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Where To Draw the Line With Embryo Selection? 727

Posted by Soulskill
from the godwin-bonanza dept.
Tjeerd writes "There is currently a discussion going on in the Netherlands about embryo selection. The process means that when using in vitro fertilization, you can check what kind of genetic defects will definitely become activated during life. When embryos with those defects are identified, they can be avoided or destroyed. The next step the government is considering is to make it possible to select against genetic defects which might become active in life, such as breast and colon cancer. Of course, this is a very difficult discussion; where do you start, and where do you end? People are worrying that there is no real limit, and that you could potentially check for every genetic defect. I think if you're in a situation where you or your family have genetic defects, you surely want to check whether your children would have them too. What does the Slashdot community think about this?"
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Where To Draw the Line With Embryo Selection?

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  • by EdIII (1114411) * on Friday June 27, 2008 @07:56PM (#23975815)

    Well I am not Christian, and certainly not Catholic. I have no concern, or consideration for a clump of cells.

    Furthermore, I have a Penis. According to all the junkmail I get, it is a humiliatingly small penis that all the women laugh at hysterically, but the point is that I am a Man.

    I don't think men should have any business telling a women what to do with their bodies, certainly not based on faith either.

    That being said, if you could choose the genetic make-up of your children and spare them any diseases or malformations I would be hard pressed to form an argument against it. Especially, since I would want the same for my children.

    So I understandably have a hard time agreeing that government could declare a position either way on this. They should just be silent and mind their own business.

    • by Merls the Sneaky (1031058) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:00PM (#23975877)

      Anyone not involved should mind their own business? I agree with that. Government religion you listening? Hey! Religion, get your ass back here! Don't you walk away!!

      • by ArcherB (796902) on Friday June 27, 2008 @09:01PM (#23976605) Journal

        Anyone not involved should mind their own business? I agree with that. Government religion you listening? Hey! Religion, get your ass back here! Don't you walk away!!

        So, if a cop sees someone beating the shit out of you, should he mind his own business? Wait, before you answer, that cop is part of the government and is "not involved" in your ass getting kicked. Should he mind his own business. Of course not! Why? Because it's the governments job to protect its innocent citizens, and therefor not only has the right, but the DUTY to step in. That's a given. The unborn are also innocent. That's also a given. Now the question we need to be asking in this situation is not, "should the government do anything" but "when is human life human?"

        Now, the GP stated that he couldn't give a shit about a clump a cells. Well, isn't he just a clump of cells? If his mother decided to have an abortion at this stage and started chasing him with a vacuum cleaner, should the police (or CPS) turn a blind eye? After all, he is just a clump of cells.

        So, whether or not government should protect you is not a matter of religion. When is human life HUMAN is where religion steps in.

        IMHO, if a DNA test says its human, then it's human and religion has nothing to do with it. No one should be allowed to kill or experiment on him/her without his/her permission.

         

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DaveV1.0 (203135)

          The DNA of a cancer cell says it is human. Therefore, according to your own words, no one should be allowed to kill or experiment on cancer cells.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Yes, but that is a tissue, not a separate entity with a unique genetic build. If your cancer develops a brain and a heart after a few weeks, then you'll have a good counterpoint.
        • by amRadioHed (463061) on Friday June 27, 2008 @09:52PM (#23976987)

          Keep in mind here we are talking about in vitro fertilization. In that process it is typical to create several fertilized eggs and implant one. The reset are disposed of. That being the case, why does it matter if genetic tests are used to determine which fertilized egg should be implanted? I don't see any moral dilemma here.

          As an aside it is so absolutely ridiculous to give everything with human DNA the same rights as a full human that it isn't even worth discussing. If you can't see the folly of giving a lost tooth the same rights as a child you are beyond reason.

        • by Thiez (1281866) on Friday June 27, 2008 @09:54PM (#23976997)

          Why should we try to save human life anyway? I say we should protect people instead. If I were to go braindead because of some accident, I wouldn't mind if they 'pulled the plug', even though doing so would mean they killed a 'human life'. A body without a mind is just a bag of meat, regardless of what species it belongs to. Note that this does not apply to someone who is in a coma, since they might still wake up, so the mind is still 'in there'. Of course when there is reason to believe that a person in a coma is never going to wake up you should still consider killing that person.

          Anyway since embryos haven't really got a mind yet I don't really see a problem in killing them. Sure, doing so prevents a potential person, but so do contraceptives.

