Name ____________________________________________ Period _______
Should humans be allowed to select
their children’s DNA?
Questions to Consider
How would designer babies be made?
Is there a moral or ethical difference between usin
g genetic technologies to
prevent disease and to enhance human capacities?
Should we be striving to protect our humanity from genetic enhancement?
What effect will human genetic modification have on society?
Introduction to the Issue:
The term "
" refers to a baby whose
to ensure the presence or absence of
or characteristics. The term is derived by comparison with
". Genetic modification can be used to alter anything from
gender to disease, and eventually appearance, personality, and even IQ.
Would we just create a race of superhumans?
One concern is that we will breed a race of supe
r humans who look down on the
humans without genetic enhancements. Altering embryos is fairly recent
technology and as it develops it is a very costly procedure. Only the wealthy will
be able to pay for the modification that will eliminate disease for thei
People worry about a world where individuals are "bred" or designed to suit
social preferences such as above average height, certain hair color, increased
intelligence, or greater memory. Apprehension arises from the possibility that
s of people might become prejudiced against one another due to a
feeling of lost common humanity with non
enhanced or differently
groups. The so
asserts that genetically
engineering designer babies would compel us to think of each other as products
or devices rather than people.
The genetic modification of humans can pose an ethical debate about the rights
of the baby.
One side of this issue is that the fetus should be free to not be
genetically modified. Once the genetic modification of the fetus takes place then
the baby is changed forever, there is no chance that the genetic modification
completed prior to birth coul
d ever be reversed. The opposing view to this is that
the parents are the ones with the rights to their unborn child, so they should be
able to have the option to alter their genetic code. The usage of genetic
engineering (amongst other techniques) on one'
s children has been said to be
defensible as the moral obligation of parents to try to give their children the
healthiest, happiest lives possible. However, humans have never experienced
the effects of genetic structure alteration. The results could have d
consequences and possibly damage the gene pool.
Past Uses of Genetic Modification
Farmers in many parts of the world now plant crops with genomes altered to
make them resi
stant to pests or herbicides.
Recent discoveries about the
influence of genes on human traits such as susceptibility to disease, shyness,
and athletic ability open the possibility of transferring these techniques to human
beings. An experiment on mice perf
ormed at Princeton University suggests one
way this might be done.
Geneticists introduced into mouse genomes an additional copy of a gene, NR2B,
that is known to play a role in the development of the brain.
The resulting mice
seem to learn faster than oth
er mice and retain information longer. The NR2B
gene exists in humans, prompting speculation about performing the same trick
on one of us. Before this is done, we need to examine pressing safety concerns.
Many genes have more than one effe
ct. The effect we intend to change may
be accompanied by other changes of which we become aware only later.
There is evidence for such effects on the mice, which seem not only to have
improved powers of learning and memory, but also to have a greater
tivity to pain.
Many of the traits that we may want to select are influenced by multiple
genes. A gene affects intelligence only in combination with other genes. We
are unlikely to find single genes whose modification would reliably produce a
ost in IQ, for example.
Preventing disease or enhancing attributes?
Suppose we move away from discussion of risks to focus on the reasons for
having a designer baby. We can identify two different kinds of motivation:
Replacing the version of the gene linke
d with heart disease, for example, aims
to ensure that the resulting person’s cardiac functioning does not fall below a
level considered normal for humans. We call it “therapy” because we
recognize that it aims to prevent a disease state.
Adding an extra c
opy of the NR2B gene to a human embryo, on the other
hand, has the quite distinct aim of producing someone who, in some area,
functions beyond a level considered normal for human beings and as such
qualifies as an “enhancement.”
This prompts a question:
Is there a moral distinction between treating or
preventing disease and enhancing traits? Some think that we should pass
different moral judgments on enhancement from those we pass on therapy. They
say that while therapy is justifiable, enhancement is not.
Parents already make lots of choices to modify their child
Parents in liberal democracies already make choices about which schools to
send their children to, how to feed them, who counts as a suitable after
companion, whether children are to be g
iven religious instruction, and if so of
what type. In effect, they manipulate their children’s environments to improve or
enhance them.The moral parallel between upbringing and genetic enhancement
draws support from modern understanding of the contributio
ns that genes and
environment make to human development. As we saw above, the genetic
determinist view of development has been displaced by the view that organisms
emerge from a complex interaction of genes and environment. The comparison
of genetic enhanc
ement with upbringing suggests that we were all designer
children. Prospective parents who avail themselves of genetic engineering, PGD,
or cloning are simply making use of another means of design.
Write at least one complete
paragraph, on separate paper, to answer each
Is there a moral or ethical difference between using genetic technologies to
prevent disease versus using them to enhance human capabilities?
Opinion Paragraph: Using evidence from the T
, select and back up a
PRO: Humans should be allowed to select their children’s DNA.
CON: Humans should NOT be allowed to select their children’s DNA.