Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Quiz Feb.11

The Case Against Perfection - The Ethics of Enhancement

Happy Darwin Day (Feb12)...

1. "We do not view what we did as very different from what many straight couples do..." What did they do?

2. How much did Genetic Savings & Clone plan to charge for cloned canines?

3. According to what objection is genetic engineering objectionable because "designer children" are not fully free? OR, Why does Sandel not find this objection persuasive?

Also worth a look: Sandel's Adam Smith Lecture; What Money Can't Buy; The Public PhilosopherConversation with A.C. Grayling
4. What questions do we need to confront, to grapple with the ethics of enhancement?

5. (T/F) Sandel says it may soon be possible to take a drug that prevents horrific events from being deeply registered in memory.

6. What does Sandel mean by a" hormonal arms race" with respect to height?

BONUS: Michael Sandel served on what high-profile council, OR teaches a hugely popular MOOC course at Harvard on what subject?

1. Do the deaf couple defend their reproductive choice as primarily a matter of sexual freedom, rather than of the rights of the hearing-impaired? Is the issue of their sexuality relevant?

2. Is it unconscionable to spend a small fortune to create a custom-made pet?

3. If you knew your happiness, athleticism, height, or some other distinctive personal trait had been selected for you by your parents, would you consider yourself any less free than if you had simply inherited those qualities in the "genetic lottery"?

4. How would you characterize "the moral status of nature" and the proper stance of humans towards the "given world"? Must we respect it, and its independence from human purposes and interests, as a repository of value in itself? To what extent are we obliged to preserve its "wild" quality? To what extent has that become a moot point?

5. If you could take a drug that would selectively and reliably suppress your memory of specific events, would you?

6. Do you want to live in a society where parents feel compelled to spend a fortune to make perfectly healthy kids taller/smarter/happier/etc.? (Or feel inadequate because they don't have a fortune to spend?) Are we headed in that direction?

7. Is an eight-cell embryo growing in a petri dish morally equivalent to a fully developed human being? (21) Why or why not?


Atul Gawande (@Atul_Gawande)
.@clairebrooks My wife totally disagrees w me on #WhatMattersMost. "If I look happy, keep me going. It doesn't matter if my memory is gone."

Mother Jones (@MotherJones)
Vaccines Are One of Our Best Weapons Against Global Warming bit.ly/1IRRKej
Slate (@Slate)
You Should Be Able to Know Whether Your Kids Are Surrounded by Unvaccinated Classmatesslate.me/1AURXJt
The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast)
No, the HPV vaccine will not drive teens to have wild, promiscuous sex. thebea.st/1DYVS5T
Seeking a 'Beautiful Death' nyt -
Virgie Divinigracia had the kind of death last month that most Americans say they want: at home, relieved of physical and mental pain, surrounded by those she loved, “a beautiful death” as those present described it. Alas, this is true for too few Americans. Most still die in costly medical facilities tethered to machines, often unable to communicate, in a futile attempt to prolong their lives...
Options regarding end-of-life care should be discussed well before an emergency — or for those with dementia, during the early stages of mental decline. “The absolute worst time to contemplate decisions about medical care is when one is critically ill and in the hospital,” Dr. Volandes writes.
The kinds of questions doctors should be asking:
■ What gives your life meaning and joy?
■ What are your biggest fears and concerns?
■ What are you looking forward to?
■ What goals are most important to you now?
■ What trade-offs or sacrifices are you willing to make to achieve those goals?
Whoever is chosen as health care agent must understand the patient’s priorities and agree to honor them, regardless of what that person might want for himself. A strong backbone is needed to assure that the agent will advocate the patient’s wishes even if doctors or family members disagree.
Dr. Angelo E. Volandes, the author of an enlightening new book, “The Conversation,” said that although Americans received some of the best health care money could buy, “they also experience some of the worst deaths in the developed world,” mainly because people failed to articulate what they wished for at the end of life, and doctors failed “to recognize that fixing specific problems may not fix the whole patient.” (continues)
What Would Jesus Do About Measles? nyt - MEASLES is back. Last year, about 650 cases were reported in the United States — the largest outbreak in almost 20 years. This year, more than a hundred have already been reported.Parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children because they can; 19 states have philosophical exemptions to vaccination, and 47 have religious exemptions. The other reason is that parents are not scared of the disease. But I’m scared. I lived through the 1991 Philadelphia measles epidemic... (continues)
Also of possible interest, this old post from 2013 on Sandel & related matters:

Enhanced, but… improved?
We’re on in Bioethics to Michael Sandel’s The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (“The Ethics of Enhancement”) and Richard Powers’ Generosity: An Enhancement.

