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Essay on Apocalyptic Visions of Genetic Engineering

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Global warming, nuclear winter, microscopic black holes—society views all these as apocalyptic phenomena resulting from the accelerating rate of discovery in the fields of science and technology. Opinions on fields like climate change and atomic weaponry certainly have a basis in scientific evidence, but many other apocalyptic reactions derive from hypothetical situations and thought experiments. To further examine public opinions on scientific fields, we can examine genetic engineering (GE). The possibilities of GE have prompted many ethicists to provide commentary on the topic, opening a dialogue between policy and experimentation in order to address topics such as genetically modified crops and genetic enhancement in humans. Like any technology, GE has risks and benefits, but in this case, some believe the risks far outweigh the benefits and that forward progress must be stopped.
Scientists define GE as “the artificial recombination of [DNA] in the test tube, their insertion into a… vector system, and the subsequent incorporation of the chimeric molecules into a host organism in which they are capable of continued propagation… usually [involving] the production of novel genetic combinations by biochemical means” (Mulligan). Using various techniques, scientists can splice DNA from one organism and place it into another in order to give the DNA recipient desirable characteristics. GE gives scientists an unprecedented amount of control over nature—although breeding has allowed humans to slowly weed out undesired traits, it operates at a much slower pace and only for macroscopic organisms. The control that GE gives scientists allows them to manipulate species of any size and create organisms highly unlikely to occur in nature. ...


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...Perceptions. Ed. Bernard D. Brooks and Johnson. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. 266-281. Print.

Ciola, Greg. “Does Genetic Engineering Have God’s Endorsement?” NewsWithViews.com. NewsWithViews.com., 28 Mar. 2007. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.

Epstein, Ron. “Redesigning the World: Ethical Questions about Genetic Engineering.” Ethical Issues in Biotechnology. Eds. Richard Sherlock and John D. Morrey. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002. 47-70. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.

Mulligan, Pamela K. “Genetic engineering.” AccessScience: Encyclopedia of Science & Technology Online. McGraw-Hill, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2010.

Sachs, Stephen E. “The False Apocalypse.” The Harvard Crimson. The Harvard Crimson., 13 Feb. 2001. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.

Will, George. “The monkey that could mean the end.” Jewish World Review. Jewish World Review Mag., 22 Jan. 2001. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.


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