Abstract play of human desire, technology and

  

 

Abstract

As the efficiency of
technologies increasing, along with the unveiling of genomic contributions to
different phenotype and potential applications of genetic technology, genetic
engineering has become more appealing. Since Junjiu Huang and his colleagues at
the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, successfully performed
experiments on human embryos attempting to alter the gene called HBB (Welch, 2015), the risks of human
genetic engineering and the ethics of its use, raised numerous legitimate
questions in the scientific community, among which the generation of designer
babies is one of those under fiercest debate. Under the assistance of the
insights from experts, the study of
bioethicists and social scientists, the essay will discuss several major
ethical issues and practical challenges regarding the genetic selection of designer babies, explaining why it shouldn’t
be allowed in the contemporary society.

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Keywords:
Genetic Engineering, designer baby, inequity, discrimination, human right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture a world where
parents of a yet unborn child can modify his/her genes, and thus determine his/her
physical appearance, mental fitness, and
immunity to disease. It sounds like a science fiction
where human’s evolution has stepped into a new stage of being so mighty and powerful
almost as God that they get to decide what kinds of
human-being get the priority to exist.
In fact, as the advance in biology and medical science pushing the frontiers of
genetic engineering technology to the point where parents’ selecting genes for
their children became possible, this scenario is getting closer to a scientific
fact more than a fantasy.

Despite the compulsory, state-sponsored eugenics that darkened the first
half of the last century of America, Dartmouth ethics professor Ronald Green
“celebrates the advent of a libertarian, consumer-driven eugenics motivated by
the free play of human desire, technology and markets”, arguing that “this
vision of the human future is desirable and very likely inevitable”.( Hayes,2008) However,
as far as I’m
concerned, parents should not be allowed to choose genes for their babies,
because it will cause damage to the diversity
of human gene pool, have a negative influence on the practice of human rights,
and exacerbate the inequality between the rich and the poor.

First, parents’ seeking for
genetic alterations to improve or even perfect their baby, will end up
diminishing the variability within the human
gene pool, the collection of raw materials for natural selection. There
has been argument from people like sociologist and bioethicist James
Hughes of Trinity College saying that “we don’t stop people from passing on what we
consider ‘bad’ genetic codes, things that might make a person’s life harder, so
we shouldn’t stop people from trying to provide someone with a ‘good’  genetic code.”.( Loria,2015) The
problem is, however, the more parents perpetuate the standard of “perfect”
while “designing” their babies, the more people in society will have similar
genes we consider as “superiority ” now that can put
whoever carry them in a position of “weakness” years later,
since the constantly changing world is “in the lap of the gods”. Early in 1966, Richard Lewontin and John Hubby proposed the idea of “balancing
selection,” suggesting that genetic
variation can encourage beneficial competition among organisms of human
species. (KOZUBEK, 2017) So, the fact is that the less
diversity human beings have in their gene pool, the more susceptible they are
to the variation of the dynamic surroundings. Puny
little creatures as human beings are can hardly survive the upheavals of
environment or outbreaks of new diseases in a population of genetically
identical individuals “designed” on a basis of the pervasive norm of “superiority”.
Consequently, a single type of new virus could cause a major percentage of the human race being wiped out completely overnight if people are free to determine their
babies’ genetic makeup, which will in turn sabotage the balance between the
proportion of different genes within the gene pool
of human beings. So, it’s a key problem for government to figure out when to
step in and impose rules because it’s more than a domestic affair when human
genes are involved.

Secondly,
genetic selection is a way of manipulation and control over living lives that
brings about gross violations of human rights. Although there are parents who
suffered from infertility, and the early death
of their infants, and CRISPR and related technologies seem to be a solution with
the potential to eradicate previously incurable diseases or even deter aging?Bennett2017?, the process of altering the genes may include
the destruction of lives checked with
genetic deficiencies or unwanted traits. “One likely, a very troubling consequence of trying to make
genetically modified organism (GMO) sapiens would be the byproduct of dozens or
even hundreds of failed attempts in the form of diseased or deceased embryos,
fetuses, and potentially even children.” (Knoepfler,
2015) Moreover, Schadt
pointed out that were the scientists to make a mistake, a new disease could be
introduced to the lineage and propagated to the children and their future
generations. (as is cited in Ashley, 2015)

Furthermore,
the parents become in some measure the master of the children’s fate through
the approach of choosing genes for their children. People in favor of “designer
baby” may argue that it’s for the sake of their next generation to live a
better life, and such question like “If you want
your child to live long wouldn’t you want this?” would
be raised. However, no one knows what others truly need or want only by
speculation, let alone before they were born. Don’t be fooled by the beautiful blueprint
of future, “the ultimate in freedom to be able to
determine one’s body and the future of one’s body”. Everything has a cost, and the price for
the freedom of parents here may be the freedom of children. To be more specific, being implanted
with genes for desired traits by the parents inevitably follows hopes and
expectations in how the children might excel when they grow up. “One of my concerns is if we let parents think they
are actually choosing and controlling ‘their child’s outcome’, then we set up
all that dynamic of potentially tyrannical expectations over what the child
will do or be,” said Thomas H.
Murray, a bioethicist at the Hastings Center, a nonprofit research center in
Garrison.(Ghose, 2014) Thus, the freedom of
children will be severely diminished, if parents are free to
pick characteristics for them, and the ethical
repercussions as to human rights are not going to be very pleasant.

