Analysis | Text-Dependent
Source Lexile®: 1110L-1200L
Prompt: Today you will read an excerpt from the novel, Frankenstein, and read a video transcript from Bill Nye’s “The Eyes of Nye- Cloning.” Consider the points made by each source about the issues surrounding genetic engineering. Write an essay analyzing the arguments of those who believe the process of genetic engineering should be explored and those who believe the opposite. Base the analysis on the specifics of both sources and the arguments they present. The essay should consider the content in both sources.
Frankenstein is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley about the young student of science Victor Frankenstein, who dabbles in genetic engineering when creating a grotesque but emotional creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment.
Members of the scientific community are engaged in an emotional debate on a highly contentious, but personal genetic engineering issue: whether to allow further research on human cloning. “The Eyes of Nye” was a science program airing on public television in the United States in 2005 and featuring Bill Nye. The passage below is a transcript of five minutes from Season 1, Episode 4, 2005, featuring Bill Nye, a scientist, interviewing and researching varying perceptions of cloning. This episode was rated TV-G. The program was based in Seattle, Washington, produced by Buena Vista Television and broadcast during primetime by KCTS, the local PBS affiliate.
Bill Nye: The debate about embryonic stem cell research rages on; it is a debate about life. One side asks should we use this technology that can improve the lives of millions of people who are already here - people who have been struck with disease or injury? On the other side, the question is when does life begin? Some believe life begins the moment the first cell divides, so if the petri dish holds living cells, is it morally acceptable to redirect those cells and transform them into something they wouldn't otherwise become? Then there are concerns about the industrialization of life. Should human embryos be declared inventions that you could patent? That’s what we have to figure out. But how do we pursue a thoughtful discussion about stem cell research? Can we find a way to make our trains meet?
Bioethicist Dr. Jeffrey Kahn: Overall, we are all ethics experts because we'll have to make decisions about what's right and wrong. It's not fair to ask me or any one person what's the right place where we draw the line. It's a question that we all have to answer collectively and socially because it's an issue of social policy. We have to decide at what point do we think it's acceptable to use human embryos, a potentially past human embryo, and we have to answer - is an embryo, a human embryo (in terms of its moral status) more like the cells that are scraped out of your cheek, or more like the person who is sitting before you today? I think it's in between; the question is, I think, not whether there is some moral status of human embryos, because I think most people think there is some moral status, but it's not full human being personhood status, and it's not mere tissue – it’s in between those two; the question is what's the moral benefit we can get from doing this? It's really a balance – there needs to be a concrete reason that it's worth doing research on human embryos that causes their destruction. There's a real cost doing this research, but the benefits are great enough to outweigh those costs.
Nye: What do you think would be the tipping point for therapeutic cloning, moral rethinking?
Kahn: The first kind of therapeutic benefit will not be for building new hearts, that's too complicated. It will be for taking cells and turning them on in ways that will treat disease like diabetes. I think it will likely be the first case. How many tens of millions of people in the U.S. have diabetes of some form or another, from kids through elder adults? We would have a huge impact on people's lives and health, and so then you say, “Wow!” - there's a real benefit to a lot of people, not just a few people, a lot of people. How can we hold them hostage, hold their welfare hostage, hold their health hostage, because we think that these tiny cluster of cells have somehow more moral status than they do? That's the argument.
Nye: Are we going to pass laws to regulate cloning? Right now if I understand it - it's illegal for any kind of cloning in the U.S.
Kahn: Actually there is no law against cloning in the U.S. That’s what is sort of amazing about the current stalemate in Congress. The House of Representatives has passed two cloning bans in the last two sessions, but the Senate has not acted either time, and so we have no law. And so it's actually perfectly permissible to do cloning in the U.S. now.
Nye: So what's your strong feeling, what's your view, and if I understand it, where is this line drawn?
Kahn: I think we ought to allow human embryos, certainly those that are leftover from reproductive purposes; they're not going to be used for reproduction anymore; they will be discarded anyway to be used in stem cell research with federal money so that would be an expansion of what the current policy allows.
The video stated the following items on several slides:
Nye: We've come to a threshold in human history - stem cells could improve or save millions of lives, so I'm in favor of therapeutic cloning; growing embryos just for their cells is unnatural, but so is my appendectomy and polio vaccines. This is different because we're talking about embryos, but we each have to decide - is a microscopic ball of undifferentiated cells where the fertilizer clones - a person? See there are people and institutes full of people called bioethicists and they study the ethics of life. But when it comes time to vote, what's the difference between them and you and me - nothing! That’s why we have to think about cloning; you have to think about stem cell research so we can all make good decisions as citizens and for our society.