Does the Human Genome Project Affect the Moral Standards of Society?

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Can the information produced by it become a beneficial asset or a moral evil? Take, for instance, the utilization of X chromosome markers in a genetic race or class distinction. These markers can be employed to identify a person’s ethnicity or class (Murphy,34). It may seem like innocuous data collected from the progress of the Human Genome Project. However, let’s imagine this information is employed to restrict entry into countries, determine social class, or even determine who receives preferential treatment. Can the consequences of this information impact the moral standards of a society?

The answers to various questions are relevant to the challenges of the Human Genome Project. To comprehend these subjects, it is necessary to closely examine the terminology. According to Websters Dictionary, morality is defined as ethics, upright conduct, or behavior judged from a moral perspective. It also defines a moral as pertaining to right and wrong and the differences between them. A Genome refers to “the entirety of an individual’s genetic material,” which encompasses “the portion of the cell responsible for heredity” (Lee,4).

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“Genome projects” refer to research and technology efforts focused on mapping and sequencing large portions or whole genomes (Congress, 4). These projects involve multiple organizations in both government and private industry worldwide. Additionally, an understanding of the controversies surrounding the Human Genome Project can be enhanced by considering the project’s historical background, its organizational structure, and the moral debates surrounding it.

The Human Genome Project greatly values the significant events in genetic history as genetics plays a crucial role in the project. Genetics, which focuses on studying the inheritance patterns of specific traits (Congress, 202), forms the foundation of genetic history. The origins of genetic history can be traced back to ancient practices of selective breeding aimed at producing desired traits in future generations. This practice, which involved choosing particular physical and behavioral traits through careful selection, can be seen as a form of genetic manipulation (Gert, 2).

Furthermore, the study conducted by Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk, on garden peas laid the foundation for the quantitative field of genetics. Mendel’s research elucidated that the transmission of traits can be attributed to factors transmitted across generations, commonly known as genes. The entire collection of an organism’s genes is referred to as its genome (Congress,3). These characteristics can be attributed to the inheritance of one or multiple genes influenced by environmental factors. Mendel also accurately posited the presence of two copies of each factor and the dominance of one inheritance factor over another (Gert,3).

The next significant events in the genetic history involved the discovery of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which is a part of genes. Scientists found that DNA is in the form of a double helix and holds the blueprints for all living things (Congress,3). It was also discovered that DNA is packed into chromosomes, with 23 pairs present in each human cell. Additionally, each parent contributes one chromosome from each pair. DNA is composed of nucleotide chains, which consist of four bases, commonly represented by A, C, T, and G. The specific arrangement of these bases forms a sequence, which serves as instructions for producing proteins, molecules responsible for cellular structure and biochemical functions. In the context of genetics, a marker refers to any location on a chromosome that allows for the identification and tracking of inheritance (202).

Genetic mapping relies on markers, which can be specific areas of genes (DNA) or segments of DNA with no coding function but traceable inheritance. These markers are employed to determine if an individual possesses certain traits, inherent factors, or other genetic information, by isolating particular regions of DNA through genetic mapping.

Conclusively, the progression of genetic history, from ancient selective breeding to Mendel’s garden peas to the present gene isolation, has been achieved through the collaborative efforts of various organizations and scientists. The Human Genome Project encompasses multiple aims, and in order to comprehend the ethical concerns associated with the project, it is essential to evaluate its nature. One of its objectives encompasses DNA databases that encompass sequences, location markers, genes, and the functionality of comparable genes (Congress,7).

The objective is to create human chromosome maps using DNA markers to locate genes. Additionally, a research repository will be established to hold organized sets of DNA fragments representing the full DNA in chromosomes. New instruments will be developed for the analysis of DNA. Furthermore, novel chemical, physical, and computational methods will be employed for DNA analysis. This research will also strive to develop similar technologies for studying other organisms.

The Human Genome Project’s main objective is to determine the DNA sequence of a substantial part of the human genome and other organisms. This ambitious endeavor is led by organizations including the Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and various private entities. Their collective goal is to integrate new methods and instruments into molecular biology while also establishing research infrastructure for genetics. A comprehensive understanding of the Human Genome Project’s objectives is essential for making ethical evaluations concerning this genetic technology.

The Human Genome Project presents ethical dilemmas that can be addressed by understanding universal moral values. To do this, a moral theory is necessary to clarify and validate the ethical framework used in making moral judgments and decisions in moral predicaments (Gert, 31). This theory relies on logical reasoning and it is important for individuals facing moral judgment to be familiar with it. Consequently, it can be reasonably argued that morality should be accessible to the public.

Comprehending and following ethical expectations is crucial for individuals within the public system. Like a game, this system functions under governing rules. All participants must be cognizant of these rules to partake in the game. Violations of these rules result in penalties imposed by fellow players, adhering to the established regulations. Nevertheless, if there is a consensus to alter the rules, the game can continue without any penalties.

According to the author, the aim of common morality is to reduce harm suffered by those it protects (47). This morality is limited by the need for understanding among all those affected. Violations that are justified also exist within common morality. Similar to how acceptance occurs when rules in a game are changed, public perception should view morality not as something negative but as a decision supported by common morals. The Human Genome Project and any controversies surrounding genetic race or class differences can be evaluated using a set of common moral standards. Just as killing is generally considered wrong but can be justified in cases of self-defense, the Human Genome Project can be examined using this same moral framework.

The ethical implications of genetic information rely on the moral values of society, which are determined by public judgments of what is right and wrong. The fundamental dilemma created by genetics revolves around whether it will be viewed as a beneficial addition to society’s collective moral code or as a detrimental influence based on the assessment of accurate and inaccurate information. Whether this perspective is considered acceptable depends on the framework of the particular society, as societal perspectives can change over time.


  1. Congress of the United States, Office of Technology Assessment,
  2. Mapping OurGenes: Genome Projects: How Big, How Fast?,
  3. Johns Hopkins UniversityPress: Baltimore,1988. Gert,
  4. Bernard, Morality and the New Genetics: A Guide for Students and HealthCare Providers,
  5. Jones and Bartlett: Sudbury, Massachusetts,1996. Lee,
  6. Thomas F., The Human Genome Project: Cracking the Genetic Code of Life,
  7. Plenum Press: New York, 1991. Murphy, Timothy F., and Lappe,
  8. Marc, ed., Justice and the Human GenomeProject, University of California Press: Berkeley, 1994.

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Does the Human Genome Project Affect the Moral Standards of Society?. (2019, Mar 27). Retrieved from

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