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Genetically Engineering Babies a Moral Obligation, Says Ethicist

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the perfect-babies-only dept.

Medicine 840

Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that Oxford Professor Julian Savulescu, an expert in practical ethics, says that creating so-called designer babies could be considered a 'moral obligation' as it makes them grow up into 'ethically better children' and that we should actively give parents the choice to screen out personality flaws in their children such as potential alcoholism, psychopathy and disposition to violence as it means they will then be less likely to harm themselves and others. 'Surely trying to ensure that your children have the best, or a good enough, opportunity for a great life is responsible parenting?' writes Savulescu, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics. 'So where genetic selection aims to bring out a trait that clearly benefits an individual and society, we should allow parents the choice. To do otherwise is to consign those who come after us to the ball and chain of our squeamishness and irrationality.' Savulescu says that we already routinely screen embryos and fetuses for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Down's syndrome and couples can test embryos for inherited bowel and breast cancer genes. 'Whether we like it or not, the future of humanity is in our hands now. Rather than fearing genetics, we should embrace it. We can do better than chance.'"

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840 comments

Maybe (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035179)

A better statement might be that by applying genetic selection we might be able to do better than we have in the past. It is not a certainty at all. Pitfalls don't advertise and the world has a way of fooling us at times.

Re: Maybe (5, Insightful)

craigminah (1885846) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035203)

All those things we perceive as flaws today may be the "mutation" that allows the human race to survive after something cataclysmic happens. Seems kind of selfish to pick and choose.

He is right (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035275)

If someone could make a baby that wouldn't cry and would sleep all night, then I'll buy one.

Re:He is right (5, Funny)

JockTroll (996521) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035289)

Strangle a normal one and save the money.

Re:He is right (3, Insightful)

2.7182 (819680) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035333)

I'll get one *only* when a fully open source one is available, which wasn't produced under unfair labor conditions.

Re:He is right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035393)

Even if they were open sourced, it would still be a patent hell.

Re: Maybe (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035387)

All those things we perceive as flaws today may be the "mutation" that allows the human race to survive after something cataclysmic happens.

And they might not. They may just be flaws.

Sometimes something that appears bad is bad.

I'm more concerned that the individuals who will be able to afford this genetic engineering will be the last people we want to become supermen. I don't have that much faith in our economic elite.

We would be selecting for selfishness (4, Insightful)

JOrgePeixoto (853808) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035579)

I'm more concerned that the individuals who will be able to afford this genetic engineering will be the last people we want to become supermen. I don't have that much faith in our economic elite.

It is even worse that that. We would be selecting for selfishness. See

http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3056849&cid=41035551 [slashdot.org]

This would be an unprecedented dystopia.

Re:We would be selecting for selfishness (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035649)

It is even worse that that. We would be selecting for selfishness.

You think we're not already doing that?

If you don't believe me, just try driving ANYWHERE for more than about ten minutes. You'll run into some selfish fuck. Or get a job in retail and you'll be surrounded by people who want to use you without the slightest common courtesy. You're just furniture to them.

Really how'd you notice? The dystopia is here. It's called anti-intellectualism. It prevents people from having even an enlightened self-interest. If they were a bit smarter they'd realize that they too benefit from not being completely selfish. But that would mean a few seconds of thought and .. ooh shiny american idol!

The question is (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035187)

Do you really want to play with your child's DNA ? I mean, what if you fuck it all up?

Re:The question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035273)

Do you really want to play with your child's DNA ? I mean, what if you fuck it all up?

Shouldn't mess with what evolved as a result of millions or even billions of years of evolution. End of the story.

Re:The question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035435)

Do you really want to play with your child's DNA ? I mean, what if you fuck it all up?

Why, then you simply kill it and start over.

Or you can let it grow up, kill a cop, then hold candlelight vigils to prevent justice from holding your kid accountable.

What would Hemingway looks like (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035189)

without alcohol's input?

Re:What would Hemingway looks like (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035665)

without alcohol's input?

Beer goggles won't make him any prettier.

Ethics (5, Insightful)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035191)

But where do diseases end, where does aesthetics start? Who enforces that line for the rich? Clearly this guy hasn't seen enough dystopian movies about two-class societies emerging from genetics.

Re:Ethics (4, Insightful)

BeanThere (28381) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035457)

Is there a contest running somewhere called "Can we turn any slashdot topic into an anti-rich diatribe"?

