Oxford University bioethicist Julian Savulescu argues that "responsible parenting" means that kids should be bioengineered to behave in "ethical" ways. From the Telegraph:
[Savulescu] said that science is increasingly discovering that genes have a significant influence on personality – with certain genetic markers in embryo suggesting future characteristics.
By screening in and screening out certain genes in the embryos, it should be possible to influence how a child turns out.
In the end, he said that "rational design" would help lead to a better, more intelligent and less violent society in the future.
"Surely trying to ensure that your children have the best, or a good enough, opportunity for a great life is responsible parenting?" wrote Prof Savulescu, the Uehiro Professor in practical ethics.
"So where genetic selection aims to bring out a trait that clearly benefits an individual and society, we should allow parents the choice.
"To do otherwise is to consign those who come after us to the ball and chain of our squeamishness and irrationality.
"Indeed, when it comes to screening out personality flaws, such as potential alcoholism, psychopathy and disposition to violence, you could argue that people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children.
"They are, after all, less likely to harm themselves and others."
"If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring — rather than consigning them to the natural lottery — then we should."
Savulescu's vision strongly depends on the notion that genetic traits come in nice little packages that can be added or excised at will. However, behavioral "traits" are likely to have two (or more) sides to them, e.g., bravery could well be associated with aggressive tendencies, or prudence with selfishness, righteousness with implacability, etc. Can't bioengineer away the bad without also affecting the good. What about eugenics concerns?
[Savulescu] said that unlike the eugenics movements, which fell out of favour when it was adopted by the Nazis, the system would be voluntary and allow parents to choose the characteristics of their children.
Voluntary? The idea that genetically engineering your children to behave more ethically is a "moral obligation" seems to me to imply the possibility of state intervention down the line.
In any case, the future importance of genetic engineering is being way overblown—biopharmaceutical interventions is where the real action will be. As I argued in my column, "Down with Gene Tyranny!":
Underlying all this moral handwringing over genetic engineering is the concern that genes really matter—that one's life chances are largely determined by the genes one carries. Good genes equal a bright future; bad genes entail a blighted future. Recent genetic research is showing that this view is wrong. How so? By using outside interventions that regulate and enhance the performance of the genes that people already have. Such interventions will include new, precisely targeted pharmaceuticals that will change the activity of various genes and gene combinations in desired ways…
Genetically engineered inequality is a bioethical phantom. The truth is that biotechnological interventions will eventually enable nearly everyone to enhance their bodies and their brains. The good news is that as researchers learn more about the good and bad effects of our genes, the more we will be liberated from whatever tyranny they do exercise.
Basically, parents won't have to genetically engineer their kids because when their kids become adults they will be able to enhance themselves by taking advantage of a wide array of biotechnological interventions to tweak whatever genes their parents' haplessly bequeathed them.