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The Perils of Progress

Sir Isaac Newton said, For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This Law of Motion has been proven in every facet of life, yet some people choose to

ignore it. This is largely the case when it comes to genetically modifying organisms.

Scientists began genetic engineering in order to change the DNA of plants and animals

hoping to reap its benefits. However, where there are benefits there are also

consequences. Genetically engineering organisms can and will change those organisms

and make them dangerous in ways that were not present in their natural form. In the name

of progress, man has genetically modified organisms and developed the atomic bomb

and each of these works had dire consequences to the world.

There are several ways that scientists use genetic engineering. They have found

ways to increase the shelf life of produce and other foods by adding preservatives and

other additives in order to help them keep their healthy and nutritious characteristics. In

the case of humans, scientists can manipulate genomes in order to prevent or at least

reduce the severity of diseases such as the many types of cancer. This was and is the main

purpose of genetic engineering, but there is still that opposite reaction.

The idea of bioengineering can be seen in literature as early as 1818 in Mary

Shelleys Frankenstein. In the story, aspiring scientist, Victor Frankenstein develops a

fascination for life and death. He even goes as far as to create his own being from dead

human and animal parts and bring it to life. However, he abandons his creature the

second it comes to life. Frankenstein says, I had desired it with an ardour that far

exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and
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breathless horror and disgust filled my heart (Shelley 42). Although Victors idea of

what he wanted to create would have been groundbreaking for science, the result he got

was a very destructive creation. Victors careless behavior is the root cause of the

monsters destruction. He left his creation to learn the rules of the world on his own.

In the book, The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan, they are not creating a

living creature. Instead they are engineering the atomic bombs that were dropped on

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The people who worked in Oak Ridge had no idea what

they were working on or what they were building until the bomb was dropped on

Hiroshima. In one part of the book Kiernan says, Those girls, hillbilly or no, had been

trained like soldiers. Do what youre told. Dont ask why (Kiernan 110). If it isnt bad

enough that completely ignorant people made the atom bombs, it goes without saying that

there were several consequences that they had to face. Kiernan says, In September, a

month after Little Boy was dropped and Warrens arrival in Japan, the first Western

journalist, Australian Wilfred Burehett, entered Hiroshima. He documented what he

called an atomic plague that continued to kill people (Kiernan 290). The atomic bombs

killed over 100,000 people, some of which died from the lasting nuclear effects rather

than explosion itself.

In conclusion, while some aspects of genetic engineering could be helpful, it is a

very dangerous, unethical, and often irresponsible activity for scientists to take part in.

Whether it is in real life or in a science fiction novel, there are plenty of reasons to not

genetically engineer organisms. Not only can it be harmful to the organism itself, but it

can also endanger its environment, and who knows what dangers it could yield in the

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Works Cited

Kiernan, Denise. The Girls of Atomic City: the Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. Gale,
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Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. First Signet Classics, 1965.