Reading Current Events

Nov 08, 2004 08:19 # 28637

baexcell *** wants to know...

Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

93% | 5

As we move closer to understanding the human Genome and continue making strides on the genetic front, we must face the possibility that someday, someone is going to use this knowledge to create children according to very rigid standards (aka designer babies). The first step toward this seems to be being taken in the United Kingdom now, as cited here.

While I have no objections to what the parents are doing in this case, I do fear the chain of events this is setting in motion. While this is simply the parents wanting healthy children, it is the first step toward a society where all children are genetically engineered according to first the parents, then later the government to meet standards we/they deem necessary and/or proper.

I personally find this concept to be completely unethical and unnatural. What happened to the days when parents waited expectantly for the birth of their child and just hoped it healthy above all else. This would be to take away from the joy of birth, and the surprise of pregnancy.

What do all of you in the NAO community think of this?

Nov 09, 2004 03:36 # 28660

Bunk *** throws in his two cents...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

91% | 4

"In fact I am disappointed by how little improvement there has been in the last 200 years. There have been technological advancements, oh yes, but how little man himself has changed."

-- Khan, Star Trek

Our recorded history is a long line of attempts to improve the human race and the human condition, however misguided they may have been.

Empires, monarchies, religions, cults, armies, conquests: all of these have been brought with the promise of betterment and glory. And all have faded or fallen inevitably over the passage of time as people realised that the glorious future was simply an all too painful and familiar present.

More modern or subtle attempts include commandments, laws, education, segregation, genocide, racism, elitism, communism, entertainment, rebellion, capitalism. And of course, science.

Now we engage your question. I believe that our obsession with the unattainable perfection of the human race is a very deep rooted problem.

The problem that people seek to fix with genetic engineering (asides from eliminating those with fatal diseases) is the fact that, the possibility for failure in our society is huge. It is totally a struggle to survive. And even if you survive, true success (money, security, a family) is a whole other ballpark. People constantly slip through the cracks, and kindness is a luxury. And on top of all that, even if a person survives and is successful, achieving happiness... rock stars OD, actors have nervous breakdowns, our richest citizens get nailed for tax evasion and corruption: if the most successful people in our society aren't happy, what hope does that leave for the rest of us?

Don't get me wrong, lots of people are content with their lives. But people are afraid too. At any moment, the bubble could burst, their luck could run out and they would be left without livelyhood or security or even their loved ones.

And that is what genetic engineering is supposed to be: an insurance against failure, a jump start, yet another attempt to somehow live up to the world's constant immense pressure to be perfect.

It is perplexing that we continue to expect ourselves to be perfect after proving a thousand times over that we aren't.

"History is more or less bunk." - Henry Ford

Nov 12, 2004 10:48 # 28832

rosyxxx *** agrees...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

92% | 4

It is perplexing that we continue to expect ourselves to be perfect after proving a thousand times over that we aren't.

What is the phrase about how our flaws can be our greatest strengths? If we have no flaws, how can we have strengths? I agree that the thought of perfection in the face of continuous imperfection is odd.

It is odd to want to create perfection, when so much raving beauty comes from imperfection.

I think years ago someone did a study where they photographed one side of a person's face, and then flipped it over so that it was perfectly symmetrical. Most of the faces looked a bit demonic after the transformation of supposed perfection. Imperfection is one of humanity's greatest strengths, beyond the obvious surface characterstics of visual diversity. It is a pity we do not tend to appreciate either the imperfection or the diversity as much as we should.

I am reminded here as well of a movie called Gattaca with Jude Law, Uma Thurman, and the actor who is her husband, whose name escapes me just now... was it Ethan Hawke? Anyway, the movie is about a futuristic society where babies are designed and genetically engineered. Children who are love children, aka born of sexual intercourse rather than from a test tube with every imaginable possibility worked out, are relegated to the most menial jobs in society.

People in this society 'buy' identities to crawl out of their lowly status, and prove their capabilities. These people are called 'borrowed ladders'. They have to fake everything... even their blood types, just to break out of rigid stereotypes based upon perfection.

If it weren't for the fact that writers like H.G. Wells had such an uncanny ability to foresee the future, I would dismiss this movie by some filmmaker equally as talented as Wells the writer, as a fantasy.

Let's hope the fantasy does not become a reality. The earth is beautiful in its imperfection.

My mind is made up...not like my bed, which is a mess.

Nov 12, 2004 16:39 # 28848

jael *** throws in her two cents...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

94% | 2

You know, I whole heartidly agree with Bunk here.

unattainable perfection of the human race is a very deep rooted problem.

And perfection today, it's pretty much about the looks. Imagine a couple in a doctor's office. One of them has brown eyes and the other has blue and they're arguing.
"I want my son to have BROWN eyes"

"But last night we agreed on blue! I can't believe your doing this. I agreed to have a son with you when I really wanted a daughter and the least you could do for me is choose blue eyes."

*rolls eyes*
"Fine, fine we'll have a son with blue eyes. Happy?
Oh, just one thing though - We just cannot have your mothers nose."

*is extremely hurt and shocked*
"What's wrong with my mothers nose? I have it!! and you said you loved my nose"

- Uh oh.

Seriously... what is perfection? Perfect skin? Blue eyes, no green. Tall? No, some short people look very nice dainty. Straight hair? No no, curly hair is perfectly good too!

Besides this whole thing being unethical and unnatural just like you said. It's just downright hideous. It takes away the true meaning of life itself. A couple of you might be okay with this kind of technology for curing fatal diseases. But honestly... If I had a fatal disease... I'll wait to die.

You can't, absolutly cannot predict, determine or DO ANYTHING to choose the future to how you want it to be. Ofcourse there are back up plans that you can make get some sort of reasurance that if so and so happens if I do that, I wont get totally screwed. But why choose that for your child?!

The joy of new parents looking down at their first child saying "Oh look, she has your eyes" - now in some years time they will say "Oh look, she has your eyes. Thats exactly what I wanted"

Life would be so boring...nothing will be a surprise anymore. Nothing will be a delight. The joy of watching your child grow and watch his or her face change through the years wouldn't be as fasinating any more.. cause the perants already have some sort of an idea of what the kid will look like.

And what about this? You know how you only have God to blame the way you look? (or for non believers, who ever they want to choose to blame) Now your kids will really have some one to point a finger at.

I like it when I don't know how things will turn out... gives me something to live on for... look forward to.

*insert something profound/witty/humorous here*

This post was edited by jael on Nov 12, 2004.

Nov 13, 2004 00:44 # 28866

RagingMaxx ** replies...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

94% | 2

I think that there is something that needs to be said here, because whether or not I agree with the previous posts or not, you guys are not even trying to play devil's advocate. :)

After hundreds of thousands of years of existance, our species has splintered into many different "races" which have their own unique genetic mutations and so forth. Some groups of people have specific, well known genetic disorders that will not go away without some form of scientific intervention. Take sickle-cell anemia (sorry, I realize my spelling is quite shocking at times) for example. Millions of people of African descent suffer from this genetic disorder, and yet short of banning affected people from breeding there is no way to rid the world of this disorder. This is (I believe) what you guys are referring to when you mention genetic engineering to solve severe genetic disorders. It would take hundreds of years and some very strict control of human pregnancy (non monitored pregnancies would probably have to be illegalized to eliminate the chance of genetic disorders being passed on, and that's really scary). However, there are some genetic disorders that really should be elminitated if they could be, the major one in my mind being pre-disposition to depression (due to my own personal experiences).

