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article imageGenetically Modified Children through IVF - including personality traits

By Paul Wallis     Aug 6, 2007 in Science
Here we go again. The supermen are coming, the master race, Social Darwinism, version whatever. This reads like one of those genteel “Life” seminars from comatose corpses we all can't live without.
The phraseology is familiar- “greater opportunities”, “more choices”, “more opportunities in life.” I'm amazed they left out "empowered".
It’s not Joseph Goebbels returned for a second season, it’s a professor of ethics at Oxford University, according to this appallingly short article. The concept is currently being described as a "philosophical debate". Nice to know that some academics do actually have a vocabulary, however inept, as well as running the world and throwing a lifetime's worth of spanners into the very feeble machinery of regulators' minds.
I doubt very much if anyone else would call it that.
Using GM to cure and prevent the horrors of childhood diseases is one thing. “Design a person” is another thing entirely. The possibilities are anything but impressive. Based on the article’s mention of “influencing self control” in children being the sole use of genetic modification, a few possibilities occurred to me:
1. Race of doormats.
2. Passionless people.
3. Inhibited people.
4. People whose emotional and creative abilities are pre-damaged.
5. Sheep.
It’s a question of degree. This could be creating a permanent off switch for emotional behaviors, in the name of “self control”. If it’s a choice between love and self control, who decides? A smarmy brochure from Soothing Jingles, Inc, or the parents? What possible chance would anyone have of knowing what the result would be, pre-natally, without a few trial cases?
This used to be called bad Sci-Fi, now it’s a serious proposition from an Oxford professor. Huxley’s Epsilon Sub Morons in Brave New World were emotionally inhibited, so they didn’t mind the drudgery. This is a very Cowardly New World, and the motives aren’t likely to be benign, if anyone were to abuse this technology.
Add to this the somewhat interesting perspective that these damn suits have obviously found a new market in transient medical products. Last Year’s Designer Baby doesn’t sound like a great CV to me. You know what happens to things that go out of fashion.
Imagine you’re an Enhanced Self Control Baby, perhaps with your very own little bumper sticker/satellite tracker surgically added. There you are, the Perfect Baby, silent, cute as a debt collector, continent, and able to be seen in the company of teddy bears. Along comes this year’s Enhanced Self Image Baby, ultra extrovert, a virtual cabaret show in a pram, sequined nappies, own talk show and rehab center- what happens to Enhanced Self Control? The baby could die of bad reviews. Unmarketable, except to the lunatic fringe who thinks kids are something other than kids.
I was looking around for something to add some substance to the article, in all its ascetic glory. (Of course; it’s not bone-laziness, it’s asceticism.)
I found that this concept got a workout from the US governments Bioethics Committee, frequently cursed as a political pet. However, the thinking is interesting, and anyone wondering how their tax dollars were spent will be pleased to hear that it was on giving a dictionary a decent workout.
It’s called “Beyond Therapy And The Pursuit Of Perfection.” Might well be “beyond therapy”, anyway.
(The sheer sugary verbosity isn’t interesting, just facile. Skip the intro and go to "Part One, Improving Native Powers: Genetic Knowledge and Technology" unless you’re trying to get bulimia, right this minute.)
Anyone else get the impression of a sales pitch?
More about Ivf, Genetically modifed children, Ethics
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