Stossel: Don't Be Scared of Designer Babies

Gene-editing technology will eventually allow parents to alter their future offspring's intelligence, height, eye color, and more. And that's worth celebrating.


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Have you heard of "designer babies?"

Parents who use in vitro fertilization can already select an embryo by gender and screen for diseases. Gene-editing technology will eventually allow them to alter their future offspring's intelligence, height, eye color, and more.

This scares some people. Eighty-three percent of Americans say editing human genes to improve intelligence goes too far.

"Of course they say that," says Georgetown University Professor Jason Brennan in an interview with John Stossel. "When you have any kind of intervention into the body that's new, people think it's icky. And they take that feeling of 'ickiness' and they moralize, and think it's a moral objection."

Jenna Bush Hager, who's the daughter of former President George W. Bush, recently said that "there should be things that we leave up to God."

"I'm not really sure I'm going to take her word for it," says Brennan. "If God appears before me and says 'don't do this,' I'll stop."

"We already give our kids music lessons, braces, tutoring, karate lessons," Stossel says. "Any advantage we can—why not also give them the best genes?"

In the future, he notes, humans could be much smarter—perhaps possessing the wisdom enough to avoid wars and travel to other planets.

Sheldon Krimsky, a professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Tufts, argues that it'll "be a new way to create disparities in wealth."

"Every bit of technology that we enjoy today follows the same pattern," says Brennan. "You look in your automobile, and you have a CD player or an MP3 player, and a GPS. All of these things, when they first became available, were incredibly expensive," he says.

When asked if he was simply opposed to technological progress, Krimsky responded, "I love change…But I think there are some boundaries."

Will there be social pressure for everyone to have "designer babies"?

"It's not so clear why that's a problem," Brennan says. "If everyone is making their kids healthier and stronger and smarter, and less prone to disease, and you feel social pressure to go along with that, good. Shouldn't you do that as a parent for your child?"

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.



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  1. “If God appears before me and says ‘don’t do this,’ I’ll stop.”

    Unless by that time they’ve developed a super baby capable of defeating God.

    1. That’s the one baby God will be OK with aborting.

    2. Genetic manipulation of humans has been and is taboo for very good reason. Unintended, and by it’s very definition, unforeseen consequences. Create an exceedingly intelligent being, it may decide, logically, that YOU are a disease, genetically weak, a problem that needs to be eliminated, for the good of society, you see. But fear not. The AI robots you’re making will come to the very same conclusion. Sooner or later.

  2. “If God appears before me and says ‘don’t do this,’ I’ll stop.”

    How about if a SWAT team appears before you?

  3. Designer Babies shot big Papi.

  4. What garbage. Only a loon who thinks children are their parents’ property would be on board with this. Of course, we live in a country that thinks unborn children are disposable, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.

    1. Can you make a moral case for this argument?

      1. Alas,what Stossel is advocating will probably come to pass, but make no mistake it is a severe transgression against Divine Law & will surely end in disaster as almost everything does that goes against God’s Holy Will!

        Psalm 139:13-16 English Standard Version (ESV)
        13 For you formed my inward parts;
        you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
        14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
        Wonderful are your works;
        my soul knows it very well.
        15 My frame was not hidden from you,
        when I was being made in secret,
        intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
        16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
        in your book were written, every one of them,
        the days that were formed for me,
        when as yet there was none of them.

      2. I already did. Children are people, not their parents’ property, and manipulating their genes entails regarding them as property.

        1. Luckily no one is talking about editing the genes of children. We’re talking about manipulating the genes of something which is not yet a human being. As you noted we have decided as a society, by law, a fetus in the first trimester is not a human and can be disposed of. Since your objection is rooted in property rights, I’m sure you can appreciate the distinction between the zygote and a baby. The baby has the right to their body, as I own a piece of furniture. The supplies of the material that made that furniture have no claim on how their material is disposed of, now that I possess it. But before I came to own the furniture, and before the furniture was assembled, it’s individual parts belonged to others, and were shaped by them before being assembled and changing ownership.

  5. “…why not give them the best genes?”

    Because what are the best genes may not be as obvious as Stossel, and the scientists pushing for this may be rather more ignorant about how to build certain traits like intelligence than they are letting on.

    Furthermore, children are moral ends in themselves, they are not objects, they are not possessions. Mucking about with what they are at a basic level for frivolous reasons is not something that should be done.

    1. We don’t even have a good objective definition of intelligence and absolutely no idea how that ties to genetics. Even with more obvious physical traits, the potential for negative side effects and unintended consequences is enormous.

      In the future, he notes, humans could be much smarter—perhaps possessing the wisdom enough to avoid wars and travel to other planets.

      1. Wisdom and intelligence are almost wholly unrelated and wisdom can not be imparted by genetics.

      2. More likely super smart + super arrogant and far from avoiding wars, start them because they see themselves as the rightful rulers of the entire world.

      1. Intelligence: knowing a tomato is a fruit
        Wisdom: knowing not to put tomatoes into the fruit salad.

      2. wisdom can not be imparted by genetics

        I suppose wisdom requires experience, so that’s probably true. But the capacity to develop wisdom could well be genetically determined.

      3. Yeah… You guys are mistaking us not presently having a good enough understanding of the nuts and bolts details with us never being able to have that understanding.

        In 1935 we could fly, and knew how to make some pretty groovy planes. We also were already working on the concepts behind launching a rocket into space. The basic idea was there. We couldn’t do it then… But Von Braun had that shit on lock down by the 60s, and honestly probably figured out all the broad strokes in his head by the late 50s.

        We are already identifying specific genes that relate to intelligence. If we don’t create a single new gene from scratch, but merely mix and match those found in nature… We’ll be able to pump up any and every positive quality that we find in nature before long. And it will be an amazing thing.

