Of course, the weaker and less fortunate among us would be subject to more hardship and discrimination as a result.
Bioethicist and director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, James Hughes, argues that parents have the right and freedom to choose their child’s traits – cosmetic or otherwise. This argument is founded on the notion that the ultimate desire of the human species is to attain perfection and prime functionality.
Money is heavily spent on the social development and academic merit of children so they can have an advantage in society. Kids are enrolled in music lessons, sports programs, chess clubs, art schools; these are parents’ attempts to assist their children’s advancement in life. James Hughes believes this is no different from genetically altering the genes of a baby and infusing selective traits that will enhance the child’s development. It’s a time-saving investment and potential parents are basically giving their babies a head start in life.
But what does this head start mean for the rest of humanity? Does it encourage the development of a Eugenic population? We could potentially compound segregation between the rich and poor since the process of inheritable genetic modification would undoubtedly be a luxury the majority of the world population could not afford. We could face a new era where not only are the rich better off financially but their offspring could also have a dramatically unequal physical and mental advantage – modified superiors versus unmodified inferiors.
Where do we draw the line between ethics and science? Engineering humans for personal desires is an extreme technology, according to Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society. “We’ll never really be able to tell if it’s safe without doing unethical human experimentation. And if it does work, the idea that it could be accessible to everyone is specious.”
Richard Hayes, executive director of the Centre for Genetics and Society, admits that the technological implications for non-medical bioengineering would undermine humanity and create a techno-eugenic rat race.
But pre-birth manipulation has accounted for 30 births between 1997-2003. It’s a procedure that combines the DNA of three people: the mother, the father and a female donor. It changes the genetic code by replacing lethal genes with disease-free genes from the donor, allowing the baby to retain its physical features from its parents while possessing the DNA of all three people.
A genetically engineered human species may not be far away. We must be cautious moving forward as we debate this natural desire to seek improvement and perfection through seemingly extraordinarily unnatural means.
Adeola Onafuwa is a political science student at the University of Windsor with a staunch passion for journalism. He is actively involved in socio-economic growth and development through charity and volunteer organizations, with the aim of redirecting the focus of youths towards economic and socio-political initiatives. Twitter: @deola_O