Matt Ridley and Genetic Engineering
PHIL 102 A


Homework 2


In his article title “The New Eugenics,” addressing the regulation of genetic engineering, Matt Ridley presents three arguments against restrictive policies, and then responds to what he deems to be the fallacy of each. Although his final conclusion is one I agree with, his arguments seem shallow, vague, and do not do a very good job supporting his opinion.


One objection to the genetic engineering of humans that Ridley chooses to point out is the implication that the cost of the procedure would create a greater class barrier between those who could afford it and those that could not. The richest members of society would have access to the best genetic enhancements, while those who can’t afford it would have to leave things to chance. Broadening the gap between social classes this way can only lead to more discrimination.


Ridley argues that this is not the case. He responds by stating that genetic engineering would need to become commonplace before this would even be an issue, and that even if it were available, the procedure, which would involve in vitro fertilization, would be painful, exhausting and less desirable to most. He assumes that genetic engineering would attract only a very small clientele.


If his response that problems will arise only if the treatment becomes widely available, then I would argue that Ridley has made no real argument at all. I’m sure there was a time when people thought plastic surgery was a ridiculous idea. Why would anyone want to go through the pain and discomfort experienced after having a face-lift or breast implants? And yet million of women, especially young American women, go through some kind of cosmetically enhancing procedure every year. It is a practice that has become so widely accepted in our beauty and youth obsessed society, that we glamorize it by having a show called “Extreme Makeover,” where lucky contestants get to be completely transformed through plastic surgery. In a society where it is suggested that plastic surgery is a healthy way to deal with your self-image problems, genetic enhancement will surely become the next fad amongst the richest members of society in their search for physical perfection and the fountain of youth.


The notion becomes a little more intimidating if you consider other attributes, like intelligence, that can be affected by genetic engineering. Our society is competitive, and if a procedure is available that could possibly create a genetically superior human being, I think it would be only natural that those who can afford such treatment will jump at the chance to use it. A it’s popularity rises, the rift between genetically enhanced beings and naturally birthed beings will grow. People who had no access to the treatment will be looked down upon, especially if they have any physical or mental deficiency that could be seen as avoidable. This asks the question of whether or not the government should allow this treatment to be available at all, thus giving no member of society an unnatural advantage.


Ridley argues that it is not a decision our government should make, and on this point I have to agree. It is my belief that the government has no business regulating abortion, and as some abortion procedures can be seen as a means of genetic selection, I must concur that the government has no business regulating genetic enhancement. As Ridley says, “…nobody should be forced to engineer her children’s genes-but, by implication, neither should anyone be forced not to.” From this perspective, I can see how one would argue against federal regulation. It would next to impossible to draw the line between procedures that are desired, but probably not necessary for the child to have a normal life, and those that will actually save the life of the child.