        1. When a rocket misfires, we destroy it.
          What will we do, when one of these gene-editing efforts results in a human, so compromised, but not life threatened, that it would be cruel to have it live a full life?
          These are experiments, but with a resultant life, that can’t just be started over.

          1. Yeah… And?

            What do you think down syndrome babies are? Or other forms of retardation? Or, even worse, those with normal minds and horribly disfigured bodies?

            All of those are lives hardly worth living, but out of some sick sense of being kind by letting them suffer, we try to make them live as long as possible. I suspect this is what we would do with malformed ones. BUT the thing is, since we’re going to be analyzing the DNA of each and every baby made this way, we could in fact abort any of the ones that go bad either before implantation, or long before birth. So if anything the odds of freak babies will probably be reduced.

            1. There is a difference between something like Down Syndrome happening accidentally, though, and deliberately doing something that significantly increases the risk of Down Syndrome.

              If I’m driving drunk and crash into someone, causing enough brain damage that the person effectively has Down Syndrome now, I’m charged with reckless endangerment. We even make drunk driving illegal for that reason.

              It’s not hard to see the same reasoning being applied to practitioners of gene editing, if they don’t limit their work to fundamentally simple changes, such as the removal of single-gene-caused diseases.

              1. I mean sure, I get your point. I guess it comes down to the moral play here… If people take the tact that many people have with abortion today, AKA whatevs bro it’s just a few stupid cells! Then it isn’t really a big deal.

                As I said we can analyze every baby long before it is born, depending on the process perhaps before it is even in a womb. It is POSSIBLE that we might make a couple mistakes with errors that don’t get caught… And there may well be liability there. But many of them would probably be noticed before even current abortion term limits get hit.

                So if people go “Ooops, gotta cancel this one and get a new one tossed in there!” and move along it won’t be a big deal… If people make it out like it is murder every time and freak out, I guess it will be a big deal.

                I’m not one who freaks out about abortion… I DO believe you are outright killing a potential person, because that IS what it IS. BUT I also don’t believe that killing people is always wrong… If I became a retard due to brain trauma, I’d want to be put down. Likewise I don’t think it is a kindness bringing freaks into the world who will live horrible lives. All in all I bet we’ll have fewer defective people born if everybody is selectively editing, or at least choosing prime embryos for implantation, than we do now. That’s a positive thing IMO.

                Morality is what it is… So people may freak, but if they do it will be irrational IMO.

    2. We are going to be getting into editing the human genome, and sooner rather than later. It may doom us, it may turn us into something unrecognizable, or (far likelier) it may prove for all time how little influence one’s genetic heritage has on one’s life.

      1. it may prove for all time how little influence one’s genetic heritage has on one’s life

        The whole reason to edit the genome is because the person wouldn’t be able to supersede their genetic capacity by other or “natural” means.

      2. You clearly haven’t ever read up on the subject…

        Our genetics are the greatest determinant of life success… Period.

        The IQ one is born with is a better predictor for basically all positive outcomes in life than: socioeconomic status of parents, race, sex, 1 parent household or 2, or anything else. IQ is the holy grail of positive outcomes for most people.

        Poor black kids born to single parent households in the ghetto, but who have high IQs, do better than rich white kids with 2 parents at home who have low IQs. The thing is because IQ is mostly inherited, you only get flukes of those above scenarios, and it’s more likely that the ghetto kid will be low IQ and the rich kid high IQ, thus perpetuating the cycle.

        They’ve also increasingly been proving that even personality traits are genetic. Ever hear somebody say “Man, you were always such a mellow thoughtful person, even when you were a kid.” or “You have your fathers temper!” etc. That’s because it’s true. We’re born predisposed with our personality traits, and have to go through massive amounts of conscious effort to go a direction other than that one we’re naturally inclined to.

        Just like somebody born with genes that make them inclined to be fat, they CAN bust ass with their diet and exercise and be normal weight… But it’s tough. And most people don’t have the willpower for it. Hence most people with those genes end up being big fat pigs, and people with skinny genes end up being skinny.

        Bottom line is, our genes make us who we are more than basically anything else. Life experience will surely direct us one way or another too, but the upper bounds of our possibilities are largely determined by our genes. Most people simply can’t become rocket scientists or NFL running backs because they don’t have the proper genes for it, no matter the level of effort they’re willing to make.

        1. You clearly haven’t ever read up on the subject…

          Our genetics are the greatest determinant of life success… Period.

          You clearly haven’t read up on the rest of human history and subscribe to a false dichotomy that only exists abstractly/conceptually.

          Genetics cannot make an Einstein and likely would’ve ‘fixed’ Mozart or Tesla to be ‘normal’. IQ accounts for a lot but genetics has little to do with motivation. *If* it takes 10,000 hrs. to become a virtuoso and *if* science can genetically whittle it down to 5,000 hrs. the individual still has to put in those 5,000 hrs. *and* has to have the society around him to ensure he doesn’t turn out to be a buggy-whip virtuoso.

          1. Sure?

            I don’t disagree. But I think your point is irrelevant. Other than true freaks of nature, in a good way, being vastly higher IQ is an unambiguous good. Even in freaks most of them were geniuses who had an extra something special in their brain wiring. The truth is we could probably figure out what the genes were for those people and create more of them too. Not right off mind you, but decades after we’ve done the first basic edits, they will probably know the gene combo that creates extra creative people.

            Also, will power, drive, etc are almost certainly largely genetic. The research is proving more and more and more personality traits are genetic. People don’t inherit genes 100% as there is variation, throw backs to previous ancestors, etc… But that doesn’t mean their brain isn’t basically 100% tied to their genes.

            I hate to sound deterministic, but science says to a large degree that is what is going on. People like to think they’re in the drivers seat… But the truth is we’re all limited by our natural limitations to a degree. No matter how hard I tried I could not be an NFL linebacker. BUT if I had attempted it, I almost certainly could have become a rocket scientist, given my brain wiring. The NFL player could not in most cases, even if they tried really hard.

