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Biotech Medicine

Fertility Clinic Bows To Pressure, Nixes Eye- and Hair-Color Screening 847

Posted by timothy
from the gets-pretty-creepy-doesn't-it? dept.
destinyland writes "A fertility service in L.A. and New York screens embryos for breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, and 70 other diseases — and lets couples pick the sex of their babies. But when their pre-implantation diagnostic services began including the baby's eye and hair color, even the Pope objected — and the Great Designer Baby Controversy began. '[W]e cannot escape the fact that science is moving forward,' the fertility service explained — before capitulating to pressure to eliminate the eye and hair color screenings."
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Fertility Clinic Bows To Pressure, Nixes Eye- and Hair-Color Screening

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:26AM (#28348041)

    It's when fertility clinics start to offer to change the hair or eye color (or other traits) of a baby to be.

    I guess I'm just old fashioned.

  • by nasor (690345) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:32AM (#28348105)
    There seems to me to be a difference between "designing" a baby with genetic engineering or some such vs. simply screening a bunch of fertilized eggs and selecting the one you want. But of course, if the media called it "screening" rather than "designing," people wouldn't get nearly as worked up about it - and they know this, so they go with the more provocative language.
  • by immakiku (777365) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:33AM (#28348117)

    Kind of off-topic: but I think we're going down a slippery slope when we start screening DNA. It works against the process of evolution. What if there's a new fatal disease that only people with the breast cancer trait are equipped to fight?

    Also Gattaca: society could expect a certain baseline of traits for what is "human". So people who don't meet that could be considered disabled, or worse.

  • by svendsen (1029716) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:33AM (#28348127)
    I'd go even further and say any medical procedure, drug, etc. could be considered playing god. Sorry Timmy you got TB and are going to die, yes we could give you some pills to save you but that is playing god.

    Personally I don't want some religion to tell me what medical procedures I can/cannot have because they think their holy book would approve/disapprove.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:36AM (#28348175)

    Picking the sex is more dangerous. If everybody does it we might get a womanless society. Ironic that when women are given the choice they prefer sons to daughters. Probably because they know their sons will not backstab them.

  • by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:38AM (#28348205) Homepage Journal

    Except there is no god, so you can't play him. Once more, religion gets in the way of science.
    Imagine all the advances in science and medicine if we could get religion out of the way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:42AM (#28348235)

    The big deal is that it's selection, not planning. Killing the ones you don't want because they have the wrong hair or eye color is kinda wrong, don't you think?

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:42AM (#28348239) Homepage

    I don't think "designer" in this context is supposed to imply how you get the custom-made baby; I don't think it's that technical. I think it's more intended in a fashion sense, like "designer jeans". The implication is that it is something well-off families will do in order to get the "right" kind of baby, rather than grabbing something off the rack at the thrift store and settling for what you get.

    Whether you modify the genes of a single embryo to get red hair and blue eyes, or select from thousands of embryos to get red hair and blue eyes, I don't see much difference, either way it's babies-made-to-order. Yes there are hypothetically more issues involved with direct genetic modification in the future, but the distinction doesn't mean much for the issues of today.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:42AM (#28348243)

    Actually outlawing sex selection doesn't solve the problem. Allowing it might lead to a more humane situation than what is currently going on.

    I wouldn't call living in a giant sausage-fest humane.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:44AM (#28348269)
    If the human race goes extinct, it certainly won't be because we didn't reproduce enough. So really, what's the point of fertility clinics? As in, why don't people just adopt the already-existing baby that meets whatever "criteria" they have instead of doing all of this?
  • Problem solved (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:44AM (#28348273) Journal
    Just screen out the religion gene while you are at it.
  • by ptbarnett (159784) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:44AM (#28348277)

    What's wrong with trying to get the eye color or hair color you want? What is the difference with that and picking the sex?

    I'm not sure I get it either. As a subsequent poster points out, it's screening, not "designing". Couples are choosing among existing embryos.

    Screening has been going on for millions of years. Humans have always been able to choose their mates based on visible criteria like hair color, eye color, athletic ability, etc. Why is screening acceptable for invisible traits (like propensity for cancer and other genetic predispositions), but not for visible traits?

  • by Gerafix (1028986) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:44AM (#28348281)
    Oh please, "playing god" my ass. Screening for certain traits is as much "playing god" as having sex is "playing god." Artificial selection is not "playing god." This is completely within the bounds of the physical world, there is no magic here. Religious bullshit should be left in churches, and shouldn't interfere with scientific endeavours. And no it's not relevant even from a moral standpoint since religion has proved itself to be the utmost in immorality and perversion Humans have ever come up with. Or at least the things they do in the name of whatever mythical being they worship, religious fanaticism is more a mental disease than anything productive.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:45AM (#28348283)

    Go, watch Gattaca, come back.

