Utopia and dystopia - science and ethics, genetic engineering

rapidparentBiotechnology

Dec 12, 2012 (4 years and 9 months ago)

1,134 views











Miriam Litterscheid

Topic:

Utopia and dystopia
-

science and ethics, genetic engineering

Text type:

newspaper articles, editorials

Utopia/Dystopia



utopia




a
n ideal community or society



taken from
a book by Sir Thomas More
,

written in 1516



comes
from the Greek: ο

, "not", and τόπος, "place"



“nonexistent place”



also refers to human efforts to create a perfect society that does not exist (yet)



global utopia of world peace: seen as one of the possible endings of history after the
two world wars



religious utopia: garden of delights; life free of worry



scientific and technological utopia: belief that one day science and technology will
allow utopian living standards (absence of death, illness, suffering; changes in human
condition)



dystopia



anti
-
ut
opia; cacotopia



antithesis of the utopian society



characterized by a totalitarian/authoritarian form of government/some kind of
oppressive control



traits of dystopian literature: war, revolution, natural disaster, poor standard of living
(only ruling class

living in luxury), set in the future

Key terms + explanations



stem cell: cell

with the ability to divide for indefinite periods in culture and to

give rise to
specialized cells



u
ndifferentiated

cell:
cell that has not yet develop
ed into a specialized cell

type



organ transplant: moving an organ from one organism to another



organ donation: the act of giving organs to another person



transhumanism: altering of the human genome to enhance human race



superiority complex: exaggerated feeling of being better than
the others



biocentrism: life in the middle of evaluation



human dignity: state of righteousness in human beings



biodiversity: number/variety of organisms (within a geographic region)



chimera:
individual composed of a mixture

of genetically different cells



omniscience: h
aving total knowledge; knowing everything



omnipotence:
having unlimited power
; being able to do everything

Genetic engineering



direct manipulation of an organism's genes



uses techniques of molecular cloning and transformation


PRO

genetic engineering:

-

increase in understanding of nature

-

new revolution for medicine


fight against diseases

CON

genetic engineering:

-

not very safe


little information

-

often too expensive

Embryonic
Stem Cell Research (ESCR)



embryonic stem cells



derived from embryos



develop from eggs th
at have been fertilized in an in
-
vitro fertilization
clinic

and then
donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors


PRO

research:

-
can differentiate into almost all types of bodily tissue


treat

diseases

-

embryo = no human


life begins when the brain starts to develop

-
we will delay treatment if we keep arguing about the question of life

-

abortion: embryo gets destroyed


why not make use of it which
could

save lives?

-

divide rapidly


offer

immediate treatment

-

solution to infertility problems

-

embryonic stem cells can be found easily

-

can
be grown relatively easily in culture


CON

research:

-

adult stem cells could be an alternative


no killing involved + less money

-

long promised
results have not occurred yet!

-

taking someone’s life in order to save another one’s is contradictory

-

embryonic stem cells can be rejected by the body

-

unknowns tumors could occur

-

biocentric position
: life stand in the middle of evaluation


embryos
die

-

Christian view
: life starts with conception


embryos = already human

Adult Stem Cell Research (ASCR)



adult stem cells



also known as somatic stem cells


somatic
=
cells of the body (not the germ cells,
sperm or eggs)



undifferentiated cell
s
, found a
mong differentiated cells in a t
issue or organ that can
renew them
sel
ves



pri
mary roles of adult stem cells
in a living organism
:
to maintain
+
repair tissue in
which they are found


PRO

research:

-

no killing involved

-

less money

-

cannot be rejected as
embryonic stem cells can


CON

research:

-

hard to find

-

might not divide fast enough to offer immediate treatment

-

are
limited to differenti
ating into different cell types

-

are rare in mature tissues


isolating these cells from an adult tissue is chall
enging

Cloning



refers to processes used to create copies of DNA fragments (molecular cloning), cells (cell
cloning), or organisms



creation of an organism that is an exact genetic copy of another



therapeutic cloning



Somatic Cell Nuclear T
ransfer

(SCNT)

/
research cloning



embryo’s stem cells are

extracted and encouraged to grow into human tissue or

human organ for transplant



end result = replacement organ, piece of nerve tissue, or
quantity of skin



no
human being!



destruction of an embryo after stem cell
s are extracted



controversy over morality
of procedure



reproductive cloning



i
ntent of creating another organism



genetic material
removed from a donor egg


result =
empty egg



a cell is taken from the organism to be cloned
,
its nucleus is removed



nucleus
is
then transferred into
empty donor egg



embryo develops



embryo is then transferred into uterus of host organism



not allowed yet!


