Today’s society is filled with contrasting ideologies and mindsets, some more controversial than others. The field of medical ethics consists of many debatable issues that remain irresolute and continue to provoke opposing deliberation. Among these subjects is the practice of eugenics. Eugenics is essentially a science with the stated aim of “improving the genetic constitution of the human species through selective breeding.” (Kevles 253) Although its methods propose ways to target and eliminate specific undesired or burdening traits from the human gene pool, eugenics should be discouraged because it defies society’s established moral standards, arouses social issues, and challenges genetic diversity.
The moral values that societies set in place in order to maintain the most efficient means of interaction among its people are essential in the prosperity and manageability of the population. Ideas that challenge or denounce these values put the well-being of society at risk. The theological aspects of eugenics contradict the basis of ethical standards in the United States. Due to its concern with competitive fertility, this method of genetic engineering can be argued as the antithesis of reproductive freedom. Competitive fertility introduces the method of sterilization, which is the act of making an individual infertile. Although it is unfavorable by over half of the geneticists in the United States, countries such as China and India have come close to requiring mandatory sterilization by law. (Wertz 503)
The fact that this concept has the ability to inspire such favorability of an act that revokes the reproductive rights of those deemed “unfit” to reproduce is baffling. How can a human being feel content in supporting a cause that holds such immoral notions? Granting scientific judgment the power to label individuals genetically fit or unfit is allowing them to cross the moral boundaries concerning equality among citizens. If all men are created equally, their right to reproduce should not be revoked based on their genetic coding. With that in mind, the science of eugenics holds the potential to diminish the morality of its host.
The complexity of social issues intensifies as knowledge expands and enhances. Human strife for genetic perfection is a costly practice that broadens the gap between social classes. The distinguishing factors between those who are considered genetically apt and those who are not set a social platform for segregation. Eugenics favors the breeding of certain ethnic groups as well, resulting in superiority and dominance. (Caplan, McGee and Magnus) Scientists form adverse judgments and preformed opinions on which types of people should be breeding. The long lasting prejudice resulting from this categorization and social labeling drives the population apart and weakens society rather than strengthening it, instigating social conflict among citizens. The social issues that eugenics arouses portray more of a negative impact on society rather than a contribution.
The utopian goals of eugenics do display some good intentions. This form of genetic engineering would allow scientists to remove specific genes like those that commonly result in cancers from the gene pool, making certain that they will not appear in future generations. The idea of possibly being able to cure certain diseases or prevent them from occurring in future generations is a generous thought, but it does not guarantee unwarranted results. All aspects entwined with the enthusiasm for a better genetically engineered people must be considered. With the removal of genes and attributes come immense concerns. Aside from the social and moral sources of conflict, eugenics poses a threat to genetic diversity.
Genetic diversity has a direct relation to the fitness and survivability of various species and populations; as genetic diversity decreases within a population, so does the fitness and survivability of that population. Genetic diversity provides the resource for phenotypic variation that is essential in determining the rate of evolutionary change in an environment. A population that lacks genetic diversity will be poorly equipped to meet environmental changes and demands. Reproductive technologies, such as the methods of eugenics, affect the composition of the human gene pool by increasing or decreasing the frequency of different genotypes or combinations of genotypes. (Wolfe) The alteration of the gene pool in this manner is dangerous and has more potential to harm a population rather than strengthen it.
Along with the desire for a genetically apt people comes the desires to be “better.” The possibility of being able to determine which traits are to be passed on will arouse a materialistic revolution among populations. Most people will be swayed to join the race for perfection. Many characteristics such as intelligence, athleticism, and health, are almost universally accepted as desirable. Other characteristics such as height, eye color, and hair color, also have particular value attached to them. Genetic homogeneity could arise if the consumers of reproductive technologies have similar preferences for traits. The contagious crave for perfection will result in great losses among societies.
If no one wants the traits and genes that a deemed undesirable, those characteristics will eventually disappear with no means of return. Although they may be considered undesirable, all existent traits make up a diverse human population and allow for the individuality and uniqueness of generations. It is irrational to allow this distinctness to disintegrate only because people desire “perfection.” At what cost will humans continue to strive for an illusion developed by materialistic mindsets? The concept of eugenics and the fact that it has the ability to provoke such materialism among societies is dangerous and serve as a gateway to the destruction of diversity.
Although eugenics is a form of genetic engineering that proposes sheds light on some well-intended possibilities, the broad aspects and potential destructivity of this concept make it dangerous. If applied to populations, eugenics has the ability to drive people apart, denounce moral values, and diminish diversity. The foreshadowing of this concept portrays far more negative effects than positive contributions, so it should be highly discouraged. Before adapting any form of methods involving medicine, all aspects must be considered. Although an idea may come off as an appealing means of contribution to society, the inevitable downsides may outweigh the possible upsides.
Caplan, Arthur L., Glen McGee and David Magnus. “What is Immoral About Eugenics?” British Medical Journal (1999): 1-2. Kevles, Daniel. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985. Wertz, Dorothy C. “Eugenics is Alive and Well: A Survey of Genetic Proffesionals Around the World.” Science in Context (1998): 493-510. Wolfe, Christian. The Institute for Applied & Professional Ethics. 27 July 2009. 8 December 2012 <http://www.ohio.edu/ethics/2003-conferences/human-genetic-diversity-and-the-threat-to-the-survivability-of-human-populations/index.html>.