The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

This term paper was prepared for Ethical Reasoning 24: Bioethics, a Core Curriculum course taught at Harvard College.


This paper seeks to examine the ethical questions surrounding the intentional manipulation of genes to achieve phenotypic modifications in humans. It is not concerned with distributive justice or the ethics of research, but rather with the debate over whether the technology of genetic engineering itself, once it is to a reasonable level proven both safe and effective, is ethical to use. The study begins by motivating the discussion and introducing some key concepts related to the technology. After establishing the scope and structure of the analysis, the paper proceeds by reviewing the most commonly presented arguments against genetic engineering and demonstrating that all fail to establish a legitimate ethical basis upon which such a criticism could stand. Finally, the paper concludes with a short discussion outlining possible areas for further study and discourse.

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