            People like to live in a world of delusion where they think they have more control than they do… We surely can make decisions and change our direction in life, but the decisions that are practically speaking open to us are largely limited by our genetics.

      3. I’m not sure if it will prove one way or another how our genetic heritage affects our life, but it might not matter: complex things like intelligence and personality may rely on so many genes that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to genetically edit our genome to make ourselves smarter.

  6. A quick thing to remember for every genetic advantage you gain you also get a genetic disadvantage. Unless it a serious medical problem
    like retardation to being born with a open spine, your child will not gain any real advantages by be gene engineering. I can explain more but got to go right now.

    1. That’s not really true…

      There is no disadvantage to having a 130 IQ vs an 85 IQ. You will be wealthier, happier, live longer, have a lower instance of divorce or criminal behavior, healthier, etc.

      Likewise having a pretty face as opposed to an ugly face has no downside. Being tall is basically all positives, other than needing to take in a few extra calories, at least up until you get to the point of being like 7 ft plus.

      The bottom line is humans are a shitty poorly bred animal… If everybody was taller, better looking, smarter, etc the world would be a better place. PERIOD.

  7. “…why not give them the best genes?”


  8. Oh noes! We might have more Einstein’s or DaVinci’s in the world! How awful!

    1. That is operating on the assumption the geneticists know how to make Einsteins and Da Vincis.

      1. They’ve already discovered the first couple thousand genes related to IQ… Which they estimate was enough to account for 3-5 IQ points difference IIRC. Give it 10 years and they’ll be able to lay out enough genes to bump IQ 30 points. Taking the average person from being smart enough to be a carpenter to being smart enough to be a competent engineer is a VERY major step in the right direction.

        1. Taking the average person from being smart enough to be a carpenter to being smart enough to be a competent engineer is a VERY major step in the right direction.

          Again IQ is scored relative to the average. So, even if everybody gains 30 IQ points the average IQ stays at 100. Now, as derivative of this, unless politicians and world leaders discover some intrinsically unifying and worthwhile endeavor for 100M engineers with 130 IQs to do, we’re, at best, going to wind up with 100M engineers with 130 IQs and nothing to do. How quickly and favorably this breaks down into 100M artists frittering away their lives or 100M criminals figuring out how to rob and extort people or 100M opiate-addicted vagabonds is anyone’s guess.

          IQ is a correlated predictor of success in among a sample of average IQs, not a guarantee of success for those who come to possess it without regard for how they came about possessing it.

          1. I think you’re confusing actual intelligence with the way we rate IQ scores… The whole re-averaging it at 100 is kind of bunk IMO, and skews things.

            There IS actual intelligence. There is the IQ score. Most smart researchers agree that actual intelligence probably increased marginally thanks to better diets, but that most supposed gains in IQ were essentially because we’ve trained peoples brains to think in ways that help them game IQ tests.

            Anyway, intelligence is a thing. Intelligence is the best predictor of life success. Being smart is objectively better than being dumb. In all ways.

            If we had all people with 130 IQs by todays standards, the world would have less crime, less poverty, and IF we needed 100M engineers we could have them… But if we didn’t, it would STILL be better. Imagine if the guy making your burger was far more competent than the idiots doing it now. There may still be slackers, but intelligence tends to correlate with conscientiousness and other positive traits.

            The bottom line is we’d still have more and less successful people, but the slackers would be SUPERIOR slackers, and hence we’d still be far better off.

            It’s not PC to say it, but see Europe and Asia for examples. Whatever the underlying reason (come on dude… it’s genes), Europe and Asia have far higher IQs than other regions… And as if by magic the societies there are cleaner, less crime, less poverty, etc than other regions with lower average IQs.

            Higher IQs=better. Period. End of discussion. There will be slacker geniuses, but they will still be better than slacker idiots.

      2. That is operating on the assumption the geneticists know how to make Einsteins and Da Vincis.

        There’s every indication that we would’ve ‘corrected’ Van Gogh, Tesla, and Michelangelo. Probably people like Turing and Erdos too.

        1. Says who? Once we isolate genes that create that special something, we may select especially for such things.

          Or perhaps we’ll select for only certain genes, and allow the others to be random still. There is a difference between an Einstein and a random guy with a 160 IQ, which is what his was. If we only select for the stuff that kicks out 160 IQs, and leave the rest random, we will still get some Einsteins kicked out, and some regular run of the mill geniuses.

    2. Intelligent is not equivalent to good. Intelligence like a hammer or a gun is a tool, a tool that can be used for good or evil. They are as likely to give us more Hitlers or Stalins or invent a Khan Noonien Singh and start a real life eugenics war.

      1. This just sounds like relativism to me. People aren’t this rational.

      2. Well, at least it will be interesting and make good TV.

      3. One of the reasons a Hitler can have such power is because highly intelligent people are so rare, and master players can game them easily.

        If everybody had a 150 IQ, people would likely be a lot better at making decisions. It is simply a fact that high IQ people tend to be more knowledgeable of history, able to think things through better than dumb people, etc. They’re still susceptible to brain washing and making bad decisions… But it’s an improvement over all the mouth breathers we have in the world today.

        1. One of the reasons Hitler can have so much power, though, is because individuals are willing to secede their rights to someone who promises the world.

          Last I checked, you don’t need to be smart to value individual rights, and you don’t need to be stupid to support collective oppression. If we want to avoid more Hitlers, we need to do more to emphasize the value of individual rights, and perhaps even lynch any politician — smart or dumb — who actively pursues policies that destroy our rights.

          1. That’s true… And also false.

            The fact is that studies that have been done show that low intelligence people simply cannot understand abstract concepts in the same way that smart people can. Not that all smart people do, but they’re at least intellectually capable of doing so.