This topic isn't even about the rich, it's specifically about a potential era where these technologies may become affordable enough to apply on a massive scale. So try again.

Re:Ethics (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035473)

But where do diseases end, where does aesthetics start?

In the dictionary [google.com]:

A particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people.

The line is entirely subjective, based on someone's particular definition of "adverse". If, for example, parents see being a redhead as adversity, why should they be prohibited from engineering a blonde?

Who enforces that line for the rich?

Why should anyone?

Clearly this guy hasn't seen enough dystopian movies about two-class societies emerging from genetics.

Or perhaps movies aren't the best indicator of future progress. More likely than a two-class dystopia is just an evolution of our current society, where the rich can have medical procedures done on a whim, and the poor can have procedures done after months of careful planning and borrowing. For treatments that are widely recognized as being medically suitable, insurance providers will help reduce the impact of the cost.

Re:Ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035575)

I say let all the Ayn Rand followers move to an island (or Venus) and lets see how this work's out for them.

Re:Ethics (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035585)

You don't need to press "genetics" buttons to influence personalities. In fact its debatable whether genetics has much influence on the collection of social behaviours we call a personality at all to even begin to start talking about things like this. Screening out clearly defined hereditary diseases, yes. Enhancing lifespans, great. Trying to change personalities? Well lets just say this guy is clearly not a Professor of either genetics or psychotherapy.

Also an obligation to create super soldiers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035197)

Certain people are evil. There is an ethical obligation to stop these people from causing harm. To do this we should breed super warriors of middling intelligence. After all, someone will have to die, and it is better if the fewest people possible die.

Ethics is very easy.

Soooooo..... (5, Insightful)

robinsonne (952701) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035205)

So in the future I should have super docile, conformist babies that fit the cookie cutter notion of how a baby should look? No thanks, I'll just stick with chance.

No, just no. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035209)

I'm not even going to bother with the obligatory "what could possibly go wrong", because this is so bat-shit crazy and irresponsible. We simply do not understand how personalities work and how traits interact - to even suggest that we start removing traits before we understand how whole works is just as stupid as suggesting we amputate everyone's left hand to make sure everyone is right handed and not 'sinister'.

Re:No, just no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035479)

It's easy to imagine a thousand of things that could go wrong, assuming we fully learn how to dominate genetics, including personality.

Totalitarian governments would love it. Imagine forcing people to have babies predisposed to be docile, fearful and with short lifespans. "Kill switches" in the DNA that could be activated with 100% success with an engineered virus. Soldiers that follow orders blindly, feel no remorse and have no sense of self-preservation.

Re:No, just no. (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035495)

Actually, we are starting to learn what genes cause specific personality and mental problems.
  • http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/genetics/a/bluwa040114.htm
  • http://www.citeulike.org/user/StephanMatthiesen/article/7593610
  • http://www.iaees.org/publications/journals/nb/articles/2012-2%281%29/network-view-on-Schizophrenia-related-genes.pdf
  • http://depressiongenetics.stanford.edu/mddandgenes.html
  • http://www.biopsychiatry.com/suicide.htm

I'm sure we have barely begun to scratch the surface. There are of course also genes related to intelligence and (therefore also) stupidity. You want stupid kids? There are genes related to religiousity as well.

And that's just mental traits. What if you could select for children genetically more resistant to heart disease, cancer, obesity, bone loss, Alzheimers, auto-immune disorder and insulin-resistance and virtually every other chronic physical disorder? Most people would make that selection if they could.

It wouldn't be just a gift to your children. It would be a gift to every future generation of humanity if we could reduce the occurrence of genes that help cause these disorders.

Stepford Babies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035227)

didn't the Nazis try this a few years back ??

Re:Stepford Babies (2)

Aviation Pete (252403) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035375)

didn't the Nazis try this a few years back ??

Yes, right. And the idea has been demonized since, mainly to justify a war which was waged to bring the US economy out of recession and suppress the two most potent economic competitors. When we outgrow the propaganda from that time, we might get a clearer look on that issue.

Re:Stepford Babies (0)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035533)

No, they didn't. They just randomly murdered people they considered genetically inferior. There is a wee bit of a difference between genocide and genetic optimization, no?

Anyway, I suggest we hold this discussion until the "personhood at conception"-idiots finally died out....

