Ethical decisions posed by scientific advances are a fertile ground for philosophical discussion, and this month's issue of Philosophy Now includes a thoughtful "dialogue" about CRISPR gene-editing technology and so-called "designer babies":
philosophynow.org/issues/119/Are_Designer_Babies_Our_Future Here's an short excerpt:
"Pat: Hold on right there! What right do we have to willy-nilly judge whether certain conditions are or are not okay? For example, I’ve seen people with Down’s Syndrome living happy, productive lives. Are you saying there will no longer be a place for them in your future world order?
Sally: Not at all; different parents can always make their own choices for genetic intervention or not, for sure. But to claim that harmful inherited disorders must forever be part of, let’s say, human variation, strikes me as too single-minded. I disagree with you when you say we should leave well enough alone, when we have the tools to head off illnesses and disabilities in newborns.
Pat: What I’m really getting at is that future generations might lose something important, such as being different from one another, as a result of us messing with our genes when we’re all chasing the same qualities. Variety is good.
Sally: I seriously doubt we’ll all become cookie-cutter copies of each other! All I’m saying is that I want to increase the odds of my baby having the traits I, not anybody else, would prefer my baby to have – especially given that the traits I choose for my kids might even get passed on to my grandchildren and great grandchildren, and so on. ...
Pat: Well, that might be great if you can afford the treatment.
Sally: It’s no different than what parents do already. Mums and dads give their kids an edge by forking over money for training, in music lessons, or gymnastics classes, or math tutoring. Just so the kids can be accomplished and competitive, right? ...
Pat: I’m still wary of the prospect for overreach. Let’s not gloss over the fact that things have gone seriously wrong with medicine, even in the recent past. The horrors of thalidomide are just one example. It hasn’t all been rosy, despite the assurances by scientists that scientists know best.
Sally: It’s true that scientists get things wrong. But as for ‘playing God’, that phrase is itself an overreach for what we’re talking about. Transplanting human organs was once labeled ‘playing God’. The same goes for other medical interventions, like vaccinating children. What was once unnerving became almost ho-hum. ..."
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