The Broad Subject of Genetic Engineering

Who wants to start the discussion about genetic engineering?  As Festus Garvey noted, “there are many problems that the ‘possibilities of science’ are giving us and we’ve had no debate on it and debate is critical.” So here we are Festus, do you want to have this critical debate or not?

About John Howard

  • First I’d like to say thank you to RedMassGroup for hosting this debate, and if anyone is very sick or just died, they’re in my thoughts and prayers, along with their families.

    Now, the question before us is, what should society do now that the ‘possibilities of science’ are starting to enter the realm of human procreation?  So far, all people have been created equal, by the joining of a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg, each parent passing on a randomly selected mix of their own parent’s unmodified genes (and probably a random mutation or two, also).  

    But recently, working with animals, scientists have learned ways to intervene in this random and yet specific and personal process to create animals with modified genes, adding genes that are not from either parent or even from the same species, and changing genes so the offspring is not quite offspring.  They have learned to clone animals, to create chimeras, and even to create a mouse with two female parents, using no sperm.

    The question we now face is, should society let scientists do those things to create people?  I think not, I think its important to keep everyone created equal.

  • I’ll toss this out for as grist for the mill.  I found this link over at the official website of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops –

    The link will take you to the full text of Dignitas Personae (The Dignity of a Person)

    An Instruction from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) on ethical issues arising from biomedical research, provides guidance on how to respect human life and human procreation in our heavily scientific age.

    If anyone is a fan of EWTN, the Eternal Word Television Network, you can catch last Friday’s episode of The World Over with Raymond Arroyo for an interview concerning the new document.  Arroyo’s guest was Fr. Tad Pacholczyk,

    Director of Education, Neuroscientist & Staff Ethicist for the National Catholic Bioethics Center.  The audio should be available at or via podcasting.

    N.B. – I had the honor of meeting Fr. Tad back in April as I was leaving the South Lawn of the White House after the Papal Welcoming Ceremony.  

  • Festus Garvey

    I generally agree with Patrick’s assessments of the potential good and bad of genetic engineering.  We can possibly eliminate horrible diseases at the embryonic level…at the same time we invent genetic manipulation for those who can afford it…putting us on the slippery slope towards that whole “master race” concept.  I disagree with Patrick that there is nothing we can do about it…while many here will balk at my suggestion of using international bodies and treaties to outlaw it and put tough penalties on countries that don’t fall in line is the way to go.

    The positive impact of ending many diseases is out weighed by the potential for a dangerous slippery slope.

    While I understand many people here are very religious and shape their public policy positions based on this, I hope this issue does not get framed with a religious content.  As someone who would be branded a “secularist” around here, there are many ethical issues here that would concern any secularist.

    But opposition to genetic engineering can and should be a “big tent” group and I caution those who want to make it a religious debate.

    There are so many issues here that disturb me, but I have to run and can’t dig into them.  But among them are:

    The prospect of having IVF “stores” where people can go in and buy embryos based on whatever traits they like.

    Wasting resources so rich people can clone their pets.  Living in a society where millions is spent on this, while other people in the world still die of malnutrition and have no electricity is an ugly thought.

    Yes I know some will jump on me  for supporting things like embryonic stem cell research…hopefully I’ll have time later to split some hairs.