Re:Stepford Babies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035595)

didn't the Nazis try this a few years back ??

Yes, right. And the idea has been demonized since, mainly to justify a war which was waged to bring the US economy out of recession and suppress the two most potent economic competitors. When we outgrow the propaganda from that time, we might get a clearer look on that issue.

Oh my fucking god.

What an asinine jackass you are. A sheltered, ignorant, STUPID asinine jackass. An Occutard, too, I'm guessing.

Riddle me this, Batman: Which country invaded Poland? Which country invaded Norway? Which country invaded Belgium? Which country invaded The Netherlands? Which country invaded Yugoslavia? Which country invaded Greece? Which country invaded the Soviet Union?

That's SEVEN instances where a country NOT AT WAR was invaded.

By ONE FUCKING COUNTRY, YOU DUMBASS TWERP.

Got the balls to answer?

Nah, you don't.

Heh. Let's keep going. Demonstrating your sheltered ignorance is fun.

Which country invaded Malaysia? Which country invaded Burma? Which country invaded China? Which country invaded The Netherlands (again - Dutch East Indies). Which country invaded France (French Indo-China)? Which country invaded the US (Phillipines, Guam, Wake Island)?

Again, at least SIX instances of this ONE country STARTING WARS, OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

And never FUCKING MIND THE FACT THAT BOTH THESE COUNTRIES TREATED THEIR OPPONENTS AS SUB-HUMAN AND LITERALLY TRIED TO ERADICATE THEM!

Don't fucking tell me you have Holocaust Denier on your storied personal list of intellectual FAIL. Well, do you? You really do have to be a Holocaust Denier to spout bile like "mainly to justify a war which was waged to bring the US economy out of recession and suppress the two most potent economic competitors", wouldn't you?

Good Lord, you're probably a 9-11 Twoofer, too, ain't you?

Jesus fucking Christ you're worthless, you utter waste of oxygen and protoplasm.

And you mention propaganda? Here's a great description of YOU from someone who really knew how to use propaganda, and especially how to use the FOOLS who lapped it all up, and thereby helped him: "useful idiot". Although associating that appellation with YOU is an insult to true idiots everywhere. And you sure ain't useful. You're so fucking USELESS that if we took you out back, shot you, and stripped your flesh off your bones, your skull wouldn't even make a good paperweight because the cranium would be nothing but one giant fucking hole.

Tinfoil hat (0)

JOrgePeixoto (853808) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035669)

Yes, right. And the idea has been demonized since, mainly to justify a war which was waged to bring the US economy out of recession and suppress the two most potent economic competitors. When we outgrow the propaganda from that time, we might get a clearer look on that issue.

Sometimes a "demonized" thing is really evil.
Oh, and "war which was waged to bring the US economy out of recession"? Take off the tinfoil hat, please.

And since when does war help the economy? Have you ever learned about the broken window fallacy? War is bad for the economy.

Eugenics? (1)

Shag (3737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035229)

I think we've seen this movie before.

Re:Eugenics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035303)

Indeed, that's the first thing I thought of... Hitler. We've been down this road. Ethics and moral obligations change depending on your perspective.

Re:Eugenics? (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035501)

We're not talking about making everybody look German. We're talking about making your own kids mentally and physically as healthy as they can be.

Re:Eugenics? (1)

JOrgePeixoto (853808) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035633)

Indeed, that's the first thing I thought of... Hitler. We've been down this road. Ethics and moral obligations change depending on your perspective.

We're not talking about making everybody look German. We're talking about making your own kids mentally and physically as healthy as they can be.

Making kids mentally and physically healthy was the very goal of Nazism. "Looking German" was one accidental detail.

So yes, this proposal is eugenicist and utterly evil. Also it would select for selfishness and immorality. See http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3056849&cid=41035551 [slashdot.org]

Re:Eugenics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035499)

... and it was a world wide "hit" on a 5 year tour...

Re:Eugenics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035563)

Only one criterion : genetic perfection

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119177/taglines

  "I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature, I think Mother wants us to." - Willard Gaylin

Gattaca (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035245)

I think Gattaca already covered this topic.

Re:Gattaca (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035291)

Ninja'd. If only my parents had given me the Fast Post gene... :(

Re:Gattaca (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035339)

I'd be more inclined to say 'Idiocracy' covered this topic. The kind of parents with that level of morality are more likely not to have kids at all, or at least fewer than the rest. It's Gresham's law applied to genetics - bad genes drive out the good.