    Then we talk.

  • by cool_story_bro (1522525) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:45AM (#28348289)
    I think what you meant is that it works against the process of natural selection. Any selective process, including this type of artificial selection, furthers evolution, but in this case "fit to survive" means "able to pass the screening process." The example you chose, while still a very real concern, less to do with evolution than with genetic diversity, which, as you imply, is very important to the survival of the species should our environment change violently
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:46AM (#28348295)

    Is this the same difference as

    x = 20;

    vs

    while ((x = rand()) != 20) {}

    ?

  • by Radtastic (671622) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:49AM (#28348333)
    Yes, there may not be any holding back the tide, but genetic "screening", "designing", or whatever you want to call it has a real danger of helping create even more of a class-based society, this one even more difficult for individuals to breach.

    Keep in mind this procedure will only available to those who can afford it.

    Want to grow up to become an athlete? Sorry, your parents couldn't afford to select genes that predispose you to becoming tall / strong / better cardiovascular function.

    Want to grow up to become a model? Sorry, your parents couldn't afford to give you a slender physique, blond, and blue eyes.

    Want health insurance? Sure, but it's going to be more expensive because your parents couldn't afford to eliminate your risk of ALS.

    The challenging part is that yeah, if I have the choice to prevent my future kids from developing life-shortening diseases, I've got to do it.

    Tough ethical choices ahead of us, imho.
  • by eln (21727) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:50AM (#28348345) Homepage
    Aren't we talking about embryos here? In a fertility clinic setting, there could be several embryos per mother, even without the hair and eye color selection, because they produce lots of them in case the first several they try don't implant properly. Once these embryos are produced, are they bound by your moral code to allow them to become full-fledged human beings? In that case, everyone who goes to a fertility clinic will end up having a whole litter of babies!

    Using words like "killing" to describe the discarding of unimplanted embryos is unnecessarily alarmist and does nothing to advance the debate.
  • by ThePlague (30616) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:50AM (#28348351)

    Because that wouldn't be propagating ones own genes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:51AM (#28348357)

    Just as soon as you prove he does.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:52AM (#28348365)

    How big of an egotistical prick do you have to be to care?

    I don't give a dog's dick if my specific genes are here after I leave..

  • Re:Ad disability (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vintagepc (1388833) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:52AM (#28348383) Journal
    A particularly good film on the subject (which raises some interesting things to think about) is GATTACA. For those of you who haven't seen it, I would highly recommend it. (Kudos to OP for mentioning, too.)
    The biggest issue I have with genetic modification is trying to change it without first fully comprehending it. As is oft-said by my research supervisor- "it's like trying to find out how a car works by using a sledgehammer to hit parts of the engine". If we don't understand more of it, then there's a fair chunk of damage that could result from unforeseen complications.

    Then again, should something go wrong, we can feign ignorance and ask for a bailout!
  • by Synchis (191050) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:54AM (#28348401) Homepage Journal

    This really doesn't seem to be about religion to me.

    I have 2 children. I love them dearly, and would never change anything about them. Part of the thrill of parenting, is the gamble about what kind of child you will end up with. To be able to choose the traits of your children, seems to make it all a bit superficial to me. Why not just grow them in a test tube?

    Hell, why not just make baby farms as described in the Matrix? If we're going to take the gamble out of genetics, whats left for us?

    As far as "Playing god" or whatever name you want to give it, "God" in this instance does not neccesarily refer to any given diety, but simply refers to the unknown force that normally determines the traits of your child.

    I believe that there are forces in this world that we do not understand, that we should not understand, and that we should not meddle with because we don't understand them. Whether the decry came from the pope himself, or some guy living on the streets in new york, the message is still the same. By letting people choose their babies traits, we are taking away something that is profound.

    When my first child was born, the first thing the nurse said to me was "Her eyes are brown... that never happens". I would not trade that moment for anything in the world.

  • by selven (1556643) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:54AM (#28348405)
    No, they should make it easy to do at the embryo stage so we don't get people leaving live babies to die in the dumpster.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:55AM (#28348423)

    What's not alive about a cluster of metabolically active cells that take in nourishment, grow, and respond to their environment? It's only a question of whether or not that's "human enough" to regulate its destruction. For many people, it's okay to destroy sperm, okay to destroy eggs (nature does enough of both of these anyhow), but when they touch it's hands-off.