            For instance a dumb person will not be able to conceptualize how the economic pie is overall larger if one allows the wealthy to retain more capital, which gets invested in capital improvements, thus making everybody wealthier… A very dumb person can only conceptualize that the other person has more, therefore they need to take it from them if they want to have more.

            Intelligent people make the mistake of thinking dumb people think like them… For the most part they do not. They are not capable of it. There are the odd people with low IQ that have good horse sense or can reason through things slowly, but come to the correct conclusion… But mostly when dumb people have the correct opinion about something it is because they were indoctrinated to have it. They don’t actually understand the underlying concepts, could not grapple with the principles involved in theoretical terms, etc.

            Bottom line: People are not equal. Dumb people are not equal to the smart. We’ve been selling the big lie that everybody is the same for generations now, and too many people believe it.

  9. What everyone misses is that you can’t stop technology from advancing. Make it illegal in one country and people will travel to where it is legal. Some poor country will look the other way and allow it. If people will pay hundred of thousand dollars to get into a specific college, they will pay to have their children designed to be bigger, faster, healthier and smarter.

    1. That it may be unstoppable, doesn’t make it a good thing.

      1. Yes, but we are libertarians. We don’t outlaw things simply because we disagree with them. We don’t outlaw things simply because they are icky. I have never consumed illegal drugs nor have I visited a prostitute. However I am 100% sure that these things should be legal since that makes the world a safer, freer place.

      2. How would it NOT be a good thing?

        In what world are dumb, unhealthy, ugly, fat, people a good thing?

        They’re not. Also, keep in mind that such sad human beings that do exist today DO NOT have good lives. I’m smart and pretty good looking. I could be taller, but other than that I wonder the genetic lottery pretty damn hard. But what about guys that are 5’3″, fat, with an 85 IQ, and a face so ugly even their mother doesn’t love it?

        They’re doomed to a life of misery where everybody else is already better looking than them, earns more money, bangs more chicks, etc. Demanding that such sad people continue to exist is a crime IMO if you can prevent it. It’s like demanding people be born without legs.

        1. How do you define good looks, though? How many women are more than happy to marry a guy because he’s rich, even if his mother doesn’t love it?

          And how do you define intelligence? China is currently trying to breed highly intelligent people, but their criterion is basically “Does well in school, follows instructions, and plays nice with others”. American intelligence, on the other hand, has more of an emphasis on the opposite.

          1. You’re getting into bullshit games to try to avoid reality.

            YES, there is such a thing as variation in what people find attractive… I like ultra pale skin, and especially redheads. But by and large 95% of people agree on the basics.

            For a woman thinnish, big tits, a “pretty” face, etc. For a man tall, strong, handsome face, etc.

            There are freaks who like fat chicks or whatever, but they’re the exception. The fact that a chick will marry a rich guy who isn’t good looking DOES NOT mean she wouldn’t prefer to marry a rich guy who WAS good looking. Such a combination is VERY rare and hard to wrangle in the world today though, so she is outcompeted by somebody better than her for such a mate. In a world where everybody was more attractive more people would be able to have matches they consider more desirable.

            As to intelligence… Yeah, there are different kinds of intelligence. Being an artistic “genius” is a thing. Fair enough. But book smarts is book smarts. Everybody knows what people mean by this, and people who try to play the BS game you are are trying to deny the reality that there are people who are objectively smarter than others.

            There are other traits that people find desirable too, I’m not saying otherwise. But book smarts in and of themselves are super valuable, as per statistics. In reality the other positive traits are probably ALSO largely genetic, and could be selected for too. But even if they’re too complex and remain randomly distributed, having everybody be smarter book smarts wise is a positive anyway.

        2. Surely even a sub-optimal life is better than no life at all, for the one having the experience.

          1. That’s why nobody commits suicide.

            1. There are a surprisingly large number of people who commit suicide, who have better lives than people who don’t commit suicide.

              Suicide is a completely different issue; furthermore, it’s something that the individual decides on. We shouldn’t be making the decision for others.

          2. I don’t think so.

            If I became mentally retarded due to an accident, I would rather be put down. Ditto probably for being fully paralyzed, or any number of other things.

            Ask MANY normal people if they’d want to live as a drooling retard for 40 years, and most say they would rather be dead.

            The truth is that somebody who isn’t born won’t care that they weren’t born… But somebody born as a freak may well regret that they were born. I’ve known normal people who felt that way due to setbacks/bad shit they’ve had happen in life. I doubt almost anybody would TRULY choose to be born a retard or highly disfigured. People say they would to back up their moral values, but I call bullshit.

    2. What everyone misses is that you can’t stop technology from advancing.

      Semantics. Yes, you can’t necessarily or assuredly grind it to a halt, but you can effectively slow it down and either allow or support competitive technologies to develop to the point where you effectively stop it from advancing. It’s what’s being done, to a greater or lesser extent, with electric cars and green energy.

    3. That’s more or less my take on things like this. I’m not sure it would be good or bad to start genetically engineering people. But it’s almost certainly going to happen.
      So I hope for the best, I guess.

  10. You know what, a baby might actually be made cute with a Stossel stache.

    1. Kinda like It from the Addam’s family but all moustache?

  11. In general, I am not a Luddite on this issue. Editing genes is doing the same thing people have always done, just on a much finer level.
    It took the Bene Gesserit generations to create their kwisatz haderach. Maybe we can do it in an hour!
    Seriously, though I don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing if a child could be made immune to certain diseases, or perhaps certain enhanced traits, though I seriously doubt we are going to gene edit a potential Urkel into a potential Wolverine.
    But, I do have a few questions. For example, I know of deaf people who literally want their children born deaf. As if being deaf is akin to race or religion. If a person could edit their child’s genes to be immune to measles for example, could they edit them to produce a deaf child? Is it based only on a measurable benefit vs. drawback? What if the benefits also have drawbacks. Who gets to decide which one wins?

