Ethics and Eugenics

I find it interesting to note that the concept of the improvement of mankind does not sound inherently bad. People today come up with new kinds of medicine that allows for better health and even longer life. However, the advancement of human can only go so far before raising ethical issues. The concept of eugenics offers the improving of a human population through controlled breeding in order to produce desirable hereditary traits (Google). This science sounds promising, but produces both negative and positive aspects.

Negative eugenics defines a discouragement of reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have undesirable traits (Dictionary). In this way, hereditary traits by chance are eliminated through an individual’s genome, therefore creating the optimal person. Positive eugenics defines the encouragement of reproduction by persons presumed to desirable traits (Dictionary). The wording is opposite in both connotations, but the latter presents itself as choosing which traits in an individual’s genome which will allow him his or her greatest potential.

This raises an ethical problem concerning the genuine value of a human individual. In Andrew Niccol’s film Gattaca, these issues regarding eugenics are exploited in a dystopian society governed by the genes of scientifically modified people. Vincent Freeman, who is born through normal copulation is called a “Godchild” and labeled as an “In-Valid.” Whereas individuals who have undergone genetic modification before birth are given the highest recognition in society, including Vincent’s own brother Anton, called “Valids,” while “In-Valids” are never given a chance beyond their potential as calculated from their genes. This discrimination creates a discrepancy between those who are born gifted from those who work hard to achieve their dreams. Though humans in this dystopic structure are, smarter, stronger, and more advanced, the film expresses the negative connotation of genetics.

Gattaca expression of discrimination takes on ethics with hard science: individuals are better than each other based on their genetic statistics. However, the entitled elites of Gattaca are not to blame for their genes, rather it is the system at large which has played its hands as God to make humans “better.” This can lead to further debate about the creation of man by the work of God, and the ultimate folly of those who have reached too far to be Him. Man can at their best attempt to be like God, but they cannot control every human to the smallest of details, as the film describes: “There is no gene for the human spirit.”


In the same essence as that of the film, eugenics ceases to be viable today in a refute of morality and even seen in history. Eugenics in the negative connotation has taken form as genocide, such as that of the holocaust and Nazism ideal of the Aryan race as the supreme people. Eugenics has made its mark in history, and thus I see that this scientific movement will not advance very significantly within a few decades.


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