_a_ Is genetic enhancement and _designer babies_ morally and

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					                       History of the Biological Science

Life begins at the end: a futuristic look of using genetic modification and the


                                Karl A Ziemer


                               Dr. S. Turner
                               History 3975
                             December 08, 2008
The question:

        Is genetic enhancement and "designer babies" morally and politically
objectionable, and if you answer 'yes,' are they so objectionable that we ought to pass
laws regulating or limiting the use of the techniques?
        Embedded in today’s technology is our internal influence which is seen and felt in

all things we have created as a society. We dreamt and willed into existence skyscrapers

to the internet, from genetically healthy food, to specific antibiotics, such inventions have

never existed on this world before humans have arrived. Our foot print has left its

enormous mark, as there is nothing physical that can escape our omnipotent reach, and

conformed to our greatest desire. Now we enter the next stage, a stage of birth and rebirth,

where for the first time we can create life itself, instead of just assisting it along. Genetic

modification is our natural extension of our exclusive ability to create and control all

there is. However our technology has progress far beyond our understanding of its moral

implications leaving us with a modern apocalyptic vision of this sci-fi future. We are

afraid of genetic modification, and we should be. Without proper regulation and the

ethical dilemmas solved, there is an uprising of objection to this personal genetic

modification especially when it comes to children. Predetermination of an unborn child’s

genetic pallet, with obviously no consent from the child, raises deep moral and ethical

implications. Many can be related to the abortion debates and fetus rights, but before this

moral debate we should understand where this desire to modify life stems from.

        Philosophically, we are going to look at the driving will that is pushing this new

genetically modification of children, ultimately to the creation of designer children.

Foucault, a philosopher by many respects, mentions the complex control mechanism of

knowledge and power that effect us. “Foucault elides the two in the concept

“Power/Knowledge.” To be an effective source of power over people,” (Biopolitics and

Biopower handout pp.4) In another more general way Foucault is entertaining how the

nature of power controls people and what are the sources of this power. Out of this body
of research Foucault concludes that we ourselves create the power mechanism of our

control. The panopticon, is an idea that everyone is watching us, or might be watching us,

this causes us to self regulate and thus control our actions. People actually do not have to

be watching us, but it is the idea of this “normal state” that keeps us in line from acting

abnormal. How does this tie in with Genetic modification? Our perception of normality is

the driver of our desires to change ourselves or others into something which is more

normal. An example of this is if someone is shorter, then they perceive from others that

“normal” is taller then what they are, finally they strive to be taller to fit the constructed

norm. This example comes up when growth hormone drugs are prescribed to the

extremely short in order to bring them to normal height. One question proposed; “Why

should they be available only to the very short children?” (Sandel, 2004 pp.53) and why

not availably to anyone seeking that normal height? Will genetic modification be asked

the same question?

        This ideology of the seeking “the normal”, is particular dangerous when it is

applied to the parents ideas of what is normal for their children. Even more dangerous is

when this idea of normal is actually a socially constructed zeitgeist based on the

epistemology of previous generations. China can be an example of where this child

modification can go to the extreme. Sandel points out this extreme when it comes to the

selection of the sex of an unborn child when he looks at traditional societies,

“Nevertheless, in traditional society with a powerful preference for boys, this practice has

become widespread.” (Sandel, 2004 pp.53). Sandel understands that if we have free reign

to genetically decide the sex of the child, then in cultures where one trait is considered

more desirable, pushes the parents into modifying their child to have this trait. In the
minds of the parents these children would be more normal. With the exploitation of this

one trait, like the sex of a child, starts a “slippery slope” down hill as parents modify their

children to fit the foreseen normal trends they believe are real. The concern that comes

from these designer babies is that instead of removing or modifying their genes for the

protection and avoidance of disease the parent would be modifying the genome to fit

certain aspirations they have. Sandel mentions this when he talks about athletes, but

modifying yourself - when you are antonymous - to have super strength is very different

then modifying your children. For instance if you modify your child to have a

predisposition towards muscle strength you inevitably determine their direction in life.

Similarly, if you made your child practice and work hard to be an athlete, when they

grow up they may choose a different path; the difference is that they are not bounded by

these deterministic ideas of the role that our genes play in life.

       The genetic lottery, in a complex way, is already a method of insuring that a fetus

is receiving the best genetic material available from the two donors. If there was a critical

genetic flaw in the fetus, as it was being formed; self regulating processes inside the fetus

would self terminate. It is only because of our technologies for dealing with life

threatening genetic disorders like juvenile diabetes, allows for those genes to be passed

on. However mistakes in the development of fetuses do happen, but incorporating one

aspect of Darwin’s idea of evolution; these, “mutation” should not automatically be

considered bad. “To acknowledge the giftness of life is to recognize that our talents and

powers are not wholly our own doing, despite the effort we expend on develop and to

exercise them.” (Sandel, 2004 pp.54) There is a gift in receiving good genes, but under

our current social consciousness we see anything which is not normal as being “bad”. An
extreme extension of this idea of separating genetic traits into categories of good and bad

has proved to be one of the world’s most deadly artificial created disasters, genocide.