“Enhancement” is the inescapable issue here. Enhanced for what, to what end, with what rationale?

In Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, Bill McKibben imagines several responses. Perhaps the road to enhancement will take us to Enchantment too, and answers (at last!) to the philosophers’ perennial questions.
  • Where did the universe come from? 
  • Why is there something rather than nothing? 
  • What is the meaning of conscious existence? 

“Not to be impolite, but for this we trade our humanity? Sure, these questions are important, especially the last one. But they’re not all-important.” Are we happy? might just be a better one.

What’s ultimately problematic about enhancing ourselves and our progeny, aside from legitimate worries about equity, democratic opportunity, and enhancement for all? Sandel is concerned for our freedom and dignity, for the “moral status of nature” and the “given world.” He’s worried about the prospective sacrifice of our humanity for something less intrinsically meaningful and more divisive.

Powers is concerned for the fragility of happiness, and seems eager to impress upon us all a consciousness of ourselves, at this specific moment of natural history, as the collaborative authors of a future to whose inhabitants we owe the greatest generosity (which we can pay only in the coin of responsibility in the present).

Sandel begins with the case of the deaf lesbian couple who wanted a child “like themselves” (i.e., hearing impaired) and so arranged it, with a strategy “not very different from what straight couples do when they have children.”

Well, that could be the problem. Emerson long ago scolded parents who insist on reproducing “another you,” when “one’s enough” already. The problem’s in the will to design, rather than accept the genetic lottery’s default. “None of us chooses our own genetic inheritance,” nor should any of us have to accept the choices of parental engineers

And yet, “Viagra for the brain” sounds irresistibly alluring to some of us. “Memory suppression” too.

But as a parent who’s already spent a small fortune to educate the next generation, I’m definitely not interested in “hormonal arms’ races,” height extension, gender selection, or anything else in any Gattaca scenario. “They used to say that a child conceived in love…has a greater chance of happiness. They don’t say that anymore.” Well call me old-fashioned, I still do. [MoreIt’s Time to Question Bio-engineeringPowers@dawn/DS]

As for our playfully self-conscious novel, with its Camus epigraph, Sisyphean theme, and protagonist called “Stone”: the early stage-setting of Generosity comes with a foreboding warning (but also a reminder that we’re involved here with a story, a work of the imagination still subject to human choice and will): “Here… is one plot no one will ever bother writing down: A happy girl passes through the world’s wretchedness and stays happy.” Happy, generous, and present.

But do remember: this is fiction. So far.


  1. Here's a SHOUT OUT to the largest portion of civilization that has been marginalized for millennia and still is!


  2. Quiz Question:

    Does Sandel consider the possibility of couples who undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) to choose the sex of the child before the fertilized egg is implanted in the womb abortion?

    1. I haven't read anything yet because i didn't know we switching books but if i had to guess i'd say he would say no. Can you reply if i'm right? :)

  3. DQ: If you could take a drug that would selectively and reliably suppress your memory of specific events, would you?

    Answer: If I could take a drug that would selectively and reliably suppress my memory of specific events, I would not do so. I feel that prior events in our life make us who we are, and that erasing these memories from our minds would take a way from our "story". I believe that everything happens for a reason and that those who are able to overcome the tough times build their fortitude faster and become stronger individuals as a result. It's easier to just remove the problems, but it takes one that is strong to move past these times.

  4. Quiz question: Sandel asserts that "like cosmetic surgery, genetic enhancement employs medical means for nonmedical ends". What "ends" does he speak of?

  5. So I've never known how the sperm donor selection really works so after reading I did a google search and looked into. I knew the process was pretty specific because it has to be but I never knew it was so intense. Here is a link to a website that is the largest sperm bank in the world. It does a lot of educating of how the process works.


  6. Discussion Question:

    What is the difference of the Deaf couple choosing a sperm donor with the genetic disposition for deafness versus a couple choosing a sperm donor based on the genetic disposition of a certain height, weight, hair color, eye color, or race?

