Tuesday, January 20, 2015

1% Will Have Designer Babies


I liked that word when I first came to understand its meaning. It has a place in recent news, I think, but not in a way that matches the happy connotation the word provides when it slips off a person's tongue. 

Dr Tony Perry, a pioneer in cloning, has announced precise DNA editing at the moment of conception in mice. 
He said huge advances in the past two years meant "designer babies" were no longer HG Wells territory. 
Other leading scientists and bioethicists argue it is time for a serious public debate on the issue. 
Designer babies - genetically modified for beauty, intelligence or to be free of disease - have long been a topic of science fiction.
I've long thought genetic engineering will move the world far from a humane, democracy-based future where people are accepted for who and what they are. (Yes, I realize we live in a stew of racial, ethnic, and religious prejudices that kill and maim.) I first began to think about this issue when I learned several years ago that a majority of babies with Downs Syndrome were aborted. I cannot understand the issue on a personal basis, but I do feel such a thing shapes society in ways we cannot fully understand. There's also the issue of "selective reduction" and of gender selection. 
The world’s wealthiest 1 percent is likely to control over 50 percent of global wealth by next year
It won't be the low-income, single mother or working-for-a-union-wage family provider who'll be able to choose a "designer baby." It will be the one-percenter. And what will that mean? Super-intelligent one-percenters? A permanent inequality where those in power shape the lives of underlings through biology?

It's all science fantasy, of course, and democratic societies have the power to move to curb genetic manipulations so that there will not be a permanent master race controlling genetically engineered slaves. However, those same democratic, representative societies have allowed the world's wealth to be corralled by one-percent of the world's people. It takes no imaginative thinker to speculate that it bodes no good for a humane, democratic society if a small group controls power through wealth and, through practical science can shape human biology.

While you consider that (achievable) fantasy, you may also want to consider the curious case of the woman who was granted assisted euthanasia because of chronic tinnitus (a ringing in the ears).

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