Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Design-A-Baby?

Thanks to Carlos for this interesting story about new techniques that will allow parents to choose at least some of the traits of their unborn children. Please read the story and then comment on whether or not you think this is cool or disturbing, and why:-)

9 comments:

period7adarsha is unoriginal said...

I don't see what's wrong with this at all. In fact, I see this as a huge leap forward for society in general.

The "playing God" argument is just fear-mongering. Ooh, we're not moral enough to make big decisions like this. Well, quit imposing your values on others then-if somebody wants to design their baby, then let them. Besides, by accepting the role of taking care of a future child, they've shown that they can make big moral decisions. And what exactly is wrong with playing God? So what if we're not perfect, nobody is. Just because we're not some omnipotent sky fairy doesn't mean we don't have the right to make decisions for ourselves.

Second point. This kind of stuff is merely humans taking natural selection into our own hands. What exactly is wrong with that? We have an ability that can make the lives of future generations easier and make them more productive, so don't we have a moral obligation to future generations to do this stuff then?

Third point. Those who claim that now, only "perfect" babies will be allowed (there are a lot of people, trust me), NOBODY IS FORCING YOU TO DO THIS. This is your choice. You don't need to, but if you want to, it's merely an option.

Fourth point. Those who claim that the children who are genetically modified will have an advantage in school and life, etc. and that's unfair-NO FREAKING WAY! I mean, genetically modified children might not be like normal kids? Captain obvious strikes again. Once more, it is your choice to have an (arguably) enhanced kid or to have a kid without these modifications (they might quite easily still turn out to be smart, athletic, musical, etc.). It's your choice, and if you don't do so and whine that it's not fair, you have only yourself to blame. Don't scapegoat the system and cry when you're at fault.

Overall, I view this whole development as a massive leap forward for society (and science too, but that's not the issue at hand).

I would love to hear arguments from the opposing side.

Period7Anna-Isabella said...

We already had this argument on CPSNet, but apparently we're having it here too.

I can sort of see your point, Adarsha. So parents are making big decisions. The thing that scares me about this is not that people are making big decisions -- it's that the decisions they make are to change other people. If this were about genetically modifying yourself, then fine. Yes, I still have a problem with that, but I could deal with it. But choosing how someone else will be born -- choosing what they will look like, what they will be good at, who knows how far it could go? Maybe their personality -- I don't think that's okay. And yeah, that's me imposing my morals on other people. But what are those people doing? They're imposing their values on their children, in a way that gives those children no possible way to change or escape their parents' values.

Of course, parents impose their own values on their child from the minute that child is born. But a child who is raised by doctors can become a musician if he/she really wants to. It may not always work out, but the child has some chance. A child who is raised to be religious can choose not to be. A child who is raised Atheist can convert to Islam, or Catholicism, or Wicca. But a child who is genetically modified can never undo that modification. If those doctor parents modify their child so that he/she is good at biology and bad at music, that's it. Does that child have a chance of becoming a musician? Not really. Will they want to? Who knows? If I want red hair, I can die my hair red. If I want purple eyes, I can get purple contacts. The point for me is that I have a choice. My parents already raise me, impose their values on me. They don't have the right to choose who I will be, too.

And no, nobody is physically forcing you to do this. But if it gets to the point (and who knows if it will) where everyone's doing this -- where everyone has the option of choosing their child's characteristics, then most people are going to choose to make their child smart, athletic, musical, beautiful, ambitious, etc. And if anyone doesn't, their child will be at a disadvantage. Because there are very few people who are naturally smart, athletic, musical, and beautiful. How many people do you know who are all of those things? If everybody is genetically enhanced to be all of those things, then some of the people I know now who have three of those qualities, but not the fourth, would be at a bad disadvantage. And those are only four characteristcs.

I don't think we'll be at that point anytime soon. And yes, I am reading Brave New World right now. But really I'm not scared of our society turning into that -- I just don't think parents should be able to choose their childrens' personalities. That's not making decisions for ourselves. It's making decisions for people who can't do anything about it.

Robbie Newell said...

Didn't we see a clip of a movie from this?

I see the two sides of it, but I think it is better of to let nature do its work. The playing God argument I still think is valid. Because when we begin to mess around with tuff that we don't fully understand or know how to deal with, it can get it a little messy. It is also basically saying to your baby that they wouldn't be good enough they way you are.

This is not humans taking natural selection into their own hands. Hence the word "natural." We would essentially make different "breeds" of humans as it went on. This would lead to a world like what we se ein dogs as races/qualities which we deem inferior are taken out until we are all tan, blond and blue eyed.

Third, going off of the whole we'd become one race kind of thing, all babies would eventually become the super babies. I mean, who would NOT want to give their kid a foot up in the world? Imagine all the little "normy" kids being made fun of the the other fourth graders who are in calculus theory and discussing the fine point of Lacanian theory.Soon, no more babies will be grown and then we live in the matrix or skynet becomes self-aware.

And these kids (as said above) would have a huge advantage. The kid might turn out just as smart, but it is not garunteed. Therefore, those people that can AFFORD to genetically modify their children will have teh advantage over those that can't.

So in conclusion, there's your answers adarsha.

period 7 Rachel said...

