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Genetic Engineering and Building a Better Soldier: Captain America vs. Ironman

*subhead*Use things, not people.*subhead*
COMMENTARY: Volunteering our bodies for non-therapeutic enhancement and experimentation isn’t patriotic.

I will admit the question was loaded. I asked various Catholics, through my blog and social media, who was a better role model: Captain America or Ironman?

The answers weren’t surprising. The overwhelming choice was Captain America. Steve Rogers isn’t only a paragon of courage and patriotism, he’s an all-around nice guy, a champion for the weak and an example of self-sacrifice. Tony Stark, on the other hand, is a greedy narcissist whose philandering nearly everyone finds repugnant.

The question seemed outright ridiculous to some. Captain America was the obvious choice.
But being a role model doesn’t just hinge on personality traits. Captain America is a quietly subversive character. His origin is morally problematic. Rogers was an otherwise healthy soldier who was experimented on by his government — to make him a weapon of war. He was irrevocably changed by enhancements to his body.

The Catholic Church is very clear that genetic enhancements are unethical. Genetic engineering to cure or treat disease is good, but genetic engineering of a healthy person to make him stronger, faster or smarter is morally wrong. The “Charter for Health Care Workers” by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance states:
“In moral evaluation, a distinction must be made between strictly ‘therapeutic’ manipulation, which aims to cure illnesses caused by genetic or chromosome anomalies (genetic therapy), and manipulation, ‘altering’ the human genetic patrimony. A curative intervention, which is also called ‘genetic surgery,’ will be considered desirable in principle, provided its purpose is the real promotion of the personal well-being of the individual, without damaging his integrity or worsening his condition of life.”
The document continues:
“On the other hand, interventions which are not directly curative, the purpose of which is ‘the production of human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities,’ which change the genotype of the individual and of the human species, ‘are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being, to his integrity and to his identity. Therefore, they can be in no way justified on the pretext that they will produce some beneficial results for humanity in the future.’ ‘No social or scientific usefulness and no ideological purpose could ever justify an intervention on the human genome unless it be therapeutic; that is, its finality must be the natural development of the human being.’”
Captain America’s enhancements may not have been genetic in nature, but the goal of the experimentation he endured was certainly not “the natural development of the human being.”

It matters not that he volunteered for the good of his country. It was still wrong.

Continue reading at the National Catholic Register>>

Rebecca Taylor blogs at Mary Meets Dolly

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