-"Julian Savulescu" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035269)

Awesome. Let's scan for the genetic combinations that make up people like Julian Savulescu and remove those for all future generations.

The world will be a better one without those people who want engineer the Uber-Human. Let's try education (of the individual as well as society) instead. The other slope is way too slippery. On the other hand, who can say no to a future full of perfect, every-young supermodels (addicted to coke and alcohol, you'll not get that out of humans)...

Re:-"Julian Savulescu" (1, Insightful)

reboot246 (623534) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035451)

I'd go one step further. Let's identify and hunt down people like Julian Savulescu, and imprison them now. They're the defective ones. Sterilize them before they have the chance to reproduce.

And, for God's sake, never let them attain any leadership roles. Never vote for anyone who spouts such vile things. Don't let them teach. Run them out of your neighborhoods. Julian Savulescu should lose his job and be hounded out of the country. We don't want or need evil people like him.

you fail I7. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035277)

a conscious standP A fact: FreeBSD the political mess the longest or users. BSD/OS

Parents are already "designing" their kids (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035285)

My wife worked for a pediatrician in a well to do area a couple of years ago and if it looked like their kid was going to be under 6 foot, they would ask for a referral to an endocrinologist for hormones to get the kid to grow a bit more. The pediatrician didn't think it was necessary in most cases, but they are his patients so he complied. The parents wanted the best for their kids and wanted to insure that they could get any advantage that they could possibly get for them.

James Watson, co-discover of DNA, was on the National Press Club a few years ago, and this question was asked (can't find the archive right now - heard on NPR). Anyway to paraphrase,

90% of CEOs are over 6 foot. A 5 foot 2 inch tall man and a five foot tall woman may want to better the opportunities for their child.

Of course, what he meant was that up to a point, height matters in all sorts of endeavors and not only sports: politics, finding a mate, work, etc ... There is a strong correlation between height and success. Yes, I know - queue up all the exceptions but keep in mind, many of those were extraordinary people; such as Einstein - 5' 5".

Re:Parents are already "designing" their kids (4, Interesting)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035631)

My wife worked for a pediatrician in a well to do area a couple of years ago and if it looked like their kid was going to be under 6 foot, they would ask for a referral to an endocrinologist for hormones to get the kid to grow a bit more. The pediatrician didn't think it was necessary in most cases, but they are his patients so he complied. The parents wanted the best for their kids and wanted to insure that they could get any advantage that they could possibly get for them.

James Watson, co-discover of DNA, was on the National Press Club a few years ago, and this question was asked (can't find the archive right now - heard on NPR). Anyway to paraphrase,

90% of CEOs are over 6 foot. A 5 foot 2 inch tall man and a five foot tall woman may want to better the opportunities for their child.

Of course, what he meant was that up to a point, height matters in all sorts of endeavors and not only sports: politics, finding a mate, work, etc ... There is a strong correlation between height and success. Yes, I know - queue up all the exceptions but keep in mind, many of those were extraordinary people; such as Einstein - 5' 5".

Malcolm Gladwell pointed out this exact phenomenon in his book Blink [gladwell.com] , which he calls the Warren Harding effect.

While searching for the presiden't name (I'd forgotten it, but I loved reading the book) I also ran across this: Malcolm Gladwell Explains Why Underdogs Win An 'Astonishing' Amount Of The Time [businessinsider.com]. Ha! Take that You expert in practical ethics!

What the hell is an expert in practical ethics, anyway?

Re:Parents are already "designing" their kids (1)

gay358 (770596) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035635)

BTW, some studies [nih.gov] suggest that height may reduce longevity, although I have heard at least one study that found out the opposite.

Busybodies everywhere (2)

Kohath (38547) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035293)

Its always the same thing withe busybodies and totalitarians: Anything that is not forbidden is mandatory.

Here's an alternate ethic: Leave us alone. We'll make our own choices.

Re:Busybodies everywhere (2)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035369)

Some would argue that autonomy is the only ethic that matters. But there will always be someone more than willing to tell you what to do and how to live.

Re:Busybodies everywhere (3, Insightful)

BeanThere (28381) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035467)

Yeah, we can turn the question around: If someone has a baby without genetically engineering it, have they actually committed some sort of evil crime? Enough to, presumably I guess, arrest them and put them in jail? That's what the guy is arguing.