If this makes sense though, then why shouldn't the same techniques be used to prevent people from lesser suffering? I personally spend time, effort, and money trying to get rid of this damn acne, and to be perfectly honest, I'm not the kind of person that cares about physical appearances. Acne can be painful, though, and inconvenient, and if I can prevent my kids from having it, well that just one less thing for them to worry about in their lives. Does acne make me an individual? Hell no, in fact it makes me an even more stereotypical nerd. Does acne make me more beautiful? Man, I really hope not. Are there thousands of other things about me that make me unique? Of course.

You guys have also completely missed the fact that genetic engineering could be used to make people MORE unique. What if I want my kids to have a dog's sense of hearing? That way they wont have to turn their music up loud. My girlfriend has always wanted a world where people have tails, maybe we're getting closer! :)

I think the point here is that genetic engineering, like any technology, is just a tool. If all our kids end up looking the same, that would be bad, but I really dont think that's going to happen unless the wrong people take control. It totally depends on what we as humans decide to use the technology for, and I hope that I've pointed out that there are uses for genetic engineering that have positive results. If genetic engineering is seen in 2000 years as the "disaster of the 21st century", it wont be because of the technology itself, but rather the people that control it.

Having said all of this, I think that genetic engineering of humans is opening the door for a new type of racism (as mention in the Gattica post). If the US and Europe starts heavily engineering the genetic makeup of its people, we could actually see a divergence of humantity into two or more truly different races. There are already huge differences between the first and third world, and I can only see this making the problem worse. This post is already too long, so I'll just end it here and keep the rest of my thoughts for some future post.

I like the Sun.

Nov 13, 2004 06:08 # 28872

baexcell *** replies...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

?% | 1

What if I want my kids to have a dog's sense of hearing?

This is precisely one of the problems I have with the concept of genetic engineering being done by parents for "desired" children. The problem being that the parents are making a conscious decision for their child, and giving it no choice in the matter, thus eliminating his/her individuality and right to live his/her as he/she sees fit. Why should parents be able to decide what is best for their children before the children are ever born? Isn't that saying they are less of a person than the parent since they are apparently unable to care for themselves without interference from their parents.

In my oh-so-humble opinion, this is men trying to be gods. While I don't think this topic needs to be religiously fueled, I also don't want to leave it out simply because it is a topic of varying opinions.

Men are not gods, and this is something we need to either accept or change. However, the only way to change it is for their to be a "people" from which our congregation will be made over which we have complete and total control. In the process of doing this, we lose our humanity and become nothing more than slavedrivers.

This is, of course, simply may opinion, and any and all of you are welcome to disagree if you see fit.

Nov 15, 2004 01:08 # 28920

RagingMaxx ** replies...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

?% | 1

Why should parents be able to decide what is best for their children before the children are ever born? Isn't that saying they are less of a person than the parent since they are apparently unable to care for themselves without interference from their parents.

Ok, most parents are going to be making decisions for their child until it turns 18 or so. And yes, many of those decisions are going to be made before the child is born (their name for example?). Most people do not feel like "less of a person" because their parents took care of them and made major life decisions for them, especially in the first ten years of their life. I mean, how is a 5 year old supposed to decide whether to get a flu vaccine or not? Would you really let your 8 year old child choose his own meals (I'm thinking of the movie Big Daddy where the kid always eats ice cream for breakfast)? Whether we like it or not, our parents are going to have a huge influence in our life, be that with decisions made before or after your birth. It is a fact of life that many of us will rebel against them in our teens, but that doesn't make them any less important in our early lives.

In my oh-so-humble opinion, this is men trying to be gods.

Even though I personally don't believe in God, that's not going to stop me arguing with you about Him. :)

If you think that genetic modification of humans is men trying to be gods, then I'm sorry to inform you that we've been playing with God's creations for hundreds of years. Do you really think God intended us to tailor roses and other strains of plants by taking cuttings and lashing them together? Or do you think God intended for humans to selectively breed dogs to get the ridiculously wide range of dog species present on our planet? I don't think God intended any of that, but we have been "playing God" by using more primitive genetic methods for hundreds of years. Furthermore, I don't think that the wide range of dogs or roses is a bad thing in any way (although I will admit I do not enjoy small dogs).

Another thing you may not have pondered is that we've been genetically modifying food to feed starving people in third world nations. Yes, many of these are God's people, but if everything was left up to him they would all be dead of starvation. Because of genetic engineering of other animals and plants we are able to minimize the amount of land use and other resources to procude food, which is a major factor in the lack of food production in places like Africa and Asia. We can also genetically modify simple foods like grains to enable them to grow in dryer/harsher climates, which has also been a great help.

Lastly, it seems like an arbitrary thing to think that a God must have "people" or followers to be a God. God's power does not lie in the fact that some people worship him, because if it did he wouldn't have been able to create those people, and then you have a paradox. Furthermore, do you think that if Earth (and consequently the human race) was destroyed, God would lose his power? We as humans are becoming more powerful every day because of the technology we weild. If some people use that technology for evil things, such as the a-bomb, it hurts everyone. However, we must also keep in mind that the same research that created the atomic bomb has been used in hundreds and thousands of less "evil" technologies that we would have a very hard time living without nowadays. Are we playing God by splitting the atom? Does it matter? Should we abandon ALL forms of scientific research simply because someone has the potential to do harm with them?

Just a few things to ponder while I prepare my repsonce to rosyxxx's novel of a post. :)

I like the Sun.

Nov 13, 2004 15:32 # 28878

rosyxxx *** wants to note...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

?% | 1

I think that there is something that needs to be said here, because whether or not I agree with the previous posts or not, you guys are not even trying to play devil's advocate.

If a 'devil's advocate is a person who opposes an argument with which he does not necessarily disagree, to determine its validity... then you and all of us here, are doing that. Posing the question to begin with was 'playing devil's advocate'. Bringing up points as to 'yeah' or 'nay' responses, is also playing devil's advocate. I see what you are trying to get at here,though, and I commend it. We really do need to look at the pros and cons. Sickle-cell anemia, diabetes, heart disease, chronic depression, manic-depression, and a myriad of physical and mental illnesses which all can be construed to be potentially fatal, are worth considering whether they merit continuance.

On the one side, I feel that it would be nice to eliminate such illnesses and predispositions, but with everything there comes a 'price'. And that price may mean loss of diversity, loss of individuality, and loss of the wonder and beauty of how life creates itself. And if not total loss, then severe diminishment.

And then there is the possibility that some people, including myself, would not want to sacrifice who we have become as a result of rising to the challenge of the genetic illnesses with which we have been saddled.

