Wednesday, 2 August 2006

What's wrong with designer babies?

Otago University Researchers have been very quick to affirm that the start to government funding* for genetic screening of human embryos for birth defects will not mean designer babies.

But why shouldn't it? What's wrong with choosing characteristics of your offspring if that's scientifically possible? Why limit parents to selecting for sex only on compassionate grounds? It's very good news that a complete handbrake on this life-affirming work hasn't been applied, but why has any been applied at all?

"We shouldn't play God," say religionists motivated by religious dogma -- who say it's wrong to end the suffering "chosen by God," and wrong even to stop suffering beginning -- who say that screening for genetic defects "cheapens human life," when in fact it does exactly the opposite.

This isn't playing God -- it's being precisely and heroically human.

"We shouldn't meddle with nature," say commentators, without perhaps realising that meddling with nature is exactly how we human beings stay alive: from morning to night, from birth to a hopefully far-off death, our lives and longevity are made possible precisely because we do meddle with nature.

Staying alive because of advanced medical technology is not 'natural' -- if Nature had her way we'd all be dead at thirty or less once our teeth decay and our bodies start failing -- in fact staying alive at all is unnatural. If we didn't meddle with nature to produce food, we wouldn't even be alive. 'Meddling' with nature keeps us alive.

Constructing and living in buildings 'meddles with nature' -- if Nature had her way we'd still be in caves; planting crops, breeding animals, building dams and abattoirs and factories and oil rigs and hospitals and cyclotrons ... all examples of how we 'meddle with nature.' They are the very means by which we human beings stay alive.

You see, unlike other animals, man, the rational animal, cannot live as nature delivered us into the world -- naked, unarmed, without the claws, the fur, the sharp teeth of other animals. Without our brains and the science and the industry and the food and the shelter and the clothing we produce by applying our brains to nature, we'd die. The first man who hunted down and killed and ate another animal was meddling with nature, as he was when he began making the weapon to do it with. Man as a species has to discover and produce for himself all the values needed for survival and flourishing. Everything we do 'meddles with nature' -- we investigate, we rearrange, we tinker, we plan, and by so doing we work to make human life much better, much longer, and more abundant.

That's a good thing.

Trish Grant from the IHC, on the other hand, who says that this research "devalues the lives of those children who are living with a disability" is just talking errant nonsense. What hatred of human beings she must have to demand that other human beings live with crippling dieases just so her charges (she says) can feel better about themselves. She would condemn new human beings by her choice to live with Downes Syndrome, with achondroplasia, with Marfan syndrome, with Tay-Sachs disease, with cystic fibrosis, with haemophilia, with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, with all the other possible genetic birth defects when it's completely and utterly unnecessary. Meddling with nature to avoid this is good. Not meddling with so as to ensure such suffering is criminal.

Technology such as this truly values human life -- the real enemies of human life are those who stand in its way.
* Yes, the taxpayer is being forced to pay for this. No, you shouldn't have to. Yes, when governments pay for such things, some of those required to pay for it actively object to what their money is paying for, yet their views are just overridden. And yes, that is wrong.

As Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute said recently when commenting on Bush's disgraceful stem-cell veto,
It is only because science today is so dominantly funded by the government that restrictions on [state] funding can wreak the devastation they have--severely hindering a promising area of potentially life-saving medical research.

"If science were left free, as it should be, funded solely by private sources, a scientist would not have to plead the merits of his work before a majority of politicians, however ignorant or prejudiced by religious or other dogmas they might be."
LINK: Embryo report calls for changes - TVNZ
Government versus science - Yaron Brook, Ayn Rand Institute
RELATED: Ethics, Science, Politics-NZ, Heroes, Health


  1. Excellent - I couldn't believe what I was hearing this morning with that IHC fruitloop. BTW: I thought Downes Syndrome and Mongoloidism was the same thing?

  2. ITA about the babies. Even if it's true (which I doubt) that some couples would toss out a brown-eyed embryo to get a blue-eyed one...SO WHAT? It is sick to want to condemn more babies to be born with horrible defects.

    Anna, they are. But you're not supposed to say Mongoloid any more.

  3. BULLSHIT, your full of anti-nature babble just like your demented idol ayn rand.

  4. Designer babies? a good idea, it will get defective genes out of the human gene pool. It is preferable to what is happening at present where medical science allows people with defective genes to survive and breed.

    As for the IHC objecting to this, well they are simply protecting their jobs.

  5. "it will get defective genes out of the human gene pool. It is preferable to what is happening at present where medical science allows people with defective genes to survive and breed."

    -History indicates we should tread very very carefully with the idea of optimising the human gene pool.

    And the position against "designer babies" is not the straw man you make it out to be. Trish Grant Does not want to take a potentially healthy baby and make sure it stays diseased. She is against the idea of killing that baby, and then having another healthy child in it's place.

    And this does send a message to those living with disablities. Many conditions allow the affected to live a healthy happy life. Do we really want to tell them that we think they're lives are too painful to be worth living?

    You grotesquely oversimplify an ethical minefield.

  6. I Agree with Mark and I have to say that the person who wrote this has no morals. If we continue to live in this cosy little world where no one dies of disease then we will become overpopulated (WE ALREADY ARE) What is that person thinking? Disabled people are people too you sick test tube freak!


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