Re:Busybodies everywhere (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035547)

It's always the same with the libertardians and their ilk: "I haven't thought it through (and you can't make me, that woudl be SLAVERY), also, I am an idiot and have no intention of thinking things through - therefore: THINGS BAD AND EVIL!!!!

Slippery slope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035305)

So, how long will it take for society to organise itself so that dumb worker drones have the best opportunity for a great life?

I think that we should start with a round of upgrading human capacity for long term insights so future generations will have a better grasp of the consequences of our actions.

I'd be one of the first to go (5, Insightful)

joneil (677771) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035311)

We have five different genetic conditions in our family, some are considered diseases, others are considered disabilities. I am quite sure under these new "ethics", myself and my whole family would be on the top of the list for instant abortion. Yet despite all medical conditions, many of my family have lived very long and productive lives. In same cases, I consider my relatives and ancestors choice and will to fight and overcome the odds stacked against them something to inspire me to never feel sorry for myself. Would we ever see such a thing in a future where all babies were born "perfect"? I think the sense of entitlement we see in our society is already overwhelming as it is, and i find it's people who overcome their disabilites that throw cold water, figuratively speaking, in the fact of self indulgence and entitlement. Would we see that this 'ethical" future?

      My other point, this whole issue reminds of of that famous line from near the end of the movie "The Third Man", where the character Harry Lime says:

"In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed—but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

    In a world full of "perfect babies", well, just saying.

Wrap this up however you want... (4, Interesting)

Chas (5144) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035313)

He's STILL talking eugenics.

Even taking out the racial connotations and stating you're looking at it from a more "humane" angle is STILL going to raise hackles.

Also, genetics has been getting studied for under a century. While YES, we know a LOT about the human genome, there's still a lot we don't know. Such as WHY some of these diseases and behaviors are in our genetic code in the first place. Yet people want to start selecting away from it, or better still, excising it from our genetic code?

They're essentially playing with fire, and the nearest bucket of water is someplace in the vicinity of Alpha Centauri.

Re:Wrap this up however you want... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035433)

someplace in the vicinity of Alpha Centauri.

To map the very stuff of life; to look into the genetic mirror and watch a million generations march past. That, friends, is both our curse and our proudest achievement. For it is in reaching to our beginnings that we begin to learn who we truly are. Academician Prokhor Zakharov.

Re:Wrap this up however you want... (2)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035537)

While YES, we know a LOT about the human genome, there's still a lot we don't know. Such as WHY some of these diseases and behaviors are in our genetic code in the first place.

Sure we do. Random mutation and inefficient natural selection of uncommon recessives. And some undesirable characteristics are selected for even though they harm society. Imagine a gene that causes men to rape women. The rapist gene could result in the men who have it making more babies, until somebody hangs them.

Let's be honest, we do this already (2)

Aviation Pete (252403) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035315)

by choosing a mate which we like. Good looks and a compatible character are the biggest factors in choosing a partner with which to reproduce. Consequently, we try to increase these desired traits in our offspring.

The question is only when we start to be open about it and try to influence the genetic composition of our kids more directly,

Re:Let's be honest, we do this already (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035381)

Looking at divorce rates, I am not so sure you make a valid points. Perhaps we mate with people we THINK we like, but end up hating... Perhaps it has a lot more to do with impulse than actual planning. I often think that as a species we're not as smart as we like to think we are. Otherwise the human race has a lot to answer for. Maybe when we're smart we can re-visit this whole selective breeding thing, in a million years or so.

Re:Let's be honest, we do this already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035475)

Looking at divorce rates, I am not so sure you make a valid points. Perhaps we mate with people we THINK we like, but end up hating... Perhaps it has a lot more to do with impulse than actual planning. I often think that as a species we're not as smart as we like to think we are. Otherwise the human race has a lot to answer for. Maybe when we're smart we can re-visit this whole selective breeding thing, in a million years or so.

That's because, as per the biological mating drive, the optimal scenario is not monogamy, but the most diverse gene pool spread as possible with reasonably 'attractive' (read: biologically superior in survival) humans.

