Only if you’re a genius

DESIGNER babies is not some futuristic concept. It’s not even something that is in a laboratory in some far-flung country. It’s already here in the form of women going for in vitro fertilisation and only choosing, for example, girl embryos.

I’ve discussed before the problem I have with selecting the sex of your child.

But this kind of reproductive discrimination is just the tip of a moral iceberg that I got enveloped in when watching ABC’s Big Ideas recently.

If we can produce a child that has the best genes and, subsequently, the best chance of success in life, shouldn’t we do that? While the speakers of this panel got buried down in the semantics of this topic. My problem was much more basic.

As it is with gender selection, only the rich actually have that option. So it will be with any “designer babies”. Only the rich will actually have access to the science to produce children that have, say better impulse control (also discussed previously, whereby children with greater self-restraint and talent for delayed gratification generally do better in life) and, in turn, become more successful in life.

Would the introduction of engineering particular kinds of people make the gap between the rich and poor even more pronounced?

We live in a democratic society so the argument goes that just as we decide when we have children, and how many, so should we be allowed to decide what kind of children we have.

I disagree.

We have the right to decide when we procreate and how many times, but the guts of parenting is that our love is unconditional (ideally, anyway).

 Ticking boxes to say which characteristics we desire makes the foundation of parenthood conditional. Then, as parents, we may never be challenged to accept our children as they are.

Say the technology became so commonplace that it was eventually trickled down to every couple, or even every single person, we could have a generation of standard-issue, government-approved, academically sound and physically adequate cardboard cut-outs. The only variance being the colour of their eyes, hair and skin to identify with their parents.

That would be incredibly dull.

Take the red pill, people. Embrace the chaos and uncertainty that comes in everything natural. Give people the right to procreate and the right to terminate, but don’t make something as significant as becoming a parent conditional on a child’s sporting skills, or their maths ability.

Though I doubt I reach a demographic of women considering PGD, if one happens to be reading, consider this: is there a lesson you’re to learn in this life that would come through your children? Would the challenge of embracing your all-boy or all-girl family take you down paths you’d never considered.

Wouldn’t that be infinitely more exciting than exerting control over something as divine as giving life?

Okay, lecture over.

 Let me leave you with this immortal quote from a certain.. ahem.. dinosaur movie: “We were so obsessed with whether we could, we didn’t stop to think if we should.” (Yes, it’s Jurassic Park. Blogging highlight: using Sam Neil in argument against preimplantation genetic diagnosis!)

PS Hungry Beast also did something on the “breakthroughs” by US defence in “engineering” the perfect soldier and how that may trickle down into civilian life. Sure, it’d be great to just rip up some cardboard for the kids’ breakfast but I have my reservations!


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