Gene-edited babies

Author: Stronn ,

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  • Stronn
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    "A prominent group of 18 scientists and bioethicists from seven countries has called for a global “moratorium” on introducing heritable changes into human sperm, eggs, or embryos—germline editing—to make genetically altered children."


    On the one hand, gene editing can fix birth defects such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and heart defects.

    On the other hand, do we want a world where parents can choose the eye color, height, weight, intelligence and other genetic traits of their child? At the extreme, there is the potential to edit an embryo to have six fingers and toes, or a tail, or even so much that the result would barely be considered human. Where do we draw the line?
  • Swagnarok
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    I think this general principle should be adhered to:

    "If a child is born with a genetic defect that would cause his or her quality of life, and especially his or her childhood, to be markedly lower than that of his or her peers, and it is within the means of scientists and doctors to correct the cause of this, then they ought to do so."

    Everything that falls outside the scope of this, however, ought to be strictly regulated, because the elimination of genetic diversity is the elimination of genetic propagation, and thus the extermination of bloodlines and may in some contexts constitute genocide. In addition, the elimination of genetic diversity reduces our collective ability to withstand pandemics.
  • keithprosser
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    --> @Swagnarok
    ...markedly lower...

    The problem might be defining 'markedly lower'.

  • secularmerlin
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    --> @Swagnarok
    "If a child is born with a genetic defect that would cause his or her quality of life, and especially his or her childhood, to be markedly lower than that of his or her peers, and it is within the means of scientists and doctors to correct the cause of this, then they ought to do so."
    So defects like ugly and stupid?

  • Swagnarok
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    --> @secularmerlin
    Mental retardation, yes. If you're slightly below average then that wouldn't warrant intervention.

    Hideous deformity, yes. If you're slightly less attractive than average then that wouldn't warrant intervention.
  • secularmerlin
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    --> @Swagnarok
    Is your argument that intelligent attractive people do not enjoy a quality of life that is markedly above their peers?
  • Stronn
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    --> @Swagnarok
    When you say that everything besides defects that markedly lower the quality of life should be strictly regulated, how do you mean. Do you mean a complete ban, or should some be allowed? For instance, let's start with an easy one. Should parents be able to choose their child's eye color?


  • Stronn
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    --> @keithprosser
    The problem might be defining 'markedly lower'.
    Yes, and also "quality of life".
  • Swagnarok
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    --> @Stronn
    No. The policy should be non-intervention unless intervention is strictly necessary (by "intervention" I mean biological intervention) to avoid an unusually miserable existence plagued by unusually poor health at an unusually young age.
  • Swagnarok
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    --> @secularmerlin
    I'm sure they do. That's not the point. Some people, when drawing the genetic lottery at birth, just get really really darn unlucky. They're going to suffer from a young age and their prospects for a quality of life on par of that of their peers is going to be critically hindered from the onset.

    The point of such augmentation should be to reduce inequality, not increase it. Since such procedures are inherently expensive, if we allow the elites to create "superhuman" children then that runs contrary to this goal because the social status of normal people is going to be reduced by this development, quite possibly to the point of the emergence of a caste-based society. Obviously such procedures are going to be fairly expensive, so "augmenting everyone so that they're all in the same boat" is not going to be an option, or at least not initially. Even if it should become feasible to augment everyone in the United States, or the Western World, global inequality will still be exacerbated because many people in poor countries will still not be augmented, and so there'd be a large global second-class citizenry.

    Right now the divide between an American and a Haitian is "I'm well off and you're dirt poor. It simply concerns what society I was born into, which grants me more opportunity than your society grants you and it says nothing about the inherent worth of either of us as human beings".
    But if this happens, it'll become "I'm a biologically superior life form to you. I could crush you like an insect and it would not be morally wrong for me to do so because you're an inferior species."
  • secularmerlin
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    If a child is born with a genetic defect that would cause his or her quality of life, and especially his or her childhood, to be markedly lower than that of his or her peers, and it is within the means of scientists and doctors to correct the cause of this, then they ought to do so.
    Either scientists ought to use gene editing to improve quality of life or they should not. If attractive intelligent people enjoy markedly higher quality of life why are you arguing against providing beauty and intelligence through gene editing?
  • Snoopy
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    --> @secularmerlin
    Improving quality of life is not what scientists do. Scientists conduct experiments and contribute to knowledge in theory.


