Field of Science

Why not engineer babies?

Where do our feelings against genetically engineering our children's looks come from? Many people would and do strongly object to parents choosing how their babies should look (eye and hair color, height, etc.), and I myself have this knee-jerk feeling when I consider it. But I find it really hard to argue why it should be wrong. Why?

Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg helps parents to choose the gender of their babies, and is going to offer the service of choosing other traits (dansk) as well within the next six months!
"I can't say with 100 percent certainty that parents will be able to choose something like eye color -- more like 80 percent certainty," Steinberg said.
We are already choosing the looks of our future offspring by the looks of our partner. And once they grow up, we know that many are unhappy about their imperfections, and that many of those who can will spend money of plastic surgery, so why not do it genetically? Perhaps just because we are choosing for them, as opposed to letting them make any decision in that regard by themselves? Or is that just a cop-out?

Some say they are afraid of what humanity will become if we all do this. Suppose that would even be the case, then is it really such a slippery slope? If all babies ended up 'pretty', then why is it that we think that's bad? Just because it's not natural? Then, can anyone tell me what it matters that these things be kept natural?

Because I don't think anyone can argue that it would have any detrimental effect on the human population. Genetically it would be a small fraction of genes that would be touched, but that could of course change in the future. But we aren't talking about that for now. Just are few traits only. And if the doctors promise that's all they'll ever do, then apart from disbelieving them, what objection do we have?

I'm at a loss myself. I really can't answer any of these questions. I can just say that I would never do it. But then that's easy for me to say, because I already have kids and they are fucking gorgeous!


  1. If I could be told that there was a likely chance I would make my kids be more attractive, more intelligent, etc. I'd do it. It would give them a step up in life, and that's why we do basically everything.

  2. I hear you. Or, word.

    Would you care if was made genetically, and thus made heritable, or would prefer that it was not, by some environmental process?

  3. These are my two concerns:

    I fear that engineering will be something that rich people get, and it'll be just another way for one class of people to dominate a lower class.

    I think that randomness is good. Maybe that is my inner Discordian speaking. But I can't really back that up with science...

    Also some of us didn't choose our mates based on appearance ;)

  4. I think that randomness is good. Maybe that is my inner Discordian speaking. But I can't really back that up with science...

    That was my point, too, that I can't find a way to reconcile my feelings with science. But, I don't think randomness in mate-choosing is a good thing, and I don't believe it ever happens, even if some couples don't choose each other by looks at all (which I actually doubt).


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