Designer Babies: a benefit or a threat?

by ptrack on September 12, 2016 - 11:00pm

The fact is we have been leading up to designer babies for a long time now and as science becomes more and more advanced, we are confronted with increasingly complex ethical questions.

 

Back in 1996 a family who wanted to have a girl after having had two boys, selected their embryo to be sure they would have a girl.  For years now we have had technology that allows us to check if babies have malformations either with embryo screening techniques used in invitro fertilization, or amniocentesis in the case of natural births.  Statistics show that 92% of people who find out their child has downs syndrome will choose to abort the baby.  When it comes to sperm donors, one can even chose the donor with the characteristics that suit them best. These are all forms of designing babies.  

 

In more recent times however, there have been developments in science that will allow us to make specific genetic alterations.  This is done by replacing or erasing part of DNA strands.  This new technology is called CRISPR and it is essentially a cellular scalpel in where small enzymes cut out the unwanted genomes.  This has already been used successfully to cut out the gene mutation that lead to HIV and sickle cell anemia.  While it is still in its infancy (pun intended), scientists seems to be very confident that the technology will soon be precise enough  to be viable.  This means that we will soon be faced with the reality of true designer babies,  where anything may be possible.  This means that it is quite possible, that one day you could be looking at a menu choosing the characteristics of your first born child as if you were deciding what to order at restaurant.  Are you comfortable with this idea?  

 

There are some clearly positive aspects to being able to genetically modify humans.  So many actually, that it could change the world as we know it today.  We could be disease free.  We could live hundreds of years longer, we could be stronger and smarter which would lead to the possibility of even more discoveries to the benefit of the human race.  We could figure out a way to live in space, to modify our bodies to be able to withstand space travel… the possibilities are endless.  

 

However, there are possible negative aspects that could also develop as we toy with the most natural thing in human life, the process of reproduction.  Some people find the very act of interfering with human reproduction, tampering with the will of nature, to be morally questionable.  In fact the ability to custom-order your child seems closer to an act of consumerism, like buying a new car to suit your own needs and wants. Will children simply become an accessory to complement their parents’s sense of style?  Additionally, this could lead over time to a lack of diversity if the same traits were chosen over and over again.  in fact this could be quite detrimental to the evolution of the human race which has historically thrived on diversity.  Finally, like anything, having a designer baby would not be cheap, just like in-vitro fertilization.  This could lead to the human race being even more divided and unequal than it already is.  With only wealthy people being able to afford these genetic modifications, the divide between the rich and the poor would grow exponentially, as the rich managed to not only eliminate any illnesses and abnormalities but also to improve their physical and mental traits.  

 

I am in favour of the genetic modification of humans, for this technology has far too many benefits to be disregarded.  That being said, I only support its use for health related reasons, such as eliminating cancer or HIV, because of the great benefit this brings to society.  I most definitely do not support the use of this technology for non essential reasons such as choosing your child’s pretty eyes or ensuring they have a great jaw line because this could quickly descend into a consumerist practice that goes against the will of nature while bringing no real benefits to humanity.  I also believe that genetic modifications would have to be universally accessible, If not free, then very close to free so as to prevent any sort of inequality in access.  Clearly, the only way this could be done is if there was  strict control over this technology.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Khazan, Olga. "We're Already Designing Babies." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 33 July 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.

Liss-Schultz, Nina. "We Are This Close to "designer Babies"" Mother Jones. Mother Jones, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.

Ly, By Sarah. "The Embryo Project Encyclopedia." Ethics of Designer Babies. Arizona State University. School of Life Sciences. Center for Biology and Society. Embryo Project Encyclopedia., 31 Mar. 2011. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.

 

 

Comments

It's weird to think that humanity is coming close to designing our own babies. Your topic is an interesting and controversial one, which adds depth to your article. It's obviously a moral issue that we'll have to face soon and both decisions might lead to people having a bad taste in their mouth. This was an excellent choice of a topic and it provides a lot for people to debate

Personally I'm quite mixed on the idea of modifying our own babies. On one side, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth as the idea of people being able to modify their children to their own whim sounds wrong. Parents being able to chose their child's jaw line sounds absurd, and I agree with you on that point. We shouldn't play god because we aren't gods, we're humans and there's too much power in hand in these procedures. It reminds me of eugenics, which as we know, didn't turn out that well. Creating this superior race can complicate matters for the future. As you said, people looking at non-modified children as beneath them can cause social unrest. We can have another class war on our hands where the "superior" children will attempt to assert their dominance over the "inferior". Although I do agree with you in terms of medical reason, if we are able to prevent damaging diseases to manifest themselves in our children, then we should pursue it. These advancements could save lives and that is for the good of humanity. The greater good is important, but we shouldn't create a world were inequality is greater than it is today.

Once again, excellence choice of topic, and it brings up the question, would these advancements increase class tension and class inequality within our societies ?

Your title is very attractive and caught my attention right away. You have strong arguments on both sides of the debate that help us create our own opinion on the topic. It is shocking to see that this will obviously become an important subject of discussion since more and more people are thinking of taking advantage of this technology.

I agree with your opinion that it is not acceptable to pick-and-choose your own baby, you are supposed to love and respect your child no matter how he or she is going to be. You say that 92% of people who find out their child has downs syndrome will choose to abort the baby. It is huge! They are killing a living embryo, only for their own satisfaction and for an easier life to come. This is how selfish a human being can be and I find this horrifying and completely unethical. Just as you, I think it is also right to use this technology only in cases where it could be to eliminate cancer or HIV.

So many women are against the perfect image and representation of a women in the magazines being tall, thin, white, gorgeous, etc. and therefore they are ready to conceive exactly the same thing, the image of a perfect baby, with their own child? Isn't it ironic?

As a reader your title was very captivating and interesting! Using a statistic and discussing a real case scenario lead to a very interesting and informative introduction. I really enjoyed your editorial style of writing. I also wrote about this topic and found it interesting to see how your interpreted the same topic. We definitely agree on some of the arguments!

I completely agree with you that this technology could be used for the greater good. You can definitely apply the two following principles to your arguments for development of CRISPR: life is fundamentally valuable and acting for the greater good. These two principles would definitely correspond to taking this technology and using it to save lives and treat diseases. However I also agree with you that it can be used for very unethical reasons, such as designing babies to have certain physical characteristics that we consider beautiful!

The Chinese have already conducted a controversial experiment where they used this technology to correct a blood disease in non-viable embryos, do you think it would be possible to universally control the use of CRISPR?

I find this topic very controversial and super interesting. I did a project last year on this subject and like you, at first a thought that we should be allowed to design our babies if it was for health reasons. But after thinking, it’s completely going against the nature. I we design all the babies; we completely change the nature of life. Disease are there for a reason, it’s natural selection. We need some sort of selection like that. Imagine if all of us where in good shape and lived until were 95. How the planet would handle all of us? I think that something else would replace the diseases to exterminate us to have a balance in our world. I think that everybody would want perfectly healthy child, but in my opinion it’s going against the humans faith.