          > IMHO, if a DNA test says its human, then it's human and religion has nothing to do with it. No one should be allowed to kill or experiment on him/her without his/her permission.

          That is ridiculous. People drop cells all the time, and some of those cells will still be alive. Those cells should not have any rights (but the person still has rights, so you probably shouldn't DNA-test any cell you find without the owner's permission).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by shaitand (626655)

          'IMHO, if a DNA test says its human'

          That definition would make it illegal to throw away your toenail clippings or to spit.

    • by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:01PM (#23975887) Homepage Journal

      That being said, if you could choose the genetic make-up of your children and spare them any diseases or malformations I would be hard pressed to form an argument against it. Especially, since I would want the same for my children.

      My argument against would be that folks that're "disabled" like me wouldn't have a chance to contribute to society as a whole....

      In short, Beethoven. ;)

      • by EdIII (1114411) * on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:18PM (#23976079)

        Wow. My first thought was not to touch your post with a 10 foot pole. I have a birth defect as well and I don't believe that life starts at conception. In any case, I am not the woman either.

        If your mother could have chosen a different embryo other than yours, or repaired yours, would you of wanted that for her?

        Tough questions, I know. My own sister missed an abortion by -> - much. I cannot imagine life without her.

        I would never take anything away from disabled people. Ever. They have made tremendous contributions to society.

        EVEN still, I would say that we don't have the rights to tell parents that they must have children with known defects, especially when there is a technical solution proven to work.

        • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:28PM (#23976223)
          See the tag "gattaca"? That's exactly why anybody's talking about government regulation at all. If some babies are born perfect, they're the obvious candidates for high-paying jobs that require a lot of training.. why pay to send an engineer through grad school that's going to drop dead from a heart attack? Then the naturally-born children will be stuck with nothing. You might say that you could make it illegal to discriminate based on genetics, but the space program (now THAT's extensive, expensive training) already discriminates based on height/weight and if you're not healthy and strong you don't stand a chance- common sense. Ugly people won't get jobs as models- common sense. So it's not so far-fetched. Also, you may not be able to imagine life without your sister but if you never had your sister you certainly could imagine life.

          If your mother could have chosen a different embryo other than yours, or repaired yours, would you of wanted that for her?

          Obviously not, since "you" wouldn't be wanting anything. The counterfactual always hopelessly muddles questions of identity.

        • by Gewalt (1200451) on Friday June 27, 2008 @09:08PM (#23976677)
          I have a son who was born with birth defects that affected his brain in early development. I love my son dearly, and would gladly give my life to be able to go back and fix his problems so he doesn't have to go through life like that. The poor kids only 8 years old, but has been receiving 30 hours of special ed assistance for 5 years now and barely graduated 2nd grade. I would not wish that upon the most vile scum of the planet. Death would have been kinder.
          • I too have a son [iwriteiam.nl] with a birth defect that caused him to be mentally handicaped. He is 10 now. He cannot read nor write, but can do simple maths with numbers below 20. He has a great sense of humor and uses the computer to surf the internet searching for images of his favourite TV-shows.

            Of course, not every handicapped child is the same, but I believe that my son is having a happy life dispite his handicaps. And in a sense, he also is a joy to us.

            But his life did have a dramatic effect on our family life

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by JimDaGeek (983925)
          How do you know if a child is going to have a known defect? The tests are not 100%.

          See my other post about my story and my friends. We both were told we would have down syndrome kids, though he was basically told it was a guarantee, not us.

          Turns out none of it was true. He has two healthy kids with no health symptoms and I have 3 great kids with no health symptoms.

          What if you were aborted because you have a "defect"? That would have sucked huh? I am sure your friends and loved ones would think
          • logical fallacies (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Animaether (411575) on Friday June 27, 2008 @09:56PM (#23977005) Journal

            ''What if you were aborted because you have a "defect"? That would have sucked huh?''

            That question can't be answered because it rests on a logical fallacy.

            If you were aborted, you would never have existed. If you never existed, you would never have been in a position to contemplate the question.

            The question plays on emotions of those who are already alive, people who have lived some life already - be it geriatrics with full lives, middle-aged, the young, kids or even newborns / their family.

