It seems that all societies are always striving for perfection. From the beginning of time, people have always worked to be the best. Sometimes, wars had to be fought. Other times compromises had to be made. But in the end, it all came down to one concept. Every community, every city, every nation was looking for perfection. In his Republic, Plato feels that he knows how to reach this ultimate goal. He suggests a society with the best government where all people are happy and everything is equal. Plato’s Republic gives a method for reproduction in this infallible society.
Plato’s plan almost looks as though it is quite similar to the concept of eugenics in modern day society. Plato’s idea of reproduction may become a reality; yet it is headed in a much more dangerous direction than Plato ever thought possible. Just as Plato felt so many years ago, government involvement is critical in this issue today. With recent developments in genetic research, the communities of today are in danger of eugenics. The human genome project is one reason for this. This project did an incredible thing. It coded for every single gene in human DNA. We now know what traits are linked with what genes.
This is a wonderful discovery in the area of diseases. Scientists will be able to track diseases and find cures; however, it also opens the door to new genetic ideas. Parents are learning much more about their children before they are even born causing an increase the number of abortions because parents discover that their child will have a fatal disease or a disability. They feel it is better to end the child’s life than have it live this way. And this is only the beginning. Scientists are working towards a new genetic test where parents are able to choose the traits of their future children.
In this test, parents will give a fertilized egg to scientists who will then tell them all of their child’s traits. After that, parents will have the option to change any of these traits. Everyone will want nothing but the best for their children so “super” children will be running around. All of the kids will be the smartest, the strongest, the fastest – basically the best. Society will grow extremely homogeneous and eugenics will take over. Only certain people will be accepted in this type of environment. Those who lack the accepted traits will be shunned and ridiculed.
Plato’s Republic has another idea for reproduction. He talks about a completely different type of tradition. In Plato’s perfect society, once a year all the people of the town come together for a type of reproductive festival. The leaders of the town will choose one male and one female name at random. These two people will then conceive a child. This lottery continues at each festival until the proper number of people have been chosen. But there is a catch. The lottery will be fixed. The leaders of the town will arrange it so that the best men and the best women reproduce together most often.
Meanwhile, the people with less desirable traits will not reproduce as often due to the fixed lottery. Yet they will blame this on luck rather than the government leaders. No one would know that the lottery was fixed. So what would this do for a society? It will create a group of people with qualities that are considered to be the best. Only the strong will reproduce so only strong will be produced. Because of this method, Plato’s society will be better than any other. It will create a town with nothing but the best. Plato’s idea is very similar to the genetic ideas of today.
The main goal behind each is to produce the best and the brightest. Both plans will weed out the undesirable traits and create societies with “perfect” individuals. Another name for this is eugenics. What Plato did not realize is that he was working towards much discrimination in his society. Those with the unwanted traits would be looked down upon and considered as weak compared with the strong individuals. This same situation of weeding out the imperfections would occur with the genetic testing that is being proposed now.
These two ideas, one proposed so many years ago, and the other only just starting, are extremely similar. The only difference between the two is that Plato’s idea is much less advanced. Recent progression in genetics has taken Plato’s idea and stepped it up. Who would have thought that over such a time gap people would have the same question as well as a similar answer? Plato had the government involved in his reproductive lottery, and likewise, today’s government should be involved in the issue of genetic tests. Plato put the administration in charge of this strange lottery.
He had them fixing the selections and running the festival. The government was crucial in the idea of weeding out the undesirable traits. They had the power to choose what the desirable traits were and who had them. Through this government, every child created would come from two desirable parents. The government of today should also be involved in the recent advancements but not quite in the same way that Plato proposed. Today’s government should put restrictions on the genetic testing rather than support it. So far, the government has been avoiding the subject of genetic tests.
They have passed no laws about how much science can release to the public on prenatal testing. But it is time for them to take a stand. They need to pass legislation on discrimination based on genetic tests as well as what types of genetic tests will be available to the people. Without having these restrictions, today’s society may actually turn into Plato’s Republic. It looks as though this may not be as perfect as Plato had intended. One such restriction that would possibly help in preventing this idea of eugenics is passing a national privacy law.
This law would state that a person’s genetic sequence is their private possession. No one has the right to request it or obtain it by force. The only exception to this would be doctors who are looking out for the physical well-being of their patients. This restriction creates a first step in the direction that our society needs to go. There are many advantages to this privacy law. First, because doctors could get these sequences, the technology could be used in a beneficial way for our society. Gene sequences would allow doctors to find a problem sooner and decide the best treatment for the patient.
However, no one else would be able to obtain the information. Insurance companies could not discriminate against people with genes for diseases or certain weaknesses. Companies will have to hire based on past accomplishments and qualifications. A person’s gene sequence will not come into play. This may even persuade parents to continue having children naturally. There would be no danger of genetic competition. Much of the discrimination that could easily come about will be deterred. This proposed privacy law is not the only solution.
It almost completely ignores the idea of prenatal genetic tests. Parents will still be able to create the “perfect” child through gene sequencing. This is probably the biggest problem with this issue. Yet a privacy law would provide some type of solution. This country has to start somewhere and a privacy law would be a good place to do this. It is difficult to come up with one solution because the issue of eugenics is such a complex one right now. Since this is a country of freedom and liberty, the government has to be careful as to where it restricts people.
The proposed law enhances people’s freedoms rather than limiting them since everyone can choose who sees the code for their personal genes. However, many laws on this issue would cause much debate and protest. For instance, right now parents can discover if their child-to-be has a genetic disease or not. This has caused an increase in the number of abortions. Parents do not want their children to have anything less than a full life. If a law were passed that did not allow doctors to inform parents of this, many people would debate it.
They may say that not only is it restricting abortion, but it is holding back vital information from the parents. This deals with people’s personal lives which is always a touchy subject in countries where freedom is as important as it is in the United States. No one wants their personal lives interrupted by the government and they will fight to keep things that way. Yet in this case, government involvement is detrimental. With an issue as large and important as this, there is only one way to reach a conclusion. The government needs to consider many different proposals and ask the public for suggestions as well as feedback on the ideas.
After that, an idea should be decided upon and Congress should consider it. A unanimous decision would never be reached but with much discussion and debate, something could be passed. The government cannot allow society to go down a path towards eugenics. It is true that basically every society experiences discrimination at some level or another. That could almost be considered a part of communities. They just come with discrimination. However, with Plato’s method for reproduction, the injustice that people feel will only get worse.
Plato has created a way to specifically point out certain qualities that make a particular person better than another. He has also determined ways to pass these qualities on. This only makes the discrimination much more abundant. In the same way, this would happen with the recent genetic advancements. Even the term eugenics in itself means “good at birth” promoting a discriminatory ideal. This society that may develop will be the same as Plato’s, singling out certain qualities as best, but it will be so much more advanced that people will be able to look at specific genes to discriminate.
Although from the beginning of time societies have contained some type of discrimination, these two methods of reproduction will merely intensify the horrible practice. The United States has reached a critical point in genetic technology. It will now be possible to become Plato’s Republic at a much more advanced level. The question then asked is does this country want to change into Plato’s utopian society. This place that Plato considered to be perfect seems to be filled with discrimination. There are better ways to create life that would not be as discriminatory. The way that people have been having children for years seems to work fine.