Is there reason for concern over the era of "designer babies" being on hand?Leading human geneticists have rarely taken the more controversial aspects of their work seriously. Most argue that it...
Leading human geneticists have rarely taken the more controversial aspects of their work seriously. Most argue that it has no relation to anything resembling eugenics. They scoff at the possibility of human cloning and see little likelihood that their discoveries can be misused. So, would it be foolish to ignore the impending decisions we may soon confront?
At the moment, it is still difficult to make deliberate changes in fetal growth; certain things can be done to nudge a child's biological makeup in various directions, but we haven't quite gotten to the point where we can say, "Oh, here, we'll swap these genes and boom! Blue eyes and straight teeth!" It's still more of a hit-or-miss deal.
However, remember that a previous movement to control and idealize the human race ended in one of the most monstrous acts of genocide in history... and it all started with Eugenics, essentially a selective breeding program.
It is always a good idea to consider the future ramifications of the actions that we take now. When would be a better time? As brettd mentioned above, we won't ever be able to put "the genie back in the bottle" and it is important that the authorities and agencies who regulate these emerging technologies and who address the ethics of these technologies continue to talk about what one day "might be." As a scientific community we are progressing at a rate that is previously unheard of. What starts as a science-fiction-like story line becomes our reality very quickly -- many times to our benefit, but not always.
The technology as well as the market for "designer babies", as pohnpei suggests, may well be some ways off in the future, and is unlikely to develop in a short time period. This would give the industry, for lack of a better word, to be regulated and/or prohibited. That being said, humans do tend to underestimate the potential for abuse in scientific technology, and once reliable eugenics is developed, we cannot put the genie back in the bottle. Someone, somewhere will begin offering it to the public for a price, probably in a country where moral and practical limits on science are not a priority.
In reference to post #6, I have a Chinese American niece, and yes - as the extended family has learned more about the one child per family policy and the preference for that child to be a boy, we have seen information about the changing dynamics stemming from the exodus of girls.
I think the ethical considerations that the age of "designer babies" are going to be very controversial and heartbreaking in some cases. I have no idea how it's all going to come out, but it's going to be a long process and I pray for wisdom for those who will be making the decisions.
Absolutely. I gather from previous posts that few are aware that China is already beginning to face the ramifications of parents being able to choose the gender of thier babies. While in the long run China's gender imbalance will probably further reduce their huge population, which is not a bad thing, the imbalance serves as a warning of what can happen if parents can "customize" their children.
Time to re-read Dr Seuess' "The Sneetches" again....
I don't think it's a real concern yet. I don't think that there's enough technology out there for us to be at the point where we really need to worry about people being able to engineer children to their specifications. It's certainly something that sounds like it might someday be possible, but I don't think that we're near enough to it yet to make it worth worrying about or trying to legislate.
Have you ever seen the movie Gattica? It is an interesting story about the future of the nation and how everyone has been designed. Those who were not designed then are of course the outcasts, the undesirables. This has been the main topic of many short stories or novels.
In history, whenever people decide to mess with science, it has led to further problems for humankind.
I always got a huge kick out of the designer dogs. Basically, this has been going on in nature for a while. But here, it seems--wrong. If two people really want a child who shows certain physical characteristics, the parents should examine the genetic make-ups of themselves and hope for the best. Outside of that, it seems a little too Victor Frankenstein for me.
I don't think most people will create designer babies, but even the fact that they can gives me the creeps. I don't think it's right to choose your child's traits, especially gender. When you mess with nature, bad things can happen. However I don't think it's a major catastophe because most people won't be able to afford it.