            This is about IVF embryo selection. A selection is already made. As we cannot foretell the lives that any child will lead, any question of "well what if this embryo that is certain to die of young age is the next Einstein!?" becomes moot as you could ask the very same question of the embryo in the 'next tube over' determined to -not- have the same disorder.
            Once you realize that, then making the choice between the two is easy. Making the choice to make that choice in the first place may remain the hard part, for some.

            Of course, given the choice and not taking the choice, then 16 years down the road realizing that, yep, your kid's dead because indeed he was certain to die at young age, might make you ponder not having made that choice. Or you could just accept that that's how life goes and be thankful for the 16 years you did have with the kid.
            Similarly, let's say the 'healthy' one was chosen and turns out it ends up stillborn. You might wonder about the choice you made there, then, as well.

            That's the fun thing about all of this - they're highly personal decisions and everybody has to live with that decision either which way.

            That's also where government regulation comes into play, imho. If everything becomes a choice then this puts undue stress on the (hopeful) parents-to-be. That's also in part why the Dutch government currently is going with a case-by-case scenario - so selecting by "blue eyes, blonde hair" as some proposed is right out. Life-threatening disorders, predispositions, etc. are the bits being looked at - on a case-by-case scenario. I say in part, because the other part is just plainly the conservative religious party going "zomg! playing god!!!" and threatening to let the government collapse over the issue if they didn't get their way. (They're a minority party but together with two bigger parties just barely make the ruling majority; so if they go, the entire thing goes.)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Thiez (1281866)

            > What if you were aborted because you have a "defect"? That would have sucked huh? I am sure your friends and loved ones would think so now, after you have bee a part of their life.

            If I had never existed, my friends cannot possibly miss me. Maybe if I had been aborted my parents would have another child, and maybe that child would become a better person than I am now. Wouldn't that better person's friends and loved ones think it sucks that my parents didn't abort me? We'll never know.
            A discussion about

      • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday June 27, 2008 @09:04PM (#23976649) Journal

        My argument against would be that folks that're "disabled" like me wouldn't have a chance to contribute to society as a whole....

        I wonder what the reaction would be like to a couple deliberately wanting to have a "disabled" child. For example, if a blind couple also wanted to have a blind child.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Broken scope (973885)
          Already happening, a Deaf couple is trying to have a deaf child by not using embryos that have "hearing", not sure how they make the selection. Their reasoning is that deafness isn't a disability and they want a child that has they can "share their experiences with".
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by FleaPlus (6935)

            Already happening, a Deaf couple is trying to have a deaf child by not using embryos that have "hearing", not sure how they make the selection. Their reasoning is that deafness isn't a disability and they want a child that has they can "share their experiences with".

            Interesting... I actually hadn't heard about that. For those curious, here's a BBC article: "Is it wrong to select a deaf embryo?" [bbc.co.uk]

      • by ppanon (16583) on Friday June 27, 2008 @09:21PM (#23976749) Homepage Journal

        In short, Beethoven. ;)


        How so? Beethoven's deafness had an adult onset, and it's now believed to have been due to lead poisoning, not a genetic cause. I don't think there's anyone who doesn't have a genetic propensity to heavy metal poisoning. Although some people may be more sensitive than others, I wouldn't call it a genetic disorder.

        Now if you had talked about Edison's or A.G. Bell's dyslexia, you might have had a better point. But even so, dyslexia's a disability that, properly diagnosed, can be worked around. Still it does raise a good point which is, what positive traits with disability co-factors might we eliminate if we try to eliminate disabilities. The best example of that is how the genetic traits for thalassemia and sickle-cell anemia also provide limited protection against malaria [harvard.edu]

        "Malaria's not a problem for me, I live and have evolved for northern latitude where the mosquitoes and malaria are less prevalent", you might say. Ah, but what happens when you get something like Global Warming combined with air travel increasing the territory for malaria? Could genetic defect selection be wiping out currently unnecessary gene variations that could prove critical in another few hundred years?

        As usual, SF touched on some of these issues already decades ago, starting with a Heinlein novella called "Beyond this Horizon".

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:06PM (#23975941)

      That being said, if you could choose the genetic make-up of your children and spare them any diseases or malformations I would be hard pressed to form an argument against it. Especially, since I would want the same for my children.

      Genetic diversity.

      Perhaps the only people who will survive the next great plague are the ones who do not have blue eyes nor blond hair.

      • This is actually a good reason to go against this (at least, to some extent). One generally accepted limit on marriage is to not let first cousins marry (and especially less siblings). The concern of genetic defects and so forth of kids that don't have that much genetic diversity.