  • by Sobrique (543255) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:55AM (#28348431) Homepage
    You misunderstand 'evolution' - it's not a process of engineering the optimal lifeform. It's a random chance thing, where you bung a load of mutations in a pot, and see which ones die.
    Engineering out or in particular traits are all well and good, but ... can you ever see humans being so conformist as to have identical children with a low biodiversity such that they're susceptible to something like that?
    Not that I particularly care - as far as I'm concerned for the vast majority of humanity breeding is a privilege, not a right.
  • The POPE ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 2obvious4u (871996) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:56AM (#28348453)

    I don't understand the Pope's objection. The body is nothing more than a meat machine that holds the soul. If we have the technology to improve the machine that houses the soul, what is the problem? Jesus Christ. The disciples fixed the broken machine all the time in the new testament, back then it was called a miracle. Now we have the technology to improve the lives of all future children it would be a crime not to remove genetic diseases. Why does the church insist on allowing unnecessary suffering just so that they can provide comfort to the person who is suffering? Wouldn't it be better to eradicate the suffering in the first place?

  • by immakiku (777365) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:59AM (#28348485)
    People have cared about the survival of their genes since the beginning of time. It's why our species still exists.
  • by langelgjm (860756) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:00PM (#28348491) Journal

    Once more, religion gets in the way of science. Imagine all the advances in science and medicine if we could get religion out of the way.

    Historically speaking, the Church (Galileo notwithstanding!) and Islam during the medieval period played a very large part in encouraging the development of science, medicine, and the arts. It varied by time period and region, but the link can't be denied.

    Second, one thing that confuses me about these sorts of statements is this - presumably, you think religion is just some nonsense that stupid people latch on to. But even if you get rid of religion, people are still going to be stupid. What makes you think that these stupid people won't find something else to latch on to that has the same sort of negative effects as religion? In fact, getting rid of religion might leave a vacuum that could be filled by something worse...

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:02PM (#28348525) Journal

    It's when fertility clinics start to offer to change the hair or eye color (or other traits) of a baby to be.

    That's what bugs you? Because that's what they are doing... except much less efficiently. The clinic will create, say, a dozen embryos, and then test each of them -- the ones with the undesirable traits are then offed, and the good ones implanted. Sure, it reeks of eugenics more than a little bit.

    But I think it's a little odd that you don't mind the eugenics, but you do mind the efficient process to make the eugenics work.

  • by plague3106 (71849) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:02PM (#28348529)

    The only problem Gattaca brings up is that it's a bad idea to discriminate based on rule of law and the attitude towards those naturally born.

    Genetic selection doesn't automatically mean people will form said attitude, or enact legislation against those "naturally" born or not.

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:06PM (#28348603)
    From what I understand, the principal objection of many people who are opposed to this sort of selection is that otherwise viable fertilized embryos, which do not meet the selection criteria, are discarded during the process. So, depending upon how one answers the "when does life begin?" question and the views one takes on the related issue of Abortion this sort of selection and discarding is either a choice like many others that parents make or murder; take your pick.
  • by schnikies79 (788746) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:06PM (#28348605)

    To be fair, not everyone wants children, including myself.

    Most yes, but I know several people that have no desire for children what-so-ever.

  • by plague3106 (71849) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:07PM (#28348621)

    Part of the thrill of parenting, is the gamble about what kind of child you will end up with. To be able to choose the traits of your children, seems to make it all a bit superficial to me.

    Hmm... I wonder if you would be as thrilled when the child pops out with Downs or some other genetic disease.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:09PM (#28348651)

    You know what else works against evolution? Globalization. Healing the sick. And no one's suggesting we stop doing either of those.

  • by vadim_t (324782) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:15PM (#28348745) Homepage

    This isn't a troll, it's an honest response. As Science-the-religion has advanced, and religious adherence receded, the general mental wellbeing of western citizens has declined. Across the board, people report being less happy, less fulfilled, less everything, while they have more stuff, more medicine, more knowledge than ever.

    Bullshit. Just a few centuries ago, if you were unlucky enough to have some harmless but badly perceived condition, such as being gay, left handed, female, some sort of mental problem, or simply being born into a poor family, and you'd have a miserable life near guaranteed.

  • by gtall (79522) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:15PM (#28348747)

    "Historically speaking, the Church (Galileo notwithstanding!) and Islam during the medieval period played a very large part in encouraging the development of science, medicine, and the arts."

    The problem with this statement is that it makes it seem as though the point of religion was the development of science, medicine, and the arts. It wasn't. That development was a by-product of education which at that time was centered in religion merely because religion was the most organized social institution. I think it would be difficult to argue now that further development of science, medicine, and the arts will be furthered by religion. Religion may have ethical considerations that affect these areas, but further technical achievement in the first two is doubtful, and further cultural achievement in the arts appear mostly to be hamstrung by religion or simply not influenced at all.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:16PM (#28348781)

    can you ever see humans being so conformist as to have identical children with a low biodiversity such that they're susceptible to something like that?

    Yes, at least for significantly large populations of humans.

    Little Boxes [youtube.com]
    1. Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
    Little boxes, little boxes,
    Little boxes, all the same.
    There's a green one and a pink one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
    And they all look just the same.