Re:Let's be honest, we do this already (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035601)

Or you could just be using this as a justification of your desire to copulate with as many strangers as possible because, you know, monogamy is not unique to the human species. So I doubt that it's a case of where human "morality" is overriding a "biological drive", unless you believe penguins and the like also have a highly developped code of ethics. In fact, the very existence of "jealousy" - an emotion that can even lead humans to kill each other - could be seen as an argument showing that monogamy is actually hard-wired into the human psyche, and perhaps those individuals who don't practice it are the unusual ones.

Either way I don't care, it's one of these argument that we will argue about 'till the cows come home but no one will actually ever be able to prove anything. Popcorn?

Re:Let's be honest, we do this already (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035445)

I find that insulting.

I did not pick my wife based on the type of babies she would produce. I picked her based on her personality. Looks are certainly important, but not lasting and certainly not the reason I would pick a wife.

Based on what you wrote, I would have rejected her as a "mate" - I hate that word even if it is technically accurate - since she has MS and comes from a family of diabetes and heart problems (my family has these same traits.)

My wife is due in March of next year for our 3rd child and hopefully we will have even more after that.

Re:Let's be honest, we do this already (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035493)

Social and personality traits are still mating criteria; just because they are as primitively biological as fertility and survivability doesn't mean you aren't selecting your wife/partner/mate/whatever man-designed-word-you-wish-to-use-to-describe-your-specific-set-of-selection-criteria.

Re:Let's be honest, we do this already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035523)

It's your right to feel insulted, but note that it is not helpful to feel insulted by facts. GP did not say you made a conscious decision for your wife and against other women, but the science is quite clear: The choice of mate is not evenly distributed across all phenotypes. This is a game of chance after all. Individuals can deviate a lot, but the pattern is still there.

BTW, that guy saying we can do better than chance is the height of hubris. We can also do a lot worse. Without knowing which it is, it's up to chance after all.

Re:Let's be honest, we do this already (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035555)

by choosing a mate which we like. Good looks and a compatible character are the biggest factors in choosing a partner with which to reproduce. Consequently, we try to increase these desired traits in our offspring.

The question is only when we start to be open about it and try to influence the genetic composition of our kids more directly,

You mean more efficiently. Good looks is a proxy for reproductive capacity, good health and favorable personality. But what if the reproductive capacity is damaged? No kids for you! What if the apparent good health masks a predisposition to heart disease or cancer? What if the pretty face hides a predisposition to addiction?

If this works for US .... (1)

OldHawk777 (19923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035319)

Then we can legally mandate, better babies or no babies.
If we can get there, then we just make sure what babies are better and what babies rule US.
DAMN! This may have happened over two hundred years ago with a selective breeding project for the leading political families of US.
IMO: It would explain Bush, but not Reagan, maybe Reagan worked for our Gang of Four (King of Hearts Chaney, Dummy Don Rumsfield, Pontious Pilot Bush, and Coffee Candy Rice) and Animals Control Officer Rove.

China will do it to US we must be christian jingoist, and competitive. We are #1, so we can piss on all.

Re:If this works for US .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035455)

Always nice to get a good baseline that makes all other posts appear coherent and sane.

He ignores how evolution works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035345)

He makes the mistake to believe that we know what will be the best.
For the overall health of the popolation, the choosing of what Genes are liveworthy, will have an negativ effect.
We can see this with Sickle-cell disease. We see it mostly as a desease, but if you are living in a malaria infested area, you will live longer with sickle-cell desease. So we have no clue what positive side effects a gene can have. If we reduce the genetic differences in our population, we will be much less able to survice new threats.

A great new business opportunity! (2, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035347)

Think about it: If you genetically engineer a baby, you've inserted non-natural genes, that is, inventions you can patent. So after the babies grow up, those people cannot have children without paying you for licensing (at the time the general public notices it, many years later, it's already too late). Maybe they'll even insert terminator genes, so that you cannot any more have offspring the normal way, unless you buy a (very expensive) special "medicine" which re-activates the genes needed for production (but only as long as you take it).

Re:A great new business opportunity! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035355)

err ... "needed for re production", of course.

Re:A great new business opportunity! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035373)

(And why the Slashcode authors thought it were a good idea to insert a space after a closing em tag is beyond me.)

Re:A great new business opportunity! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035619)

wait? emememem?

Eugenics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035359)

Same, same...new take.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics

Not enough information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035367)

How do we know that a gene "responsible for violence" does not also confer the ability to perform surgery or take other extreme actions that are beneficial?

