Friday, October 24, 2008

Oct 27 Kass – Ch 5 (Cloning and the Posthuman Future)

I cannot help but wonder as to the scientific research on nature vs. nurture which could develop as a result of cloning. Kass mentioned it briefly in his discussion of people wanting to clone themselves or professional athletes, etc. I think it an odd sort of argument in favor of cloning to assume that we can scientifically reproduce an exact duplicate of another person. Even ‘identical’ twins are not the exact same person because they have different life experiences and interests. Cloning would do this to an even greater extent as time will have elapsed between the individual growing and developing and the clone being produced and beginning its growth and development. Suppose, for instance, that Magic Johnson wished to have a clone of himself. If this clone were not trained in the art of basketball as it developed, it would not learn the same skill set which distinguishes Magic Johnson as an exemplary basketball player and thereby not be anything like Magic Johnson despite sharing an exact replica of his DNA. I could continue with further examples, but I suppose that my point is clear enough; cloning could lead to many scientific studies about the nature of nurture.

Despite the previous paragraph, I agree one-hundred percent with Kass that cloning ought not be allowed throughout human society. As he lays forth the arguments for this quite well, I feel no need to repeat his work. I share his opinion primarily for religious reasons but acknowledge that others may need to hear convincing arguments which go beyond religion if they do not share my particularly faith-filled upbringing. Kass kindly provides such reasons as well while not failing to articulate the religious notions behind resistance to cloning. Should Kass present religious reasoning about scientific research though? Yes; as religion so significantly shapes morals and ethics, I feel some of Kass’ strongest arguments concerning bioethics will be those which appeal to religious ideals.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oct 22 Kass - Ch 4 (Age of Genetic Technology Arrives); McGee – Ch 2 (Hope for Genetic Cures)

I really like Kass’ statement on page 133; “It turns out that even the more modest biogenetic engineers, whether they know it or not, are in the immortality business, proceeding on the basis of a quasi-religious faith that all innovation is by definition progress, no matter what is sacrificed to attain it.” I have mentioned before that I feel we are unduly striving to prolong life on earth when we should perhaps exert efforts elsewhere. If we find a cure to cancer, we will undoubtedly find some new malady killing us in turn. Humans are not meant to live forever here on earth. Biogenetic engineers are looking for ways to genetically alter individuals making them more fit for their environments and therefore prolonging their lives. While this would indeed be a feat, we must pause to ask whether it is truly a good idea to progress in such a manner or if the short-term benefits might be insignificant compared to the long-term effects of permanently altering a genetic sequence. One of the most controversial long-term possibilities is for genetics to spiral from recognizing and treating particular diseases to removing or repairing the genes for potential diseases or else destroying fetuses with ‘bad’ genes. As McGee points out on page 34, “proactiveness with genetic disease is not the same as maintaining a balanced diet. It is interventionist medicine, good old repair, only extended to diseases you do not yet have.” We have to keep technological advancement in check and question whether we should proceed for the sake of science or hold off on moral grounds. As Kass says on page 135, “everything depends on whether the technological disposition is allowed to proceed to its self-augmenting limits, or whether it can be restricted and brought under intellectual, spiritual, moral and political rule.” If we can manage to cautiously proceed with genetics technology, constantly questioning the ethical dilemmas of each advancement, I think we stand to benefit humanity while limiting potential for moral disaster.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Oct 20 Kass - Ch 3 (Meaning of Life—in the Laboratory)

Kass raises very important issues within this short chapter. I find his question of respecting life particularly interesting. If in respecting life we feel that human beings, or fetuses or blastocysts depending on their stage of development, should not be destroyed yet we also believe that using extra blastocysts for experimentation disrespects life, does it not stand to reason that either all blastocysts formed through in vitro fertilization processes must either be raised to fruition or not fertilized at all? In this regard, I believe I agree with Kass and morally go even further to discard in vitro fertilization altogether on the basis of not technologically orchestrating the glorious blessing of joining together an egg and sperm cell to form new life. Kass’ statements as to the moral questions arising from keeping all fertilized cells alive further drive me to this conclusion, especially those concerning women selling their bodies to grow the fetuses. As to supporting government funding of this controversial research, I again agree with Kass’ arguments about not using taxpayers money to fund something which they deem morally unethical. Of course, if this were the case, we should also significantly reduce military spending, etc. If a political leader or party has a clear platform on funding this type of research and they are voted into office, then according to our political ideology they have authority granted by their constituents to approve government funding for things many people may deem morally unethical. This brings us to minority rights though, because in the case of a majority, how are you to uphold the basic rights of those in the minority; if a majority of the population deems slavery acceptable, how are you to grant the minority opposing slavery their basic human rights to life and liberty? Clearly the system thus has some flaws which we must overcome. Kass tries to bring to light the inherent rights of in vitro blastocysts such that we might recognize some form of regulation to override majority rule and protect a minority which has absolutely no way to speak for itself. I agree that this is indeed a crucial issue and deserves the attention of our legislators.