Yeah, uhh, could I get a baby with red hair, blue eyes, and an intense dedication to basketball?
As I stumbled across the internet on a cold spring evening, I found quite an interesting article. The link to the article can be found at the bottom of the blog; I can’t figure out how to embed it. The article was an opinion piece in the Washington Herald, written by Richard Hayes, the executive director of the “Center for Genetics and Society.” He was responding to an article written a couple of weeks earlier by Ronald Green, an ethics professor at Dartmouth. Professor Green wrote an article that outlined the possibility of “designer babies,” where parents could literally pick from a laundry list of genetic traits to implant in their child. Mr. Hayes essentially refutes Green’s claims about these designer babies. He argues that the number of genetic advances that we are going to see in the coming years will never be used for such activities. It would not only undermine the status and importance of the individual in society, but it would be dangerous on an international level. Mr. Hayes argues that if we are already dealing with problems of rogue nations regarding militarism and ethnocentrism, imagine the problems that could arise from a “techno-eugenic rat race.” Suddenly, countries might begin building new genetically “clean” citizens, systematically wiping out the impure.
I didn’t want to blog about this article because of the argument contained within it. The argument is one I have seen before, and is not that interesting to me. What really caught my eye were the two people who were involved in this interchange. Green, an ethics professor at an Ivy League University, and Hayes, the executive director for the Center for Genetics and Society. To me, it seems logical that their roles might be reversed. The ethical academic, trained in the classical and philosophical, should have foreseen the problems that Hayes discussed. Is that not the point of being an ethical adviser? Shouldn’t the professor be learning from mistakes of the past, applying them to the future? The moral and ethical problem of “designer babies” is not complicated. Nearly anybody can understand the implications on not only humanity, but on the economic system as a whole. I can buy the argument that Hayes is making. As the executive director for a committee that is involved with the application of genetics and society, he certainly must be able to see both sides of the argument. Whatever stance Hayes took on the subject would not be very surprising to me. But still, the fact that this professor took such a blind stance is very interesting. It made me question my own ethical development. What if I had attended Dartmouth instead of Vanderbilt? Obviously I wouldn’t be as happy, the girls not as attractive, my friends not as entertaining. But I may have attended a lecture by this professor when he was discussing the possibility of designer babies. Would I be more inclined to agree with him? Would my personal stance on genetic experimentation have changed?
Our whole realm of understanding the social genetic implications comes from how the information is relayed to us. If we had a more conservative Professor who thought the economic gains of creating designer babies might outweigh the moral implications, I might side with Green in his argument. But because of my liberal schooling, I cannot agree. Sorry if it seems like I’m running on in this blog. This article just really made me think about how information is relayed to me, and how I have come to absorb information.