The topic is “designer babies. ” Pre-natal screening for certain conditions like Down Syndrome is common practice, at least in places that offer that option. But now there’s a fertility clinic in Los Angeles that says it will soon help couples select for non-medical markers. It’s already possible to choose your unborn child’s gender. As genetics research advances, parents may soon have many more choices available to them: their child’s size, hair color, and intelligence. Because of gene technology, inherited diseases may someday be a thing of the past.
Scientists constantly emphasize that we are still a long way away from children with preselected traits. But declining to regulate research that could lead us to a point where such choices are possible is troubling precisely because we cannot expect individual scientists to censor themselves based on a concern for societal consequences. This is arguably not their job. Whether we like the idea of “designer babies” or not, their possibility would entail quite serious public and societal consequences.
Decisions about the issue have to be made not simply at the level of individual scientists and research labs, but at the public, societal level, particularly given the extent of moral disagreements on the matter. The mere fact that a particular type of research could lead to undesirable applications is not a good reason to ban the research if it also has sufficiently important good consequences. Instead, it is a good reason to ban the undesirable applications.
Designer Babies can be split into two categories: medical (modifying or removing a disease or disability) and non-medical (choosing an embryos sex or hair color). Both seem to be years, decades or centuries away, however if they are to be judged morally, it needs to be in context. I have no issue with any medical gene therapy, as I am thankful I was born without any inherit disease. I will not stand against a couple who wishes their child to be born without an inherit mental or physical illness, whether it goes against God, Nature or whatever!
I do however, have an issue with “selective” genetic alteration or therapy. This is where it gets a little outrageous, I believe that as soon as a parent can change his or her unborn child’s eye, hair or skin color, the genetic potential will become endless. To the point where every child will be born with “ideal” traits, both mental and physical, and where everyone will look to have their very own perfect children. I’m no expert and I’m probably not old enough to comprehend the extent of the technology but people screaming yes or no for “designer babies” should think about both sides of the argument first.