    2. And the people in the houses
    All go to the university,
    And they all get put in boxes,
    Little boxes, all the same.
    And there's doctors and there's lawyers
    And business executives,
    And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
    And they all look just the same.

    3. And they all play on the golf-course,
    And drink their Martini dry,
    And they all have pretty children,
    And the children go to school.
    And the children go to summer camp
    And then to the university,
    And they all get put in boxes
    And they all come out the same.

    4. And the boys go into business,
    And marry, and raise a family,
    And they all get put in boxes,
    Little boxes, all the same.
    There's a green one and a pink one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
    And they all look just the same.

  • by Seumas (6865) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:19PM (#28348831)

    This is a stupid argument. Every time I choose to blast a load on my girlfriend's belly instead of inside her vagina, I'm choosing which ones will have a chance and which won't.

  • Re:Problem solved (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twostix (1277166) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:22PM (#28348883)

    And the anti-social pasty white nerd gene too please.

    Sorry CmdrTaco, half your audience will no longer exist in 20 years.

  • by EvilToiletPaper (1226390) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:25PM (#28348971)
    How does globalization work against evolution? If anything it brings radically diverse genes closer, more variations, fitter offspring.
  • by nizo (81281) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:25PM (#28348973) Homepage Journal

    But the screening is taking place with the idea that the screened children will be superior. "We want to give your child the best possible start" is a direct quote from early on in the movie that would make it hard for a parent to not screen their kid genetically, but by the end of the movie, is it still true that the screened for children are superior?

    Basically, who are we to decide what is best? Examine nearly ever example of where humans have introduced something into an environment or changed something to "fix" a problem and in almost every case made things ten times worse.

  • by electrosoccertux (874415) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:28PM (#28349017)

    I'd go even further and say any medical procedure, drug, etc. could be considered playing god. Sorry Timmy you got TB and are going to die, yes we could give you some pills to save you but that is playing god.

    Personally I don't want some religion to tell me what medical procedures I can/cannot have because they think their holy book would approve/disapprove.

    Yawn, bringing up medical procedures and drugs is a straw man here. The issue the crazy religious folk have with this is one of life. When you administer the TB drug, you are not stopping life. When you fail to implant a fertilized egg, that is a life that was created that will never become a human being.

    It's a slippery slope. If it's ok to determine whether the life lives or dies when it doesn't have a brain, then maybe it's ok to determine whether it lives or dies when it has a brain but isn't on the same level of consciousness as us (partial birth abortion, AKA murdering the baby before it's halfway out of the mother in the birthing process [-1 flamebait/troll/overrated for saying that right there!]), and so then maybe it's ok to determine whether a life lives or it dies if the majority say its future is not worth keeping it alive (forced euthanasia); and finally then it's ok for me to determine whether something lives or it dies simply because that is how I prefer it and after all I know what is better for it.

    If you don't value life from the start, then you cannot somehow place more value on that life as it matures without being either inconsistent, or elitist, or both. The societal implications of not valuing the full life are drastic, and it is for our own conscience's good (and the future of our world) if we choose to value life through and through.

  • by celtic_hackr (579828) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:30PM (#28349047) Journal
    God, I hate that euphemism. Slippery slope. Get real people. Everyone already screens for DNA traits. Usually, though, people use secondary evidential characteristics rather than actual scientific DNA traits. I choose the DNA traits for my child. I choose someone who only had blond and red alleles for hair color and blue and green alleles for eye color. I chose the shape of the nose, the skeletal build, intelligence, etc. Ok so not all of my criteria were based on definable genes, but some were. I wound up with a blue-eyed, strawberry blonde, average height, above average intellect child. It's stupid to get upset over choosing eye and hair color.

    All this means is that the new questionnaires will include questions like what color is your hair and that of your parents and siblings. Ditto on eye color.
    Duh.

    The people who want to choose eye color will still be able to, only not quite as foolproof, and the clinics get the DNAnazis off their back.

    I totally get wanting to choose an eye and hair color that matches at least one of the parents.
  • it IS a big deal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:36PM (#28349147) Homepage Journal

    you even said why it is a big deal yourself in the last sentence

    why do a bunch of innocent men deserve a sad lonely miserable existence without a wife, simply for the sake of a barbaric and pointless belief?

  • by Seumas (6865) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:41PM (#28349253)

    Comprehension fail.

    My point is that society is hypocritical to take the stance that one unnatural alteration of the gene-pool through modern facilities is "a beautiful gift" while another is an abhorrent affront to mankind and nature alike.

    Also, nobody is reproducing with their car and your analogy is disastrous since it in no way implies the dramatic change to the gene-pool in the short period that either of the above procedures can.

    I'm just saying, be consistent. Although, yes, I would prefer that you stop spending $200,000 to squirt out eight fucking duplicates of your dumbass self.