However there are some genetic disorders that really should be eliminated if they could be, the major one in my mind being pre-disposition to depression (due to my own personal experiences).

There are those of us, like the author and physician Kay Redfield Jamison, who feel that the genetic obliteration of mental illness would be a mistake. Even though she suffers from Manic-Depression (aka, what is now misleadingly referred to as Bipolar Disorder), she has stated that she does not think it would be a good idea to eliminate any genetic predisposition to the illness. As much as she has feared for her own life, while in the beginning stages of a psychotic episode, she has said that she would not wish to give up her Manic- Depression. I would have to agree with her, being Manic-Depressive myself, and being very, very aware of both the dangers and the benefits of my illness.

I respect Kay Redfield Jamison's authority on the topic, both because she is a 'wounded healer' with years of psychiatric research under her belt as a physcian, and also because she has written not only the definitive description of Manic-Depression in the DSM-V Manual, but has written a book about the potential losses our society would experience if we no longer had Manic-Depressives in it. That book is called Touched with Fire, and I currently own it, and have read it, but cannot find it at the moment to quote from it.

Suffice it to say, that while trying to understand my illness, I read almost everything I could find on the subject, including all of Kay Jamison's books. The book Touched with Fire is unique in its evocation of the thought that we would not have musical geniuses such as J.S. Bach, nor artists such as Van Gogh, and many other creative people if Manic-Depression did not exist. There are many creative people in our present day, as well as historically, who have the illness, benefit from it, and yet it is not common knowledge. It is a taboo subject to mention that you have it in many public spheres.

Were Manic-Depression to be obliterated, it is possible, and highly likely, that our culture would not have any more individuals of such dramatic creative ability. With the removal of the extreme lows, comes the removal of the extreme highs. I know that you were talking of Depression, which is an entirely different illness, and includes the likes of Sylvia Plath in its list of people it has afflicted. Depression is so hideous, but without it, there would be no such thing as Manic-Depression. This may sound callous and cold of me, but it, I assure you, is not.

Having had this illness myself, I would agree with Kay Jamison that, even though it has almost cost me my life on several occasions, I would not go back and change it. I would not choose to not have Manic-Depression. Because of it, I have flown higher than most, seen more approachably glorious vistas in my mind, experienced the wonders of the universe at levels which others who do not have my illness find perplexing, and the colors and stars have seemed much brighter than more mentally stable people tell me they are.

I have also seen the depths of despair, and almost followed them down. I have seen black days so devoid of hope, that I fear I will not survive the night. I have felt as if dirt was already filling my mouth, as my mind fell into its own grave, and I wondered if the way I felt was how it felt to be buried alive. Even so. I would not trade the beauty I have seen. If the flip-side is the price I must pay, then so be it. Even if it means that I may someday come to an untimely end. I hope not, but I am willing to take that risk.

You guys have also completely missed the fact that genetic engineering could be used to make people MORE unique.

I disagree here. In my previous post I referred to the movie Gattaca, and if you have seen the movie you would know that the futuristic society it describes is fascinated with uniqueness, albeit, in an elitist sort of way. I'll admit that assuming other people had seen the movie, and that I need not elaborate further, was assuming alot. I dashed off that post rather quickly, and briefly - which I am not usually wont to do. :)Therefore, allow me to elucidate.

At one point, during the course of the movie, the two main characters go to see a piano recital. The celebrated pianist at this recital is playing a piece that can only be played by someone with six fingers on one hand. That is because he has six fingers on one hand, and he wrote the piece. Everyone is enraptured with his music! At the end of the performance he tosses his 'six-fingered glove' into the crowd as a souvenir. It is considered quite the prize. I can't be the only one who finds this scene terrifying in its social implications.

Maybe your idea of having 'a dog's sense of hearing' is completely innocent in its fascination with the possibilities that genetic engineering could provide; but, it is quite likely that in practice, innocent fascination with the idea could turn into something horrific. Witness what happened with the creation of the atom bomb.

And yet, I think the idea of having exceptional hearing capabilities sounds wonderful. But maybe we shouldn't fuss with nature so much as work with her. Let these sorts of things happen in their own time. There are already children in Russia who supposedly can sleep underwater, after having been born through dolphin-assisted births.

The beauty that is our universe could not have happened overnight, and I sometimes think that our fascination with science is, at times, simply impatience with the world. It isn't that there aren't truly great and wonderful things which could be accomplished by genetic engineering...there are...as have been mentioned previously in this thread. But there exists also the potential to distort and warp those innocent leanings into atrocities against mankind and the earth, and everything which exists upon it. I am not advocating censorship, so much as patience and humility in the face of what we could destroy without knowing it until it is too late.

For example, our genetic engineering of fruits and vegetables has already threatened to put thousands of heirloom vegetables into the blackness of oblivion. If it weren't for companies like Seed Savers, there would no longer be any Moon and Stars watermelons, nor Beeswing Dahlias, not to mention many of the heavenly variations on tomatoes and garlic out there, most of which do not have the required shelf-life needed to stay on our grocery store shelves. They have not been perfected, they have flaws. They also have, as a result of these flaws, minute variations in taste which lend themselves to ecstatic eating experiences.

If people are motivated to keep the seed banks full of seeds for dozens of heirloom tomato plants, and hundreds of heirloom garlics which have existed, some of them, for centuries; then I suppose there would likely be a movement of people trying to preserve the bio-diversity of human beings with their mutated quirks. But then, in the movie Gattaca, as an example yet again, there are people just like that. They are the ones who have their children outside the labs. And they have a tough job against the prevailing ideas of their society.

There will always be people who will stand up for what they believe in, but why play with fire?

For myself, I would have to conclude by saying that, even though there are those who might wish vehemently not to have their illnesses (and I can't see any good reason for diabetes or sickle-cell anemia, though I don't have either of them, so I don't know personally), I do not wish to be rid of Manic-Depression. I am frightened of it, I fear it, but at the same time I know it is responsible for how breathtakingly beautiful the world appears to me at times, and for the impulses to create which I carry within me.

My best poetry has come out of states that were less than socially acceptable. And yet I have lost friendships, jobs, and respect due to my illness. But I STILL would not trade it. I do not wish to live in a world toned down permanently from my current vision of its ecstatic beauty.

If genetic engineering were to progress to the level of people categorically designing their children, Manic-Depression, among other illnesses, would likely be a thing of the past. And so would people like Van Gogh and Bach. I do not wish to live in a world such as that. I would like to be able to take my chances with my illness, and since there are those even now, who frown upon those with Manic-Depression having children because of the risk of passing on the genetic predisposition for it, I fear it would only be worse in a world where everyone has the 'choice' to choose everything for their children.

You already can't even choose your own name. I don't want anything else chosen for me or my children. Regardless of the burdens such an endeavor would lift, I do not personally feel that it is worth the potentially hefty price.

There are many more prescient souls than I, who have considered this topic much more indepth than I have, and many, I believe would agree that the benefits are not worth the risks.

My mind is made up...not like my bed, which is a mess.