So I am a bit divided on this issue.
First of all the movie Robbie was talking about, Gattica, brought up some hypothetical problems about this type of advancement. Procedures like this would only increase inequalities between the rich and the poor as one of the scientists in the article pointed out.
However, I also see the point that this is a big technological advancement and perhaps it will help us evolve, but I can definately see the slippery slope argument. And as Anna said I do have issues with people hand picking personalities if this were ever possible. I do think that this type of position should be the parents' choice and should not be forced on anybody.
Also, I understand Robbie's point that this is not natural, but at the same time the natural intellect of humans created this advancement, so perhaps we should take advantage of it.
Clearly, I see both sides, but I think it is undeniable that this is an incredibly amazing advancement that could cause a lot of turmoil

period7adarsha is unoriginal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
period7adarsha is unoriginal said...

Quick point on Anna:

The concept/notion that you can genetically condition someone's mind to be predisposed, or naturally inclined, towards a particular subject (excluding athletics here, because steroids can do the same thing as genetic enhancement) is RIDICULOUS. The genes that control the parts of the brain dealing with such matters control many other functions as well, and currently, I doubt scientists know all the side effects of modifying those genes. Besides, read Talent is Overrated. It's a great book, and it totally shows that nurture plays a much bigger role than nature-examples are given abundantly, so don't refute unless you've read the book.

Onto Robbie:

"It is also basically saying to your baby that they wouldn't be good enough they way you are.

No. It can be just saying that "I want to help you be the best you can be, and I'm willing to pay for it." You're assuming stuff Robbie.

"this would lead to a world like what we se ein dogs as races/qualities which we deem inferior are taken out until we are all tan, blond and blue eyed. "

WTF? Pardon the language, but how does social Darwinism work here? The whole notion was disproven ages ago, and why would the ideal race be "Aryan"? Besides, unless some crazy nutjobs (rednecks, religious fanatics/fundies) start ruling the govt., we'll not see mass-production of "perfect" children any time soon. Also, the biological boundaries are still there, considering many of these genes are probably coding for multiple alleles, which we don't know the effects of.

"Imagine all the little "normy" kids being made fun of the the other fourth graders who are in calculus theory and discussing the fine point of Lacanian theory.Soon, no more babies will be grown and then we live in the matrix or skynet becomes self-aware."

Again, Talent Is Overrated rips apart your argument. Second, you can get brain-enhancing drugs, I think, which are probably a lot cheaper and safer than genetic therapy. Third, HOW THE HELL DOES YOUR MATRIX/SKYNET THING function? What the hell is the link? And why wouldn't babies be born? That sort of poses a problem to continuing the species, you know.

"And these kids (as said above) would have a huge advantage. The kid might turn out just as smart, but it is not garunteed. Therefore, those people that can AFFORD to genetically modify their children will have teh advantage over those that can't."

Christ, you all are assuming that from the article, which talks about being able to choose relatively minor traits for your child in the near future to LOLOLSUPASMARTZBABIES!!1! There are still a CRAPLOAD of biological/genetic hurdles and questions that need to be resolved before we can get to that stage. Anyways, Talent is Overrated again pwns you badly. However, your "the rich will get it" argument is true. Which is why I personally want to make these kind of procedures as cheap as possible quickly.



So, who's next?

Jonna (aka Gaia) said...

I don't know how many of you listen to NPR, but KQED this morning on Forum dealt directly with this issue and had several experts chime in....the consensus was that even things like hair and eye color - which remember from our genetic unit are polygenic - are far from being under our control right now. The panel acknowledged that IVF (in vitro fertilization) is very difficult for the woman involved, but is required for the types of manipulations required, and it is unlikely that women would subject themselves to such measures for relatively unimportant traits such as hair and eye color.

The most interesting point of the argument was whether or not there needs to be more regulation of the "babymaking" industry....should there be more laws, more regulations about who gets in vitro treatment and why...relating back to the Octeplets mom as one example.
In the future, when designing babies is more sophisticated, this could be even more of an issue.

To hear today's KQED discussion, go to KQED.org and search for today's date under "Forum" with Michael Krazny.

Period 7 Valentina said...

It may just be me, but designing a baby seems a lot like eugenics just more advanced. Having parents select what they see as good traits that make good kids and then ignoring the rest.
The other thing is what happens if it goes wrong??? These things are bound to have errors in them, but if parents are expecting their ideal children and then nine monthes later the baby is born and its not perfect... Some kids get harrassed now for not being perfect, imagane if the parents where 100% sure there kid was going to be perfect, but it turns out all wrong.

There is one potential benefit to this new technology and that would be the ability to start eliminating genetic desieses before the baby becomes a baby. I think it would take away the controversy of testing fetuses for genetic desieses because docters could know not to create a baby with the embrios w/ desieses.

Period 7 Justin said...

I understand the vast appeal of having 'absolute' control over one's unborn child, but the reasoning behind this burgeoning eugenics movement is flawed. I believe that the only scenarios in which these forms of gene engineering are acceptable are cases in which the unborn baby has an extremely high risk for a family disease or defect (such as diabetes, colon cancer, etc).

It is not, as Adarsha calls it, "a huge leap forward for society." It does not benefit ANYONE in society if a baby has blue eyes instead of brown, or has brown curly hair instead of straight blond hair. Accepting the role of taking care of a future child is inevitable, and this form of social engineering would create masses of overly appearance-obsessed parents. I'm not saying that these babies will have a unfair advantage; rather, that there is no productive, socially beneficial reason to be undergoing this type of science.

Design-A-Baby is like plastic surgery, with the exception that the patient him/herself has no say in the changes that he/she undergoes. What's the benefit?