Eugenics is the process or means of race improvement through the restriction of mating within superior organisms. On the other hand, genetic engineering is the biotechnological alteration of an organism’s hereditary constitution. Eugenics was a widely applied scientific field in the United States during the 20th century, especially before the beginning of the First World War. When comparing the application of eugenics with modern genetic engineering, it is evident that nothing much has changed over the years. The main idea in genetic engineering is to manipulate the genetic make-up of human beings in order to shackle their inferior traits.
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This same eugenics program can be likened to the modern practice of genetic engineering. Modern genetic engineering is an updated version of the eugenics’ program of the twentieth century. Products of genetic engineering (also referred to as genetically modified organisms- GMO’s), endeavor to achieve the same goals as the twentieth-century eugenics’ program. This paper explores the reasons why there are striking similarities between past eugenics programs and modern genetic modification.
Both eugenics and genetic engineering processes are designed to act as birth control mechanisms by doing away with some traits within the population. At one point, both eugenics and genetic engineering processes were used as mainstream birth control methods. In the nineteenth century, activists, socialites, and women’s rights leaders were very vocal in lobbying for eugenics as a method of controlling unwanted births. According to these groups, some births would only lead to disadvantageous qualities of life or to the birth of ‘unfit’ persons, whose traits were considered bad.
This improvement goal was accomplished using the most reasonable resolution at that time, and this action was to sterilize individuals who were considered hazardous when it came to reproduction. Some of the people who were considered unfit for reproduction included those who had mental health conditions. This led to mass-induced or willing sterilizations all over the United States. Moreover, in genetic modification, parents can eliminate some of their negative traits from their genes in order to give birth to a ‘perfect child.’ Nowadays, it is biotechnologically possible to bear a child who has specific genetic characteristics.
In recent years, the aspect of genetic engineering has led to the dissolution of the marriage institution because it enables the siring of offspring even in the absence of one gender. This process has detrimental effects upon genetically engineered children because although they might be considered hereditarily fit, they lack an important aspect of life. The breakdown in social structure as a result of genetically engineered technology was witnessed in the twentieth century when eugenics was on the rise. The need to get rid of unwanted aspects of society meant that some individuals were deliberately exempted from starting families of their own.
In the same manner, any time a person opts for genetically engineered reproduction, it means that this process is substituted for human effort. Even after years of genome ‘perfection’, some individuals are still considered as burdens by their societies. In both reproduction processes, the individuals who opt for these technologies do so solely due to the fact that in their own considerations, other people have become troublesome and unfit. The concept of socially independent reproduction is replicated in both eugenics and genetic engineering.
Some methods of genome modification are, by definition, brutal and obnoxious. Forced sterilization, which is still in practice today (albeit in the form of genetic rejection), is harmful to the body. The processes of both eugenics and genetic engineering are a clear indication of the infringement of human rights that occurs in full glare of the authorities and the society under the guise of ensuring better future-generations. Rejecting the hereditary qualities of some people translates into blatant disregard of the sanctity and the uniqueness of these individuals. Genetic engineering, on its part, is aimed at ‘eliminating’ certain traits in society.
However, traits are important aspects of every individual in society. For instance, genetic engineering that favors babies with blue eyes or those without an obesity gene is a veiled rejection of obese individuals and those with brown eyes. In the twentieth century, individuals with physical deformities were convinced that they were not fit for reproduction owing to their physical attributes. Today, individuals with weight problems have also been convinced that their physical attributes are a burden to society. Consequently, these individuals willfully seek the services of genetic engineers who can correct this ‘anomaly.’
The general idea in genetic modification is to do away with the essence of medical partitioning. Medics believe in the manipulation of any health or genetic condition. Elimination of affected persons would mean that medics have no power over genetic conditions, and the only possible way of helping affected persons is by eradicating them or curbing their reproduction. This practice is unacceptable in a society where morals are upheld, and medical science is at an advanced stage.