Definitely a great idea... (4, Interesting)

rgbrenner (317308) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035405)

This sounds like an incredibly great idea, that I'm sure will have no down sides.

I mean, if we weed out violence, that can only be a good thing. Nice docile people who won't put up any kind of fight. What could go wrong with that?

Also, aren't mental illness and creativity linked?
https://www.google.com/search?q=creativity+mental+illness [google.com]

So if you weed out schizophrenia, for example, to create a superior being.. you could simply be creating non-creative people, who will never invent anything new.

Honestly, we don't understand the human mind and how it works... how can we choose what human attributes are safe to discard?

Engineering != Selection (1)

Exitar (809068) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035409)

The title suggests genetic engineering, but the article in fact talks about selection: you don't build a child to be sure he won't become an alcoholist, you discard him if the tests say that he could grow into an alcoholist.
How that would be realized? En masse switching to in vitro fecundation? Widening of the reasons for which you can have a therapeutic abortion?

It's immoral pure and simple (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035423)

Let evolution handle the details like weeding out bad genes. With the exception of weeding out genes that make someone unable to survive to adulthood. When we start taking a proactive roll in minor stuff like personality then we start down a road to eliminate genetic diversity not based on one actually being better or not but being based on our perception. Evolution might be slower but it's less likely to give advantages based on Fair Skin, Blond Hair and Blue Eyes, and if it did it doesn't do it so it so quickly that if that "advantage" goes away it's not stuck at some dead end after only 1 generation.

But the world is immoral. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035425)

It would be cruel to genetically engineer humans that were compelled to be ethical, as they'd have little chance of happiness or even survival in our morally diseased world. People suck, it's always been this way. Sure, there are a few good examples of moral supermen... Lincoln comes to mind... but Lincolns are exceedingly rare.

future us... (1)

staalmannen (1705340) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035437)

Just like I believe that we will get cybernetically enhanced I also think genetic modifications will happen. In the beginning probably just modifications of somatic cells like in gene therapy. For example, they have already demonstrated that green-red color blindness in male macaques can be cured by gene therapy. Bevause of this it is likely that the same technique could be used on adult humans to get the UV vision of birds. When this is common the next logical step is germline modifications... I think this future is far more likely than yhe molecular marker assisted selection of complex traits suggested in this article. Especially brcause you might loose a lot good with the bad if you start selecting on complex traits.

Ummm... no... (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035441)

And what if by "curing" their alcoholism via genetic engineering you turn them into a raging psychopath? This is eugenics, plain and simple, and anyone who thinks it's a good idea really needs to be genetically modified to raise their IQ above 10.

PASS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035453)

I'll trust in God instead.

Schizophrenia.vs Genius (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035487)

They have found a genetic link between the two in many of the most successful people of our age.
 
  We really don't know enough yet to risk this.
 
This program does make sense due to the global desire for mediocrity and safety.
 
  Why is it always the people who contribute nothing to science or understanding who urge radical incaution.

This is never news (3, Informative)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035489)

Can we stop pretending that "a guy said something" is news? Who cares if some shmuck has an opinion? It might as well be me saying the same thing, or the opposite, for all it matters.

Re:This is never news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035657)

Oxford professor and editor in chief of a publication on medical ethics says one thing.

Seven digit wikipedia aficionado posts from a darkened bedroom the complete opposite.

Surely you jest?

Re:This is never news (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035661)

That's because this guy is a professor at one of the top and oldest universities in the world, meanwhile you're just a userID on the insignificant cesspool that is Slashdot.

Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035503)

Does anyone take anything from the telegraph seriously?

Re:Seriously? (2)

rgbrenner (317308) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035513)

The telegraph is always up to slashdot standards.

slashdot: trolling the tech community since 1997

Not genetic engineering (4, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035509)

Screening out harmful genes is not genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is splicing, or mutating genes. What he is talking about is just a selection process.

Does anyone really think it's a bad idea to screen out the gene for Huntingtons? There's absolutely no reason any child today has to be born with Huntingtons, an incredibly miserable way to die as a chile. I'd say that screening for Huntingtons is such a serious moral obligation, that failing to do so should be criminal.

If that's OK, it's just a discussion of how much selection we should be doing, not whether we do it. Actual genetic engineering is a whole different story.

