TEXT OF ESSAY

Perhaps it is that I am too fervent a believer in science so that it makes me overlook the sensitivity of such subjects in religious aspects. As an eager-to-graduate high school senior, the one thing I would love to experience as soon as possible is medical research. To me, these new and exciting developments and technologies represent a more promising future. To me, it means to expand our knowledge of the human body and how it interacts with the environment; it means to alleviate unnecessary sufferings that many people have to go through on a daily basis. It means to be part of a new generation that will have witnessed the transformation from what we know and can do now to what we will know and be able to know decades from now.

While the ethics of life always stimulate interesting debates, it seems to make little progress. The problem I have with philosophers is the lack of decision and action with all of their (our) talks. How can we sit around and talk of consequences of experiments and implementation we have not even done? The only way to find out about the effects of genetic engineering is to actually make it happen. Of course, that is perhaps one big reason for those in opposition of this path of scientific advancement. But I must ask, had mankind not defied God in one way or another back in the days. But we turned out fine. Let us not use God to argue against science for he granted us the will and intelligence to obtain the knowledge we have today.

So the millennium-long old question is this: if we can, should we? While the response would have to be more complex than the question in compensation, it seems like no matter what the answer is, someone will. Biological weapons and atomic bombs are evil creations that should never be made, but someone’s making them, I’m sure. And just because we are saying they are evil does not change the fact that they are on the same earth as we are. The reality is that mankind is curious by nature, and we will carry through the experiments we need to gain knowledge and pursue progress; or fail and learn our lessons. If we do not take the risks in genetic engineering, then we cannot learn. Even if genetic engineering will create outrage and negative effects, it is better to know sooner than later. If we were truly concerned about the future of mankind, then I feel it is our responsibility to make those mistakes so we can amend and pass on the lesson to our future.

With that said, I suppose I should go into the details about exactly how I feel about different aspects of genetic engineering such as the privacy and equity issues brought up by the Human Genome Project and Gattaca, the genetically modified organisms and what it means to the food industry, and cloning and stem cell research.

The Human Genome Project seems to be a miracle. It seeks to identify each chromosome and gene with diseases and traits that we possess. And to many scientists’ surprise, the project was completed at least a decade before it was predicted. Scientists believe this project will bring many answers to curing disease that have caused much harm in people’s lives. While the project is completed, researches are still being done. Many prospective parents are screening their DNA to see what their children may acquire – and as of right now, this is mostly limited to tendency to certain diseases. While the direction of this potential is enormous, our current knowledge is still too limited to tell us anything with certainty. From NY Times’ article “My Genome, My Self”, written by Steven Pinker, the reality as of right now is that we are only probabilities. We are composed of numbers that tell us partially of what we can be and what we will become. To me personally, it all depends on how far we would like to take this knowledge of numbers and probabilities. While I understand that many of my peers would rather not know what diseases are lurking above their DNA, I personally would prefer to know it. I feel that some of us are approaching our own DNA with fear, but that is rather paranoid because it does not change who we are because we are already what it has made us. While some news may be devastating, knowing what we are most susceptible to will enable us to take proper precautions. From a stem cell lecture video given by a Harvard Professor, “DNA is not our destination”. It gives us the tools to make choices.

I have to admit that most of my opinions are formulated by my parents, especially by my dad, who loves to share new scientific advancements from Popular Science and Science News Weekly. Just a few days ago, he enthusiastically announced that “everyone” will be carrying a DNA-id with them like driver’s license. This will provide vital information if one gets into a car accident or tragic events likewise. I am not exactly sure how the entire process will work, but it seems plausible. But obviously, being the critical wife that she is, she points out the likelihood for people to carry erroneous DNA-IDs . From having watched too many movies that had something to do with identity theft, I am afraid such would be one of the result of having our DNA share among each other, the government, and people who are secretly plotting against you. But hopefully, we will be too bored and frustrated with matching our DNA sequences with others to make identity theft happen.

Now, a slight 30 degree change of direction for a lack of transition because organization is overrated. Life is chaotic, any order would deplete its total purpose.

What about the world of Gattaca? At this rate of technological development, it seems likely that the next step is to create “designer babies” to satiate parental approval – finally, parents that love their children for who they are without needing to try. If we knew which genes are responsible for whichever trait, why wouldn’t we perhaps want to change the disadvantaged traits to ones that will benefit our children? The coined term “designer baby” is one that reminds us of the despised vanity in the cosmetic surgery in mainstream Hollywood. Except, this time, we are choosing for those who had no choice in their genes. Often times, the argument is that we have no right to choose for others. The problem is that our DNA does not necessarily decide our destiny. When you plan things, they don’t usually happen exactly how we envisioned it. Even if a young man had been fortunate enough to receive a gene for an amazing body structure, it still does not say much about his hygiene. So even he had a desirable body, girls would still look at him as a stink and unattractive. I believe that there is a force in the randomness of the world that will always make sure that the world is not the same. Two people with the same advantage of intelligence will not necessarily get into the same university maybe because of factors in presenting themselves, or they simply do not care.