    1. The last bit is indeed an odd one… Basically because there are some seriously crazy people in the world, we will have to contend with those ideas.

      There are a COUPLE traits that have pros and cons… But for the most part enhancements are pretty universally agreed upon, and do not have negatives. Having a pretty/handsome face has no downsides. Being tall (within reason) has no downsides. Being inclined to being thin and muscular has no downsides. Having a high IQ has no downsides.

      Whatever few exceptions to the above exist will have to be dealt with, and it will be a messy argument. But it will happen either way.

      1. I think you attribute too much to genetics that are actually a result of lifestyle and environment. How will geneticists be sure to make sure that we’re all thin and muscular? What magic gene keeps the thyroid working perfectly for all people? And how sure are you that every enhancement is universally agreed upon?

        Yes, deaf people can be crazy. But the fact is, every person has a little bit of crazy.

        1. Ugh.

          You obviously don’t know much about the research. This has been a hobby horse of mine for a long time.

          Bottom line is science is proving more and more that almost everything about us is largely genetic.

          People are INCLINED to be skinny or fat. A person inclined to be skinny can in fact eat themselves into being fat. It’s true. As can a fat person diet until they’re skinny. But there are inclinations we have for almost everything. A skinny person has to TRY real hard to be fat, and can be skinny with basically zero effort on their part. Reverse for a fatty.

          All aspects of health are largely genetic, in the way described above. Some people can eat like shit and never exercise their whole life, smoke, drink, and still live to be 105 in good health. It’s their genes.

          If most people had genes like that, the world would be a better place. I’m not saying every enhancement has 100% agreement… But most people agree on most things that are positive qualities vs negative.

          Some people try to deny this stuff to make inferior people feel better about themselves, but it’s a lie. The whole “don’t fat shame people” thing is an example of this. Big IS NOT beautiful to most people. But since there are a lot of people with genes that were once useful during food shortages, that are now inclined to be fat ugly pigs, people lie to them to make them feel better about themselves.

  12. From a more libertarian standpoint, how does the NAP fit in? If I edit MY OWN genes, hoping that when I mate with someone else, my kids will have certain traits, then that doesn’t violate the NAP. I have complete control over my own genetic blueprint.
    But what about after fertilization? Does editing the embryo’s genes violate the NAP? (I am so tempted to extend this to abortion, but I will refrain!)

    1. you cannot NOT extend this to abortion. They are related concepts because both require you to A) decide if an embryo has rights, and B) decide if the biologically female human being carrying the embryo has rights that extend beyond the rights of the embryo.

    2. Honestly, IMO, it’s kind of an irrelevant point. Nobody cares about the NAP outside libertarian fringes, and society at large has always accepted parental control over not only fetuses, but children after birth for many years.

      So people will make the arguments, but in the end they’ll lose. At the end of the day I think it’s a silly argument to make anyway. In Gattaca the main character was almost pissed that his parents didn’t genetically engineer him… As any sane person would be. I’d be PISSED if such technology was available but my parents chose to make me frail, weak, stupid, prone to health problems, etc. In 50 years this will be no more controversial than giving your kids penicillin.

      1. It’s not outside the point, though, particularly when gene editing goes wrong, and we genetically engineer children with the functional equivalent of Down Syndrome when we were trying to produce an Einstein.

        While society at large accepts some parental control, society also has mechanism for attempting to protect children when the parents are out of control.

        1. As I said above, if people are willing to toss away embryos like kleenex when they don’t turn out, we’ll have far lower instances of such problems than we do now. People will tolerate it.

  13. This is gonna get interesting if we ever get around to colonizing other planets. At that point, genetic engineering and eugenics won’t be moral issues, they’re likely to be necessities for survival. I can hear the screaming already…

    1. I have to be honest. I know colonizing other planets is an incredibly common sci-fi trope (and I LOVE me some good sci-fi). But, I just don’t think it makes any sense. Perhaps if some form of legitimate, cost effective FTL is discovered, then maybe colonizing habitable planets in other star systems. But I just don’t think people have ANY idea of the cost of supporting life on any planets (or moons) in this system. And what benefit? Perhaps we might have mining stations around asteroids. But, there isn’t a single planetary body in this system that would be anywhere near worth what it would cost to support permanent settlement.
      Mercury? No atmosphere, goes from -250 F to 800 F
      Venus? Sulfuric acid clouds, CO2 atmosphere with a surface pressure of over 90 Earth atmospheres.
      Mars? No magnetic field (so higher rates of cancer due to cosmic rays not being deflected), whispy thin CO2 atmosphere, little to no liquid water, very cold.
      And all of the gas giant moons all have their own problems.

      1. Venus? Sulfuric acid clouds, CO2 atmosphere with a surface pressure of over 90 Earth atmospheres.

        Not to disagree with your overall point, but these are mostly a problem if you assume we’d colonize the surface of Venus.

        But, as you somewhat assert; even with effective FTL strict 30-degree, carbon-polymer fluid sacks for bodies will still be a huge liability (moreso than they are on the planet that spawned them in abundance).

        1. I suppose once we can download our consciousnesses into hardened, synthetic juggernauts, then the universe is our oyster.

      2. We’ll do it… BECAUSE WE CAN.

        Also, you’re under the impression that earth will be supporting these places or something? We won’t. They’ll be self supporting colonies. Once you’re manufacturing all the shit you need ON MARS, it won’t be that outrageous compared to being on earth. There are some rare resources that might actually support viable asteroid mining or some such as well. But mostly I suspect it will be self supporting colonies that exist simply because they can.