I love the idea... (3, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035543)

"I wish that all of mankind would give up it's warlike ways and the Earth would become a society of pacifists. That way, I could take it over with a butter knife."

-Dogbert.

Eugenics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035549)

Great idea! We can build the new "Socialist Man"!
Let's start by weeding out any genes that promote jewishness, or , or perhaps atheism.
  And wait how about skin and hair color, we can finally get rid of .
ANd we can breed in a deathly fear of guns.
God knows we are so smart that we can forsee every good and bad combination, because it is all so linear

Absolutely awful. Immoral and catastrophic (5, Insightful)

JOrgePeixoto (853808) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035551)

This proposal has horrible intrinsic moral problems. And think about the societal consequences.

Parents with a good moral sense would not engineer their babies.
However, selfish and immoral parents would do it. Thus they could create a strong, intelligent, long-lived baby, who they would raise in an environment of selfishness and immorality.
Rinse and repeat. After a few generations, you have divided society in two classes: one upper, dominating class consisting of strong, intelligent, but selfish and immoral beings (who would no longer be even _humans_), and one lower class consisting of naturals.

This is a freaking dystopia.

The scary part is that this gentleman is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics! I fear for the future.

Back in the day selection (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035553)

If selection for stupidity was made in the past, certainly this Oxford Professor Julian Savulescu guy wasn't born...

Idea's solid: Who does the judging though? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035577)

On what is "perfect"? That's the question here, and LOL, since w/ out psychopathy, of the "negative characteristics" noted??

Well - I believe the "leader" quality would be ELIMINATED - that's right. It comes as "part of the package" with sociopathy/psychopathy imo @ least.

Folks with "psychopathic/sociopathic" tendencies are EXACTLY the people that "rise to the top", everytime, because they have no "brakes" (in terms of morality & ethics - whereas their competitors/opponents, do)...

So, imo, there is 'good' that come with 'bad' qualities.

See, the "good guys"? Have rules & parameters... "bad guys", don't. No boat anchors attached to their legs, so-to-speak, when running a race... to win.

Plus, face it:

The types of people that assume power, are usually those who SHOULD NOT HAVE IT, but it's part of their nature to pursue it... probably to make up for SOME flaw/missing thing in their existence, like a drug almost!

Anyhow/Anyways:

If you've ever seen GATTACA, there's also the 1 thing that the scientists overlook: DRIVE! "There is no gene for the human spirit"... period.

(Either you have it, or you don't... &, that's that!)

Sure, certain circumstances/scenarios can lead to it, but again - either you have the ability to "stand up to them" & fight for it (or you don't...), & rules be damned... that's where psychopaths/sociopaths have a clear advantage, and it shows, everytime... no rules/parameters/moral brakes.

APK

P.S.=> I also believe that they'd make UNBELIEVABLE MISTAKES on the way to "getting there" in the first few decades of rounds of doing it - since for every 1 thing you can think of, 10 more will probably go wrong... I mean, for example (& one you'll ALL doubtless relate to): Look @ us with computer science & programming for security... we STILL haven't "got that down pat", so what makes anyone *think* they can get it right with a system (the human psyche) that's 1000's of time more complex?

Do I think/feel it should be done?? Actually, yes, I do... but I also do think we'll mess it up large, as we do MOST things, initially @ least...

... apk

Very shirt sighted (1)

gay358 (770596) | about a year and a half ago | (#41035603)

That would be very short sighted with the current level of knowledge. Even when we know something about the function of some gene variant, we typically don't understand well the interaction with other genes and their variants.

With some exceptions, many known disease causing gene variants only make the risk of getting disease higher, but there is no guarantee that you will ever get the disease. Other genes (with their variants) and environmental factors play large role in all except the simplest disease genes.

And it is worth to remember that often a gene variant that has some negative effects, has also some positive effects as well. Otherwise evolution would probably have removed that variant long time ago.

I think that dog breeding that has caused very unhealthy breeds and plant monocultures like banana, which is causing extinction of variants that lack diversity to resist diseases, have shown examples of what may be ahead of human race if get carried away with short sighted breeding ideas.

dogs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41035655)

Right, because humans do such a spectacularly better job than natural selection. Most breeds are now a seizure -fest, in addition to all the other problems. Oh but wait, that's only because of "bad " breeders. If you just put the design future and control over every birth into the hands of a few select "experts ", everything will be fine. Whatever, Hitler.

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