PRO

cloning:

-

treatment of diseases by cloning tissues/organs

-

pros outweigh the cons with regards to treating disease
s

-

clones don’t have the same personality


individuality remains


CON

cloning:

-

no individuality anymore


loss of “humanity”/dehumanization

-

close to “perfectionizing” organisms (e.g. children)

-

success rate is quite low

-

therapeutic cloning
:
stability of the egg with the
infused somatic nucleus is poor, r
equire
s

hundreds of attempts before success is attained



embryos die


destruction
linked
to
abortion

-

only God can create life


i
nterfering with the progression of nature



playing God = h
ubris

-

desire for omniscience and omnipotence



immoral

Genetically Modified Food (GMF)



foods derived from genetically modified organisms



GM
organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering


PRO

GM Food:

-
meets the
basic needs of the poor/global need for food

-

putting an end to hunger

-

there is more than enough food in the world


hunger crisis is caused by problems in food
distribution and politics, not production

-

less costs + lower lever of toxins because of le
ss usage of pesticides

-

plants can be made resistant to extreme temperatures

-

can carry less calories, more vitamins and proteins


increase in healthiness


CON

GM Food:

-

may cause unknown diseases

-

widening the gap between rich and poor


too expensi
ve for poor/developing countries

-

biotechnologies have more power

-

biodiversity gets destroyed/manipulated/lost

-

promised successes have not been accomplished


we should devote our efforts and
money into
other
solution
s

-

serious health risk: bacteria
resistance to antibiotics?

-

no labeling

-

cannot solve world hunger problems

Fictitious example


Frankenstein



novel written by Mary Shelley



plot:



scientist, Victor Frankenstein, learns how to create life and creates a being

in the
likeness of man



created “monster”
=
Frankenstein =
larger than average and more powerfu
l



Frankenstein is treated unequally because of his uniqueness



discussing Frankenstein’s opinions (a few examples)



“Nobody ever needs to die”



one can’t have goals in life if it lasts for
ever



if you don’t know the pain of losing a beloved person, how are we meant to
feel the happiness of being loved?



better to die than to live in pain



life is connected with death/death is the natural way of life



it’s against God’s will which can’t be cheat
ed



“If we can replace one part of the human body, we can replace every part”



single parts are necessary to save lives, but a whole body?



there are enough people in the world



if we replace every part of the body, it will be like creating new human beings



“A

dead body still can be brought back to life. It is not immoral to try”



some people want to die/you should be able to decide for yourself



who gives us human beings the right to decide over life/death?



who is responsible for the consequences if it fails?



ju
st the thought it
could

be successful is immoral



“We can create life to cheat death”



humans can try to save lives, not create it



life and death are no games



life is given by God and death should be too



“We can create a being that is better than us, more
intelligent, more civilized”



how can we be perfect when we destroy everything?



only God is omniscient and omnipotent



how can someone “different” be civilized when nobody wants to see
anything different?



only a utopian dream



Frankenstein
-

The

Modern Promet
heus
?



Prometheus (Greek mythology) parallels Victor Frankenstein in many aspects



both rebel against the law of nature



both try to be like God (hubris)



both disregard the limits

Victor

Prometheus

-

is punished by his creature

-

is punished by Zeus

-

punishment: suffers the loss of his wife; gets
killed by his creature

-

punishment: tied up to a rock where his liver
gets eaten by an eagle + grows every day


p慩a



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diff
erence: Frankenstein lets his creature alone


not able to understand
that he as the creator is the “father”; Prometheus takes care and
teachers his creatures


Newspaper articles



quality/posh papers



separate information and opinion



reader can form his/her
own view



popular papers



often mix information and opinion



ready
-
made opinion is offered



news stories



information on current events



deals with matters close to the reader



presents very new or unusual news items



reports about sensational topics



informs about

conflicts



only based on facts


avoids extra information or writer’s personal opinion



comments



offer view on current issues



editorials

-

contain comments which are based on a newspaper’s tendency


therefore close to the views of the reader



op
-
eds

(opposi
te editorial/opinion editorial)

-

give second/different opinions on a subject



columns

-

short essays on different topics the journalist is free to choose



human interest stories



illustrate general problems



one individual case


arousing sympathy (e.g. vict
ims of earthquake)


Possible tasks for analyzing a newspaper article



how does the author try to convince the readers?



stylistic devices



facts



enumeration



exaggeration



rhetorical questions



direct address



irony



allusions



c.f. list of devices on the weblog




function/effect of the headline (+ sometimes also sub
-
heading)



arouses the reader’s interest



summarizes or tells about the article



often reveals the first critical comment of the author


bias?



pro/counter arguments



how does he/she try to appear reliable?



choice of words



scientific vocabulary (
adjectives
,
verbs
)



precise definitions



tone?



write a letter to the editor
(Leserbrief)

or comment on the article

How to write a letter to the editor



upper right corner: your address



below your address: the date



upper

left corner: receiver’s address



below receiver’s address: salutation without “dear” (e.g. “Sir or Madam”)



your

first sentence mention
s

t
he article you’re referring to, the date of publishing and

your
initial reaction to it



s
tart off by introducing
yourself and your position



explain
your opinion (argumentative part
)



r
efer to arguments mentioned in the article



end
your letter with your name and place of residence only;
no

complimentary close (
i.e.
‘yours sincerely’)

How to comment on the article



menti
on pro
-

and counter arguments of the text + develop them further (i.e. discuss them)



comparison with previous knowledge



state your opinion on the topic + support

your views with evidence



conclusion: weigh pros and cons