Monday, April 4, 2011

The Future of Genetic Research:

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The Future of Genetic Research:

The Oregonian recently published an editorial by George Will voicing his concerns on the dangers genetic enhancement holds for society. He sees an immediate threat to the human races’ ethics. Will’s Editorial shows that, “Recently a rhesus monkey named Andi (“inserted DNA,” backward) became the first genetically altered primate ever created” (C5). The research will be complete when Andi becomes sexually mature, and scientists can see if the inserted DNA will descend to his offspring. George Wills’ view is that humans are not far behind in participating in this line of experimentation using eugenics to tailor their children as well. Scientists’ reasoning behind this line of research and experimentation is to acquire the ability to produce cures for diseases and discover more possibilities of prevention. Negative eugenics is a procedure used to detect birth defects in babies still in the womb; positive eugenics is a procedure involving adding to DNA structures. Will gives his opinions; and the views of Leon Kass, who is educator of ethics and biology at the University of Chicago. They stress the dangers of society potentially having power, by use of positive eugenics, to enhance certain characteristics in their unborn children. Will and Kass state that scientist may be overlooking moral and ethical standards trying to fight disease and pain for human beings with positive eugenics.

Because George Will uses fear-provoking predictions to create futuristic scenarios, offering no tangible evidence that they will occur; his editorial does not convey a well-informed view on the controversial subject of genetic altering; only demonstrates his ability to manipulate his readers using emotional appeals.

Will uses emotional manipulation by trying to strike fear into his readers. He states, “any tailoring of an individual’s genetic endowment…will put us on the slippery slop to the abolition of man” (C5). Will explains that the more involved we become with altering human beings, the closer we may be to destroying humankind. He does not follow that prediction with any actual evidence that elimination of the human race is at hand because of genetic research. Out of the twelve paragraphs contained in Will’s editorial, only one gives logical evidence pertaining to genetic research and experiments. This paragraph gave the definitions for positive and negative eugenics, (previously defined). The editorial shows no reliance on logical appeal, only on emotional manipulation by presenting a “doomsday”. Will starts his editorial using this method classifying the experiments involving Andi, as “things humanity cannot get used to without jeopardizing its humanness- without becoming beastly” (C5). Using this kind of emotionally loaded, manipulative language does not illustrate any real consequences resulting from eugenics, only possible futuristic threats.

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Will’s editorial lacks clarity by not identifying a certain audience and using confusing words to express his ideas. Even though he is a syndicated columnist, his writing comes across as a public outcry. The Oregonian, which being a state published paper, has a usual standard for a ninth grade reading level. Its’ audience is generally someone with average knowledge on a range of subjects. Will’s terminology lead me to believe was aiming his editorial at only those who have an expanded vocabulary, or wanted to rely on the average persons’ whose knowledge on vocabulary usually does not span to words such as “myopia, despots, or intimation” (C5). The other possibility is that he did not even have a specific audience in mind when writing this. Will’s goals seemed to be reaching society as a whole, and steer them to his position on eugenics. If this was his objective, he definitely does not gain readers’ support by misleading and confusing them.

Genetic research is a controversial issue, containing many opinions backed by factual studies. Reading Will’s argument against the use of positive eugenics left me curious to factual aspects on the subject because his editorial did not include any facts. The only other source he quoted other than himself, was “ Leon Kass, a biologist and ethicist with the University of Chicago” (C5). This man branches out on how eugenics will promote parents into looking at their soon-to-be-born as works of art and the downward spiral humanity is taking. These views are very reflective of Will’s own beliefs. Seeing no realistic evidence within the editorial, I looked for some factual research done within genetic altering. There are current research projects involving eugenics. However, according to Stuart Newman (1998), a developmental biologist at the New York medical College and a member of the board of Directors of the Council for Responsible Genetics, they are very far from achieving the ability to redesign humans. This is what Will claimed to be an urgent matter. In the British Medical Journal’s letters to the editor, Susan Root (1999), vice president of medical affairs at The Institute of genetics Education, explains eugenics as having the “potential to dramatically reduce the burden of disease and disability”(p. 2). There were many more letters to the editor sharing this view.

Will tries to make people believe that eugenics is wrong and inhumane; became weaker the more research I did. Wills’ only support for his argument is giving possible negative consequences to the use of eugenics. He gives his readers examples such as: parents abusing eugenics by altering their children for narcissistic reasons, and even the possible end of the human race from meddling with our own genetics. He emotionally appeals that there is no proper use for eugenics, and shows no possible solution in controlling the extent to which it is used, or to whom makes the laws governing its’ use.

By using emotional and confusing language, Will lacks clarity, credibility, and risks losing respect from his readers. To understand the terminology and in what it directly referred to, I had to do my own research because his editorial provided none. This would be expected reading a medical journal, but not in the Oregonian. If Will’s idea was to persuade readers to his point of view, he did not offer enough sound evidence, just a lot of “what ifs.” His lack of logical appeal, coupled with the need for evidence, of any kind or quality, deduced this argument to a story; not an editorial.

Works Cited

Will, George F. “Man-Made Monkey May Bring Undoing of Our Human Story.” The

Oregonian 21 Jan. 2001: C5.

Newman, Dr. Stuart. Genetic Enhancement. Presentation at the opening forum of the 1998

Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology, and the Church in the U.S. and Canada.

23 April 1998. 29 Jan. 2001. .

Root, Susan. ”Eugenics debate.” British Medical Journal 25 Mar. 2000. 29 Jan. 2001.


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