January 3, 2018
PTK conducts Honors in Action project
Over the course of the 2017 fall semester, Phi Theta Kappa students at Cowley College’s main campus in Arkansas City worked on a Honors in Action project in order to maintain its 5 star level status. As part of the project they researched the topic of genetic manipulation. The Phi Theta Kappa students decided to distribute a survey poll across the Cowley College campus as a way to assess students’ familiarity with the topic of genetic manipulation and their feelings towards it. After observing the results of the survey poll, many things became clear. One, most students have heard about genetic manipulation but are not very knowledgeable on the topic. Two, when it comes to curing illnesses most students are pro genetic manipulation. Lastly, most people are against genetic manipulation when it comes to modifying a baby’s features. When taking a closer look at the poll results and the nationalities of the surveys, there are some distinct differences in moral standpoints.
With so many technological advances in today’s world, genetic manipulation, which was once a distant idea, has surfaced. What started off as genetically modifying plants and pesticides has taken a turn towards genetically modifying animals and humans. Genetic manipulation is where biotechnology is used to modify a living being’s genes. This type of modification can and has been used in many ways. Most people know of genetic manipulation in plants and pesticides; changing their genetic makeup to enhance growth or protect better against certain bugs. Just like in plants and pesticides, genetic manipulation is being used in living beings. Kamel Khalili led scientists in an experiment to cut out HIV genes from infected mice and rats (Park 2016). Khalili’s experiment was a big step forward in genetic manipulation. HIV attaches to the chromosomes in a living being and is passed on to every new cell generated. With the use of CRISPR, a tool that can precisely cut DNA, Khalili was able to cut out the HIV virus from 50 percent of the cells in the rats and mice. This experiment showed that genetic manipulation can be done not only in the lab or on animals, but could eventually be used on humans as well.
When looking at moral implications on genetic manipulation rather than the scientific standpoint, there are many differences across cult cultures worldwide. After the previously mentioned poll of Cowley College students, it was clear that most people would modify their genes to prevent illness but not to change physical characteristics. When comparing American students to international students, there was a bit of difference in the moral views. Overall, everyone thought that genetic manipulation to cure disease was acceptable. However, it was clear everyone was against using it to alter physical appearances in embryos (essentially creating designer babies). When taking a closer look the results show that international students are not as pro genetic manipulation as American students are. This, along with other answers in the poll, show that most international students see more problems associated with genetic manipulation than American students do.
There are many pros to genetic manipulation, such as cutting out a disease from a family’s bloodline, but it can also create new problems. Scientifically, cutting out certain genes from someone’s genetic makeup could result in potential mutations in other genes. From a moral standpoint, when people are able to start changing their genetic makeup they might take it further, potentially leading to designer babies. It starts off with fixing the genes linked to a specific disease, then onto fixing other genes that could potentially make a disease, then changing more genes that don’t need to be changed. Eventually leading to genes being modified when they don’t need to be. Most students in the poll agreed, if genetic manipulation was open to the public and everyone was given the choice to use it, that it should be regulated to prevent this slippery slope from occurring.
What are your thoughts? Do you think genetic manipulation is morally acceptable? Should we be able to change our genes for the better, or is that wrong? The Cowley College Phi Theta Kappa students have come to the conclusion that finding the moral implications of genetic manipulation is almost impossible. Everyone in this world comes from different backgrounds and have different views, so to say that genetic manipulation is morally good or bad is difficult to conclude. As new technology begins to unravel into the hands of scientists, the effects of the technology may drastically change the viewpoints of thousands of people.