This post was edited by rosyxxx on Nov 13, 2004.

Nov 15, 2004 01:51 # 28921

RagingMaxx ** replies...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

76% | 2

There are those of us, like the author and physician Kay Redfield Jamison, who feel that the genetic obliteration of mental illness would be a mistake.

I'll start by mentioning that yes, during my own research I have read passages from many of Kay Redfield Jamison books, including Touched by Fire and also An Unquiet Mind (my girlfriend also owns Jamison's entire library). She makes a number of convincing arguments for sustaining bipolar disorder in today's society. Personally though, I am keeping in mind that while she does suffer from biploar disorder (and I do not), she is not trained in biotech/genetics nor anthrapology/sociology. To me this says that while her opinions on the disorder itself are quite valid, her predictions for the future of society are not grounded in any concrete knowledge of society, but rather based on her opinions on the subject.

Having said that, I do not disagree with the fact that individuals suffering from bipolar disorder have been responsible for some of the most amazing art and music in history and today. However, there are many more radical and creative artists throughout history and today that do not suffer from bipolar disorder, and to say that our society's culture would be severely diminished by the loss of a brain-damaging mental disorder is insulting to those artists and musicians that do not suffer from it. Just as many life-changing experiences and beautiful visions have been caused by religion and/or drugs (not to say that either religion or drugs are better/worse than bipolar disorder, I would definitely rid the world of one of the two if I had a choice).

Now, regardless of my opinions, I imagine there will always be people such as yourself who do see the value in bipolar disorder. If genetic engineering does manage to overcome the misconceptions caused by failures in its early stages and becomes a standard choice for new parents, there will always be people like you who choose to leave certain genetic traits as they are. Some people might want their child to retain whatever looks or physicality which was created from the natural union of their parents' reproductive cells, while others such as yourself may choose to let their child keep a pre-disposition towards bipolar disorder. Regardless of what the child may have to say about this 25 years down the line, this should always remain the parent's choice.

What this means is that most likely bipolar disorder never will get completely destroyed. Instead, the number of cases of bipolar disorder will be roughly proportional to the value that people see in it. The same goes for sickle-cell anemia and diabetes. If people see any worth in it, then invariably some will choose not to destroy it in their child. If no one sees any value in it, then most likely as a genetic trait it will be destroyed (if that's even possible). We must also keep in mind that this technology will not sweep the world in a number of weeks or even months. It will take years if not decades for third world countries to be able to afford this kind of technology, not to mention the infastructure that would be necessary to support it. This may cause other problems like further distancing the third world from Europe and the United States, but it will also ensure that no genetic disorder will get destroyed in the first 100 years of genetic customization.

Depression is so hideous, but without it, there would be no such thing as Manic-Depression.

Pre-disposition on a genetic level for depression is on an entirely seperate allele than the pre-disposition for bipolar disorder. This means that in fact, we could rid the world of depression without affecting genetic breakouts of bipolar disorder. My last thought on this particular sub-topic is that it may be possible to eliminate the "depression" side of "manic-depression" using genetic engineering. Although this seems far fetched, it is only a matter of time before we understand how to avoid the chemical behaviors that cause depression. Would this seem like a decent alternative, or are the lows just as essential to the creative process as the highs?

In my previous post I referred to the movie Gattaca...

I've seen the movie and I agree that the future that it predicts is a sad one in many ways. It is just a movie however, and seeing as the author has no training in genetics or sociolology it would be folly to assume that it is anything more than an interpretation of one way the world might turn out. In a society that was truly so obsessed with uniqueness, wouldn't genetic engineering be used to further that end? Furthermore, in our current society which is so obsessed with "fitting in" with the status quo, I would almost welcome any society that was more concerned with uniqueness. Why shouldn't people want to be unique?

You already can't even choose your own name. I don't want anything else chosen for me or my children.

That's right, there are heaps of things already that we don't get a choice in. We don't get to choose our names, what we look like, who are parents are, or what country we are born in. We do get to choose some of those things for our children though, and as any parent knows you just want what is best for them. You might make the wrong choices, and many parents do. However, if I learned that my parents had a choice of whether or not I was going to have depression/diabetes/heart diease and they chose to leave me with it, I would want a better explanation than "we didn't know what you would want 20 years down the line so instead of making a decision for you, we just left you as you were". Parents are supposed to make decisions for their children until the child is old enough to make decisions for themselves. Many of these decisions will affect the child, and possibly even the child's children signuficantly more than whether the child will be born with acne or not. Are we approaching a society where people are so scared of making decisions for others that we cease to raise our own children? I think that would be far worse even than the society in Gattica.

The last thing that I have to say (at the moment anyway), is that there are quite possibly many ways that genetic engineering could be used without disadvantage. What if we could raise the IQ of Americans over the next 200 years? Being an American myself, and judging by the results of the last election, I would say that eliminating as many stupid people as possible is a great idea, and what better place to start?? :)

Seriously though, genetic engineering is just a tool, like anything else. There will be people that want to do bad things with it, and there will be people too stupid/shortsighted to see the damage they might cause with it. There will also be good natured geniuses who might show us that genetic engineering will herald a new age in individuality fueled by a splintering of the "human race". Custom-evolution might be the best thing since sliced bread, as it may launch us into a new golden age of human accomplishments. I don't know if genetically modified atheletes should compete in the Olympics, but I'd like to see fire-fighters and police with higher IQs and super-human physical abilities. Sure, they might seize power in a bloody coup, but it would still be better than Bush's regime. :)

I like the Sun.

This post was edited by RagingMaxx on Nov 15, 2004.

Nov 17, 2004 03:49 # 28971

rosyxxx *** replies...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

?% | 1

I see your point that Kay Jamison, though she is a definite authority on Bipolar Illness, is not an authority on biotech/genetics nor anthropology/sociology. It would be difficult for her to predict the future of maintaining the genetic predisposition to the illness, given that she is not as well-rounded as she could be. :)

However, I find that by reading the following quotes of mine as well as yours, that we seem to be miscommunicating.

rosyxxx

Were Manic-Depression to be obliterated, it is possible, and highly likely, that our culture would not have any more individuals of such dramatic creative ability.

RagingMaxx

Having said that, I do not disagree with the fact that individuals suffering from bipolar disorder have been responsible for some of the most amazing art and music in history and today. However, there are many more radical and creative artists throughout history and today that do not suffer from bipolar disorder, and to say that our society's culture would be severly diminished by the loss of a brain-damaging mental disorder is insulting to those artists and musicians that do not suffer from it.

Well, I would have to reply to this quote, assuming that the sentence from my post which prompted this reply was the one I have referred to above, that I never intended to imply to that there would be no possibility of exceptional creativity existing outside of mental illness. I had been obliquely referring to my fear, that had Bipolar disorder been obliterated in the past, artists, such as the examples I gave of Bach and Van Gogh, would never have existed. But obviously my comments were oblique in their meaning, and I do see how it looks very much like I think that all creativity comes from Manic-Depression/Bipolar Disorder, which, I assure you, I do not. I was not wanting to ruffle anyone's feathers, either.

