Gene therapy appears to offer modern humans tremendous benefits. Science has taught us that many of the diseases to which humans are prey are the result of our DNA, or genetic makeup. It appears tempting to cure diseases and prevent cancer through the manipulation of our genes. However, it is important to recognize that there are possibly serious repercussions as a result of this type of therapy and treatment. Humans do not know enough about DNA and how it will impact future generations to allow this treatment without close scrutiny of how it is administered. While no one wants to see a child die from Tay-Sachs disease, or an individual suffer through Huntington’s disease, one cannot use these horrible conditions to justify changing the entire human genome. Yet, if scientists are allowed to continually manipulate the DNA sequence of humans, this may eventually occur. This paper will argue that there are too many potential unforeseen risks associated with gene therapy for it to be used at this point in history.

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In an article published in The New Yorker, the author examines the issues surrounding the use of genetic manipulation in the human population. The article is entitled “The Gene Hackers” and was written by Michael Specter. It was published on November 16, 2015. In the article, the author interviews a number of scientists who are involved in genetic therapy and gene manipulation. Even the scientists express concern over what they are doing to the human genome.

The article gives a thorough background into the science of DNA. Of particular concern is that this is such a new concept for humans. DNA was only a little over half a century ago. In the 1970s, only thirty genes were known to humans. However, there has been a massive explosion into this field of research in recent years. The author discusses one of the reasons for this massive interest: business. Business is not a pure motive for scientific research. Rather, it creates a clear conflict of interest for scientists. The purpose of business is to make money. The purpose of science is to seek out the truth. These two concepts are not always congruent. While it is possible that someone can make money from seeking the truth, a business person may seek to subvert the truth if it interferes with profits. This is a serious concern with regards to gene therapy. Scientists acknowledge that they are not sure of the long-term implications of gene therapy.

If a person is offered gene therapy, but is told that it might change all the future generations, the person may or may not choose to receive the gene therapy. Therefore, the business person may choose not to give a full disclosure of the risks involved. The person who is trying to capitalize on his or her scientific investment would not want to give a person any reason to avoid a product. For these people, gene therapy is just that: a product. A product, in the mind of a business person, may not have any moral issues associated with it. However, to a scientist, there are most certainly moral issues associated with how science is used. The scientists who are currently working to manipulate the human genes are aware of this.

To be fair, science is morally neutral. Science is just the search for the truth and the truth is neither good nor evil. It is pure. However, how a scientific application is used can be considered a moral and ethical issue. Pure science is morally neutral; applied science is rarely. If the researchers were merely attempting to determine if they could manipulate the human genome to cure and to prevent disease, there would be no moral issues associated with it. However, the purpose of this technology is to be applied. No one seems to question what they are doing until it is applied. The author discusses the work of Dr. Fheng Zhang, who is using a technique called CRISPR to manipulate genes. While CRISPR is properly a cluster of genes that occur naturally within humans, scientists are attempting to use them for their own goals. Doing work with CRISPR in an attempt to discover how it works is morally neutral; using the outcomes to delete parts of the human genome is not.

As a result of this research, a Chinese scientific team carried out a project that has raised serious concerns. The project allegedly managed to edit and to eliminate genes from a human embryo. There were questions as to whether or not the Chinese team engaged in unethical behavior. They most certainly did. No one can predict what the outcome of this type of experiment is. Eventually, if enough genes are edited or eliminated, humans will no longer be humans. What makes us human is our genetic material, including all of its flaws. Any attempt to remove any of these flaws also removes our very identity as humans. No one can predict where this will go in the future. If humans become a new species in a rapid time frame, as a result of genetic manipulation, there could be unforeseen consequences for how we interact with all other species on the planet. To be fair, genetic material does change. This is the basis for all of evolution. However, genetic material changes into new species over vast periods of time. Genetic manipulation might allow this to occur in a few short generations. The rest of the species on the planet would not have enough time to adapt in response to the rapidly changing human genome. It is virtually impossible to predict what the outcome would be from this experiment. If no one knows if it is bad or good, perhaps it should not be done.

It is tempting to create the perfect human. However, we also must remember that this has been tried in social experiments, rather than test tubes. The Nazis attempted to purify the human genome through massive elimination of groups of people they deemed undesirable. No one can deny the evilness of their actions. Is there any difference between removing genetic material in a test tube rather than a concentration camp? In essence, no.

Gene therapy is tempting. It appears to offer solutions to the problems that plague humans with regards to disease and illness: our genetic makeup. However this genetic makeup is also what makes us humans as a species. To manipulate it creates unforeseen consequences. It should not be done at this time.