When it comes to technological advances that could reduce human suffering, improve health and reduce disease, we are generally all in favour. But recent advances in procedures that tinker with reproductive cells are often seen as an exception. They attract fierce opposition from people who believe they are unethical and should be treated as serious criminal offences – which in some jurisdictions they are already. I don’t think these arguments are decisive, however. Indeed some of them are not convincing at all.
Ethical debates about changing the human genome make a distinction between two different types of cells. All cells except those involved in reproduction are known as somatic. These have been the subject of less controversial research for a number of years now – for example editing a type of white blood cell known as T-cells has become a major area of enquiry in cancer research.
Cells involved in reproduction are called germ cells. Changing them, which is sometimes described as germline editing, can have effects that can be inherited by the offspring of the people whose bodies are amended. In other words, the changes can enter the gene pool.
The main objections to such procedures fall into four categories: they are unpredictable and dangerous; they are the slippery slope to eugenics and designer babies; they interfere with nature and involve playing God; and they will exacerbate social inequality and cause a division between the genetically enhanced and the rest of us.
First among equals
To begin with, not everything that leads to social inequality is unethical. And even in instances when such practices are unethical, it doesn’t automatically follow that they should be illegal.
For instance, it is clearly arguable that any advanced system of higher education might perpetuate social inequality. Those who succeed in their studies might tend to get better jobs than people who are less educated. And the children of parents who are highly educated are more likely to become highly educated than other children. But very few would argue that this makes higher education or indeed family units unethical. Neither do we normally say that scientific research should be undertaken only if won’t lead to social inequality and divisiveness. It is whimsical to attach such a requirement in the case of genome editing.
As for the course of nature, we alter it when we dam a stream or build a house. We play God if we inoculate a child against polio or operate upon a baby with a hole in her heart rather than watch her die. If we could edit a germline such that these possibilities were permanently eradicated, why shouldn’t we consider doing so? We play God when we consider it reasonable and so we should.
You have to consider the ethics of acts of omission in this context. It is wrong to push someone off a cliff. But it is also sometimes wrong to fail to prevent someone from accidentally falling off a cliff. In the same way, it would surely be wrong to deliberately edit a germline so that someone who would have lived a long and healthy life will lead a short, miserable one. But what about the reverse? What if we could deliberately edit a germline to lengthen someone’s life expectancy and make them healthier? Would we not have an ethical obligation to do so? And surely if their descendants would also enjoy the same benefits, the duty to intervene becomes even stronger.
Indeed you can turn the question around and say: if one could design healthy babies, what would be the moral justification for failing to do so? It is not obvious that there is one. The term “designer baby” is emotive, pejorative and misleading. But if there is a slope that leads to them, we should perhaps edge along it carefully.
Risks and rewards
This brings us to the fourth common objection. Several prominent scientists argued in Nature in March that there were “serious risks” around editing germ cells. They wrote:
In our view, genome editing in human embryos using current technologies could have unpredictable effects on future generations. This makes it dangerous and ethically unacceptable.
They argued that it may be impossible to know the precise effects of modifying an embryo until after birth. I would readily accept that. Yet risk and uncertainty are different concepts. Germline editing might be as likely to produce unpredicted benefits as harms. It does not follow that it is dangerous. It is, rather, uncertain.
The precise effects of failing to proceed with germline editing can be uncertain too. We are far from certain that developing such procedures will be more dangerous than avoiding them. And in some cases we can be pretty sure that some people will otherwise either die or only survive in pain, illness or incapacity. If we know that the absence of genetic editing is dangerous, why shun it? Surely we have a moral duty to do the opposite.
Finally, think about what happens with normal childbirth. In such situations, the genetic outcomes are generally not known until after birth. It does not follow that normal childbirth is dangerous, however. Even when it is dangerous and risky, it does not follow that it is unethical – nor of course that it should be illegal.
Equally it is far from clear that germ editing is dangerous. Even if it were, it does not follow that it is unethical or that it should be banned. For too long we have allowed religious groups and other well meaning people to prevent us from exploring avenues that are potentially vital to human progress with arguments that range from questionable to completely wrong. It is time we moved away from absolute bans and started focusing on how to mitigate the dangers and risks instead.