*pauses to scratch the head of my pet cockatoo*

May I repeat, I did not intend to insult creative individuals who are not burdened or saddled with the disorder.

If I wanted to have my feelings hurt, I could look at the last sentence from your quote and decide that "...there are many more radical and creative artists..." could be read as: there being more radical and creative artists than those with bipolar disorder; rather than seeing it for what it is: the idea that there are many more radical and creative artists than those which exist in the subgroup of Bipolar disorder. I took it the latter way, and so my feelings are not hurt, nor am I insulted, though apparently, I have inadvertently insulted those who are 'radically creative' without the illness.

But the last part,

...to say that our society's culture would be severly diminished by the loss of a brain-damaging mental disorder is insulting to those artists and musicians that do not suffer from it.

Inspires three questions from me:

1) Do you understand now why I made the assertion I did? Is it clear that I was not intending to insult either you nor anyone else who might be radically creative without having this illness?

2) Did it occur to you, that I, having been saddled with this illness, have to find some way to make peace with it, and not feel overly burdened by it?

3) Did it occur to you that referring to Bipolar Illness as 'a brain-damaging mental disorder', within the context of the sentence where it was placed, would sound as very condemning commentary on the nature of the illness that I and others have? As well as the fact that it might imply that loosing such a 'brain-damaging ilness' would be no loss? How is someone who is currently 'stuck' with the illness supposed to feel about that?

This poses for me a fourth question. With your knowledge of biotech/genetics, I am seriously asking, does Bipolar Disorder do brain damage? I know that Schizophrenia does, but I am curious about whether Bipolar Disorder does. Obviously my reading and education have not been as extensive as they could be. Not being sarcastic, just wishing that I knew more. And simply because I generally tend to post lengthy posts does not mean that I think I am smarter than everybody else, just that I am verbose. Not that anyone was calling me a know-it-all, it just ocurred to me that this too, could be misinterpreted.

To continue,

RagingMaxx

Some people might want their child to retain whatever looks or physicality, which was created from the natural union of their parents' reproductive cells, while others such as yourself may choose to let their child keep a pre-disposition towards bipolar disorder. Regardless of what the child may have to say about this 25 years down the line, this should always remain the parent's choice.

I don't think I would be making a choice to "keep a pre-disposition towards bipolar disorder", so much as I would be refusing to peer into the abyss and see what genetic combinations might occur in my supposed child. Much in the same fashion as current day moms sometimes refuse to have testing done to show the sex of their baby before it is born. Simply my choice, but a choice that I would like preserved.

This brings forth another problem, which no one, including myself, has as yet, addressed. That, namely of: Is it the parents' choice, or the parent's choice... and if it is the parents' choice, then what happens if one parent refuses to be privy to genetic knowledge of the child, and the other demands it, and the prevailing wisdom of the masses is that it should be available? Then, that choice, which as you say, should always remain the parents' choice, is now divisive.

Of course I am aware that it may take years, maybe even decades for this technology to sweep the world, and that it may cause problems like distancing the third world from Europe and the United States, in its required financing and the infrastructure required to support it. I am also aware that genetic disorders such as this one will likely not be at risk for being destroyed for a long, long time. However, does this mean that I should not worry about such a thing, since it will not likely occur within my lifetime? And if so, then am I not to worry about future generations? Or does this information supplied by you simply ring as a thought on the subject? Are you thinking out loud as I do?

If Manic-Depression and Depression, as clinical disorders, are as complicated as they appear to be genetically, how does one clearly draw the line where one begins and the other ends?

RagingMaxx

Pre-disposition on a genetic level for depression is on an entirely seperate allele than the pre-disposition for bipolar disorder. This means that in fact, we could rid the world of depression without affecting genetic breakouts of bipolar disorder.

This sounds lovely, as I find that of those people I know with chronic or cyclothymic depression, many, if not most, are pretty darned unhappy during their depressions, not to mention sometimes suicidal. Getting rid of Depression, or the "depression" side of Manic-Depression would be nice, and this is what I was alluding to when I commented that:

Depression is so hideous, but without it, there would be no such thing as Manic-Depression.

I simply meant, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, that if the "depressive side" did not exist, there would be no such thing as Manic-Depression, even though I know, all too well, that the new moniker for it -namely Bipolar Disorder- is misleading for the fact that it gives the impression that the mania and depressive sides occur at opposite poles; when in reality they are deeply intertwined, and hard to seperate. I was trying to be humorous in a dry sort of way.

But considering this:

RagingMaxx

My last thought on this particular sub-topic is that it may be possible to eliminate the "depression" side of "manic-depression" using genetic engineering.

Ah, the plot thickens. :) Even if the gene for depression is on an entirely seperate allele than the gene for bipolar/manic-depression or cyclothymia, is it that simple? Hopefully not, because it would be really, really nice to have the exciting, productive side of the 'illness' without the plummeting depths of depression. But then, some would argue, can you have the good without the bad, especially if they are so deeply intertwined; and, conversely, is everyone who is chronically depressed really depressed all of the time?

And yes, movies like Gattaca, as well as books by authors such as Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, George Orwell and the like are only interpretations of one way that the future might evidence itself. Even if the writers behind the movie Gattaca had training in genetics or sociology, their interpretations would still be only one possible predicition, since the very nature of writing which has forseen both horrible and wonderful futures for mankind, has a kernel within it of a sort of enlightenment, which can change the outcome, simply by its having been written. A sort of reverse self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will.

RagingMaxx

Furthermore, in our current society which is so obsessed with "fitting in" with the status quo, I would almost welcome any society that was more concerned with uniqueness. Why shouldn't people want to be unique?

I agree very much with your assertion and opinion. I suppose, in my quirky little way, I have come to view the very nature of this, at times, crippling illness, as just that. Something which makes me unique. I certainly, by no means, meant to imply that you, or other creative people like you, are not unique, as well. But, beyond that, I think lots of people already have unique qualities which they do not 'play up', because of how intimidating that status quo is... I wish people would capitalize more on the uniqueness they already have than they do. We are already infinitely unique as a species, and I should think that there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be more so.

As a sub-topic, I would like to suggest that maybe those supposed genetic changes could be modified after birth and young adulthood. I don't know if that would be possible, since I don't have any background in biotech/genetics, but it is a question that I have.

In response to your quote:

Parents are supposed to make decisions for their children until the child is old enough to make decisions for themselves... Are we approaching a society where people are so scared of making decisions for others that we cease to raise our own children? I think that would be far worse even than the society in Gattaca.

As far as my assertion that "You already can't even choose your own name," I was referring to the fact that many American Indian tribes gave their children a temporary name, until such time as they were "old enough to make decisions for themselves", and had also developed enough of a personality and a past history of achievements, that they could either choose or be given a new name. Either way, their actions after birth determined their names, rather than the name simply being arbitrary. I don't think that I and others like myself are so much "scared of making decisions for others", as that we don't want to make decisions that might be better left to the child - when they are old enough to do so - if I may qualify that statement. Maybe this sounds a bit radical and Socialist in its echoing reverberations, but then I guess, I was always one for a more communal society, where several people, including the child, take part in decisions.

