we try to eliminate that through changing our DNA is the extent we stop being human.

We as humans have been improving the world around us to make our lives better. But, I believe there are cures, like genetic engineering our own species, that are not only almost immoral to pursue, but in the long run, will cause up causing more harm than good. However, even though I do believe that this sort of manipulation is against what we should do as humans and it is playing God, I feel that it is important to look beyond what I personally believe and weigh the pros and cons anyway. Even though genetic engineering in humans promises so much good, the risks are innate, and once we start, there is no way we can go back. In 2001, we did the Human Genome Project, which allowed us to map out all the sequences of DNA. However, the difference between reading the base pairs and finding out they interact and what they cause is the difference between being able to read classic literature, and being able to write it. What if a gene that might cause a defect like a higher chance for heart disease, but also produces a vital protein? Making this change would result in terrible tragedy. And also, even though genetics does have quite a bit of say in who we become, it is often our epigenetic characteristics that are just as important. Is it worth taking all the risk, and losing potential life trying to figure it out, just to make a change that are largely dependent on life style choices and environment? But, I have heard people say that we can define disease, and if we are careful to draw the line about what we can do and what we shouldn't, then this sort of genetic engineering would be worth pursuing. But, I believe that a way to treat asthma, for example, would not only be a cheaper alternative to doing this sort of genetic manipulation, but it would help more people and do more good overall. Science should find ways to help the living instead of trying to change something we don't fully understand and causing society to suffer in the process.

Professor Lee Silver, I know the question you would ask, "Why not seize the power?" And on top of all the evidence I have presented, I believe that I should ask you a question in response: "What if we cannot handle the power?" Attempting to change our DNA would be the most difficult and the most dangerous thing we have ever done. DNA has a sort of permanence to it; and I know that you would say that is what causes many illnesses to be passed from generation to generation. But the consequence of messing up would be greater than the illness itself. And even if we were able to get it perfect, the difference between the rich and the poor can extent to genes, and our society could become a dangerous genetic bottleneck. Plus, I like the person I have become. I have been able to come to terms with some of my imperfections, and my ability to work through social, familial and possibility even my genetic problems has made me a stronger and brighter person. Of course, you would know that my environment also has a huge effect on the expression my genes take, and my ability to work hard and practice to overcome some of my inherent negative factors can mean I have more potential than someone of more genetic "perfection".

One of the greatest strengths of science- and in my opinion also the weakest and most harmful aspect- is its ability to pursue cures and fixes no matter what. It is in the nature of science to search and learn, to try to find the answer, often regardless of a cost. Obviously this is a strength; the drive of scientists to discover has resulted in some of the greatest medical progresses ever made. But, at the same time, abuses can- and have- happened under this same goal. Lobotomies were at one point considered the solution to mental illness. I am under the opinion that scientists should not only consider the goal they get to as ethical, but also the process they take to get to this goal. This conflict is seen no clearer to me than in the stem-cell debate. I believe that live starts at conception, mostly because there is just no other way to define the beginning of life. And while I question whether an embryo should have the same worth as me, I am aware that it must have some worth. After all, we all were embryos at one point, right? But, based on my first definition, this worth can only have one meaning: life. I question the wisdom of embryonic stem cell research because it uses life in order to try to save life. I have always been under the opinion that society should try and preserve life, because ultimately, that is what matters. So even though an embryo might not have the same worth as me, I believe that has the potential to be like me, and therefore should be protected. Science focuses on the potential, but in this case, without regard with the consequences of the loss that we may experience. Is performing stem-cell research murder? I don’t believe so. However, making life only to destroy it is not only something that I am against, it also it sends the wrong message to our society as a whole. My hope for society is that we would rather preserve life than lose it, save rather than destroy, and to think of consequences before committing to action. My hope for science is that it follows a similar path.


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