Eugenics if you want to…?

Should a parent be allowed to choose the characteristics of a child? It seems like this question has been asked for an age and has divided opinion for just as long.

My initial reaction to this question is “No” and quite a forceful, unequivocal no at that, but when I begin to think about why not, the waters become significantly less clear.

So; what about embryonic selection, to avoid disability? I guess I can see the virtue in that, it increases quality of life and avoids having to compensate/adjust for any disability that a child might have.

What about genetic manipulation, to avoid disease? Well that seems ok, we do other things to cure disease and we all know that prevention is better than cure, so surely it follows that this should be fine.

Frame these questions differently and a different conclusion is drawn immediately; what if a couple have a child in mortal need of a transplant and the only way to guarantee this is by having a child and choosing a suitable embryo from a fertilised group? Ick, that’s a really tough call, especially as there’s a living being, a child no-less, involved. You’re also then looking at the “When does life begin?” question, is it immediately at an egg’s fertilisation?

What about embryonic selection to allow a family with 5 male children to choose to have a female? Hmmm, I think not. It’s getting too close to that blurry line now.

What about genetic manipulation, to give parents the ability to choose their child’s eye or hair colour? Why certainly not!! I said good day, sir!!

My reaction to these more frivolous uses of cutting-edge biotechnology is, first and foremost, caused by what I would consider a waste of resources. Why should we use what time and money we have on choosing the exterior facets of our offspring, when those same assets could be put to use preventing another’s disease. This seems to me an ironclad argument that can only be objected to by the most fervent capitalist, who I suppose would postulate “Those who can afford it can choose, those who can’t don’t deserve to”. I am certainly more leftist than such an imaginary advocate.

Some day, some day very soon, though we will have to answer these questions and the answer “Well it depends…” just isn’t going to cut it. We’re going to need a line thou shall not cross, not a blurry area that people debate and can manoeuvre within.

13 thoughts on “Eugenics if you want to…?

  1. Poki

    I agree with you that this is a major point in science and ethics and must be confronted soon. This line of morality that we cannot cross must be made clear and precise with no room for movement. Initially it will come into place similar to the way you put it, if there is a major health risk of the unborn child then action can be taken and genetics changed. I believe this is an unstoppable progression of science and society.

    However, it will not be the moral “line” that will be moved, rather people will find ways to manipulate scientific studies to allow more aesthetic changes to be made. A rather alarmingly short Google search showed up two cases already. One for changing the sex of identical twins to lower the chance of ADHD(4th paragraph and another with a link between red hair and early onset obesity and hormone deficiencies (search for POMC

    It is not that people’s ethics will change, it is that they will create problems where the solutions allow them to manipulate their desired attribute.


  2. Ado

    Good points dude. I hadn’t really thought of it like that, people manipulating genetic traits that “may” cause some serious problems to aid them in making aesthetic changes they actually desire. I think your probably right though, people probably would “try it on” and I think that’s why we need a very strict and solid line that we don’t cross in any circumstances, come what may.

    Honestly one of my great fears is also the generification of human kind. By that I mean that people will start to eliminate differences and everyone will slowly come closer and closer to the “ideal” person, with no disabilities or flaws. To me that would stump development and our race would just exist, never changing or advancing because the mutations that would help us along the way would be seen as faults in the genes and those embryos would be discarded.

    Example, take Steven Hawking. Ok, so he is a bit of a douche personality-wise, but there’s no arguing with the fact that he has advanced science in a massive way in his lifetime. However, he has a degenerative disease that would have been evident in his initial genetic blue-print and would, in a world that selects “the best seed”, have been discarded before making it to being a foetus.

    It just seems to me that the glory of the human race is our variety. Our imperfections help us and drive us on, we’d be less without them.


  3. MzQ

    2 Arguments:
    1)Against: Screening (for genetic likelihood of problems) has its own faults. My parents could have destroyed me, if they had believed the results returned to them prior to my birth that i had Spina bifida. This turned out to be totally untrue but caused great distress to my parents.

    2)For: My family history contains a decease that was first thought to be random, then it was considered that individuals may have a genetic susceptibility to it and now they believe that it is hereditary and skips generations. Having watched a love one die slowly from this decease it is unthinkable to me that if i could screen any child i had to avoid this fate that i wouldn’t do all i could to protected them.

    This said i do agree with poki’s point, something echoed by those both with illnesses and those caring for them that individuals are not defined by their health or lack of it.