 

Then someone else may argue “if the
genes of the next generation could be chosen, we would have many more
intelligent, rational, and logical children”.
However, “revolution works at the margins, and it does so through
trade-offs”. (
KOZUBEK, 2017) For
example, the infamous “APOE4
variant, the single strongest risk variant for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease,
remains at 15% frequency in the population—one reason is that it may also up Vitamin D.”(KOZUBEK, 2017) Overall,
engineered traits may advance the mankind in a temporary
period, but ultimately they may turn out to be detrimental. From a biological standpoint,
decreased biodiversity due to “baby designing” will impede the human ability to adapt, which is quite
dangerous considering the worsening environmental conditions???1 . On the other side,  eugenics, an idea
worshiped by the Nazis holds the similar idea that selective breeding can be
used to improve the human race.( Parry,2013) Winston and
Krimsky pointed out that genetically modifying children via selecting desirable
traits for them evoked this approach. (Parry, 2013) In an
international level, What if some countries secretly launch an ambitious
program to “improve the quality” of
its citizens? What if mutants with wings, flippers, gills were
created as a tool for the rich and those in power to dominate the
earth? Just as described by Hayes(2008): “In a world
still barely able to contain the forces of nationalism, ethnocentrism, and militarism, the last thing we need to worry
about is a high-tech eugenic arms race.”

 

Many people contended that Most of the
babies’ genes are genetically altered because they will die without the
altering, AND We could have healthy babies free from any diseases, removing
genetic disorders,  deformities and giving them a longer
life expectancy.() But, if this technology becomes a
realistic and accessible medical practice, it would
create an even wider disparity between those that can afford the service and
those who cannot. As the cost of sequencing one human genome dropping from over $100,000,000 in 2001 to
about $7,000 in 2013, a set of assisted reproductive technology including IVF (in vitro
fertilization), PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) and CVS (chorionic
villus sampling) have
opened the door to parents seeking advantages for their children, in the
meanwhile, however, limited its use in the
poverty colony, which
will contribute an unfair condition for the underprivileged. (Jason, 2015) Furthermore, the impecunious parents who cannot afford
the fees of the procedure are doomed to fail the preparation for their children
to compete with their counterparts who will seize the favorable position by
virtue of enhanced traits owing to advantageous genes their wealthy parents
“bought” them before birth. Just as is illustrated by the science-fiction
film Gattaca, which explores this issue by depicting a world where only genetically-modified
individuals can engage in the upper echelon of society. The
wealthy able to afford the selection of desirable traits for their
offspring and those of lower socioeconomic status unable to afford the same
option will ultimately divide to a segregation between the superior “modified”
humans, and the pure but inferior ones. And the “economic divisions may grow into genetic
divisions, with social distinctions delineating enhanced individuals from
unenhanced individuals”.( Ly, 2011) Therefore, if the usage of the
technology is not constrained properly, the social situation of inequality
between the rich and the poor will turn more serious.

Someone
may argue that genetic selection allows human beings to turn the tide on the congenital disease by granting them the power to remove
or transform the causing genes in human genome. However, even the examination
of genes related to certain traits may aggravate the discrimination toward the
“unfit” and the disabled, not to mention eliminate
them. “The assumption that the
genetically “unfit” ought to be prevented from being born embodies invites a profoundly denigrating and worrisome
attitude toward those
who do get to be born”.()

Disability advocates have
voiced their worries about unregulated designer baby technology for fear that it will
“help marginalize and further stigmatize those with disabilities”.( ‘Designer’, 2017) Take
the case of Cara Reynolds
in Collingswood, N.J., a dwarfism patient who considered embryo
screening before but now plans to adopt a dwarf baby for example, “You cannot tell me that I cannot
have a child who’s going to look like me. It’s just unbelievably presumptuous
and they’re playing
God,” she said. (‘Designer’, 2017) It should be noted that the the
widespread use of genetic screening alone are likely to leave those “unfortunate” enough to
be born with genetic “defects” to discrimination and stereotype.()
“If misapplied, ‘these
technologies’ would exacerbate existing inequalities and reinforce existing
modes of discrimination … the development and commercial marketing of
human genetic modification would likely spark a techno-eugenic rat-race.”
(Hayes, 2009) To the careful observer of current
practices, the risks of such discriminatory implications are already evident.

Although at least in the
United States, the practice of the technology is likely to remain voluntary, its growing use could have subtly coercive
consequences for prospective parents.() “Even parents opposed to would feel compelled to participate in
this race, lest their offspring be left behind.”(Hayes, 2008) It follows with the question
whether the expectations held by parents for a child of their dream should be
satisfied at any cost. Despite the question rarely have clear and definite
answers, what limits should we create as this technology develops? One
thing is at least certain, ethical boundaries for the uses of genomics is
indispensable to establish with guidelines
and policies. Parents’
manipulating their children’s genes should be discouraged, in deference to
concerns about human genetic variety,
human rights defending and polarization between the rich and the poor.

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