Response to Article: Ethics Questions Arise as Genetic Testing of Embryos Increases

Ethics Questions Arise as Genetic Testing of Embryos Increases
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/04/health/ethics-questions-arise-as-...

It baffles me every time I hear people protesting the issue addressed in this article. Isn't it a good thing to prevent future generations from suffering terrible inherited diseases?

I get the impression when people protest this issue they are actually protesting two ethical issues. The first is the obvious one addressed in the article and referred to in my first paragraph. The second is the implied issue, the genetic enhancement of our children.

I can only imagine religious people formulating a reason to protest against the issue in the article. If we are divinely and perfectly created in the image of some higher being than it would be wrong to tamper with the genetic lottery. But if you are choosing to address the actual nature of our universe how is allowing future generations to continue on with terrible suffering not wrong? By how many degrees is this removed from being a criminal act?

Regarding the implied issue, I think people should stop equating them on equal grounds, that one leads to the other. One is essentially a medical issue that should be in the same territory as finding a cure for cancer or Alzheimer's. (Many forms of cancer are genetic, and some cases of Alzheimer's is as well.) The second issue is a different territory that opens up other questions, such as giving one child an unfair start over another child, or a remedial issue, whether a child may perform poorly in life should be given a boost to keep them competitive.

I have to admit I am iffy on the second ethical issue. I don't mind giving a child a boost to keep them competitive. It is clear some people in this world perform with great difficulty with abstract concepts others find terribly easy. If it is discovered there is a genetic roadblock to this intellectual avenue, I say remove it.

But when it comes to enhancing our future generations, I just don't know what to expect form that world. A world of Einsteins could bring many benefits, but I know from observation that there are many Einsteins in the world today without moral principles. I would hope such a future should possess morals. It baffles me when a brilliant politician harbors racist beliefs I think any rational person would abandon as intellectual dishonesty. It is worse when that brilliant person possesses the natural ability to turn those beliefs into an effective policy. You may think I am going on a stretch by equating a brilliant politician on the level of Einstein. Maybe you are right. But you cannot say there is not a spectrum of intelligence that makes for an effective politician, a political Einstein.

Sometimes I feel like I am someone who was born ahead of my time. Not because it is frustrating to convince people to behave rationally, rather because I think these issues should have been solved a long time ago.

Rather than wrap up this blog properly, maybe you can do that for me instead? What are you thoughts and feelings about this subject? Read the article in addition to this blog and let us know what is going through your mind.

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Comment by Michael Penn on February 7, 2014 at 5:51am

Yes, Daniel, an embryo is not a human being but you cannot tell the religious this. They still think that is why god punished Onan. He "withdrew and his seed was on the ground" but the faithful still think (and have pushed it for centuries) that Onan was killed for jerking off! Nor only would the embryo be considered as "a child" to many of the ignorant, but a sperm would be held in this same right. Look at the mileage we get out of this by teaching children not to jerk off and also have parents always watching them. Now throw in circumcision as a deterrent as well.

The above story is at the base of derailing everything about embryo and stem cell research, and such things slow progress. (Oh, look at what they are doing to those poor babies, and they have "souls.") Such delusion is also at the base level of abortion doctors being murdered by religious crazies. Now the secular world has done more than show evidence against our doctrine. They also want to create "Frankenjesus."

Comment by Daniel W on February 6, 2014 at 5:04pm

An embryo is not a human being. There is no reason to be concerned about the rights of that embryo. But, if you are able to avoid creating a human being from that embryo, who would have a terrible disease, then I think it's unethical to NOT use that science.

I would not want to pass risk for a future of devastating disease to a baby. That seems indescribably inhumane.

As for other traits, is it ethical to choose a child's gender? If everyone makes the same choice, that might lead to a societal burden. Like a relative surplus of males in China, and India. Unless they come in handy as warriors, or unless polygamy becomes an option. Or there is a disproportion of gay males, compared to Lesbian females.

Would you chose eye color? IQ? Height? I don't know an ethical basis for declining a person that choice. It might lead to more questions than it answers. How is that different compared to other choices we make after birth, like vaccine, nutrition, schooling? i don't know.

My 2 cents. But that is my take.

Comment by Easton Le on February 6, 2014 at 2:19pm

I find it encouraging what we've been able to accomplish so far. I'm very happy for the family in the article.

Comment by Michael Penn on February 6, 2014 at 8:57am

Genetics is too new to imagine we can tamper with it and suddenly get a race of super smart people. I think too many varibles are involved for that, but what we could expect is freedom from disease in almost all forms if research is allowed. Stem cells and all methods possible should be used along this journey.

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