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The idea of progress: to what extent can genetic engineering, eugenics be considered as progress?

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Oral d’anglais: The idea of progress

I’m going to talk about the notion of the idea of progress. It can be defined as an improvement, a development or a change in a given area such as in politics with democracy, transport, technology or medicine. All of these improvements are realized to make the world a better place. Through this notion I am going to talk about eugenics, a science which studies the methods of improving the genetic composition of the human race by selective breeding. When you hear progress, you immediately think about improvement or forward movement but I think we should moderate this idea. So through the idea of progress and the subject of eugenics, I am going to tackle the following issue: To what extent can genetic engineering, eugenics be considered as progress? Is it positive or negative? I have chosen this issue because I want to highlight not only how great scientific progress is but also how dangerous it can be to humanity as a whole. To illustrate my point, I will base myself on several documents: a cartoon entitled Odd Man Out, an audio document about building the perfect baby and an extract of a book called A Brave New world written by Aldous Huxley.

The First document I’m going to talk about is “Odd man out”. The cartoon we see is of a factory conveyor belt where newly-produced nearly-naked men are appearing one by one. They all have the same forward facing upright stance and are wearing only underwear. Four of them are exact duplicates tall, well-built, tan, square jawed men who all have the same wide, tooth baring grin and wear manly black boxer shorts. The odd man out is about half their size, pale and thin, with disproportionately large feet and hands and is wearing more effeminate, pink underpants. He is being lifted by his scalp by large metal tongs, presumably to be dropped into the huge dumpster labeled "CLONES R US / REJECTS" in the foreground, full of other defective clones who have been thrown out. Although this cartoon shows us that the man of the future will probably be more intelligent and better looking, it primarily denounces that eugenics kill human diversity because anybody containing a flaw would be discarded making everybody pretty much identical.

The second document is an audio document in which Gigi stone, a journalist for ABC News and an Ethicist discuss about the building of the perfect baby. Gigi informs us that through the use of a procedure called “Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis”, doctors have helped thousands of parents to reduce the chances of carrying a baby with life-threatening disease. But these same doctors have found a way to take this process one step further so that future parents can choose their baby’s trait, the same way they pick clothes from a catalog. The Ethicists then responds that this selective breeding is the biggest slippery slope the human race could go on because it would divide our society into two categories with one being the “genetically perfect”. This document shows us that even though the use of eugenics can help parents get the baby they’ve always dreamed of; it can also have a huge negative impact on our society.

Finally, the last document is an extract from “Brave New World” which is a novel written by Aldous Huxley in 1932. It depicts a dystopian world in which babies are grown in incubation and conditioning centers. The extract focuses on the creation process of these babies. In this totalitarian world, babies are selected based on their genetics and are then conditioned to become either labor force or intellectuals and leaders. This extract shows us that people who are in charge of these “baby factories” are playing God because they are, through the use of genetic modifications and conditioning, creating an army of mindless slaves incapable of rebellion.

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