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Rancid Uncle
If we could make uber-babies should we? Humans are genetically hard-wired to get the best genes for their offspring. What implications could this have in society?

I think this would mean you could buy good genes. The richest people would be the best. There would be two classes of people, genetically enhanced and not. Of course there are benefits to controlling out genes but are the benefits enough to outweigh the risks?
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Victoria Silverwolf
Excellent topic for discussion. There are a lot of factors to think about.

As genetic engineering on human beings becomes closer to a reality, each situation that comes up must be carefully considered to see whether the value of such engineering outweighs the possible negative consequences to society.

If technology is developed which enables prospective parents to correct a genetic disorder which is clearly severely disabling to the child, I see little moral problem with using it. (A huge question arises about who will pay for such treatment, but that's a debate that rages just as strongly with today's medical technology.)

More of a debate emerges over less critical genetic selection. Should this be allowed to minimize the risk of the child developing obesity? To increase the chance of it having musical ability? To give it blue eyes? It seems unlikely that society would be willing to use its resources for such things (with the risk of obesity being somewhat questionable, to show that there are rarely easy answers.)

What if the wealthy hire their own technicians to do this sort of thing? Since they are paying for it, society will have to decide whether to allow it (like elective surgery) or to forbid it (like human cloning is at the present time.) I have mixed feelings about this (and the whole situation is highly speculative) but I would tend to think such optional genetic manipulation should be allowed if it is safe and clearly benefits the child.

I believe that some form of human genetic engineering will be possible at some time in the future, possibly within this century. I also believe that any technology which can be used will be used. Somebody, somewhere, is going to clone a human being, no matter how many laws are passed against it. Similarly, someone is going to manipulate human genes.

[For an interesting novel about how society undergoes a major change due to this form of technology, see Nancy Springer's "Beggars in Spain."]
JonBon
I thought this story might be relevant: -

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2928655.stm

A couple in Britain have just been given permission to design a baby with a perfect bone marrow match with their existing son, who has a rare blood-disorder. Bone marrow from the new child will help to treat the existing one.

What do you think the ethics of this are?
Cyan
QUOTE
If we could make uber-babies should we? Humans are genetically hard-wired to get the best genes for their offspring. What implications could this have in society?


I tend to agree with Victoria Silverwolf. If the procedure clearly benefits the child, I would have little problem with it, particularly if it corrects a genetic defect. We may be hardwired to produce the best genes for our offspring based on the available gene pool, but since we don't genetically screen our mates, we may not have chosen the best pool of genes to produce that offspring.

Whether we like it or not, technology can't be stopped. Rather than wasting energy in trying, my thought is that we should embrace new technology, and [i]hopefully[i] use it to better humanity.
Abs like Jesus
It all sounds fine and good. But just because somebody has the same genes as a skilled athlete, musician or actor doesn't mean that they will follow in the footsteps of that person. As much as nature may play a factor, nurture shares an equal role in the development of a person.

As I understand it, an attempt to genetically engineer a baby will only increase the probability of that baby having the talent potential of the genetic donor. Perhaps I'm wrong, though...

At any rate, if they develop a safe and effective way of doing it, I wouldn't oppose the practice. But I wouldn't personally take part as it guarantees nothing more than standard methods conception and genetic coding.

Implications on society...? It would probably be one of those issues that people were split on, not unlike abortion. Some would likely accuse people of playing God while others argue the practice enables us to improve the human race. I doubt the byproducts (see: babies) of genetic engineering would themselves have much significant influence on society, though. mellow.gif
Rancid Uncle
QUOTE
As I understand it, an attempt to genetically engineer a baby will only increase the probability of that baby having the talent potential of the genetic donor

I meant what if the parents could select every physical, cognitive, and behavioral trait their child would have. If you could make a child that was as good an athlete as Michael Jordan, smart as Einstein, had no genetic disorders, was the most beautiful person in the world and could count cards faster than rainman that would be wrong.
Abs like Jesus
I understood what you meant, Rancid. What I was saying was that it doesn't work that way.

Just because a designer baby has the same genetic code as Einstein or Michael Jordan doesn't mean that the child will grow up to have the same physical, cognitive and behavioral traits as those genetic donors. It's the whole issue of nature and nurture, which provide a harmonious balance in the creation of character.

The DNA of Einstein and His Airness were only half of who they were (still are in the case of Jordan). If Einstein had never struggled with authority in school or taken an interest in physics the world may never have heard of him. If Michael Jordan had taken up art instead of basketball, he may never have entertained the millions of fans in Chicago for all those years.