  • by zoips (576749) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:46PM (#28349329) Homepage
    What's fundamentally wrong with eugenics? Yes, all past real world examples of it have been faulty and mostly driven by arbitrary and invalid criteria (skin color, eye color, unfounded belief in the superiority/weakness of some ethnic group, etc). However, that doesn't seem to point to anything fundamentally wrong with eugenics if done properly.
  • by twostix (1277166) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:48PM (#28349371)

    "The clinic is right, it's only a matter of time until we accept this, and we'll just have to wait and see what happens."

    Seriously, is it 1930 again?

    Eugenics being seriously debated.
    Worldwide depression.
    Fascism becoming a mainstream political ideal.
    A country in a far away land beating the drums of war with it's huge army that can "blitz" it's neighbour in a day.
    An Asian empire rising and on a collision course with the States.

    I think I want the '90s back thanks. Post-haste.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:56PM (#28349533)

    i like how you start off by denouncing the straw man and then immediately move into a slippery slope.

    hey, can you guess what kind of logical fallacy THIS is?

  • by JonathanBoyd (644397) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:06PM (#28349697) Homepage

    We're also selecting against logic and attention span. Those that have it choose education over family

    Could you tell me which gene is the logic gene and explain the causative relationship between it and choosing education over family? What you posted sounded rather elitist/snobbish and lacking in evidence.

  • by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:07PM (#28349725)

    Yes, it won't be 'evolution' any more. Instead, it will be guided progression. There are risks, of course, but there are also many benefits. To ask humans not to meddle is to ask them to stop being human.

  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:08PM (#28349729) Homepage Journal
    "I believe we will see some real outrage with "We can guarantee your baby will NOT be gay"

    Really?

    I doubt seriously that you'd see any 'outrage' expressed at all. At least, not in the US. Being gay isn't exactly that popular, and still carries a pretty heavy stigma in society. Attitudes have come a long way, sure, but, it isn't accepted by the general public...especially not in private conversations amongst straight people. They may state one thing to be PC in public, but what they say out of the spotlight...much different.

    Heck..you can see what they do when they can vote and have that vote be anon.

  • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:10PM (#28349777)
    not everyone wants children, including myself.

    Me too. Having grown up in the shadow of the Cold War, on a planet where humans breed like flies on a dungheap, where any meanness or nastiness is regarded as OK if it enables you to pull the guy above you off the ladder and stomp on the hands of the next guy down, I have never felt that this is a world I would want to be responsible for bringing a child into.
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:12PM (#28349813) Journal
    >The challenging part is that yeah, if I have the choice to prevent my future kids from developing life-shortening diseases, I've got to do it.

    So that's the problem, then, isn't it: what counts as life-shortening diseases?
    There's a correlation between being left-handed and dying of accidents. So you'd want to select for a right-handed kid.
    There's a correlation between height and income: tall people make more. There's a correlation between income and average lifespan. So you'd want to have a tall right-handed kid.
    You can see where this is going: if you want to, you can justify almost any selection criterion as being life-extending, or at least life-enhancing.
    There's no good line to draw.
  • by Kotoku (1531373) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:16PM (#28349895) Journal
    He may not have flushed the point out all the way, but the fact of it is that educated people have smaller families generally than non-educated people. Look at the average family size in the ghetto, sub 20k a year earned income versus in a nice area, like Manhattan with 100k+ a year earned income.
  • by nahdude812 (88157) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:18PM (#28349943) Homepage

    There are certainly foreseeable scientific / medical implications. Selective fertilization of this nature can potentially have long term (as in long term) negative consequences for the viability of the species as a whole.

    If designerism gets to a certain level, it's possible to completely breed out characteristics seen as unappealing but which may have real long term species survivability characteristics associated with it.

    As a simple analogy, consider that rats on an island were able to reject fertilized eggs which would yield any color coat but white, and that rats find white coats to be superior aesthetically. Within a generation or two, it's likely that there are no coats but white, and that the genetics for creating other colored coats has now been eliminated from the population. Soon a new predator bird comes along and is able to easily hunt the highly visible rats, and is able to be so successful at securing food that it produces double or triple the normal number of offspring. Within another few generations the rats could be extinct because the undesirable gene line for dark coats had previously been extinguished from the population.

    It's easiest to think about it in small terms like above, but the same principles would apply on a larger scale and on a larger time line for human kind. There is strength in diversity, and rejecting genetic pathways based on aesthetics is not a strategy which will be healthy for the species on the long term.

    Maybe for humans, hair and eye color has no survival implications (though it seems likely that there are highly correlated or even purely linked characteristics linked to this which are unknown or unconsidered). But if selective implantation becomes commonly practiced there will be drift in which characteristics are deemed worth breeding out, as once certain characteristics become homogeneous, new characteristics will be selected for exclusion. The new characteristics might be something with greater species survival implications.

