Designer Babies

Have you heard of “designer babies”?

Parents already pay labs to examine embryos and pick one with DNA they like. People can choose the gender, and screen for diseases.

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But we’re still limited to picking among naturally-produced embryos from a mother.

Soon it’ll go further, John Stossel notes. A Chinese scientist says he’s already created babies with altered DNA.

Gene-editing technology will eventually allow parents to alter their babies’ intelligence, height, eye color, and more.

That scares people. 83% of Americans say editing human genes to improve intelligence “goes too far.”

“Of course they say that,” Georgetown University professor Jason Brennan tells Stossel. “When you have any kind of intervention into the body that’s new, people think it’s icky. And they take that feeling of ‘ickiness’ and they moralize, and think it’s a moral objection.”

On TV, Jenna Bush Hager (the former President’s daughter) said: “there should be things that we leave up to God. To the universe.”

Brennan responds, “I’m not really sure I’m going to take her word for it … If God appears before me and says, ‘don’t do this’, I’ll stop.”

Stossel adds: “We already give our kids music lessons, braces, tutoring, karate lessons — any advantage we can. Why not also give them the best genes?”

In the future, he notes, we could have a world where people are much smarter — maybe smart enough to avoid wars, to take us to other planets, and other things we can’t even imagine.

But people want the gene-editing technology banned.

Sheldon Krimsky, who advised the government about the practice, argues, “This is going to be a new way to create disparities in wealth.”

Brennan responds: “Every bit of technology that we enjoy today follows the same pattern. You look in your automobile, and you have a CD player or an MP3 player, and a GPS … All of these things, when they first became available, were incredibly expensive,” he says. But then the price falls.

Stossel tells Krimsky, “If some people are better, we’re all better off for it. Einstein’s existence helped everybody.”

Krimsky replies: “You can’t use the argument that because we’ve had technological breakthroughs that have helped people, that every single effort on using technology is going to help people … there’s absolutely no justification for creating a eugenic society.”

“You’re just against change,” Stossel tells him. “You’re on all these committees with the government. You just want to stop progress unless you give permission … You’re an old fuddy duddy.”

“I love change,” Krimsky responds. “But I think there are some boundaries … there are some things that shouldn’t be, shouldn’t be fuddling around with.”

Some have also argued that the technology will start a nasty new competition, that once other people start getting “designer babies” — everyone will feel they must, too.

“It’s not so clear why that’s a problem,” Brennan says. “If everyone is making their kids healthier and stronger and smarter, and less prone to disease, and you feel social pressure to go along with that, good. Shouldn’t you do that, as a parent, for your child?”