        On a related note, I recently found out that Illinois allows 1st cousins to marry if they are over 50 years old (little chance of kids, so they don't care).
    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:10PM (#23975989)
      I have ADHD (known to run in my family), dyslexia, weak ligaments, a predisposition to addictive substances and I'm damn smart.

      Would I have been your kid?
    • There is no line. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mrbluze (1034940)
      If you are going to do something with an embryo, you have crossed the line already and beyond that there aren't really any ethical questions, since it is already decided that the embryo has no intrinsic rights that need protecting. Any further regulation on the matter is just pandering to wine-and-cheese liberals.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by snowgirl (978879) *

        Not true... animals have some "rights" conferred to them... c.f. that football guy who got in trouble for hurting dogs.

        There is a line... if it would cause serious harm to a child that develops from it, yeah, that's not cool. Basically, you should be able to choose to discard a child, where allowing them to live would be considered cruel. Uh... down syndrome is questionable in this category (they enjoy life, they're just a burden upon parents... I would say, "sorry, not a disqualifiable condition) while c

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by adminstring (608310)
          To clarify: Animals have rights by virtue of their consciousness and ability to suffer. There is no evidence that embryos have either of these traits.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Surt (22457)

        I think you meant pandering to wine and cheese conservatives. The liberals are the ones who want to let you do whatever you want in this area. The conservatives have 3 sections:
        1) don't care
        2) opposed to anything
        3) middle position that makes no sense (wine and cheese)

    • by snowgirl (978879) * on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:20PM (#23976117) Journal

      The question is, how do you prevent people picking a child simply based on arbitrary cosmetic reasons? "You're going to have a daughter, but her breasts will develop entirely lopsided" Really? Crap, ditch that one, let's try another.

      The situation is worse combined with what I mentioned in another thread... we're all guaranteed to develop a genetic defect that will express itself as us being unable to generate vitamin C... if I didn't like some odd element of my prospective child (say, "he doesn't have blue eyes and blond hair") then I could simply say, "it has a genetic defect, so I can ditch this one, and try again."

      Basically, the question is, how much should we play the role of natural selection? Some mutations have a more or less neutral effect upon humans, or even a negative effect upon us, however that negative effect has a positive effect in other cases, and results in an overall increase.

      The issue here is, we shouldn't be able to start mandating genetic purity, and we should only be able to dismiss a child for reasons that would cause a medical illness requiring treatment... not simply "they don't match what I want."

      What you "want" is to get away from natural selection and move towards some artificial selection, and while some of that is good (preventing down syndrome, and some other disorders) at the same time... we need to be careful what we throw away, or eliminate from the human genome by conscious choice.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by EdIII (1114411) *

        What you "want" is to get away from natural selection and move towards some artificial selection

        Nothing could be FARTHER from the truth. I just don't believe anybody other than the parents should be involved in the selection. I don't believe that government or religion should play a role in this.

        I have my own personal feelings regarding this. I am very Pro Life. I would always wish for the child to be born regardless of circumstances. Who knows what may happen? What that person could contribute?

        Howeve

    • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:31PM (#23976265)

      I don't think men should have any business telling a women what to do with their bodies, certainly not based on faith either.

      You'll be hard pressed to find anyone who advocates telling people what to do with their bodies. You can, however, find those who would like to legislate a measure of protection for other people's bodies (even if those bodies happen to temporarily be inside other people's bodies).

      That being said, this really is a whatcouldpossiblygowrong situation. Disease is one thing, but what about aesthetics? Should people have the right to select babies based on more or less meaningless preferences? And of course, what of the people who were not preselected? Will they be forced to live out the life of one considered inferior?

      Of course, that's the moral playing God standpoint, there's also the scientific playing evolution standpoint. Do you really think that we can play with genetics and foresee all the consequences? This could be a great way to dig ourselves into an evolutionary hole. Take the commercial Cavendish banana, for instance. Bred to be the best, and it stands to be wiped out by a single disease. Yeah, that's clonal propagation, but even if it were sexual reproduction, anything that limits the genetic pool tends to be a bad thing. For example, dog breeds were genetically concentrated into smaller populations, and they're medical train wrecks compared to mutts.

      So, moral issues aside, genetic selection might work for a few generations, but then I'd bet it begins to come unglued, and the benefits dissipate when a bunch of weird-assed disease start poping up in the selected populations.