        To cover your other comment though… One of the things I hate about being a geek who is properly up on things is that it kills my dreams of the awesome sci-fi future… The truth is I think we’ll end up becoming cyborgs or fully artificial LONG before we ever get anywhere beyond maybe mars. The potential for this kind of tech within the 21st century is entirely possible… Which freaks me out.

        I’d actually be stoked on the idea of genetically engineered people trippin’ about the galaxy, but in all likelihood human beings will cease to exist as anything recognizable long before that ever happens.

  14. Now and for the foreseeable future, only for a very limited set of modifications will editing and screening be ‘one and done’. Everything else will be dozens of eggs with a 10% chance of success. Meaning your average *adult* female will get ~50 chances at birthing genetic perfection. With harvesting, (Pre-)pubescent girls will have as much as 30K attempts and infant girls on the order of 150K. At what point, as a parent, am I harming/reducing the genetic potential of future generations by not harvesting eggs from a newborn without their consent? Are we cool with harvesting eggs that would never be fertilized and fertilizing them with pre-modern chances of ‘success’?

  15. “Designer Babies?”

    I’m holding out for “Computer Science Babies” and wont’ stop fucking until I get one of them babes.

  16. Selecting the best human genes is great. But the real fun starts when we add things that don’t exist in humans or even nature. And that’s not a much bigger leap at all.

    1. Yeah… Shit can get weird fast.

      Blue skinned people? Some anime freak will do it to their kids.

      A weird side effect that many people don’t like to discuss is that there are certain physical features that are considered aesthetically desirable the world over. Namely paler skin and hair color that isn’t black or brown, as well as light eyes.

      Cue up Japanese babies with Asian features, paper white skin, natural blonde/red hair, blue/green eyes, etc.

      In truth Europeans are considered the most attractive people on average by all ethnicities the world over according to numerous surveys over the years… But I suspect many Asians or Africans will maintain certain parts of their peoples aesthetic look while mixing in non naturally occurring stuff like hair/eyes.

      So imagine an Asian like I mentioned above. An African might have a kid who looks like Beyonce, AKA very light skinned, but with naturally straight blonde hair, non brown eyes, etc. This kind of shit will definitely be a thing. People will be guilted into not doing it… But peoples preferences are clear in liking pale skin and not black/brown hair, so I don’t think it will be stopped.

      1. I have a question about Europeans being the most attractive people on average by all ethnicities the world over, over the years. Did these surveys take into account that maybe, just maybe, Europeans seem richer than other cultures?

        Hypergamy can throw a wrench into these studies, and there isn’t a gene that makes one rich.

        1. It was true for both sexes actually, and men don’t care about that shit.

          Interestingly, men have a far greater preference for pale skin than women. It exists in women, but is far lower. I don’t recall the details, but there is some pregnancy related stuff that correlates with relatively pale skin, which scientists think may be why men prefer pale women, while the reverse is less of a thing. Women around the world all have paler skin than males, including in Africa.

          Honestly, I think it’s just a thing. By dumb luck the adaptions that proved useful for people in north climates happens to be something that the human brain finds preferable on average. I wouldn’t deny that there is probably some amount of Europeans are boss AF playing into it… But the studies are too consistent and wide ranging for that to be the whole game.

          Consider, that within cultures they ALSO prefer the same traits. Pale Asian women are highly desirable in Asia, and always have been as per historical data. Same in India. Since Europeans are often paler than most Asians or Indians, we simply come out on top when compared to the locals, because we have those traits to a greater degree.

          Evolutionary pressures for these groups deemed darker skin more important for survival than being more attractive with paler features, so things ended up the way they did. But now that we’re all in contact people consider Europeans more attractive, followed by Asians and other intermediate toned people like light Indians, Persians, Arabs, Latinos, etc.

          Life ain’t fair.

    2. But the real fun starts when we add things that don’t exist in humans or even nature. And that’s not a much bigger leap at all.

      Teleportation is a thing that doesn’t exist in nature. Will genetically modifying babies to teleport be a trivial leap?

  17. Genuine question here:

    What would you all think if we had a way to vaccinate a child in utero. Would you be fore or against this? Let’s assume there is no genetic change to the baby but simply provide the same protection to, say, small pox, as we can with the vaccine shot.

    How would you feel about this?

    1. I think there are a lot of changes we would easily accept to insure healthier babies. Changes to immunity would be one. Elimination of really horrible conditions (hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, etc.) Where we all get queasy is when we talk about designing 6 ft 3 inches, handsome, athletic, and an IQ of 180 babies. I suspect both will happen.

      1. I just cannot understand why people are against making better people… Clinging to wanting to keep people crappier is mind blowing.

        And it’s not GOOD for the poor saps with bad genes anyway. Go ask some 250 pound guy who is 5′ 3″ with a small dick, ugly face, and low IQ how much he likes his life… Now go ask a big, studly, well hung, guy with a 145 IQ how much he likes his life.

        Granted, if everybody is towards the high end of the current spectrum standards will change… But even if there’s still some differentiation between people based on their qualities, having everybody be objectively better than they are now is a plus.

        Somebody might decide to mate with an 8, even if they can score a 10, because they like their personality and click… But that person would NEVER consider a 3. So if the range gets compressed to between 8-10, perhaps almost everybody will have a legit shot at happiness, which is completely impossible given the world as it exists naturally. Some people are simply born to fail.

  18. Certain things that we should leave up to God. Is that so? Well if we “leave something up to God now it will be the first time since Adam and Eve walked upon the Earth! After very explicated instructions and even with the consequences know Eve first then Adam defied God because they thought they knew better. Both had knowledge much beyond what we have today yet they bought the lie that they would become like “GOD”. The fruit of that tree that was in the mist of the garden would make them to know Good which they already knew and evil which it would have been much better not to know. We would have been better off today if they had never learned.
    So it is my opinion that genetic research be limited to curing of medical problem that the human body can have. As far as intelligence if you believe in God the problem with intelligence will be taken care when Jesus Christs returns. If successful this has to produce a privileged group who with their superior intelligence it would be natural reaction the they “superior” intelligence should be the ruling class and everyone else would the “ruled”.

