Mini Project #3

  1. Examine the notion of the gift in Sandel. Does it just reduce to some idea that the unnatural is bad or that we’re “playing God,” in manipulating our children’s genetics? Or, even to the claim that we are somehow disrupting a child’s agency or autonomy in altering their genes? If it does reduce to one or other of these claims, assess Savulescu’s attempted refutation of Sandel.

“Giftedness of life is to recognize that our talents and powers are not wholly our doing, despite the effort we extend to develop and to exercise them.” (Sandel, 2004) 

In my own examination of Sandel’s writing, I believe that we may perhaps, somehow be altering our children’s agency and or their autonomy by altering their genetics. If we are saying that there is something fundamentally wrong with altering our children’s genetics, we must first determine what is specifically wrong in doing so. The first of which, noticeably in Sandel’s opinion, is that of the agency of the child. The ability of the child to truly make their own independent decisions and choose between each, in a way seems to be altered by predetermined genetics, in either case, whether the genes were chosen by the parents or not. However, it is specifically this idea that separates the two. When a child’s genetics have been altered or filtered, we feel that we almost are at a point of too much control over the outcome of their life. Of course, the main objection to this is in that of the choices that we make for our children before or after birth, even before we typically consider them competent. Where they go to school, what they eat, what they consume in the media and much more are all determined parentally before we even begin to consider that our children are able to make any of those choices on their own. So, from this standpoint, I start to follow the notion of enframing in which we begin to understand that these predeterminations are less influential than we usually like to believe, especially in comparison to many of the things that we will ultimately choose for our children without their input. 

While agency begins to tackle the nature of the “gift” to Sandel it does not simply mean that children who are then genetically enhanced or modified are absent of this quality. Part of the point that is being expressed is that in our births, we have no recollection, we did not choose when, where, or even what body we are born into,  yet the agency of the individual is one of the first things to be questioned in the topic of altering genetics. Furthermore, I think some appreciation should be given to the ways in which Sandel is saying that we don’t have influence over the lives of our children, as I would agree that this is much more largely the case than many people are willing to admit, or even are capable of comprehending. So many factors are contributing to the future life that a recently born child will have and ironically enough, the vast majority of them will occur independently of the carefully curated choices that parents make about their children in those first years of life. This isn’t to say that these years aren’t impactful, but rather that their lives will ultimately sway in patterns that are uncomputable to the human mind. 

The “gift” that is being referred to here is simply speaking about that of “natural” creation. The somewhat formally thought of as a “random” creation of consciousness from two already existing beings has been held as sacred for the duration of human existence. The idea that is reminiscent of a “gift” here is that of the curiosity of what is to come in the future, whether it is in the form of a present being unveiled or the presence of a life.

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