    This, practiced on a large scale, or practiced on a large percentage of a given population, will have the same sort of long term negative effects as inbreeding did for royal families.

  • by SunTzuWarmaster (930093) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:19PM (#28349951) Homepage

    "Part of the thrill of parenting, is the gamble about what kind of child you will end up with. To be able to choose the traits of your children, seems to make it all a bit superficial to me. Why not just grow them in a test tube?"

    So, I would be wrong to choose to be superficial? Is growing babies in test tubes or on farms an inherrantly bad thing? For one, it would probably increase the rate of child survival and decrease the pain and serious health risk of giving birth.

    "I believe that there are forces in this world that we do not understand, that we should not understand, and that we should not meddle with because we don't understand them."

    And if I want to meddle, then that should be illegal?

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:21PM (#28349997)

    Want to grow up to become an athlete? Sorry, your parents couldn't afford to select genes that predispose you to becoming tall / strong / better cardiovascular function.
    Want to grow up to become a model? Sorry, your parents couldn't afford to give you a slender physique, blond, and blue eyes.

    Those are a really poor examples. Even if you give a child those attributes they may not have the dexterity or will to really perform in sports. By the time you kid grows up blond/blue eyed models may be as common as dirt - all you have is an attractive female.

    Whatever you select for physically, is no guarantee of future success in anything - it's still up to the person to make those attributes work. It may help a little but (in sports for example) it's not going to overcome someone with real drive for the subject.

    Want health insurance? Sure, but it's going to be more expensive because your parents couldn't afford to eliminate your risk of ALS.

    Not seeing the problem here. You should be able to pay more up front to pay less for insurance over a lifetime, although that would in reality be a small factor in what you would pay compared to things like you being a smoker.

    You should have to pay more for insurance if you are a higher risk. If I choose to take up sky diving as a hobby I should pay for more life insurance, I am a greater risk - any kind of insurance is all about balancing risk, and any attempt to skew away from that leads to financial ruin in the end. The universe is not made to treat everyone equally and pretending like it should always fails eventually.

    The challenging part is that yeah, if I have the choice to prevent my future kids from developing life-shortening diseases, I've got to do it.

    I would have thought there to be a natural moral imperative to do so. Do you *want* your kids to get ALS? Do you not want them to have every advantage possible? If you want kids you should do what you can to insure success. Nature does this all the time and I don't see why we as a species have to hamstring ourselves. If you are scared about people gaining advantage through genetic screening then why not go the other way and say all children should be raised in group homes so as not to have the advantage of a loving family? That's unfair too, not everyone gets that.

    In the end it's not going to give a huge advantage to the rich because as much as you design the initial person, environment is a huge factor in the person you eventually get. Mixing genes from Winston Churchill, Ghandi, and Mother Teresa does not mean you'll necessarily get a good leader, or even a good short order cook. The rich have been able to spend money foolishly for all time and you would do well not to deny the natural impulse.

  • by jacksdl (552055) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:21PM (#28350007)
    Yes, surprises are wonderful. Sometimes random chance produces a great outcome -- sometimes it doesn't. Saying that making these decisions is "playing God" or that we aren't wise enough to make them is a cop out. Either you're saying that you have no preference and all outcomes are equal -- or that the choices are too hard.

    The choices are hard -- avoiding them isn't the answer. As Stewart Brand said, "We are as gods and might as well get good at it."
  • by Jake Griffin (1153451) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:22PM (#28350021)
    I was going to say the same. The GP obviously doesn't have children and doesn't know any parents of children with Downs or other genetic diseases. One of my favorite kids to babysit has Downs and he is by far the sweetest kid I have ever had the pleasure to meet. And I know people (my sister for one) who hope their future kid is just like him.
  • by thevacancy (970985) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:25PM (#28350079)
    I don't think your sentiment was intended as insensitive, but the pain of not being able to bare one's own children is a deep and crushing pain. This pain is why people spend thousands of dollars to try to have their own? It's simplistic to write off the urge to procreate as a silly selfish thing (if it were we'd all not be here.) Adoption is NOT an easy process and can be much more expensive that in vitro fertilization. International adoptions can be even more heartbreakingly complex and expensive. Sure, if you're white you could adopt an equally deserving and precious minority kid who is less expensive (supply and demand works with human beings, too,) but then you have to consider the ramifications of how one's family will accept this child. Some families have the stomach to ignore racist Uncle Joe's comments about the "chocolate" baby, but some don't. I'm very thankful you were able to grow your own children, but it doesn't come easy to many, many people. My wife and I were facing that very issue, but were blessed to be able to have our own children with the help of some drugs. I'm not sure what we'd have done if we hadn't gotten pregnant. We're now growing our second child to be born soon and had to again use (drug) help to get pregnant. We were faced with the quesiton of (1) spend thousands on IVF (2) spends thousands on adopting a sibling for our child (3) spend else on a minority baby and face the prejudice of our families (4) put that money in our childs college fund (5) donate it to some needing 3rd world child care organization. Not an easy choice and I'm grateful we didn't have to answer that question now that we're pregnant. I agree that I don't like it either, but we started down that slippery slope when we started helping mother nature. The challenge is as a society deciding when enough is enough. I'm comfortable with stopping at weeding out the diseases, but not comfortable with the sex or "appearance" of kids. We're now in the age where there is no more "usual" way. Technology again provides too many choices for it to be simplistic any more.
  • Re:Why the Pope? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:30PM (#28350159) Homepage