  • One Word . . . (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wirehead_rick (308391)

    Gattaca

    • That was my first thought too, but I think that the benefits far outweigh any perceived downsides.
    • by Gewalt (1200451)

      Gattaca

      Actually, that should be GATTACA. And the reference is stupid anyways, as that make believe world is not even remotely visionary. Not one aspect of their civilization is actually sustainable. Sure, they have genetic screening and.. enhancement. But that's the only part of the movie that actually might make it to reality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by halsver (885120)

      "You want to know how I did it!? I never saved anything for the swim back."

  • Can we make selection retroactive?

    There's several people I'd like to retroactively select...

  • by lymond01 (314120)

    Anonymous online voting. Pick an embryo, vote as often as you like.

    I mean, a system like that isn't going to be any worse than a couple people choosing who gets to live or die based on genetic pre-requisites.

  • A counter example (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:06PM (#23975939)

    A weakness is not always a weakness.

    Consider the old example that gets trotted out, time and time again: sickle cell anaemia. In the US, Australia, England, Canada, etc., it's a weakness, and is rare. But in Africa, it turns out that if you have one normal gene acting in tandem with one sickle cell anaemia gene (remember that genes always operate in pairs), you are more resistant to the effects of malaria.

    Two sickle cell genes, and you're in trouble. One, and if malaria is prevalent, you're actually better off (but if it's not, you're slightly worse off.)

    So just because a given gene variant is a weakness here and now in our society doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing overall. We simply don't know enough to judge the bigger picture in the general case.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ClassMyAss (976281)
      But that's not a reasonable argument. Sickle cell anemia is an extreme edge case, and most of the genetic variants we're talking about are unambiguously harmful, at least based on our current knowledge. And if that knowledge changes we'll adjust, but the way I see it is that at the moment we have at least a bit of an edge on the house. That we don't know exactly how much of an edge or which hands we might lose doesn't mean we shouldn't play the game, it just means that there's still some uncertainty. Th
    • Re:A counter example (Score:5, Informative)

      by Devout_IPUite (1284636) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:37PM (#23976353)

      This technique could allow selecting for 1/2 sickle cell in Africa though, no longer will 25% of their children be SOL one way and another 25% SOL the other way.

  • Go for it! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by adminstring (608310) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:08PM (#23975961)
    I can's see anything wrong with selecting for gestation the embryo which will turn into the healthiest human. This will result in a net gain in health for millions of real humans in future generations, at the expense of millions of potential (meaning "not") humans - the rejected embryos. Since the rejected embryos have no consciousness, and the real humans do, I think it's a worthwhile trade-off. If there was any evidence that the rejected embryos could feel pain or have any awareness of their situation, I'd go the other way. But as it is, it's a (bad pun alert) no-brainer.
    • Re:Go for it! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:22PM (#23976141) Homepage

      I can's see anything wrong with selecting for gestation the embryo which will turn into the healthiest human.

      Except you're not. With the current technology you are selecting out embryos which carry single nucleotide polymorphisms [wikipedia.org] which are associated with certain deleterious traits. You are not selecting for "healthy", you are selecting for "not diseased" and not even that, just "less likelihood of being diseased" (likelihood depends on the specific trait).

      The problem here is you don't really know what else you are selecting for or against. Again, in most cases, you aren't testing for the deleterious gene(s) itselft, you're using a proxy marker. Lots of unknowns here. I'm not sure I would be embracing this technology just yet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bogtha (906264)

        The problem here is you don't really know what else you are selecting for or against.

        Yes, but remember that this isn't a case of injecting artificial DNA or anything like that. The baby that will eventually be born was potentially going to be born anyway. So the choice is not "I'm picking a big unknown", the choice is "I'm choosing an unknown over something known to be harmful".

        I'm not sure I would be embracing this technology just yet.

        So instead of picking one of the candidates without any known

  • I consider myself a Christian, and while I see no problem with this in relation to my beliefs, I think that there are far too many unknowns and variables involved. The process of evolution has worked just fine so far, let it be. I don't think we are yet intelligent enough to control this aspect of humanity.
  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:22PM (#23976135)

    That's the real issue, in my opinion where it is GROSSLY obvious that a defect will harm the child severely then we should. I really doubt our science (and scientists) are capable at present at deciding what is a 'defect' when no studies have been done and data is not available, since what one might consider a defect, may not be, or maybe tied to a whole host of other issues once development starts, after all if you're going to discard emybryos with percieved small 'defects', the error in judgement of what constitutes a defect is rather large.

