AbstractAs the efficiency of technologies increasing, alongwith the unveiling of genomic contributions to different phenotype andpotential applications of genetic technology, genetic engineering has becomemore appealing to common people.
Since Junjiu Huang and his colleagues at theSun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, successfully performed experimentson human embryos attempting to alter the gene called HBB (Welch, 2015), therisks of human genetic engineering and the ethics of its utilization, haveraised numerous legitimate questions in the scientific community, among which thegeneration of designer babies is one of those under the fiercest debate. Accordingto Da, Dey & Banerjee (2017), the term “designer babies” refers to childrenwhose characteristics have been “tampered with by chemical modification”technologies like the Cas/CRISPR system of their genetic material. Theresultant offspring ‘designed’ through technology alteration in the zygotestage 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 socialscientists, the essay will discuss several major ethical issues and practicalchallenges regarding the genetic selectionof designer babies, explaining why it shouldn’t be allowed in the contemporarysociety.Keywords: Genetic Engineering, designer baby, inequity,discrimination, human right Picturea world where parents of a yet unborn child can modify his/her genes, and thusdetermine his/her physical appearance, mental fitness, and immunity to disease. It sounds like ascience fiction where human’s evolution has stepped into a new era of being so mightyand powerful almost as God that they get to decide what kinds of human-being getthe priority to exist. In fact, as theadvance in biology and medical science pushing the frontiers of geneticengineering technology to the point where parents’ selecting genes for theirchildren became possible, this scenario is getting closer to a scientific fact morethan a fantasy.
Despite of the “compulsory, state-sponsored eugenics thatdarkened the first half of the last century”, Dartmouth ethics professor RonaldGreen “celebrates the advent of a libertarian, consumer-driven eugenicsmotivated by the free play of human desire, technology and markets”, arguingthat “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 tothe diversity of human gene pool, have a negativeinfluence on the practice of human rightsand exacerbate the inequality between the rich and the poor existing at present.First, parents’ arbitraryexploitation of genetic alteration technology to improve or even “perfect” theirbaby, will end up diminishing the variability within the human gene pool, the collection of rawmaterials for natural selection. Argument from people like James Hughes, a sociologist and bioethicist of Trinity College has been spoken outthat “we don’t stop people from passing on whatwe 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) Theproblem 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”.
AndIt may precisely be those genes that will put whoever carry them in aposition of “weakness” years later sincethe constantly changing world is “in the lap of the gods”. Early in 1966, RichardLewontin and John Hubby have proposed the idea of “balancing selection,” suggestingthat genetic variation can encourage beneficialcompetition among organisms of human species. (as is cited in KOZUBEK,2017) So, the fact is that the less diversity human beings have in their genepool, the more susceptible they are to the variation of the dynamicsurroundings. Puny little creatures as human beings are canhardly survive the upheavals of environment or outbreaks of new diseases in apopulation of genetically identical individuals “designed” on abasis of a pervasive norm of “superiority”.Consequently, a single type of new virus could cause a major percentage of humansbeing wiped out completely overnight ifpeople are entitled to determine their babies’ genetic makeup, which will inturn sabotage the balance between the proportion of different genes within thegene pool of human race. From abiological standpoint, decreased biodiversity due to “baby designing” willimpede the human ability to adapt, whichis quite dangerous considering the worsening environmental conditions. So, it’sa key problem for government to figure out when to step in and impose rules becauseit’s more than a domestic affair when human genes are involved.
Secondly, geneticselection is a way of manipulation and control over living lives that resultsin gross violations of human rights. Although there are parents who sufferedfrom infertility, and the early death of theirinfants, and CRISPRand related technologies seem to be a solution with “the potential to eradicatepreviously incurable diseases” or even deter aging (Bennett, 2017), It’simmoral and against humanity for the process of altering the genes may includethe destruction of lives checked withgenetic deficiencies or unwanted traits. “One likely, and very troubling consequence of trying to makegenetically modified organism (GMO) sapiens would be the byproduct of dozens oreven hundreds of failed attempts in the form of diseased or deceased embryos,fetuses, and potentially even children.” (Knoepfler, 2015) Moreover, Schadtpointed out that were the scientists to make a mistake, anew disease could be introduced to the lineage and propagated to the childrenand 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’sirresponsible to give desperate parents such risky and unrealistic hopes atleast up to now.