Transgenic Art and Its Ethical Implications – Jennie Wong

I was surprised with some of the work that Mr. Shanken talked about at lecture this week. The ethics of many of the projects he talked about were questionable. I understand that sometimes genetic engineering and other technological/scientific experiments are necessary for advancing in particular fields, but the ends do not necessarily always justify the means. And in cases such as the GFP Bunny and the Transgenic Rats, I definitely think the ends do not justify the means. Eduardo Kac said that the purpose of his projects are mainly to provoke debate between art and science and to spark thought and discussion about social utility versus ethical rationale. He also claimed that these projects give new meaning to objects, expand the field of art and broaden domain of molecular bio (“take science out of the science lab”; recontextualization). However, I think that genetic alterations on living beings primarily for the sake of debate and intellectual stimulus is a waste of scientific genius, a disrespect for true, respectable art, and a disregard for the sanctity of life and the natural order of things. Surely debate can be inspired in other ways. Surely shocking the art and science communities can be done in alternative, more humane ways. Playing God and fiddling with genes at the expense of animals is childish, perverse, and elementary. I am not the only one with a negative response to his “artwork”, and it is unsurprising that some of Kac’s projects were met with such intense public backlash.

I did more research on transgenics as a whole. I learned that this biotechnology field is not limited to animals. Scientists are working to cross all boundaries and create the following combinations: plant-animal-human, animal-animal, and animal-human combinations. The ethical issues become even more important as we progress from talking about genetic alterations in plants to genetic alterations in animals to genetic alterations in humans. What do we know about the long-term effects of tinkering with the human blueprint that is DNA? Will new diseases run rampant? Do we inflict unnecessary pain? Are we moving toward a new, loose, subjective definition of normal or standard? What about creating superspecies? I think that with our new great technology comes great responsibility to exercise prudence and a mind for the bigger picture.

to end, a comic about transgenic animals in a support group..



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