    1. Deafness is thought by most people as a severe physiological and psychological hindrance whereas what the color of people's eyes or their race is does not have any significant impact on the way their can run their lives.

  7. DQ: Is it unconscionable to spend a small fortune to create a custom-made pet?

    I'm not really too sure what is meant by the term "custom-pet" (I.E: New species or Genetic clone), but I personally feel as though there is nothing wrong with this. My reasoning behind this being that even though there are many other ways of housing an animal/pet (I.E: Adoption and Natural Birthing) an individual tends to become fairly emotionally attached to their pets over time. Having said that, following a pet's death can be a saddening moment for anyone; therefore, if cloning a pet provides an individual with happiness/relief, then I say go for it! In other words, I think of it through more of a utilitarian scope as opposed to a necessarily ethical one.

  8. Quiz Question:

    Which 1997 science fiction film depicts a future in which parents routinely screen embryos for desirable genes?

    (pg. 21)

  9. Quiz Question:
    Explain the two reasons that Sandel gives for banning drugs in sports.

  10. Gattaca is a film that depicts a dystopia in which social classes are divided by the perfection of people's genes (a future that is not far off if genetic modification is not restrained). This video explains the film's main theme as it pertains to mankind. Spoiler Alert!


  11. DQ: Is it unconscionable to spend a small fortune to create a custom-made pet?

    Morally, I see absolutely nothing wrong with creating a pet for yourself as long your willing to face the consequences of what you create having unpredictable reactions to you. Many animal lovers will probably say it is inhumane but in all honesty, it's the pet owners business and animals are not on the same level as humans.

  12. DQ: If you could take a drug that would selectively and reliably suppress your memory of specific events, would you?

    At this point in my life(and most likely for the rest of my life), my answer is no. Every memory that I have and the events associated with them play a part in the person I am today and I feel whether they be good or bad they serve as experience that can be called upon at later, essential times.

  13. DQ: Do you want to live in a society where parents feel compelled to spend a fortune to make perfectly healthy kids taller/smarter/happier/etc.?

    No, I commented on this in earlier chapter of our last book. A society in which the families that can afford it can genetically modify their future children to be superior in various ways while those who can't remain "inferior" is simply a recipe for disaster. There are many cultural divisions in society as we know it and adding one as distinct as this will most likely lead to civil unrest at best and (if you would allow your imagination to flow for a moment) civil war at the absolute worse.

  14. Sooam Biotech is a company in South Korea that has successfully cloned dogs, however many of the cloned dogs do not live as long as the original. It is also common for the clones to have certain disorders or diseases that the original might not have had, such as Type I or II diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease. This procedure could also be view as animal cruelty because surrogate mother dogs have died. Below I have attached a video of a couple that successfully cloned their dead dog, and the process they went through. This couple paid just under $100,000 to clone their dog.


  15. Quiz Question
    What stipulation does Microsort impose in order to stymie sexist gender assignment for embryos?

  16. Discussion question
    What are your thoughts on the commercialization of these budding and potential industries involved in genetic engineering?

  17. Discussion Question:

    Is genetic engineering an issue that could go to the Supreme Court (like gay marriage) or be decided by a vote (such as liquor stores)?

    Article on topic: http://www.livescience.com/27206-genetic-engineering-babies-debate.html

  18. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/science/genetics/2006-10-12-cat-clones_x.htm

    An article from 2006 on Genetic Savings and Clone's closing.

  19. Discussion question:

    Do you feel that it is necessary for parents to raise the perfect children even if this means their children despise their lives.

  20. http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/ethics-of-designer-babies_n_4966189.html

    An article on the ethics of designer babies.

  21. Jocelyn and I briefly discussed pet cloning as it relates to memory suppresion. Memory eradicating drugs alter our identities but they also weaken our tolerance for suffering. In the same way, cloning pets alienates the human response of grief. Indeed, children learn to deal with death via this process with a pet. Cloning removes these training wheels prematurely.

  22. Darcy Tabotabo, Phillip Shackelford, Lee Gish
    Discussed how it is beyond reason that people would have pets cloned.

  23. Kayleah Bradley, Bell Doski, and Shivan Berwari discussed how we felt about cloning pets, and the ethics behind "queue jumping".