In response to your suggestion:

What if we could raise the IQ of Americans over the next 200 years? Being an American myself, and judging by the results of the last election, I would say that eliminating as many stupid people as possible is a great idea, and what better place to start?? :)

I would say: What if we could raise the IQ of people in every country? (Although I am sure that was likely implicit in your statement.) And I would reply further, by referring to another quote of mine:

There are already children in Russia who supposedly can sleep underwater, after having been born through dolphin-assisted births.

None of these children, by the way, have IQs below 150. They are all extremely intelligent. Apparently something in the radar of the dolphins, like ultrasound, affects the genetic makeup of these children.

When you start talking about getting rid of stupid people though, you are treading on dangerous territory, even if you only mean it in jest, which I am sure you do. Incidentally, this tangent towards the recent elections, I find to be rather humorous. It is really annoying to deal with ignorant people, but then they are part of the human race as well as us smart ones. And we don't have to be kind in our estimation of them, but it would be nice, at least in the interest of furthering human relations.

I don't know that I would so much want to get rid of stupid people through genetic engineering, as increase the number of intelligent ones. Yes, it would be nice to have children with higher IQs. Somewhere in the recent past they seem to have dropped off, or maybe that is only an illusion. But what I stated had been occuring with dolphin-assisted births in Russia, brings up the point I made before that sentence, in its original context. Namely:

But maybe we shouldn't fuss with nature so much as work with her. Let these sorts of things happen in their own time.

And what I meant by that was simply that the betterment of mankind can occur outside of a laboratory filled with test tubes and petri dishes, as well as inside. The combination of leaving the race of men open to the changes of evolution within nature, as well as occasionally assisting it with science is sort of what I had in mind. In fact, the act of combining dolphins and man in a swimming pool, is sort of like a large 'petri dish', kind of in the way that the oceans themselves are, as well as the continents, the earth, the solar system we exist in, our particular galaxy, and the cosmos.

I would venture to suspect that you and I are not as far off from our opinions on this subject as it may appear at times that we are...

In your last paragraph where you talk about "herald{ing} a new age in individuality fueled by a 'splintering' of the human race..." I see that my mention of the children with IQs over 150 as a result of dolphin-assisted births is commenting on the same thing. These children not only are extremely smart, but they can supposedly sleep at the bottom of pools for a half hour or so, before rising, while still asleep, to the surface to breath in air, before returning to the bottom of the pool to sleep. Whether this assertion is true or not, it still brings up the image for me of water-beings who have 'splintered' off from the human race. The idea is fascinating!

I agree, that even though there will be people who might want to do nefarious things with genetic engineering, and also those too shortsighted to see that further research at a given time might be too dangerous; there will also be those who intend nothing but good, and who know when enough is enough for the time being. A "new golden age of human accomplishments", as you so aptly put it, would be awesome.

Your last sentence:

I don't know if genetically modified athletes should compete in the Olympics, but I'd like to see fire-fighters and police with higher IQs and super-human physical abilities. Sure, they might seize power in a bloody coup, but it would still be better than Bush's regime.:)

Oooh... I don't want to touch that one with a ten-foot-pole, considering my recent experiences in the discussion of politics, but I will say that I think that is very funny :), and the images it conjures up amuse me. One of my friends who is a fire-fighter would probably smile widely at that one. Well done. *chuckles* };->

Addendum:

In response to one of your quotes from another post of yours on this thread:
RagingMaxx

Just a few things to ponder while I prepare my response to rosyxxx's novel of a post.:)

Yes, I am generally lengthy, and my posts sometimes take on the epic proportions of novels such as Anna Karenina, but then I make no apologies for that. It is part of who I am. Some people are brief, while others, such as myself are verbose. This could be viewed as a 'unique' quality by some, and an annoyance by others.

However, I am verbose for the very reason that I stated in another post of mine on this topic - the fact that lack of elucidation can create mistaken assumptions. I believe, primarily, in being thorough, though sometimes I keep it simple.

Quoting myself again I say:

I dashed off that post rather quickly, and briefly - which I am not usually wont to do.:) Therefore, allow me to elucidate.

But I think that I have in spades. *sigh* If I have missed something, let me know. I don't have trouble admitting my mistakes, nor apologizing when I have offended someone. And in that vein, I might add, that if in someway I have offended you, I am sorry, but if not, well then, thanks for the thought-provoking commentary. You have enlightened my mind to viewing the topic in a renewed light. Thank you.

My mind is made up...not like my bed, which is a mess.

This post was edited by rosyxxx on Nov 17, 2004.

Nov 18, 2004 00:19 # 29038

RagingMaxx ** posts about...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

?% | 1

Let me just start by saying that nothing in my post was meant as a personal attack on you or those who suffer from manic-depression. I fully respect your opinions and am enjoying the conversation immensely. :)

I do see how it looks very much like I think that all creativity comes from Manic-Depression/Bipolar Disorder, which, I assure you, I do not.

Sorry, the tone of my post must have been much more stern than I intended it to be. I never interpreted your post as meaning that manic-depression is the cause of the best/only creativity in the world. Also, I fully agree with you that destroying manic-depression would cease the possibility of future Van Goghs, but perhaps what I was trying to imply was that maybe there are other things that make human beings just as creative, and maybe if Van Gogh had been a chronic absynthe addict (or something) maybe he would have experienced life in much the same fashion. :)

If I wanted to have my feelings hurt, I could look at the last sentence from your quote... I took it the latter way, and so my feelings are not hurt, nor am I insulted...

Again, I never intended that to be negative or insulting, sorry I came off like such a jerk! :) Let me try and clear up was I was trying to say by citing myself:

...to say that our society's culture would be severly diminished by the loss of a brain-damaging mental disorder is insulting to those artists and musicians that do not suffer from it.

Our society will always have fringe elements responsible for the creative and rejuvinating aspects of our culture. Every once in a while a person of great creativity and drive comes along, and with the right circumstances they may be able to shift the path of our culture in a different direction. Artists such as Van Gogh certainly did this, but so did many others who's creativity flowed from a different font, be it drugs or religion or whatever. I never actually meant that your post was insulting to other artists, I just said it for a little emphasis. :)

Now to try and answer your three questions.

1) Do you understand now why I made the assertion I did? Is it clear that I was not intending to insult either you nor anyone else who might be radically creative without having this illness?

I hope I've answered this one, I sure hope no one was actually insulted by your post, or my responce to it.

2) Did it occur to you, that I, having been saddled with this illness, have to find some way to make peace with it, and not feel overly burdened by it?

I feel bad for not being more sensitive to your position, but truly I didn't mean it to come out sounding quite that negative.

3) Did it occur to you that referring to Bipolar Illness as 'a brain-damaging mental disorder' .. would sound as very condemning commentary on the nature of the illness that I and others have? ...

