In this electronic day and age where newspapers and magazines are becoming passée I am still reading Readers Digest. I guess all those years of reading them at my Gran’s house and in waiting rooms around the globe has made the old RD a sort of comfy blanket. Comfortable as an old shoe and as reliable as Old Faithful.
It was in this month’s Readers Digest that I read about designer babies. I saw the article in the September issue (I know, it’s August. But that is the fun of monthly magazines, you always get them early) and it was discussing the advantages of using genetic screening to ‘design’ your foetus.
Quite frankly, I was horrified. Have we come this far? I know that what they are talking about is still illegal. But in a world where celebrities and wanna be celebrities have designer dogs, teeth, tits and whatever else you can think of, do we really want babies by design?
The very idea makes me think of Adolph Hitler‘s maniacal quest for breeding the perfect Aryan race. I know that the folks who are suggesting that genetics can help you ‘build’ the perfect child aren’t in Adolph’s class. But dammit, it’s scary!
I am not knowledgeable enough to argue against the idea. My understanding of science and biology doesn’t go much past the high school curriculum level. A high school level that was attained back in the 70’s yet. So if you’re looking for an intelligent debate on the cons of the issue, I suggest you read something by Stephen Hawking, that is, if he even knows about it yet.
No my argument against the genetic building of babies is entirely from the parental point of view. And come to think of it, from the child’s as well. Amazingly I can still remember most, if not all, of my childhood. I know it was a long time ago, but I have been blessed (or cursed) with an excellent memory.
Can you imagine getting into an argument with your ‘specially’ crafted offspring and having them shout back at you, full of indignity, “I didn’t ask to be made this way!”
Or how about…
“Well you designed me! If I’m doing something wrong, it must be your fault!”
My mind is reeling from the very idea of all those issues that genetic enhancing will bring up. I remember yelling at my parents, years ago, the age old complaint from children across the world, “I didn’t ask to be born, you know!” Or the distant cousin of that statement, “I didn’t ask for you to be my parents!”
But disregarding the above scenario altogether, just how is it that scientist’s or gene enhancer’s think that we know what the perfect mix of genes are?
We could get it completely and utterly wrong. Think about it. People right now are and have been raising children who believe that they are special. That they are entitled to everything because of that ‘specialness.’ And just look how the youth of today are turning out. Thankfully, so far at any rate, there are more ‘adjusted’ kids out there who realize that no matter how ‘special’ you are, you still have to work for a living.
But this gene enhancement or splicing or mojo, whatever you want to call it, is a recipe for disaster. What if experts tell us that we need children who can empathize with everyone and can also be sympathetic to their fellow man. The same child can have his aggression gene altered to keep his or her temper levels down. They can be ‘enhanced’ to allow them to be faithful, loyal, trusting, et al.
I am sure that the child who has those genes introduced into its body would grow up to be a gentle, caring, sharing mild mannered wuss. The world could be populated (for a time, at least until the enhancers realize what a boob they’ve made of humanity) literally by the meek. I think the end of mankind might be escalated a bit by a world full of those folks.
I am not saying that the entire idea is bad. I’m sure that it could be used to help stop deformities, disease, and other horrible things that we all pray our babies will not be born with. I am saying that we should be very careful in this, so far, illegal area of science and birth.
Let’s take a minute to think about what we are doing here. Do you really want to be the new Adolph Hitler or worse?
- Genetically engineering babies a “moral obligation” | Jill Stanek (amhec.wordpress.com)
- Genetic Selection Involves Killing (str.typepad.com)
- Genetically engineering ‘ethical’ babies is a moral obligation, says Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics (engineeringevil.com)
- Genetically engineering ‘ethical’ babies is a moral obligation, says Oxford professor (todayonline.com)
- Embryo screening ‘moral obligation’ (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- National News: Embryo screening ‘moral obligation’ (coventrytelegraph.net)
- UK News: Embryo screening ‘moral obligation’ (walesonline.co.uk)
- UK & World News: Embryo screening ‘moral obligation’ (journallive.co.uk)
- Bioethics (keithburgess-jackson.typepad.com)
- Embryo screening ‘moral obligation’ (express.co.uk)
7 thoughts on “Designer Babies? What the Fudge??”
f we could genetically engineer against a pastiche of particularly ugly diseases, that would be worth doing. Design a child that mirrors some possibly bizarre idea of perfection? That’s not just scary, that horrible. Imagine a child trying to live up to the expectations of his or her genetically engineered potential? How awful would that be? A recipe for a miserable child and endlessly disappointed parents.
Someone else made a reference to Gattaca, a movie that relies on gene enhancements to make perfect people and in the future how it has created a class difference and a new kind of prejudice. Scary thought. As if we need a new kind of prejudice in a world that can’t get rid of the prejudices we have now.
That’s a good point about the illusion of specialness and the inflated sense of entitlement it can bring. Have you seen the film “Gattaca”? addressed the desighner baby issue very well.
Spot on with Gattaca! I thought of that as I finished up the post! 🙂
Great article, Mike; this is some freaky stuff. Not a fan of this ‘engineering’ offspring thing at all. It’s one thing, like you said, if it’s used to help in the prevention of deformity and disease, but, assuming this was made legal, who but the incredibly wealthy would be allowed such a service? How scary would that be to think that the highest bidders could one day be ‘engineering’ our leaders for us? There would definitely be a schism; like two separate humanities, and the one would most certainly dominate the other. So, yeah, I see your Hitler point. Weirdly enough, it sort of reminds me of a film a cousin mentioned I should check out called ‘Daybreakers’, where vampires rule over the rest of mankind.
Good film reference! I loved the premise of the film and I am going to review it soon. The other film reference was mentioned by Dan83 – Gattaca. 🙂
I was hoping you’d say ‘Daybreakers’ was a good film, as I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet. Looking forward to your review of it. 🙂 I’ll have to check out Gattaca too!