Monday, March 14, 2016
The Issue of Designer Babies
The idea of parents choosing the desired traits for their children (designer babies) seems appealing at first. Why not abolish de facto discrimination based on people’s height, weight, abnormal personalities, facial features, hair abundance, and mental capacity, for example. A world in which everyone was designed have optimal heath and well-being would get rid of discrimination, right?
The biggest counterargument for designer babies is that, while it would end some current forms of discrimination, it would create perhaps the most significant form of discrimination, discrimination based on genetics. Kids who don’t have the latest and most optimal genes will be regarded as fundamentally inferior, which they would be. “Natural births” and the “imperfect” children that result from them would be condemned by society for depending on the luck of nature. A world like the one in Gattaca would emerge that segregates people in two categories: the genetically superior and the genetically inferior.
Gattaca does a good job of illustrating the dangers of being too zealous with designer babies. In the film, we are introduced to a world set in the future where genomics has gotten so advanced that everyone can create a specific child, everyone can easily check anyone else’s genome, and therefore, there exists discrimination for employment based on the superiority of one’s genes. One of the positive aspects of this world are that hereditary defects are eliminated via embryonic genetic modification while desirable traits that result in superior health and well-being are encouraged; the probability of alcoholism, susceptibility to violence, baldness, obesity, along with cystic fibrosis for example, are greatly reduced while the best traits are invigorated. Other positive aspects of the Gattaca world are its easy access to finding suitable mates by knowing the unforeseen defects of future partners, to recognizing criminals based on DNA identification, and to specializing people for different careers (the pianist with twelve fingers for example).
Although there are some positive aspects Gattaca world, the negative aspect of this dystopia far outweighs the benefits: the people of Gattaca lack freedom! Everything from the school you enter as a child to the job you are hired for depends on your genome, and deviation from this status quo is very difficult (almost impossible). Another major problem genetic modification creates in this world is an extraordinary expectation of people with superior genes to succeed. This film illustrates that discrimination will always exist as you continue to try to make people the same, and that that pursuit of equality is overrated and dangerous.
Another counterarguments for designer babies is that it is inherently wrong to perceive the chance of nature as a hindrance to human perfection, rather than a contributor to that perfection. One can think of the purpose of life as being the pursuit of happiness with what (genetic and environmental strengths and weaknesses) you’ve got, and that it is completely immoral to destroy the natural lottery of human attributes because it is essential to fulfillment in life. Not having any genetic diversity and strengths and weaknesses makes life mundane and boring.
Although being able to have a “perfect” child is interesting to every parent, a whole city of “perfect” children does not seem so pleasant in any sense of the word.