    1. I won’t debate your other points, but the last one is not true.

      First off, there already IS a natural aristocracy. It’s simply people that are born genetically superior. They already rule the world. By making genetic engineering of children available, it is actually the first time in human history we could actually create equality.

      See, people ARE NOT equal now. They never have been. I am superior to some frumpy ugly guy with an 80 IQ. I have a better life in all ways, and have spent much of my life being the boss to people of lower intelligence. Barring old school forms of eugenics, such people will always exist.

      If we genetically engineer though, that frumpy 80 IQ guy could have children that are as intelligent and good looking as my genetically engineered children. In nature, there is a near zero chance of that happening for that guy. I am almost guaranteed to produce superior offspring to that guy, assuming I mate with somebody of equally superior qualities.

      So while there may be a short period where only the rich/upper middle class can access this stuff, a capitalist system would very rapidly come around to being willing to finance people to get their kids engineered, etc. We could actually have equality for the first time in human history. If we don’t, the current system of the naturally superior ruling everything will continue.

  19. I am all in on this shit. Obviously we need to wait to begin modifying people until we actually have this shit down VERY WELL. But once we do, there is no reason we shouldn’t do it.

    There is no virtue in allowing unfortunate genetically doomed people to be born. Ugly, fat, dumb people are not happier because they are ugly, fat, and dumb… They’re miserable actually, because their lives suck, but they’re stuck with them.

    Also, dumb people are in fact the cause of almost all problems in the world. Without dumb people there would be almost zero crime, according to statistics. There would be virtually no poverty either. Both of those things correlate to low intelligence more than any other factor. As does divorce rate, health, etc etc etc.

    Basically everything good in the world stems from being intelligent. I truly do believe politics would be vastly improved as well. One of the biggest problems in the modern west is that we extended voting rights to those that are too stupid to be trusted to vote… And we’ve had the inevitable results of that come to fruition. Smart people can be daft fools too sometimes, but generally less often than low intelligence people.

    In short, if we were ever able to make the world a utopia… This is likely the only way to do it. Natural man as we exist now cannot have a utopia, because there are too many problematic people in the gene pool.

    The only thing that bums me out is that we’ll likely be cyborgs or outright uploading our consciousness into android bodies just a few short decades after we create the perfect biological person… I always wanted Star Trek style future, but it’s just not realistic given the trajectory of technology.

    1. “There is no virtue in allowing unfortunate genetically doomed people to be born. Ugly, fat, dumb people are not happier because they are ugly, fat, and dumb… They’re miserable actually, because their lives suck, but they’re stuck with them.”

      There are a lot of ugly, fat, dumb people that are quite happy, though. There’s also a lot of beautiful, skinny, smart people who commit suicide. Who are we to decide who is happy and who isn’t? What makes you so certain that there’s only this one route to happiness?

      “Also, dumb people are in fact the cause of almost all problems in the world. Without dumb people there would be almost zero crime, according to statistics. There would be virtually no poverty either. Both of those things correlate to low intelligence more than any other factor. As does divorce rate, health, etc etc etc.”

      Can we truly get rid of dumb people, though? What does it mean to be dumb? Considering that IQ is an average, and is continuously adjusted, there will always be “dumb” people? If so, how will we eliminate these things?

      “In short, if we were ever able to make the world a utopia… This is likely the only way to do it. Natural man as we exist now cannot have a utopia, because there are too many problematic people in the gene pool.”

      Human societies have had far more harm and evil inflicted on individuals in pursuit of utopia, than we have had from dealing with poverty, wars, divorce, and other ills that are the result of dumb people being dumb.

      Perhaps it’s time we stop trying to achieve utopia, and accept that people will be dumb. Chances are, the dumb people in a society that respects the rights of the individual will always be happier than the smart people who are manipulated by the bureaucrats who think they are smart, and the technocrats who know they are smart but don’t really know what they are doing.

      1. “There are a lot of ugly, fat, dumb people that are quite happy, though. There’s also a lot of beautiful, skinny, smart people who commit suicide. Who are we to decide who is happy and who isn’t? What makes you so certain that there’s only this one route to happiness?”

        Yeah, some people have bad luck, or bad brain wiring and off themselves… The bottom line is that those fat people, assuming they didn’t get faulty suicidal brain wiring, would be happier if they weren’t fat and ugly. The whole world will never be stoked on life, but removing problematic things will not make things worse. Is the world worse because people don’t catch small pox, or have their limbs amputated because of minor infections? No. Same is true here.

        “Can we truly get rid of dumb people, though? What does it mean to be dumb? Considering that IQ is an average, and is continuously adjusted, there will always be “dumb” people? If so, how will we eliminate these things?”

        You’re confusing objective intelligence with the IQ score. IQ is but a proxy, and an imperfect one. If we make people objectively, TRULY smarter on average, there will be fewer problems. There will always be some people that are less smart than somebody else, BUT if the average person is more intelligent overall, the number of problems will go down dramatically. There’s a SHARP increase in bad behavior around 85 IQ. If no 85 IQ people existed, most crime would go away overnight. It’s because being smarter allows people to make objectively better life choices. Dumb people are too dumb to think through repercussions and tend to act more impulsively. Known stats.

        There will always be people who do bad things… But the number of instances per a given population can be reduced dramatically if there are fewer dumb people. You need to read up on the science here before you talk shit! This is known stuff you’re arguing against.

        “Human societies have had far more harm and evil inflicted on individuals in pursuit of utopia, than we have had from dealing with poverty, wars, divorce, and other ills that are the result of dumb people being dumb.