       Genocide, fuelled by misguided hate and the use of scientific knowledge, before

our ethics and morality had time to reflect, has led to one of the greatest misinterpreting

of nature. In Nazi Germany and before, the people, then the governments, started to apply

scientific concepts like, “Darwin’s natural selection”, and eugenics to their subjects.

Suddenly there were a list of “bad genes” and traits that were considered undesirable for

whatever reason, but it all comes back to the social paradigm and convincing the people

that this was normal in nature. Next step was getting everyone to self regulate themselves

into believing the social paradigm. “According to Sinsheimer, the new eugenics would be

voluntary rather then coerced,” (Sandel, 2004 pp.62) however this voluntary action, can

easily be coerced by fear, media trends, and other Foucault’ian means of power control. It

is not hard to see the connections forming between the ideas of removing bad genes in a

fetus and that of removing them from a breeding population.

       Regulation is needed, not just for the recreational genetic modification, but in

order to insure the safety of the unborn children. Physical safety is a concern in the early

development of these processes, but when it comes to children there maybe an effect that

is not physically related. This instantly changes the family power dynamic relationships,

the parent now own their children more so, they are responsible for their creation in ways

that were not easy to understand before genetically modified children. There was always

a sense of, “a special child, miracle babies,” that to have a child was a gift and not a right.

“Even if this disposition did not make parents tyrants to their children, it would disfigure

the relation between parent and child, and deprive the parent of humility.” (Sandel, 2004
pp.57) Chance and probability has always been the safeguard against accepting the

common expression, “life is unfair.” No longer does fairness lie in the infinity of the

cosmos, but rather on the parent who did or didn’t choose the correct combination of

genes for their children.

       These are some possible laws and stipulations of a possible future where genetic
modification is implemented, (these may contradict the premise of the essay):

1. First, the world is made sterile. Only through a licence can you attain the rights to have
a child.
2. Second. Adding of genetic traits or insuring these genetic traits appear in the fetus can
only be done with the existing genetic material. Example: one parent has blue eyes, then
the child can go under genetic modification to unsure the blue eye trait exists.
3. Cloning or making sure the child is 100% of ones parent’s genetic material is not
allowed at most a 70/30 split is needed.
4. Sex of the child can be determined.
5. Parents have the right take each other to court to make sure that their child is a fair
genetic representation of both parents.

       The above laws are seen as ludicrous and yet some would be almost necessary if

we are going to move ahead with using this technology. What is needed in today’s

society is that the modification of a fetus should only be done to correct a genetic

crippling disorder – proactive medicine – such as sickle-cell anaemia or colour blindness.

This does not mean the correction of “lifestyle diseases like homosexuality” as discussed

in the lectures. Possibly, picking the gender of the child can be allowed; as it would bring

the first legal legislation and spark genetic debates, without harming the child physically

or emotionally. Gender is a form of selection; it is not an extreme way of genetic

modification, but rather the exploitation of an already existing process. By selecting

sperm using, “a sperm-sorting technique that makes it possible to choose the sex of one’s
child before it is conceived.” (Sandel, 2004 pp.53) we are in fact genetically modifying a

child selecting only the Y male gene.

       Finally, this process of genetic modification is continuing at an alarming rate if

regulation and education does not keep up with the pace of science, we as a society will

be divided. The post apocalyptic “Doom Sayers”, who exist today, will be in a direct

conflict with those who envision a utopia of perfect health and super strong humans. The

utopians dismiss these fears in society, and try hard to get the rest of society to conform

to this norm; thus this will give them the power to pursue their ambitions. For the utopian,

their vision alone of the future is deciding which moral choices they are making about

genetic modification. Regulation is a must, we will not stand idol in the ignorance of

genetic diseases that we can cure, but we also will refrain from making new diseases that

are purely related to life-style such as homosexuality or attention deficit disorder

(A.D.D.). We need, “to appreciate children as gifts or blessing,” (Sandel, 2004 pp.57) as

a society we need to stop striving for a goal that is manufactured plastic perfection. If we

employ this idea of perfection into our lifestyles then it will be naturally applied to our

children and there genetic makeup. Society does this already, however genetic

modification is more deterministic than body builder’s ads on the side of buses, or do we

have it all wrong? Time will tell us just how deterministic our genes are, but for now it is

the imperfections, the unpredictability which gives life meaning and that sense of

wonderful existence.

Biopolitics and Biopower (for Hist 3975) references made to homosexuality as a
       lifestyle disease, and the ideas on Foucault.

Class notes (2008) and general social contextual knowledge of social paradigms and
       Foucault’ian ideology.

Sandel, M. (2004) The case against perfection: What’s wrong with designer children ,
       bionic athlete and genetic disorder. (pp. 50 -63) in HIST 3975: History of the
       Biological Sciences. (pp. 173 - 182) assembled by Turner R. (2008)