    If we coul we would monitor and control the growth and eliminate 'defects' during the whole term of a pregnancy or even as we grow throughout are life but this is just not feasable realistically, at some point an embryo is 'good enough', and I really don't think we have the knowledge at present to judge very accurately what constitutes a 'defect' at smaller levels without studies and long term data to back it up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blahplusplus (757119)

      Yes I am replying to my own post, hit reply there before finishing. I mean that what one might consider 'smaller defects', are they really 'defects', how does one determine defect from being different? If one looks at how life evolves, we might consider many species today as a result of 'defects'.

      So when considering smaller defects, just what is the evidence for it's implications, and what kind of data do we have on them? That's the question I'd ask before discarding them.

  • by speedtux (1307149) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:27PM (#23976209)

    (1) Either it works or it doesn't, for improving offspring.

    (2) Lots of people won't be able to afford embryo selection, so humans will continue to explore both options.

    I don't see a problem.

  • Seems simple to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HeavensBlade23 (946140) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:33PM (#23976301)
    If most of the embryos created in the process are going to be destroyed anyway, you might as well select for good health. If you have a problem with that, you likely have a problem with that kind of fertility treatment in general.
  • Not the point... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by porcupine8 (816071) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:34PM (#23976305) Journal
    I think it's odd that some commenters are treating this as a "is killing a clump of cells ethical" issue. In IVF, some of the embryos will be implanted and some won't. The ones that won't are (usually) disposed of. Embryos will be disposed of either way, whether you pick which ones to dispose based on genetic defects or not. If you have a problem killing a clump of cells, you will have a problem with this no matter what.

    This issue presented HERE is the ethics involved in picking and choosing which embryos to implant rather than choosing at random, which would most closely (as far as we know) mimic the random selection of an egg to release and a sperm to make it to the egg. Totally different issue, with totally different ramifications - like the evolutionary path of our species. (You could argue that legalizing abortion also affects our evolutionary path b/c certain populations are now less likely to give birth - but the fact is that abortions happen whether they're legal or not. Genetic engineering of this sort is likely to be extremely rare if illegal.)

  • by loxosceles (580563) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:52PM (#23976521)

    Everyone has different ideals of the "perfect" human, so allowing arbitrary selection -- even if it were affordable to everyone, which it wouldn't be -- won't eliminate diversity.

    What it will do is reverse the trend of propagating serious genetic defects throughout the gene pool. Thanks to social ethics and medical technology, people with major non-adaptive genetic mutations -- degenerative diseases, blindness, deafness, obesity, heart defects, and yes, even way-below-average intelligence (to the degree that's determined by genetics) -- are no longer selected out of the gene pool as they would be in a less organized or less ethical society.

    We have an opportunity to pick up where we forced nature to stop in designing better-adapted humans. We may have to do some serious engineering on human genetics in order for us as a species to survive in different environments with toxic materials, not enough oxygen, too much radiation, or other uncorrectable environmental difficulties. That could mean another planet, or Earth in the far-future. Whining about parents genetically testing their zygotes is ridiculous.

    Isn't the generally accepted philosophy of being human that what really matters is thoughts and personality? Thoughts cannot be genetically selected. Personality has some genetic basis due to biochemistry in the brain and genetically-determined brain structure, but even there the core of personality is dictated by the environment and experience.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745)

      I don't mean to be pedantic, but here goes:)

      "We have an opportunity to pick up where we forced nature to stop in designing better-adapted humans."

      That show a fundamental misunderstanding of natural selection and random mutations.

      Evolution doesn't have a plan, it is not a ladder or a tree. More of a bush.

      I'm not trying to be a dick* I just think being clear on some issues is very important.

      *It comes naturally!

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:56PM (#23976561)
    I imagine gay embryos will be the first in the trash can. In a generation or two, gays will be seen only in old movies or tv sitcoms like "Three's Company".
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday June 27, 2008 @09:13PM (#23976707) Homepage

    I have no problem with anyone who wants to sift through endless embryos until you find one that has the markers for mutant super-powers. After all, that's helping usher in the next stage of human evolution. Once you've discovered that, though, I don't think it's right to continue selecting based on the nature of those powers. Just let super-nature take its course. You should be proud just to have an X-Man running around your house, even if it is a crappy one like Dazzler.

Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.

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