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Abstract

As the efficiency of technologies increasing, along
with the unveiling of genomic contributions to different phenotype and
potential applications of genetic technology, genetic engineering has become
more appealing to common people. Since Junjiu Huang and his colleagues at the
Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, successfully performed experiments
on human embryos attempting to alter the gene called HBB (Welch, 2015), the
risks of human genetic engineering and the ethics of its utilization, have
raised numerous legitimate questions in the scientific community, among which the
generation of designer babies is one of those under the fiercest debate. According
to Da, Dey & Banerjee (2017), the term “designer babies” refers to children
whose characteristics have been “tampered with by chemical modification”
technologies like the Cas/CRISPR system of their genetic material. The
resultant offspring ‘designed’ through technology alteration in the zygote
stage is a far cry from being ‘natural’. (Da, Dey & Banerjee, 2017) Under the assistance of the insights from experts, the former study of bioethicists and social
scientists, the essay will discuss several major ethical issues and practical
challenges regarding the genetic selection
of designer babies, explaining why it shouldn’t be allowed in the contemporary
society.

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Keywords: Genetic Engineering, designer baby, inequity,
discrimination, human right

 

 

 

 

Picture
a world where parents of a yet unborn child can modify his/her genes, and thus
determine his/her physical appearance, mental fitness, and immunity to disease. It sounds like a
science fiction where human’s evolution has stepped into a new era of being so mighty
and powerful almost as God that they get to decide what kinds of human-being get
the priority to exist. In fact, as the
advance in biology and medical science pushing the frontiers of genetic
engineering technology to the point where parents’ selecting genes for their
children became possible, this scenario is getting closer to a scientific fact more
than a fantasy.

Despite of the “compulsory, state-sponsored eugenics that
darkened the first half of the last century”, Dartmouth ethics professor Ronald
Green “celebrates the advent of a libertarian, consumer-driven eugenics
motivated by the free play of human desire, technology and markets”, arguing
that “this vision of the human future is desirable and very likely inevitable”.
(Hayes,2008) However,
as far as I’m concerned, “designer baby” is not ready to  be allowed yet because it will cause damage to
the diversity of human gene pool, have a negative
influence on the practice of human rights
and exacerbate the inequality between the rich and the poor existing at present.

First, parents’ arbitrary
exploitation of genetic alteration technology to improve or even “perfect” their
baby, will end up diminishing the variability within the human gene pool, the collection of raw
materials for natural selection. Argument from people like James Hughes, a sociologist and bioethicist of Trinity College has been spoken out
that “we don’t stop people from passing on what
we consider ‘bad’ genetic codes, things that might make a person’s life harder,
so we shouldn’t stop people from trying to provide someone with a ‘good’  genetic code.” (Loria, 2015) The
problem is, however, the more parents perpetuate the standard of “superiority” while “designing” their babies,
the more people in society will have similar genes currently considered “superiority”. And
It may precisely be those genes that will put whoever carry them in a
position of “weakness” years later since
the constantly changing world is “in the lap of the gods”. Early in 1966, Richard
Lewontin and John Hubby have proposed the idea of “balancing selection,” suggesting
that genetic variation can encourage beneficial
competition among organisms of human species. (as is cited in KOZUBEK,
2017) So, the fact is that the less diversity human beings have in their gene
pool, the more susceptible they are to the variation of the dynamic
surroundings. Puny little creatures as human beings are can
hardly survive the upheavals of environment or outbreaks of new diseases in a
population of genetically identical individuals “designed” on a
basis of a pervasive norm of “superiority”.
Consequently, a single type of new virus could cause a major percentage of humans
being wiped out completely overnight if
people are entitled to determine their babies’ genetic makeup, which will in
turn sabotage the balance between the proportion of different genes within the
gene pool of human race. From a
biological standpoint, decreased biodiversity due to “baby designing” will
impede the human ability to adapt, which
is quite dangerous considering the worsening environmental conditions. So, it’s
a key problem for government to figure out when to step in and impose rules because
it’s more than a domestic affair when human genes are involved.

Secondly, genetic
selection is a way of manipulation and control over living lives that results
in gross violations of human rights. Although there are parents who suffered
from infertility, and the early death of their
infants, and CRISPR
and related technologies seem to be a solution with “the potential to eradicate
previously incurable diseases” or even deter aging (Bennett, 2017), It’s
immoral and against humanity for the process of altering the genes may include
the destruction of lives checked with
genetic deficiencies or unwanted traits. “One likely, and very troubling consequence of trying to make
genetically modified organism (GMO) sapiens would be the byproduct of dozens or
even hundreds of failed attempts in the form of diseased or deceased embryos,
fetuses, and potentially even children.” (Knoepfler, 2015) Moreover, Schadt
pointed out that were the scientists to make a mistake, a
new disease could be introduced to the lineage and propagated to the children
and their future generations. (as is cited in Welch, 2015) And since the technology hasn’t been fully developed to be practiced for human use, it’s
irresponsible to give desperate parents such risky and unrealistic hopes at
least up to now.

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