Unformatted text preview: Lifson 1 Beth Lifson Mrs. Lifson Writing 122 27 February 2017 Genetic Enhancement: The Best Life Possible For a utilitarian, genetic enhancement is acceptable because it could potentially provide greater happiness to those who undergo it and to society as a whole. According to utilitarianism, an action is right if it provides the greatest happiness to the greatest many (Sandel, J ustice 33). Utilitarians like Jeremy Bentham believe that one can come to a conclusion about an action by looking at the costs and benefits and weighing these calculations (Sandel, Justice 33). If an action brings more happiness than suffering, then the action is allowed. If the action brings more suffering than happiness, it is not allowed. As for genetic enhancement, the utilitarian assesses how much happiness the enhancement brings to individuals as well as to society as a whole. In this case, utilitarians allow genetic enhancement because, first, it provides the most well being to the individual. Individuals will be able to select traits for their offspring that allow them to thrive in society. Savulescu gives the example of genetically enhancing for greater impulse control, which leads to greater academic and financial success (65). If an enhancement does not lead to greater happiness, then that enhancement is not allowed. For instance, if enhancing for greater height just leads to a height “arms race,” then that enhancement would not increase happiness overall and so would not be allowed (Savulescu 37). Second, genetic enhancement can increase happiness for society as a whole because... Lifson 2 Kantians argue against genetic enhancement for two reasons: first, it goes against the first categorical imperative, and second, it treats children as mere means and not ends in themselves. Kant asserts that an act is moral if it can meet both the categorical imperatives. The first states, “Act only on those maxims that can also be universal laws of nature” (qtd. in Sandel, J ustice 112). Kant believes that if one can create a universal law of nature from the maxim one is acting upon, then the action is the right thing to do. The second categorical imperative states that people must be treated “as ends in themselves” and never as “mere means” (qtd. in Sandel, Justice 113). Genetic enhancement goes against both of these categorical imperatives. As for the first, if the maxim one is acting on with genetic enhancement is, alter my child’s genes so that they can be more successful. No rational person could will this to become a universal law of nature. To begin with, what if being successful required one to be a murderer? In that case, no rational person would want it to become a universal law of nature that parents must enhance children to become more successful. But what if being successful only required acting selfishly? Would a rational person want it to be a universal law of nature that parents enhance children to be selfish? This, too, does not meet Kant’s test of universalizing one’s maxim. The next reason a Kantian would reject genetic enhancement is because it allows parents to treat children as mere means. With genetic enhancement, parents act as if their children are objects to be used for their own satisfaction and need for success. Instead of treating children as human beings with dignity and respecting them as ends in themselves, parents assert their own will onto their children by trying to shape them genetically. This treats children as means to an end rather than ends in themselves. Lifson 3 Genetic enhancement for nondisease traits is acceptable because it can provide the best life for a child and because it will increase innovation in society as a whole. Genetic enhancement can allow a parent to provide a child with the best life possible. In addition to all the benefits of good parenting once the child is born, genetic enhancement can offer children the best genetic traits. Traits like increased impulse control, increased critical thinking ability and increased physical strength can provide children with increased opportunity over the course of their lifetimes. Furthermore, these enhancements will provide benefits to society as a whole. A population with individuals who have greater impulse control means that fewer individuals will, for instance, accumulate debt and become bankrupt. Rather than going for the immediate gratification of spending, individuals will opt to save money. This will lead to a more financially stable system with fewer individuals in need of financial support from others. Imagine, too, a society in which fewer individuals become drug addicts as momentary pleasure is deferred for the pursuit of long term goals. Finally, creativity and innovation will explode as enhanced individuals seek out new technology with their enhanced ability. Problems that previously stymied civilization could be solved by the greater intellect and skills of enhanced individuals. Current problems like climate change, hunger and other issues may find solutions with the added capacities of an enhanced populace. Some argue that allowing parents to genetically enhance children will fundamentally alter what it means to be a parent and will make what used to be unconditional conditional. For instance, parents who used to unconditionally love their children will now have conditions that need to be met. In this way, parents will start using their children as a means to end, like Kantian ethics suggests. Parents will see parenting as a way to shape their children in the ideal image Lifson 4 rather than seeing parenting as a gift, as Michael Sandel argues in “The Case Against Perfection.” This line of reasoning assumes that all parents of non genetically enhanced children love their children unconditionally, which may not be true. Parents of non genetically enhanced children already place conditions on their children. Parents expect children to get good grades, to excel at sports, and to meet other expectations or else risk their disappointment. Furthermore, parents already aim to shape their children into the best they can be. Parents send their young children to music lessons, sports camps, and language lessons to give those children an advantage towards success. These parents already use their children as a means to their own ends, using their children to bolster their own status or selfesteem. If these forms of parental influence are morally acceptable for non enhanced children, then genetic enhancement is no different. Enhancing a child genetically follows the same principles that parents currently follow by aiming to enhance their children through non genetic means. Lifson 5 Works Cited Sandel, Michael. “The Case Against Perfection.” The Atlantic , April 2004, caseagainstperfection/ 302927/. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017. Sandel, Michael. Justice . Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 2009. Savulescu, Julian. “New Breeds of Humans: The Moral Obligation to Enhance.” E thics, Law and Moral Philosophy of Reproductive BioMedicine , vol. 1, no. 2, 2005, 6483(10)62202X/. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017. ...
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