    "even the Pope objected"

    Is it surprising that the Pope objected? He's very conservative, and doesn't even approve of contraception for people with HIV. Does he approve of IV fertilisation at all? If god wants you to have a disabled kid...

    The Pope has referred to IVF as an "abomination", so no, he does not approve of IVF at all, designer eyes or no.

    Someday I'll tell my daughter that she owes her existence, in part, to the fact that we aren't Catholic.

  • by geekoid (135745) <(dadinportland) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:38PM (#28350331) Homepage Journal

    You couldn't be more wrong or short sighted.

    "Once our society begins selecting and/or rejecting offspring based on their genes, or we begin manipulating our genetic codes, evolution stops."

    No it doesn't, go back and study it again.

    "We won't have moved into another kind of evolution. "
    That shows a serious lack of understanding of evolution.
    It is not a ladder, or a tree or a chain, it's more of a bush.

    Your whole premise is flawed becasue you do not understand what you are talking about and are applying cross field analogy.

    Epic. Fail.

  • by Pheidias (141114) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:41PM (#28350387) Homepage
    It's great that your kids turned out well, and I don't doubt that the surprises were thrilling. But how can you deny other parents the chance to give their children whatever advantages they can, as they see them?

    On the issue of the forces we do not understand, yes, they are out there. We do not understand everything yet. But we understand a great deal more than we did 200 years ago, and it is a fair guess that we'll make a comparable amount of progress in the next 40 or so. Then genetics will not hold great mysteries for us. We will be on to something even more profound, like how matter came to be or why light has a speed limit or how many universes there are...
  • by throup (325558) <chris.throup@org@uk> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:46PM (#28350485) Homepage

    Evolution is defined as natural selection of random mutations.

    Haven't you just defined a specific form of evolution, known as evolution by natural selection ?

    Most domesticated species (eg dogs) have evolved over the centuries as a direct result of human selection. Of course, until the twentieth century that selection was entirely based on external phenotypes, but this was still selection indirectly based on genetic information.

  • by tbannist (230135) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:49PM (#28350537)

    Your rant really makes no sense at all.

    You see evolution is actually defined as "the change in the genetic material of a population of organisms from one generation to the next". The methods of change include random mutation, and natural selection but are not limited to it by any means. Because you are not using the proper definition of evolution, once we as (supposedly) intelligent beings begin modifying our own genetic code, evolution does not, in fact, stop. Rather human evolution changes from a random process to a directed process.

    It is true that we could stop evolution, if we chose to do so. However, your assumption that the inevitable result is an end to change in the human genome suffers from some very large flaws. People actually have differing preferences, I'm sure there are many, many people who do not desire their children to be blue-eyed and blond Germans. If you were correct, we could reasonably expect every child to be called "Hans" or "Gretta" and frankly, even massively popular names never reach a level of ubiquity where everyone has the same name.

    Furthermore, anyone with even the remotest trace of training in search algorithms can tell you that randomly selecting your results is a terrible search algorithm. It's slow, it's inefficient, and it's unbounded. Sure, eventually the correct result should be returned, but the heat death of the universe might occur first. That might be why it took about 3.7 billion years to produce us and we might represent a "lucky" search.

    As far as rights go, it is an interesting question. However, you shouldn't confuse genetic tailoring with genetic cloning. At the current level parents are only able to choose between a selection of viable embryos. They are able to choose from a variety of outcomes they could have naturally produced. Even if we could rewrite the genetic code of an embryo it seems unlikely that we would change everything to the degree where we'd produce the human monoculture you dread so much.

    Frankly, giving the current prevalence of capitalism, it seems unlikely that most people would be able to afford the wholesale genetic rewriting of their children for the sake of vanity. So given that our unequal distribution of wealth is a problem unlikely to disappear at any point in the foreseeable future and that companies will almost certainly charge for the service of changing your offspring's DNA, you will, most likely, find that distribution of wealth enough to create a heterogeneous genetic population before we consider religious differences, cultural differences, personal preferences, aesthetics, trends, and fashion. And let's not forget that are significant populations who would likely choose not to engage in genetic engineering.