There are an infinite number of occurences in the lives of an individual that help to shape who they are beyond their genetic coding. And the liklihood that a designer baby is going to encounter the exact same path as its genetic donor is infinitessimal. All the genetic engineering will do is increase the potential of the child, but it still won't guarantee that the child will be the next big thing in academics, athletics or art.
Hugo
QUOTE(Abs like Jesus @ Apr 14 2003, 11:37 PM)
I understood what you meant, Rancid. What I was saying was that it doesn't work that way.

Just because a designer baby has the same genetic code as Einstein or Michael Jordan doesn't mean that the child will grow up to have the same physical, cognitive and behavioral traits as those genetic donors. It's the whole issue of nature and nurture, which provide a harmonious balance in the creation of character.

The DNA of Einstein and His Airness were only half of who they were (still are in the case of Jordan). If Einstein had never struggled with authority in school or taken an interest in physics the world may never have heard of him. If Michael Jordan had taken up art instead of basketball, he may never have entertained the millions of fans in Chicago for all those years.

There are an infinite number of occurences in the lives of an individual that help to shape who they are beyond their genetic coding. And the liklihood that a designer baby is going to encounter the exact same path as its genetic donor is infinitessimal. All the genetic engineering will do is increase the potential of the child, but it still won't guarantee that the child will be the next big thing in academics, athletics or art.

If I am raising Jordan's clone there is going to be a basketball goal in the backyard.
JonBon
Has anyone read Brave New World by Aldus Hucley? It is set in an engineered society in which babies are designed and grown to fit into particular classes and niches and to have certain aptitudes for particular roles within that society.

Although current thinking on 'Designer babies' focuses on health benefits and the correction of defects at the genetic level, do you think Huxley's vision is the logical conclusion of genetic manipulation?
Abs like Jesus
I still say no, for pretty much the same reasons I stated in my previous posts. I think that whole nature/nurture balance would prevent it from ever working completely, and would certainly keep it from ever working that smoothly. Possessing the same genetic coding as another person only provides the potential to achieve the same things as the genetic donor. There are, however, an infinite number of "nurture" situations that will remold the character and capabilities of the genetically engineered person.
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nileriver
i am pro towards the genetics movement, i dont agree with that cult in france in how fast they went to work on a human, the logical conclusion of genetics and man is one up for grabs not that of some pre planned doctrine in someones basement.

i am a psych major, so i do some reading now and then about the mind and so on if you can imagine, and in the department of those born with mental problems i do not think that it is fair to just say sorry to these people if we have the ability to help them have normal lives, some of them have the cognitive ability to see that they are impaired, now if you can imagine living like that person it would be pretty sad dont you think. and that is just the tip of the iceburg, people can vote and vote to use genetics as a tool like most everything in humanitys toolbox. not as a radical form of plastic surgery. excl.gif
Thomas
This site on the Brave New World explores the world of Huxley and how the inevitable advances like genetic engineering can be used for good and bad.

Personally I more-or-less support it, although my Catholic faith causes doubt sometimes. huh.gif

It will lead to a more divided society, with a "natural" underclass facing a genetic oligarchy and middle class (in the 2nd case paid by the State) genetically enhanced. Like education, upbringing and nuture, the division between the different stratas will grow.
Bikerdad
QUOTE(JonBon @ Apr 14 2003, 09:53 AM)
I thought this story might be relevant: -

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2928655.stm

A couple in Britain have just been given permission to design a baby with a perfect bone marrow match with their existing son, who has a rare blood-disorder. Bone marrow from the new child will help to treat the existing one.

What do you think the ethics of this are?

Pure evil. Bone marrow transplants are very painful, for both the recipient and the donor. To "tailor" a child merely to be a donor for another? That is evil, plain and simple.

The ethical problems with genetic engineering babies are legion, and the impact it will have on society is huge, contrary to what Abs seems to think. Consider the impact that simple antiseptics, antiobiotics, immunizations and last, the Pill have had. The extension and romanticization of childhood, the tremendous rise in "illegitimacy", the tremendous increase in the size of our elderly populations, the fracturing of the connections between sex and marriage, etc.

Now, introduce into this the genetically engineered ubermensch. Understand that one of the "problems" with genetic engineering of food crops is that they are bred to be more successful in the environment. Great if you happen to plan on stocking the larder with supercorn, really lousy if you happen to be plain ol' run o the mill corn. Genetic engineering of people is opening up such a plethora of possibilities. The question is, are we opening Pandora's Box, or the Horn of Plenty?
Zebbeddee
I think that a designing a baby is not actually wrong. It is something I would never do as it is far better IMO for a child to be born naturally with all the problems of the rest of us. I do not agree with it but in the case of genetic diseases I have no problem in using it to fix a major defect, NOT make the baby blonde, really high metabolism, rapid growth etc or any other unnatural traits.

