Let's Make a Baby

From the latest issue of h+ magazine, a look at why people are cool with eliminating diseases, but not cool with choosing eye color for their designer babies:

A January 2009 study by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center found that an overwhelming 75% of parents would be in favor of trait selection using PGD – as long as that trait is the absence of mental retardation. A further 54% would screen their embryos for deafness, 56% for blindness, 52% for a propensity to heart disease, and 51% for a propensity to cancer. Only 10% would be willing to select embryos for better athletic ability, and 12.6% would select for greater intelligence. 52.2% of respondents said that there were no conditions for which genetic testing should never be offered, indicating widespread support for [pre-implantation genetic diagnosis]—as long as it’s for averting disease and not engineering human enhancement.

Of course, a lot of this stuff is already a done deed:

You may not know it, but gender selection based on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has been available to paying couples since at least 2001. One of the world leaders in providing this service is the Fertility Institutes, with branches in Los Angeles, New York, and Guadalajara in Mexico. According to their website, they’ve had over 3,800 cases of gender selection with a 100% success rate. Besides offering gender selection, they screen embryos for genetic defects such as breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, and over 70 other diseases. The Institutes are directed by Dr. Jeff Steinberg, a pioneer of IVF (in vitro fertilization) in the 1970s, and a successful scientist-businessman today.

In early February, the Fertility Institutes created enormous controversy by announcing that they planned to offer PGD services allowing for the selection of eye and hair color for children. Steinberg was quoted by the BBC as saying, “I would not say this is a dangerous road. It’s an uncharted road.” As a scientist experienced in PGD/IVF techniques, Steinberg was aware that the technology to select physical traits in humans has been available for years, but no one would touch it. “It’s time for everyone to pull their heads out of the sand,” Steinberg said.

Of course, people are also getting used to selecting traits like eye color on their Miis. It's only a matter of time before they come around on doing the same for flesh and blood babies. 

Read more about designer babies here

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  • creech||

    When will we be able to select the trait of NOT thinking life is about going around hitting other people?

  • ||

    "I would not say this is a dangerous road. It's an uncharted road."

    Yeppers! Were I in the market for in vitro babymaking and selecting intellience via PGD an option, I'd avail myself of the service.

  • ||

    as long as it's for averting disease and not engineering human enhancement

    There's a difference?

    For that matter, how do you distinguish between selecting for the absence of retardation, and greater intelligence?

  • Tim||

    as long as it's for averting disease and not engineering human enhancement

    When does it start to become Eugenics?

  • Granite26||

    I don't know enough genetics to have any clue about this, but is there genetic danger in selecting for these things being recessive?

    I can see certain undesirable recessive traits that would normally lead to lower viability being carried along by doctors guaranteeing that the recessive traits were never expressed.

    I can also see that over time (500 years or so), the recessive trait could be significantly more prevelant (due to no selection pressure against carriers) than it would otherwise be, to the point that your lab techs had trouble making good matches.

    Also, combinations for higher intelligence (or other desirable trait) would lead to a single gene set being preferred to an unhealthy extent, creating a systematic weakness in the human genome.

    Apologies if this doesn't make a lot of sense, I'm feeling it out

  • Some dude||

    Another article for my GATTACA scrapbook.

  • MaterialMonkee||

    "but not cool with choosing eye color"

    as you're just selecting from the genes that are available in your own DNA

    surely thats not an issue for most of us

    there's only a small % of us that have non brownish eyes eh?

    As humans are infinitely diverse the choice of what you value genetically varies accordingly

    Alot of people would say that they wouldn't want a child with the "digs drugs and alcohol" gene

    I think everyone in my family has that gene and I wouldn't want a kid that didn't have it as they wouldn't fit in with family when we have a party (one of the highlights of my year)

    Maybee if you had a fetish for BBW's you wouldn't want to eliminate the "big tits and huge ass" gene

    As long as people are free to choose what genes they want and what they don't it all good

    I'd say for most non-"high probability of cancer" type genes people would just see what happens

    Eugenics is bad because it involves coercively stopping humans breeding,
    (as in the social democratic paradise Sweden)

    or theoretically forcing some genetic preference on humanity

  • MY EYES ARE GREEN||

    THEY ARE

  • MaterialMonkee||

    Rant continues

    like every time you fuck someone your sub-consciously
    genetically selecting what traits/genes you like in a person

    every time you deliberately decide to reproduce your consciously deciding what traits/genes you value

  • ||

    [Kid runs through living room, knocks over expensive vase]

    Mother: "Don't make me angry, Junior! You're only here because you have green eyes! Be glad you're not you're fraternal twin, because we aborted her for having brown eyes."

