Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Genetic Alterations and Cloning

Posted by Michael Dickens on December 6, 2008

For English class, I have been reading White Teeth. In the book, the issue of genetic engineering is brought up. It is said that it’s morally wrong to modify the genes of a mouse. That’s playing God; that’s Creation with a capital C, which only God is allowed to do.

So maybe it’s morally wrong to genetically engineer a mouse. That leads to a series of questions.

Is it wrong to engineer a beetle?
Is it wrong to engineer a sunflower?
Is it wrong to engineer a mushroom?
Is it wrong to engineer an amoeba?
Is it wrong to engineer a virus?
Is it wrong to engineer something completely non-living, like a table?

Even if one answers “yes” to the first one or even two or three, you must answer: how complex does a life form have to be for it to be wrong to engineer it?

Since I try to be unbiased, I will now refute my own argument.

I believe that abortion should be legal. But at what point should it become illegal? Let’s say the cutoff point is birth. There is barely a difference between a nine month old baby and a nine month and one day old baby. So why choose birth as a cutoff point? Well, because we have to choose something. The same logic can be applied to my argument.

Here’s another argument, coming from my atheist side.

Supposedly it’s not right to engineer mice because doing so is playing God, i.e., only God gets to do that. But what makes God so much better than us? Why can’t we do it? Also, this argument is assuming that, just because only God has been doing it up until now, no one else is allowed to do it. When the train was invented, did people say that it was morally wrong to play Horse? When the airplane was invented, did people say that it was morally wrong to play Bird? I realize that God is different from Horse or Bird. But in the end, God is just another creature. Even so, where the analogy fails, my original point still holds true: just because only God has been doing it up until now, why does that mean we shouldn’t be allowed to do it?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Another completely unrelated point about White Teeth:

At the beginning of part four, a woman says, “Excuse me, you’re not going to smoke that, are you?” It is followed with this paragraph:
Marcus closed his eyes. He hated the construction. He always wanted to reply with equal grammatical perversity: Yes, I’m not going to smoke that.

In fact, the original sentence is grammatically correct. The original sentence was originally this:
“Excuse me, but you’re not going to smoke that. Are you[going to smoke that]?”
The bracketed part is redundant, so can be removed. The two sentences are part of the same idea, so when spoken, they are pronounced as one sentence, with a comma.

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2 Responses to “Genetic Alterations and Cloning”

  1. Phynnboi said

    “It is said that it’s morally wrong to modify the genes of a mouse. That’s playing God; that’s Creation with a capital C, which only God is allowed to do.”

    If God has a problem with it, He’s well within His power to come and stop us. (‘Course, it’s worth asking, if He has such a problem with it, why did He allow us to advance to the point where we could do it in the first place? But I digress.)

    As far as I can tell, we’ve already accepted genetic engineering. We don’t have any problem with humans selecting physically attractive or rich people to have sex with. We don’t have any problem with breeding dogs or cows or corn to carry on traits we find pleasing. Those two things are genetic engineering. Granted, they’re sloppy implementations, but so what? Is genetic engineering only bad when it’s neither instinctual nor bumbling? Why?

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