From certain religious aspect, making a perfect person would eliminate the purpose “suffering”. However, even if we were to enter the world of Gattaca down this road, there will always be pain. Mankind will suffer no matter what. It is a human want to pursue what we do not have. When we have made a “perfect” being too many, we lose the dream of “the perfect” one. To be pessimistic, there is no perfection. In Gattaca, Jerome has the ideal physical characteristics but he resents the fact that he is always 2nd (story of my life). Though his parents probably spent a lot of time planning a desirable future for him, in the end, he is not happy or thankful for what he has. He suffers not mainly because he is ungrateful, but that his life has already been mapped out before he was even born.

However, I do not believe I have any say in other people’s approach in procreation. Maybe I will follow the trend if necessary. It is a game of survival, as it has always been. If the majority couples decide to genetically modify their children to gain advantage against others, I would not rebel for I would want my child to have at least some advantages so he or she would survive. At the same time, I hope that parents will soon learn that these changes are not necessarily happy-ending promising and their children may even regret for living such a mechanical life of expectations and abilities. My ultimate hope is that I will not have to make such decision in the pressure of genetically modified children.

Genetically modified foods never really sparked much passion in me. It is not news that our carrots and cabbages are probably already genetically modified. In some ways, manipulating the DNA in our food is very much like cross-breeding dogs for the purpose of beautiful form and fur. Man has cross-pollinated plants on purpose and perhaps these plants were not supposed to be mixed with birds and bees. The argument can even be that when we cook food in high temperature, we are destroying their natural state. We are so paranoid of the unknown, the new, and the “unnatural”. We are also nonchalant about the potential harm of long-term effects of these recent developments. The part about genetically modified foods that I don’t really approve is its connection with the greedy food industry. I feel that because food is an important part of our survival, corporations will always find a way to control public behavior even if they do not approve. After all, organic foods are too expensive in this bad economic crisis.

I will touch base on the subject of cloning. Cloning is happening everyday whether we are aware of it or not. We clone animals to produce the best steak, ribs, and drumstick. Cloning, in science fiction, is a weapon to mass produce an army of inhuman machines. But in real life application, cloning is what makes our lives more durable, at least for Kyle. While I mock the idea to clone your favorite late pet, I suppose if you have the money, you can always enjoy the fake belief that your pet lives again. But of course, this false hope is also the indication that you are too dumb to see that DNA does not guarantee everything. While I am still very confused about the difference between cloning and stem cell research, I have no objection to either.


While stem cell research sparks controversial debates, it also offers a promising future. What most people don’t understand is that stem cell research is not just about embryos, but seemingly most fervent opposition comes from the sect that is absolutely against the murder of human embryos. Since I cannot relate to the religious undertone of the opposition to other forms of stem cell research, I see no point in denying a science that is targeted to establish advance medical technology to elongate health. Therapeutic stem cell research involves taking an unfertilized egg and inserting a DNA into the nucleus so that it can be signaled by specific chemicals to develop an organ. This seems harmless and useful to its purpose. I suppose the argument also steers to the violation of female eggs in these researches since stem cell research requires eggs for experimentation. Of course, this notion suggests that every woman should kneel next to the toilet every time they discover their loss of eggs. Pretentious women’s rights advocators should see that the real purpose of the movement is for women to find their purpose, dedicate themselves to whatever they like, and have no one to tell them what to do with their bodies. Stop the hypocrisy.

When it comes to embryonic stem cells, like some of my peers, I cannot deny the presence of these potential human lives. It is no doubt that human life is a miracle, that we can become who we are through one single cell. The things we are capable of doing compared to a fragile cell is astounding when I try to imagine the process. However, I believe the converse is not true. We cannot say that a few cells are a human life. We cannot stand on the side of the past to look into the potential future of cells. The reason that we can be amazed by the fact that we all come from a single cells is because we believe in it – we believe in it because we see ourselves. But when we look into a few days old embryonic cell, we only see the countless random chaotic events that could happen to it and the few chances that it will become like one of us. What are we believing in then? It is different to see life as a child or a teenager with the massive confusion overcastted in our line of sight than to truly understand the implication of our own lives at the end of the road. It is different to see a blank state of life form than to see ourselves and know what we were.

To speak of life, I have many opinions. To me, a life planned is a life I wish every one of us have. By planned, I mean being brought to the world wanted. In the procreation of a human life, bodily possessions are sacrificed in the ceremony of hope, love, and commitment. The minds that promised to protect, nourish, and love - in the name of life, in the name of humanity. We are the lives that were brought into the world with welcome, with a purpose. (I must refrain myself from going into abortion…) I guess what I am trying to convey is that a Petri dish life will not find itself as one of us. Perhaps to romanticize the idea of purpose, to bring those into human life will deplete their purpose of completing research that will ultimately resolve many sufferings that they otherwise would have witnessed in others and themselves.

Thus I announce my support for embryonic stem cell research. It is a numbers game. Who are we as we sacrifice millions to save a few that may not even have a future? Do some math.

Perhaps we cannot see what our sciences are bring us to, but “why not seize the power”? What I see is that we have to advance forward, even if it is a dead end road, even if it is filled with swamps and thorns. At least we will have time to turn back the road and find alternatives. With President Obama’s promise to overturn Bush’s restriction on stem cell research, I am hoping to see a new era of hope and progress, and not fear and hypocrisy. To save humanity, we must first get rid of our own fears of the unknown, our own paranoia of what God might forbid.