  • ||

    Why do people still discuss this? It seems pretty apparent that somatic cell therapies will enable adults to make genetic changes so no one will be stuck with what nature or their parents chose.

  • I have green eyes too||

    Isn't partner selection a simple form of genetic choice? I like tall women so I choose to mate with them sorta thing...

  • ||

    I like tall women so I choose to mate with them sorta thing...

    I'm sure they're lined up outside your basement, waiting for you to choose which one you will mate with tonight . . . ;-)

  • ||

    The reason pro-lifers would have a problem with this is not just because it's uncharted territory and new technology and playing God etc.

    It's because "choosing an eye color for your baby" actually involves producing a shitload of embryos and then destroying all the ones that don't have the right eye color. Every article I read about this gives the impression that your baby is conceived and then they "engineer" him or her to your specifications, which is completely false.

  • MJ||

    "Of course, people are also getting used to selecting traits like eye color on their Miis. It's only a matter of time before they come around on doing the same for flesh and blood babies."

    A Mii is an avatar for yourself in a virtual enviroment, your child is a separate individual from you with his own existance not an accessory for your lifestyle. The sort of person who would tinker with his kid's eye color because he can do that with a Mii is exactly the sort of person who is too immature to ever be a parent.

  • MJ||

    Tulpa,

    It is fascinating how people who seem to look forward to this sort of thing coming to fruition hate to speak directly about what it actually entails. It's almost as if they know there is a deep ethical wrong in what they are advocating but believe that not explicitly mentioning the details will make the darkness go away.

  • Mad Max||

    Tulpa,

    Indeed.

    Genetic selection of one's children has been done for thousands of years in human societies. Of course, for those lacking the blessings of advanced technology, this is done *post*-natally. You have a defective infant - leave the baby somewhere and walk off - the baby dies unless someone comes along to adopt it. Then you go ahead and produce a new baby in hopes it meets the required specifications.

    The hypocritical, anti-choice Church, instead of minding its own business and refraining from involvement in intimate family matters, banned the practice of exposing infants.

    Bloggers of the time denounced this ecclesiastical meddling in civil affairs, pointing out that large number of babies died of natural causes in the first year of life, yet those dumb Christians weren't proposing to punish the parents of *those* babies. Early evidence of Christianity's hostility to science, I guess.

    With our modern perspective, we realize that the question of the personhood status of newborn infants is a matter on which people could conscientiously disagree, so it was no business of the government to punish infant exposure. After all, parents agonized deeply over the decision whether to expose their babies, weighing their economic circumstances, the needs of existing children, the necessity of having sons, and other deeply personal matters.

    Basically, if your magic sky-fairy "God" doesn't like you exposing infants, don't expose them. But don't impose your views on parents, you religious freak.

  • ||

    MJ,

    I should mention that I don't think I would have a problem with it if we were really just going in and tinkering with the genes of an embryo to change such traits. People should however get creeped out by the idea of "culling the herd" as our currently available technology does.

    AFAIK the Catholic Church, citing Davey and Goliath, opposes such tampering in God's domain; so sorry Mad Max, we'll have to disagree on that.

  • ||

    I should have clarified that what I disagree with the RCC on is genetically modifying embryos, not destroying undesirable ones.

  • ||

    According to their website, they've had over 3,800 cases of gender selection with a 100% success rate.

    Supposing this is true, it just means that their DNA testing is very good at determining gender. I'm pretty sure their success rate at producing embryos of the desired gender was more like 50%.

  • ||

    there are birth defects in IVF children - please see the link below - deformed privates and extra broad hips - read the truth about science >

    http://beware-of-the-fertility-industry.blogspot.com

  • MJ||

    "I should mention that I don't think I would have a problem with it if we were really just going in and tinkering with the genes of an embryo to change such traits."

    Would you have a problem with parents who would get plastic surgery for an otherwise healthy child because the kid's nose is not cute enough for them? Gene modification for frivolous reasons would be a similar procedure.

  • ||

    Would you have a problem with parents who would get plastic surgery for an otherwise healthy child because the kid's nose is not cute enough for them?

    I would have a personal problem with it, but I don't see that it should be prohibited by law. Anymore than the thousands of other coercive things parents routinely foist on their kids for self-serving reasons.

  • ||

    how is babby formed?

  • elisesmith||

    I feel like this may be something that is going to create huge controversy when (if) it gains in popularity. If people are against abortion because it is killing one of God's creatures, then why wouldn't they be against altering one of God's creatures? This seems like the exact same thing to me. Even something as simple as choosing the sex of the baby seems like playing God to me. I can see that this seems like an exciting thing right now, but in all honesty think about the effects it could have in the future if we start genetically altering our children.

  • Meg||

    elisesmith,
    Thank you

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