Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Yes, If You Want Me To Read An Article, Do Title It "Warning: Genetically Modified Humans"

"From the promotion of eugenics to justify genocide in Nazi Germany, to the mass-produced and homogenous population of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian future in the novel ‘Brave New World’, to ‘Frankenfood’, genetic engineering has amassed a reputation as a treacherous pursuit. However, a recent development appears to have slipped under the public radar: human pre-natal diagnosis. Screening foetal genomes to eliminate genetic ‘defects’ may lead to incremental changes in the human genetic reservoir, a permanent shift in our characteristics and eventually, self-domestication."
—Scientific American's Zaria Gorvett makes a strong argument against the increasingly easy and common practice of pre-natal screening. The counter-argument is difficult to avoid, though: prospective parents have the ability to learn something—something important that will hugely affect their lives. And then, of course, the ability to avert what they may believe to be a more painful and difficult future. (By aborting a fetus with the genetic code for Down syndrome, let's say.) Are we to make it against the law to access such information? Or to act upon it? Man, that stuff in the Bible about the Tree of Knowledge was no joke!

8 Comments / Post A Comment

Mr. B (#10,093)

Ooh, can we please get into an argument about Brave New World? I think that book is pretty terrible! I mean, the stuff in the first few chapters in the baby factory that lay the scene are interesting and make for good conversation-starters in high school English classes, but, once the main characters are introduced, it devolves into a gaggle of walking clichés and corny plot devices. And the idea that someone who has been self-educated entirely by reading The Complete Works of Shakespeare would grow up into a prudish dork is really just offensive.

Dave Bry (#422)

@Mr. B Hahaha! I don't think I can have that argument. You're likely right! I haven't read that book since grade school. But the ideas in it are ones that have stayed with me forever. So I would say it's good, at the very least, on a polemics level. Which, that's what you say, too. Valuable as conversation-starter.

Mr. B (#10,093)

@Dave Bry Heh. On the other hand, I can totally recommend rereading Nineteen Eighty-Four as an adult. That book is awesome. (Even better if you get the edition with the Thomas Pynchon intro.)

hershmire (#233,671)

If it becomes widespread and you decide to opt out of it, your child will be at a big disadvantage. Schools may not accept him. Insurance companies may not cover him. Potential mates may pass over him. The social pressure to participate will be huge.

Who knew the free market would bring about racial "supermen?"

Cord_Jefferson (#2,111)

I was recently talking to a couple Canadian geneticists at a dinner party about pre-natal screening and they were really not very receptive to the idea at all and it actually made them very mad to even chat about it and I had to pivot the conversation into a totally different direction but it was too late and they were angry for the rest of the night. Good goat cheese, though.

hershmire (#233,671)


Bittersweet (#765)

*Insert mandatory slippery slope comment here*

We've already been changing the human genetic reservoir. Medical advances have allowed many deleterious alleles to increase in frequency, and my near-sighted, hip-dysplasic ass is quite grateful for that. To use her example, if we develop better treatment for sickle cell anemia, why abort a fetus that is homozygous for sickle cell anemia? She implies that eradication of the alleles is the only way to manage the disease (By the way, am I the only one who finds her suggestion that malaria is not a problem any more thanks to "widely-available" malaria medication a little bizarre?).

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