Yes, it is rather condemning commentary, and again it wasn't meant as an attack on those who suffer from the disorder. However, we've been talking about it almost as if it was a non-serious genetic disorder like freckles or something, and I wanted to make a point that it was in fact a very serious condition.

With your knowledge of biotech/genetics, I am seriously asking, does Bipolar Disorder do brain damage?

Ok, I must apologize because it seems that my posts have been very misleading. I don't have any formal training in biotech, genetics, or socioligy, I'm just a curious Uni student who reads a lot, and I'm trying to form my own opinions based on what I do know. Nothing that I've said is like expert testimony, its just my thoughts and opinions.

To answer your question about brain damage, yes it does cause damage, but probably not the kind you're thinking of. "Brain Damage" generally refers to part of the brain being destroyed, affecting the functions carried out by that and surrounding areas of the brain. While bi-polar does not cause this kind of damage (to my knowledge), it does cause reduced effectiveness of seratonin receptors similar to chronic or major depressive disorders. This means that while no part of your brain is being destroyed, the effectiveness of your seratonin receptors will weaken over time, forcing your body to place more receptors on each neuron to make up the difference.

Is it the parents' choice, or the parent's choice... and if it is the parents' choice, then what happens if one parent refuses to be privy to genetic knowledge of the child, and the other demands it, and the prevailing wisdom of the masses is that it should be available?

I never even thought of that. :)

I am also aware that genetic disorders such as this one will likely not be at risk for being destroyed for a long, long time. However, does this mean that I should not worry about such a thing, since it will not likely occur within my lifetime? And if so, then am I not to worry about future generations? Or does this information supplied by you simply ring as a thought on the subject? Are you thinking out loud as I do?

Again, as I have no real expertise on the subject, these are just my thoughts and opinions. What I will say is this: life is short! Enjoy! People have a hard enough time making predictions about the future, let alone concrete plans. I think that if these issues are really going to become a problem, it will probably take the technology and minds of that generation to be able to fix them. Maybe thats just me being irresponsible. :)

If Manic-Depression and Depression, as clinical disorders, are as complicated as they appear to be genetically, how does one clearly draw the line where one begins and the other ends?

The answer to this question is complex in it's simplicity. :) The key here is that the disorders are actually not related genetically. DNA is a long series of connected "alleles" which each consist of several pieces of "code". Each allele holds information about one aspect of your body. Alleles can be different lengths, as some may need to store more information than others, and the same allele can be different in two different people (you know, people are different). What they have found is that there is a certain allele that is responsible for people being born with a pre-disposition to depression. If the allele is short in your DNA, you are not pre-disposed and have something like a 12% chance of experiencing depression in your lifetime. If your allele happens to be long, it means you do have a genetic pre-disposition, and that you have chances of upwards of 60% of experiencing depression. If you have this long allele you will have a 50% chance of passing it on to your child, unless the other parent also has it, in which case the child will receive the long allele.

Bi-polar pre-disposition is a similar situation, but is situated on a completely seperate, unrelated allele. When I mentioned removing the "depression from manic-depression", I meant actually tailoring the genetic code for manic pre-disposition. I didn't mean that comment to be connected to clinical depression in any way (although it's clear why you interpreted it that way because of the way I wrote it).

The whole idea of removing the depressive side of bi-polar disorder is frankly a pipe dream. I don't know if anyone is researching it, or even whether it's possible. I was just posing it as a question to see what you think. I honestly do not know whether we should tinker with things like that even if we could, and as someone who has never experienced mania, I really couldn't say whether you can have the good without the bad.

A sort of reverse self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will.

That's such a cool way to look at it! Kind of like how the short story I, Robot by Issac Asimov will really make people think hard about certain problems before they try and create human-like robots. Spot on, rosy! :)

As a sub-topic, I would like to suggest that maybe those supposed genetic changes could be modified after birth and young adulthood.

This is a field of study called gene therapy, which I believe has to do with inserting "fixed" DNA into an important part of your body where a certain genetic disorder may propagate itself. I know next to nothing about gene therapy, but I believe it is currently being researched as a possible cancer cure. However, you should probably think about this: once your child has reached young adulthood the brain has completed most of its primary development, and if manic-depression is going to affect the child, the damage will already be done by this point.

I see what you mean about letting the young adult make real choices for themselves. I just think that with genetic disorders it really is the kind of thing that needs to be "nipped in the bud" while the child is still pre-natal, otherwise there's really no point. I do agree with your comment about communal raising of children though. I believe it has been shown quite conclusively that a single parent/couple raising a child is not nearly as healthy psychologically as the "tribe mentality" of a whole group of people rasing a whole group of children. It's interesting where our "technology" takes us sometimes, eh?

There are already children in Russia who supposedly can sleep underwater, after having been born through dolphin-assisted births.

I have heard of this before, but to be honest it sounds like an urban legend to me. These tests were supposedly performed in the late 80's or early 90's in Russia, and they just couldn't have possibly had the necessary technology. If the stories are true though, then this is just an early example of genetic engineering just like we're talking about. They would have had to graft human DNA into the dolphin egg or the other way around, because dolphins and humans just aren't compatible. :)

When you start talking about getting rid of stupid people though, you are treading on dangerous territory, even if you only mean it in jest, which I am sure you do. It is really annoying to deal with ignorant people, but then they are part of the human race as well as us smart ones.

I guess I don't mean actually "getting rid" of stupid people, but rather making sure that their children aren't as stupid. Unfortunately, this seems to be working in the opposite direction at the moment. As a side note, I think I am going to start a new thread somewhere about a controversial opinion I heard on this very topic of propagating stupidity.

... what I meant by that was ... that the betterment of mankind can occur outside of a laboratory filled with test tubes and petri dishes, as well as inside. The combination of leaving the race of men open to the changes of evolution within nature, as well as occasionally assisting it with science is sort of what I had in mind.

Unfortunately, because of the advanced nature of modern medicine and our ability to spread new information about health to each other, evolution no longer applies to humans in the way that it is traditionally understood. You see, for a species to "evolve" naturally, several things must happen. First, one of them must be born with a random mutation. Second, this random mutation must make this one little guy better at mating/surviving to mate than his brothers. Third, as his children are born they must also posses the mutation. Fourth, as the original and mutated species start to balance out in numbers, whichever group is better equipped to survive will slowly start to monopolize the food sources and habitats, driving the less capable side of the species to become extinct. In this way the ones with the advantageous mutated trait will live on and in future histories we will say that this species "evolved".

Now, humans are still experiencing random mutations, but these are the cause for most of what we call "genetic disorders". However, most random mutations aren't radical enough to give the one human with that mutation a serious advantage. His family might have the mutation for generations to come, but his future family will probably not come to monopolize the earth and kill off every human without the disorder. You see what I mean? Also, evolution is supposed to ensure that bad mutations don't survive, but modern medicine has found ways for people to cope with genetic disorders, meaning that as time goes on more and more genetic disorders will be created. If they are never destroyed then we may reach a point where everyone has got some nagging little genetic disorder (could we already be there?).

...it still brings up the image for me of water-beings who have 'splintered' off from the human race. The idea is fascinating!