We can create a Superior race
Some people aren't capable of having babies because they will have a disease and die when they are born or when they are extremely young. Ways used to change the hereditary makeup of the egg allow these people to have babies. If you want your child to live long wouldn't you want this? Some designer babies can be used as a sort of spare part baby. Children with serious blood diseases can then have a tailor made brother or sister act as a donor for blood or bone marrow.
Let the transhumanist epoch begin
We stand the chance of advancing humanity, of discovering new potentials and greatness. Of course we should do this. To those afraid of losing genetic diversity, you are just noticing the dull, boorish conformity of our era. But people use technologies however they want. One parent wants the standard number of fingers, another thinks 12 is prettier (And as extra digits don't cause any objective harm to physical function should be allowed). This could lead to cultural trends leading to a humanity looking altogether different from now, having traits that are even impossible without engineering and having wide diversity. Adult gene therapy will follow soon and then anyone who wants will be able to go to the genetics consultant to get wings, flippers, gills, or what ever you want installed. That's the ultimate in freedom to be able to determine one's body and the future of one's body.
Don't be fooled by the pejorative term.
Opponents of this procedure are under the impression that this would be done out of vanity. Any parent wants the best for their children. If you are in the position to spare a new life from inheriting you're own defects, it would be immoral to simply spin the genetic lottery and hope for the best. Natural conception does not care about the well-being of the child that might be born, parents do.
We can make the master race
Imagine if the genes of the next generation could be chosen. We would have many more intelligent, rational, and logical children. This may help stop conflict caused by people with inferior genes. I believe if this were to happen, there would be different ideal genes for different people. Peasants and the working class should be more apt to be hard working followers. The higher class such as government officials and businessman would have genes that make them better leaders. This would advance our progress as humans. There would still be some problems such as those with bad parents may not turn out perfectly, but better genetics would always be a good thing.
50/50 I'm for both sides
Designer babies could create a gap in society. Designer babies would be better looking, smarter, etc. This could end up creating classes between non designer babies and designer babies.
The procedure is not cheap at all and not everyone could afford it.
The technology used is not 100% safe yet, it is only in the experimental stages.
Parents may use this technology for superficial purposes, such as purposely seeking out a blond haired, blue eyed baby for appearance concerns only.
Wouldn't you like to chose what you desired.
Wouldn't it be amazing if you could chose what you wanted for you babies? Can you not have babies? Designer Babies are a way for people to choose what they want. What is so difficult to understand about it? It gives parents the option of modifying their unborn children, in order to spare offspring from disease or, conceivably, make them tall, well-muscled, intelligent or otherwise blessed with desirable traits.
For the future
I think that humans have evolved up to this point. With our minds we have created and mastered many great feats including basic space flight. Now we are reaching a point where we can take control of our own evolution. So why shouldn't we?
Evolution as we know it preformed in nature basically runs on a system of trial and error that takes a very long time. Why not speed it up and cut out the mistakes and manage it accordingly.
If you do think that is strange consider all of the upgrades we have given the human body. GPS maps so you dont get lost and know where you are. Your mobile phone so you can contact and talk to anyone. Even your calendar on your smart phone that reminds you it's Mom's Birthday is an upgrade of sorts. Mother nature didn't give you that. Science gave it to you as an improvement.
So if it could be done safely, without causing evil mutants with dreams of world domination, why should we not upgrade genetically? Its science. We are machines. We should seize control of our own destinies.
Design saves lives
You are not altering the DNA itself in most cases, you are merely selecting that which will not have a detrimental affect upon your child's health. The argument that these children will be superior than others is ludicrous. There are already people in the world who are superior in certain aspects. It is the reason that some people are models and others have the capabilities to be neuro-scientists. Also, selecting a child for its superior intelligence could only benefit society, who doesn't want the cure for cancer and HIV/Aids or an end to the trouble in the Middle-East?
Designer Babies - Not Really
Designer Babies is just a slang word for genetic engineering... Most of the babies' genes are genetically altered because they will die without the altering. The altering is meant to kill certain heritable diseases. The only real risk s mitochondrial disease at this point and how they're solving this is by creating a mitochondria transplant.. This may even be into a vaccine very soon.
There should be genetic babies
We could have healthy babies free from any diseases and also parents have the right to choose what their child should and should not have . It will be a better place if we have healthier babies and stronger babies. That will be a great genetic evolution . Healthy babies healthy world.