But like any technology designed to empower and made for the betterment of man kind it will be abused (in the same way plastic surgery is abused).

As for Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' I read it after it being reccomended to me as a good book (as a book, it opens badly but after about ten pages it gets better until three quatres of the way through where it gets really off story, then spends ages building up to an ending which happens all wrong and doesn't fit with the whole style of the book). The society is rather sick IMO, everyone is put into there role by mass brain washing, the higher cast actually accept the whole thing, a drug (soma) is prescribed and used to allow everyone forget anything that is against society. There is nothing more to the societal model except orgies and frivolity with no commitment and whatever pleases goes as long as it doesn't involve thinking about how unhappy you are. and how meaningless everything is.
It was worth reading but I would not recommend it if you can understand that.

Abs, If you where cloned your clone would look just like you and have the same physical features but it would not act, talk, run, eat or whatever like you as these are made up by nurture based on nature. This is what you where saying about having Einstein genes or Michael Jordan genes they would not do the same things merely look a bit like them or possess some of the physical traits. They would only have the potential of the genes in them. What I thought this thread was about was is it right to design your baby to be superhuman, maybe not in a massive way but to be genetically perfect with a better immune system and better senses. Is it right to create a baby that has the potential of everyone else and could out perform (with the right teaching) anyone and everyone in everything.

Should a parent have a right to choose what there baby will look like, smell like. Would anyone argue if a mother wanted a child with a serious disorder but it wouldn't have normally (I am not saying anyone would) E.g. giving your baby a serious brain problem or a disfigure. Is genetic engineering the answer?
Pilch
This issue (Should we?/Should we not?) can comfortably be put aside for a long time. We can not yet even simply clone a baby, let alone design one. Right now, clones (I speak of recent advances in barnyard animals) are produced at a rate of about one to 1000 or even 10000 failures. The successful clones also often suffer unforseen genetic disorders. Today's clones seem to have shorter life spans, a problem that, ironically, can theoretically be fixed through genetic engineering. So, whenever we master cloning, then go on to understand the nuances of every one of our approximate 30000 genes and their variants and their interactions with the environment (pre- and post-natal), only then can we begin to think about designing babies--babies free of every disease and, yes, a super-extended life-span.

At that time, whenever it may come, hopefully our society will have the wisdom to implement this powerful god-like technology in a judicious manner.
phaedrus
The Council for Responsible Genetics has an online publication. Gene Watch that covers many of the issues of genetic manipulation. They have an interesting article on the technical feasability of Germ-Line Manipulation , as they call it, and warn that technical knowledge of human genetics is limited. For some this reeks of Neo-Nazi Eugenetics:

QUOTE
the völkisch principle we cannot admit that one race is equal to another.  By recognizing that they are different, the völkisch concept separates mankind into races of superior and inferior quality. On the basis of this recognition it feels bound in conformity with the eternal Will that dominates the universe, to postulate the victory of the better and stronger and the subordination of the inferior and weaker.

Mein Kampf, Chapter 1 Philosophy and Politics

On the other hand some have argued that this is nothing more then selective breading and the natural progression of the species. In the Comments and Suggestion forum they are talking about everyone reading the same book. Something on 'Consilience' (aka Sociobiology) might be a good one:

QUOTE
"I believe that the Enlightenment thinkers of the 17th and 18th centuries got it mostly right the first time," he says. They assumed a lawful, perfectible material world in which knowledge is unified across the sciences and the humanities. Wilson calls this common groundwork of explanation that crosses all the great branches of learning "consilience," and he argues that we can indeed explain everything in the world through an understanding of a handful of natural laws.
Edward Wilson - Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge

Are We Asking Scientists to Play God? According to a Time/CNN pole a 'substantial majority (58%)' would seem to think so:

QUOTE
The rhetoric that usually employs the phrase, “play God,” is aimed at inhibiting, if not shutting down, certain forms of scientific research and medical therapy. This applies particularly to the field of human genetics and, still more particularly, to the prospect of germline intervention for purposes of human enhancement—that is, the insertion of new gene segments of DNA into sperm or eggs before fertilization or into undifferentiated cells of an early embryo that will be passed on to future generations and may become part of the permanent gene pool. Some scientists and religious spokespersons are putting a chain across the gate to germline enhancement and with a posted sign reading, “Thou shalt not play God.” A Time/CNN poll cites a substantial majority (58%) who believe altering human genes is against the will of God.

Are We Asking Scientists to Play God?
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