I agree, the idea is totally fascinating. I'm not sure whether you've seen the movie Waking Life, but that's actually where I got the idea. There is a philosopher in the film who talks about how long it was between different phases of human development. He talks about the periods of time between huge social changes, and how these periods of time have been getting smaller and smaller. His prediction for the future is that genetic engineering will be the pivotal technology that allows humans to customize their own evolution, feuling a new age of individuality where man's evolution begins splitting radically rather than following a straight line as it (supposedly) has for the past few millions of years.

I am verbose for the very reason that I stated in another post of mine on this topic - the fact that lack of elucidation can create mistaken assumptions.

That reminds me of one of my favorite Ani lyrics in the song Anticipate. :) Although I was daunted at first by the sheer epic nature of your post, I am now glad that it was so long because it was just chock full of stuff that I wanted to read!

You have enlightened my mind to viewing the topic in a renewed light. Thank you.

I must in turn thank you for the same. You've opened my eyes to a few issues I had never even considered, and you've helped me form my own opinion on the matter more concretely through this discussion. Also, as I said before I'm just enjoying this conversation immensely. :)

P.S. I hope I didn't miss anything.

I like the Sun.

Dec 22, 2004 10:35 # 30385

ReallyCoolDude *** throws in his two cents...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

In short, power corrupts, and man as a species has reached to a point that it has power to create life, basically it has the ability to "play god". And, when man has that power it won't take much time before man starts using that power to create life the way it wants it to be, aka designer babies. And, once man start to play god for real, only then would he realize how tough it's to be god.

I doubt that science or nature is going to prevent man from playing god, evolution is at such a stage that creating (read: designing) life is just a few years away, and once that happens, there's no stopping, only god can stop man from becoming a god, I wonder how it's going to unfold!

Love is blind, but marriage is a real eye opener.

Jan 09, 2005 06:05 # 31037

ContingencyPlan * replies...

Re: Designer Babies/ Genetic Engineering?

96% | 3

ReallyCoolDude:

only god can stop man from becoming a god, I wonder how it's going to unfold!

As far as Christianity is concerned, this already happened once, when mankind decided to build a big tower to worship themselves.

Anyways, I personally believe life begins at conception (a topic that will continue to be debated for decades to come). However, I am not posting to create a pro-choice vs. pro-life debate here, I assure you. If anyone wants to engage in this heated discussion, let's do it in another thread, not here.

My understanding of genetics, especially of genetic engineering, is quite limited, so please correct me if I'm wrong on the science involved.

However, it seems from the article cited that the couple in Britain are screening human embryos - i.e., the fetus AFTER conception. This raises severe moral concerns for me. First, regardless of where you ("you" = the reader) stand on the beginning point of life, would you not agree that each of those embryos still has the potential to become a human life? So why should some embryos be rejected, their potential destroyed, simply because of certain traits or diseases they may have? Remember, the article says that the result of the screening process is not a certainty - the embryo may test positive, but actually not have the trait (and vice versa). To me, this is very dangerously close to procedures in which those labeled mentally retarded were sterilized so their retardation could not continue to future generations. Such procedures are considered atrocities today, but are we doing the same thing by selecting which embryos are allowed to live?

For instance, what happens when another couple has a set of embryos screened, only to find that they all carry the undesirable gene (whether it's cancer, as in the article's case, or manic-depression, as has been mentioned in prior posts)? Should all those embryos be destroyed? What if they try again, and the same thing happens? What if the couple's genome is such that the trait will occur, no matter how many embryos are created and screened? How is that pragmatically different from sterilizing both parents - the end result is the same since they cannot have children without passing along the trait, should all their embryos be destroyed, as they cannot choose one without passing along the undesirable trait?

Now I'm not saying that we should not seek to understand the human genome, or that most genetic research is somehow evil or wrong. While I am a Christian, and derive my morals accordingly, I firmly reject the stereotype that "Christians fear science..." God clearly told humanity to subdue the earth - to learn everything there is to know about it, and to use that knowledge for the good of mankind (and for God's glory, as far as He's concerned).

This includes genetics - we should seek to fully and completely understand how everything in the human genetic code works. However, what I am saying is that we should not use that knowledge to determine which embryos are allowed to be born, and which are destroyed because they are deemed "unfit." It is not up to us to decide which lives are fit to survive and which are not. To use a cliche, we should not play God by choosing which lives will be worth living - we are not omniscient, we do not know the future, so we cannot know what the end result is.

Any one of us, whether we're a full-grown adult or still an embryo, not even self-aware, is capable of great things. We all leave the world in a different state than when we entered it. How can we know how the next generation - our children - will modify the world? An embryo that has the cancer gene could be destined to change the world drastically, while another embryo that does not might only modify it slightly. Who's to say which is better, or which is more important, or which should be chosen or destroyed?

I think a better idea (though not without its own moral problems) would be that of modifying the genes of an existing fetus to not carry the trait. This achieves a similar result, but does not involve selecting one embryo to live and destroying the rest. Now, granted, the manic depression case is interesting, as many obviously believe that it serves a good purpose. So, let's take another genetic trait, such as the cancer genes discussed in the article. I do not see any problems with eliminating the cancer gene from the human genome (assuming doing so does not cause more damage, of course - we don't currently know). I see this as being similar to how we eliminated smallpox from our day-to-day lives through vaccinations and such. I do not think anyone misses smallpox now that it's gone. Similarly, we could "vaccinate" embryos against certain forms of cancer and other genetic diseases by modifying their genome. I do not think anyone will miss cancer when it is gone. Rather, we will celebrate its disappearance as a triumph of modern medicine, and it will fade into distant memory.

Now, doing this would require the oversight of someone, probably a government agency, to determine which modifications are allowable and which are not. For instance, modifying an embryo so that it has blue eyes instead of brown should not be allowed, since that has nothing to do with general health of the child or adult (e.g., they can't die just from having brown eyes). Modifying the genome to experiment with a dog's sense of hearing or a dolphin's ability to breathe would be out too - the consequences are too unknown at this point, and we have to remember that the consequences are not just a test subject, but a living individual that has to exist with the choices we make for him / her. If something goes wrong during our experimentation, we can't just say "Oops!" and start over.

Also, mandated screening or modification is definitely out, regardless of what we are eliminating (whether it's brown eyes or cancer). The potential for abuse is just too high; it would be way too easy for the government to decide that a certain trait (e.g., brown eyes), while non-life-threatening, is nonetheless undesirable and should be eliminated. The decision should be left up to the parents, not the doctor or the government. In the case of divorce, etc., both biological parents should still agree before the procedure is undertaken. Hopefully we can find some way to modify the genome of an adult, so the adult can make the decision for himself / herself. This way, we can allow those traits to continue that people wish to have (such as manic depression), and eliminate those that are solely harmful (like cancer).

Now I realize that it has been some time since a post was written in this thread, but I am hoping that you will give me some feedback on the ideas I presented here. Thank you for reading!

I'll see your two cents, and raise you a dollar... :)


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