        Perhaps it’s time we stop trying to achieve utopia, and accept that people will be dumb. Chances are, the dumb people in a society that respects the rights of the individual will always be happier than the smart people who are manipulated by the bureaucrats who think they are smart, and the technocrats who know they are smart but don’t really know what they are doing.”

        When did I ever say I wanted to force anything on anybody? I don’t. But if this is legally allowed, it WILL create a better world. Not a utopia mind you… But imagine if murder, rape, etc dropped by 90%. That’s a good thing right? Well that’s probably realistic in a world with a couple dozen IQ points higher average. I don’t believe in utopia, but improvements can be made.

  20. I’d have been perfectly happy if my red-green colorblindness had been edited out. Sometimes I also feel that way about my lefthandedness.

  21. Everyone listen to vek–because vek is showing you the shape of the near future.

    Everyone will want smarter, more physically attractive, healthier children.

    That will be first.

    Then will come the editing.

    There will only be one race. There will be no gay or trans people. There’s going to be a fad for blond hair that will last long enough for it to be considered the ‘default’ human state.

    Then, the easier additions, longer life, extended youth, designer skin colors.

    And, as the tech cheapens–and it cheapens FAST, there’s gonna be a baby boom the like of which the planet hasn’t seen,

    And then the art projects will start being born. People who can afford it will start designing infants with all kinds of interesting alterations.

    1. All we have to do is see what we have done to our poor dogs. And that’s without the ability to manipulate their genes!

    2. Pretty much man!

      I don’t have a problem with smarter, prettier, healthier, etc… I do start to get freaked out when blue skinned purple haired people with 4 tits are being made though :/

      The thing is, such fucked up shit is entirely possible.

      Even the slightly less weird naturally blonde haired blue eyed Asian or whatever will be weird enough… But outright made up shit just creeps me out.

  22. The funniest thing about this issue is that in the end, it probably doesn’t matter.

    I have noticed that there’s a lot of confidence that we’re going to make everyone prettier, smarter, thinner, taller and more muscular. Will we, though? How many of these characteristics are literally so complex, and so subject to taste, that we literally cannot figure out how to predictably change them for the better? Will we even be able to overcome the moral issue of what to do with the humans who have really botched up lives because of our tinkering? It’s not entirely impossible that a tall person will lose twenty IQ points, and a smart person will inevitably be fat because of greater tendency towards thyroid problems combined with a tendency towards sedentary jobs. And this also ignores the fact that Mensa is more a support organization for people who have a difficult time fitting in with everyone else, than an organization to gloat over “normal” people. Is extreme intelligence really an advantage?

    And to what end? How many industries are filled with “dumb” people who are good at what they do, but have no interest in doing anything “smart”? Will society really benefit if we genetically engineer all the workhorse people out of existence? In the end, we’ll likely revert to the mean, which is what nature does anyway.

    To further complicate matters: I likely carry a gene that causes schizophrenia. To what end has this gene, unexpressed, given me intelligence and creativity I otherwise wouldn’t have had? But the price of carrying this gene — and benefiting from my intelligence — is having a sister who was sacrificed by nature and random chance to contend with voices for the rest of her life. How many of us would risk adding a 10% chance for schizophrenia if it gives us a 70% chance to have a 30-point IQ boost to our future children? On the other hand, how many of us would give this up, if we had the opportunity to remove it?

    Of course, when we think about these issues, we tend to imagine the best if we are right, and the worst if we are wrong. Chances are, when everything is said and done, our “designer babies” will be babies that have a gene added to end hemophilia here, a gene removed to end Hodgeson’s disease there — basically, simple fixes that have only one genetic cause, and won’t produce any horrible side effects if something goes wrong.

    Thus, overall, I side more on allowing the editing of genes to continue, and quashing the immoral actions as they come up, than I do to banning gene therapy. But while we should worry about the implications, in reality, we should come to terms with the fact that this will neither make society perfect, nor completely destroy it either.

    1. You are right that there may be a few things with full on tradeoffs that can’t be avoided… But mostly you’re wrong.

      We already know a lot about how genes change characteristics. Give it 10-20 years with all the computational power we have, and they’ll have this shit on lock down.

      Replacing dumb people with smart people will do nothing but improve things. Less ambitious smart people will do whatever menial jobs are left after the robots take over most stuff, and they’ll do a better job than dumb people do today.

      I am high IQ, but actually like doing dumbed down work a lot of the time. So do lots of other intelligent people. I don’t think we’ll have much of an issue with people going nuts doing menial jobs… Keep in mind almost everybody, including all the people who are engineers, scientists, etc today, were farming 200 years ago. They didn’t go crazy with boredom.

  23. THEY are likely already doing this, but after birth with vaccines at least, possibly more efforts including aerial spraying — who really knows right now? There’s a group who believe that Autism is a first, yet so far failed, attempt.

    1. Also — not fully on board, but.. people have disease and some of those people choose not to have children because of their disease and not wanting to give it to their offspring. To imagine the joy to be parents without the worry that they inherited that disease.. it’s got to be something awesome to consider…

  24. This is a recipe for making racism true. Once you start breeding a demonstrably superior strain of humans, it becomes inevitable that they will seek to demonstrate their superiority. They will seek power. They will probably get far more than their share of power, and when they do, they will order the world to suit themselves, and the rest of us untermenchen can sod off.

    1. The point here is that everybody will have it available in short order… So it won’t matter.

      You ignore the fact that the world already IS run by mostly superior people. A lot of them are dicks! But they are superior in most ways. The average billionaire is a self made person of vastly above average intelligence, and a hell of a work ethic. They already control the world. Their kids already are naturally inclined towards being above average too.

      All this will do is give the upper classes a slight edge for maybe 5-10 years before it becomes available to the middle class, and then we’ll actually be more equal than we’ve ever been.

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