  4. Ado

    Both your For and Against points above, MzQ, show the problem (for want of a better word) with this topic, that being it’s incredibly emotive. Everyone is naturally extremely emotionally involved when it comes to their children and, quite rightly, want to do everything possible to make their lives the best they can be. It’s very hard not to get swept away when it is your offspring, especially if you’ve had previous experience with a loved one being in such a horrible situation.

    That’s exactly why I think we need to draw that solid line I wrote about, as when it’s you or me we will most likely think “I need to be allowed to do what I think is right” instead of viewing these things objectively as we can (to a point) when we aren’t personally involved.

    For the record, I don’t think I would want to have tests done to determine the likelihood of “birth defects” or degenerative diseases in my child. Not because of any deliberate ignorance on my part, but it just wouldn’t change the fact that I would never wish to deny that child an existence for any reason.

    (I say that in the knowledge that I wont have to actually make that decision for a good while yet, mind you)


  5. MzQ

    I agree with you Ado, it is and can be a very emotive question on a personal level but this is true of any issue or decision made which will affect humanity. There will always be a ‘reason’ to want to bend the rules and like Poki said not everyone has the same standards of an important issue. I am for a stead fast set of rules, we may all need them to support and protect us when we may be far to emotionally involved to be clear on an issue.


  6. Not to poop on the salad, but isn’t it more likely that when these things come about it’ll just be decided by the knee-jerk Daily Fail crowd?

    I come down on the side of everything is permissible, it’s up to the emotional intelligence of society and individuals to inform the choice. Should we be able to choose the genetic make up of our children? Yes. Should we? Probably not. The future is a scary place, but it won’t be improved through restriction of technology, only though the education of society.


  7. GBob

    I can give insights into the ‘education of [a little part of] society’. I have to teach about this topic to 15yr olds and mostly they agree – there should be a definitive line that we can’t cross. They seem to differ as to where the line should be, however.

    Most think that we should be allowed to use eugenics to make sure our children aren’t going to suffer unnecessarily and to give them the ‘best’ start in life. [They don’t agree on what ‘best’ means though!]Most believe it be mean disease free.

    No-one in my classes has yet admitted that they would use it to give their child a particular eye colour, intelligence etc. I have been teaching this topic for 6 years so hopefully this gives us some hope that future isn’t quite so scary!

    My own point of view [i.e. a Christian one] would be to say that using eugenics and actively interfering with DNA is akin to playing God as so shouldn’t be done lightly. It would be suggesting that God had somehow made a mistake. However, He did give us the ability to make these medical discoveries so we need to consider additional things when deciding how/if to use eugenics. I guess this is where free will and wisdom comes in. We, as a society, have a choice to make about whether or not we use eugenics. If we do decide to go ahead then we need to use our wisdom to decide the best way forward.

    Taking an unbiased look at this it needs to be stated that as well as the emotional and scientific responses aired here there will always be religious, philosophical and logical views on any subject like this. Personally I think this is a good thing as it shows just much variety is in our world. We should try to keep it that way.


  8. Ado

    I have some hope that the topic wont fall to the Daily Fail crowd for a “knee-jerk” decision, simply because I think it’s too complex of a decision to be turned into stark headline choices. Also, if folks of good mind and character get involved (as we have here, yay) then a reasonable consensus can be reached, instead of extremes.

    After reading your second point a couple of times, I think I agree also. It took me a while to get it but, what I think you mean and I agree with is that we shouldn’t shy away from having the ability to do these things but we should think carefully about how we then exercise that new technology. Ignorance is not an acceptable course…

    Also, as scary as these things are we need to meet them head-on (in every respect), so we need the knowledge and as much data as we can get to make that informed decision.


  9. Ado

    NB, I did introduce my article with the title involving Eugenics. This was for a rather weak pun on a Thatcher speech, but is perhaps a little misleading as the article takes in many other issues in the same vein.

    For the record Eugenics is the action of “improving” the human race by removing “undesirable” traits, Genetic Engineering being one method by which it (and many other alterations) can be performed.


  10. Spar


    You darn kids with your ethics and morality, back in my day in Sparta we would murder the dam child if it didn’t appeal to our sense of perfection you are all liberal fagots uUuUUuu ethic this uUuuUUuu ethics that!

    Stop faging around go fully genetic engineering on humans you fagots. Morality is a mental disorder.

    Lets make the master race today.


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