Should we be designing babies? Designer babies are people who are genetically modified before birth, (as an embryo) to change their sex, looks or possibly even personality!
Since the DNA code was cracked a couple of years ago, it has been made possible to change a human embryo by injecting genes into it. These injected genes can change the sex, looks and personality of that particular child when he / she is born. For example, you can currently choose the sex of your child in the USA although it costs a hefty $ 2500.
Are these designer babies improving on nature? Improving on nature is a step forward for the human race; in a word, evolution. Are we, by designing and genetically modifying babies, evolving as a race?
Surely we cannot tell. I mean, did we know when we invented fire that we were evolving, did we know that when we invented computers that we were evolving? No. However, we did it all the same. The point I am trying to make is that we cannot know what evolution is or improving without first giving it a go. How can we ever hope to evolve without taking these risks? The answer is we cannot.
Throughout this essay, I will outline the arguments for and against designing babies. I will then conclude by giving my final thoughts and opinions on how I feel we should continue our research and experimentation of Designer Babies.
Thus far, nature has worked tirelessly to mould the distinctive characteristics that make modern man, however this process has been very slow, taking many thousands of years to perfect. Nowadays, with the dramatic discovery, in recent years, of the human genome, scientists have been given the opportunity to accelerate this process and in doing so, change the pace of evolution in a way that would never have been dreamed possible.
The concept of designer babies has been around for a long time. You only have to look at works of fiction such as “Brave New World “and “Frankenstein” to see the interest such a topic creates in people’s imagination. Now that this science has become a reality, it is increasingly possible to see the advantages such a process will have for future generations.
Probably one of the most compelling arguments for the genetic engineering of humans would be the recent high profile case of the Hashmi family. Nobody following the case could fail to be moved by the genuine love and concern the Hashmi’s have for their dying son Zain.
Without the birth of their designer baby, which by necessity would have a bone marrow match, Zain’s life would be short lived due to his rare genetic blood disorder, Thalassaemia. The Hashmi’s used a relatively new treatment called Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), to insure that Zain’s brother would have a compatible blood type before he was replaced back into the mothers uterus using IVF treatment.
Some people think that the Hashmis are putting an unnecessary burden on this child for the rest of his life, but I am left thinking that the Hashmis will love and care for their new child, as much if not more than many of their critics love their own children.
This new technology also allows us to eradicate genetic diseases by not allowing them to pass down through future generations. It will give parents the chance to have children who are in good health (i.e. not being born with cystic fibrosis) by choosing an embryo that does not have a particular disorder (Scientists claim to have found the gene for good-parenting, Alzheimer’s and red hair!). Creating these designer babies is simply accelerating our evolution as a race allowing us to create a potentially disease free world for generations to come.
However many would argue that designer babies would not be improving on nature. Their basic argument would probably be; why take a perfectly natural healthy baby and turn it into an unnatural experimental specimen?
If we start to alter and experiment with human beings, we are destroying the individuality in each one of us that makes us unique. We cannot allow a few white-coat scientists to take away the free will and `humanness` from our children and produce a race of unnatural beings. This is the sort of stuff horror movies are made from!
Babies are the most natural and innocent form of life given to us by God. Some may feel that we are beginning to let the doctors in our society play God so much so that they will try to create an elite race by messing about with our genes, in other words, Eugenics; the very thing we condemned Hitler for many years ago during the war. However, it is to be hoped that the world’s governments will be able to sit down, work out and enforce new laws that will prevent this from happening.
Although there is a definite possibility that designer babies could do much good for our world today, there will still be the risk that something will go wrong. For example, in the USA scientists tried to insert special genes into a pig embryo hoping to make the pig grow up to be leaner. However the gene spiralled out of control leaving the pigs with massive stomach tumours and barely alive. The same thing could happen with humans; people could die and new diseases that are more terrible could be created, although all this could be prevented if all the necessary safety procedures, which are put in place, are enforced.
There is also the possibility that people will be produced in the name of science i.e. as research subjects. Is that not hypocritical of the society in which we live? Does all of this not contradict the basic Human Rights on which our society is based? We cannot allow this to happen.
The position we are in now is very much like a slippery slope; if we stumble and start to slide down the hill, there can be no turning back. The damage will already have been done and we will ruin our natural process of evolution.
Now that I have had the chance to see the arguments both for and against designer babies, I have concluded that designer babies would improve on nature; however, there is need for restraint.
I strongly believe that continuing research and experimentation would be of great benefit to our world because we would gain a better understanding of ourselves and “how we work.” This would help us to find cures to potentially life threatening diseases, genetic or otherwise, such as cancer and Thalassaemia.
However, the dilemma is, how do we guard against the knowledge being corrupted whilst at the same time encouraging scientists and doctors to find newer and better ways to benefit the lives of future generations. It is my fear that people with ulterior motives, such as the Nazis who wanted the perfect blue eyed blond haired Arian child will go to extreme lengths to abuse that knowledge.
How can you even begin to protect against this abuse of an otherwise great opportunity to help humanity? A parent who wants a child of a certain sex just to “balance” their family may find a way round even the most strict guidelines laid down to protect human research and find an unscrupulous doctor to carry out their wishes. Carried to the extreme people with access to money may feel justified in “purchasing” a made to order beautiful baby.
Once guidelines have been drawn up it would also be important to have unilateral agreement between the worldwide governments as it would be pointless to make designer babies, for the purpose of parental satisfaction illegal in Europe only to have people travel to the USA and carry out the procedure there.
Therefore, my final verdict is that designer babies have the potential to improve on nature although research and experimentation must be carried out with increased international restraint until we have more definite guidelines to protect us.