  • secularmerlin
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    --> @Snoopy
    I am not the one arguing oughts here. Talk to swangnerok
  • SupaDudz
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    --> @Stronn
    CRISPR is gene editing itself. it's feasilble in the future
  • Stronn
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    --> @SupaDudz
    CRISPR is the most promising enzyme for gene editing, but there are others.

    Yes, it's nearly at the point of feasibility now, which is why the scientists are calling for a moratorium until the ethics are worked out.
  • SupaDudz
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    --> @Stronn
    Strict policies need to be made for CRISPR

    GATTACA is a great movie to explain this and it's downside
  • Alec
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    --> @SupaDudz
    CRISPR is the future.  We should have few if any restrictions on CRISPR because anyone that dies from it helped save at least thousands of lives elsewhere in the form of less genetic diseases and maybe in the future immortality.  I'm scared of death.
  • SupaDudz
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    --> @Alec
    I agree with this statement, I am talking for early phases. There should be no restrictions and should be avalible to all
  • Swagnarok
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    --> @secularmerlin
    Because not everyone would be able to afford gene editing. Thus it will only exacerbate inequalities, because the people who can afford it will far, far outpace the people who cannot (think Albert Einstein vs some guy who lives in a trailer park and dropped out of 10th grade). Literally any person to the left of center should be able to appreciate this.

    And that is only one reason. The second is because at this time we do not know what the long-term effects of playing God with the human genome would be. There is a risk that we could end up losing our very humanity in the process, depending on exactly what kinds of edits were made. If it is indeed used to prevent horrific genetic abnormalities then we wouldn't be missing out on anything that was absolutely essential if we were to slow down so that we could have time to gain a full, nuanced perspective on the issue.
  • secularmerlin
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    --> @Swagnarok
    Won't only rich people be able to afford the service even if it is only "corrective" wherever you draw your personal line? Does the gap not arrise regardless? Or is "corrective" treatment free or at least affordable/subsidized? And if treatment is available and doctors "ought" to do all they can to improve quality of life oughtn't they "fix" ugly/stupid babies?

  • Swagnarok
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    --> @secularmerlin
    Normal people will spend money on what is necessary, medically speaking. A middle-class family might take out a loan and go into debt to afford medical treatment for their terminally ill child whose life might be saved by such treatment. But they're not going to do the same just so that their child grows up to be a little bit more handsome or intelligent. The latter borders more on vanity rather than on necessity. As such, one could argue it'd downright be a waste of limited resources (trained doctors and their time) to do so in any large numbers. It would backlog the medical profession, as top-notch geneticists qualified to use CRISPR technology are not particularly common, and those available would be too busy with these basically cosmetic operations to care for people like THIS:


  • Swagnarok
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    --> @secularmerlin
    Also, if only rich people could afford any CRISPR in the first place then that just underscores the importance of limiting its uses so as to prevent an ubermensch-untermensch dichotomy.
  • secularmerlin
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    --> @Swagnarok
    Who decides what is a necessary edit?

    How much do they cost?

    Do the impoverished have to just live with there weird ugly stupid mutant children whatever happens with the middle/upper class?

    Let's say you can edit the male genome to exclude a foreskin. Should that be allowed on religious grounds?

    If you can provide the technology cheaply to the masses why not make whatever you consider a "perfect" baby?
  • Polytheist-Witch
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    --> @Stronn
    I imagine there will be atheists using this to their advantage. Since the think theism is mental illness. 
  • secularmerlin
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    I imagine there will be atheists using this to their advantage. Since the think theism is mental illness. 
    While this is arguably discriminatory it does touch on another issue. If behavior is genetically coded then should those genes be edited? No anti-social babies. No gay babies. No babies that question the status quo.

    Honestly the implications are horrifying.