Editorial: BUILD-A-BABY – Isolating genes for intelligence to create smarter children for birth needs ethical consideration

GeneticEngineeringNOPEWe all wish we were a little bit different.

Be it taller, shorter, thinner, bigger, smaller or whatever, there is always something that could be changed for the better. For China, wishing you were smarter could be a thing of the past.

According to a March 15 article by international arts and culture magazine Vice Magazine, China is close to identifying specific genetic traits that intelligent people share.

A company called BMI Shenzhen has collected DNA samples from some of the smartest people in the world in hopes of identifying which alleles determine human intelligence.

The idea is that parents can produce multiple embryos and pick the one that, based on its genetics, will be the most intelligent.

One of the most interesting and frightening facts about this is that BMI Shenzhen is apparently not too far from getting the answers it needs.

Genetically engineering humans has been a topic in philosophy and literature for quite some time. While it can have its benefits, the consequences would be too hefty a price for humans to pay.

Socially, genetic engineering would further divide rich and poor. Richer people, at first, could afford to have different embryos screened for their intellectual capacities. This means that richer people can afford to have the smartest babies with the most opportunities.

Children from lower-income families generally have more obstacles to overcome. Genetic engineering would all but stack the cards against them.

Pro-life groups would strongly oppose the creation of multiple embryos because that would mean that the embryos not selected would be killed. Life is created just so it can end abruptly.

Currently, plans don’t seem to include genetically altering the produced embryo, just picking the one that naturally has the most desirable traits.

In other words, a couple that uses this service wouldn’t have a genetically altered kid. They would just have the ability to choose the most desirable child that they are capable of producing.

Unfortunately, it seems like the next step to take would be giving parents the ability to choose which traits they want their child to have.

Tall, smart, right-handed, thin, creative and nice people will teem the streets. While this may sound good on paper, it has “dystopia” written all over it.

According to an article in the New York Times titled “Do-It-Yourself Genetic Engineering,” the ability to choose things like personality and attractiveness are right around the corner.
There are benefits to be had here. If BMI Shenzhen is able to one day find a way to alter embryos in a way that would end certain diseases, then the world would benefit greatly from its work. But once you get into genetically engineered babies, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” suddenly becomes a reality.

We Westerners have this idea that playing the role of God is something to avoid.

Genetic engineering seems to be the most God-like role out there, so it would be a touchy and debated issue in this part of the world due to its controversial nature.

Many Westerners disliked Nazi Germany because it practiced eugenics. Genetic engineering, much like eugenics, would ultimately eliminate (or at the very least, segregate) human traits that are deemed to be undesirable.

Genetic engineering could create another cultural divide that poses a threat to much of the world. If only one part of the world is making these super-babies, how quickly will the rest of the world fall behind in the business world and in the classrooms?

What if the technology that allows you to breed geniuses were to fall into the hands of, say, North Korea, who is an ally of China and keeps threatening to nuke us? What if China uses the geniuses to build weapons or take over the world? The technology to breed scientists is dangerous in the hands of anyone, us included.

Genetic engineering may seem like a problem for the distant future, but the future is upon us. Numbing people to the idea of genetic engineering may open the door to other morally ambiguous practices and technologies with dangerous potential.

Whatever we humans decide to do with this, the consequences are far-reaching.

Humanity needs to proceed with caution until our understanding of the ethics of these technologies catches up to the technology itself.