Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

James Hayes Blog 3-Designer Babies: The Pros, and My Stance

The pros of lawful designer babies:


1) Genetic superiority.

Designer babies are essentially a modern-day eugenics experiment, except without the unnecessary murder of fully developed human beings (one could argue that abortion of a genetically inferior fetus is also murder, but that is an argument for another day).

Over time, the elimination of potentially harmful genes from the gene pool, along with the selection for superior genes favoring high intelligence or athletic ability would (many would argue) lead to a superior species. This effect may even contain a sort of "positive feedback loop," wherein more and more people born with high intelligence begin to propel humanity to new heights, which again reinforces the rate of positive change.

2) Morality.

Yes, I said it. Many would argue that, assuming the technology is available, refusing to use it to splice out harmful genetic diseases or disabilities from future human life is immoral in itself. If one has the ability to prevent a child with cystic fibrosis from being born, why would this action not be taken? 

My Opinion.

Having roughly laid out pros and cons, I have reverted back to my natural state of being a cautious person and decided that I (at least currently) am anti-designer babies.

I think our understanding of genetics and epi-genetics (genes whose expression are influenced by environmental factors outside of the genome) is not currently sufficient to warrant the creation of designer babies. Also, as a person who studies immunology, I am hyper-aware of the importance of genetic diversity and variability when it comes to immune defense against environmental pathogens. Designer babies "done improperly" would very likely create a genetic bottleneck, which (even in small quantities) could have sweeping implications for the entire human species if a novel pathogen was to spread across the globe.

I am open to the idea in the future, if we get a better grasp on the human genome and how genes and environment share interaction. For the time being, I say we continue to influence the genetics carried by our children the old-fashioned way. So choose your partners wisely, everyone.

It has been a great thought-provoking semester, and I have very much enjoyed the class. Thanks Dr. Oliver!


P.S., despite my views of the matter, these articles tell us that designer babies may be around the corner:

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-30742774<an article about scientists who advocate genetic "designer baby screening" ASAP

http://www.healthline.com/health-news/will-designer-babies-soon-be-a-reality-121814<designer babies are on the horizon


  1. I am huge into science and advancement in almost every way, however I think your position is a smart one. I think generic engineering is great, however it is completely impractical for us to think about in the immediate future. I see no ethical quandaries (in fact I am more on the pro-side here when it comes to the ethics of it: we have a duty to do all we can to prevent these horrible diseases). However our knowledge is simply not to a point where G.E. is a viable option. There's so much to learn, but I'm excited for the point where we are ready. Hope it happens in my lifetime, but I won't hold my breath.

  2. Go ahead and hold your breath. A lot can happen in 50+ years.

  3. Influencing the genetics of your offspring the old-fashioned way is one good strategy. Another is to influence their memetics: talk to them, listen to them, give them the space they need to design their own lives. Autonomy. What a concept!