    The fact that the clinic in question offered such frivolities as eye and hair colour screening shows people are interested in how their children will look. It has nothing to do with any of your other points, at least not without some type of information on what the parents who were allowed to screen their embryos chose. If you have some evidence to show that they all chose Nordic features, please do provide it.

    In closing, you keep using that word "heuristics", I do not think it means what you think it means. A "vapid heuristic" would, in all honestly, best describe random mutation, not human genetic engineering.

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:00PM (#28350749) Journal

    He may not have flushed the point out all the way, but the fact of it is that educated people have smaller families generally than non-educated people.

    Look at the average family size in the ghetto, sub 20k a year earned income versus in a nice area, like Manhattan with 100k+ a year earned income.

    Um, $100k in Manhattan IS the ghetto!

    Keep in mind that on occasion, those in the "ghetto" have smart kids. Many people have kids that are smarter than themselves. Was the intelligence of Einstein, Hawking, or Hubble the average of their parent's? Of course not.

    Education is not an indicator of intelligence. My degree showed that I had enough money to pay for classes (thanks US Army), had enough free time to study and do the work, and was capable of memorizing what the teacher told us to memorize. Rarely, did I actually have to think. I saw many people that could barely figure out what to do when the stop light changes do better than I did because they had more time, money or the ability to memorize data long enough to pass the test.

    There are many brilliant, immigrant cab drivers all over the country who moved their families here so that their kids could have a better opportunity than what they could have had in their native country.

  • by geekoid (135745) <(dadinportland) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:03PM (#28350793) Homepage Journal

    SUperior in the eyes of those 2 people. Which for physical traits will still vary.

    "Basically, who are we to decide what is best? "
    The species that's doing it. Of course it's for us to determine what is best. Better that then in the hands of nature.

    "Examine nearly ever example of where humans have introduced something into an environment or changed something to "fix" a problem and in almost every case made things ten times worse."

    Are you really that stupid? or do you just by in to the anti science crap?
    We have manipulate wheat so we get a much higher yield.. This is better.
    vaccines , this is better
    The whee, this is better. Refrigeration, this is better.
    I can name hundreds of things we have introduced or changes that improve our existence dramatically.
    We have a freaking vaccine against a type of cancer for frying out loud.

    You people make me sick, go live in a freakin' cave if you don't like it.
    Stupid Luddite ass wipe.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:49PM (#28351513) Journal

    That's brilliant. We should systematically cripple our youth to promote excellence in the arts and sciences.

  • by Synchis (191050) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @03:48PM (#28352455) Homepage Journal

    This really doesn't seem to be about religion to me.

    Religious fervor seems perfectly reasonable and rational to the religious.

    Indeed.

    Part of the thrill of parenting, is the gamble about what kind of child you will end up with.

    Perhaps there are others that don't enjoy this "thrill" and find it offputting or at best a trade off that they must currently make in order to be a parent. Just because you seem to enjoy the "gamble" as you put it, is not a good reason for pushing that belief on others.

    So why be a parent at all then? If your not willing to accept the full package, if you only want to be a parent on your own terms, why bother? If you want a child that has certain features, that is free from genetic defects, that takes away the risk of child birth, that is completely under your control? Why not adopt?

    In reality, I'm not pushing my opinion on anybody. I disagree with the process. I personally believe that it pollutes the very meaning of being a parent to be able to choose your childs physical traits.

    If it were only genetic testing, if it were only to ensure that you had a healthy child free from birth defects, then maybe it would be okay in my mind, maybe I could find a way to ethically justify it in my mind.

    But to go through this process so that you can have a child of the right gender? The right eye and hair color? It makes the process of having a child at all meaningless. A designer child, like a designer purse or pair of shoes. It's somehow cheapened.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @03:51PM (#28352499)
    <politicalCorrectness enabled="false"> So someone else too poor to raise their own child, and too stupid to refrain from procreation, gets to foist their child off onto me. My neighbor has 5 children from 3 boyfriends, and every member of the family is unemployed with no high school education. My need to procreate, in this overpopulated world, is my need to genetically compete with these morons.
  • Which is so hypocritical that it's absurd. Parents foist themselves and their children on the world and then try to persuade us that being a parent equates one to being a saint and that there is nothing more altruistic than xeroxing yourself a few times.

    The ready answer to this line of reasoning is of course: Aren't you glad your parents didn't think the way you do?

    That chestnut aside, it's now considered hypocritical to want to fulfill one of the most fundamental biological imperatives on earth? That's a scary thought. What other fundamentally human drives would you like to see renounced in order to make the world a better place?

    I'm not sure anyone here (other than you, in your haste to set up a straw man) is claiming that parents, by virtue of being parents, are candidates for sainthood. The mere fact that so many kids are abandoned, as you alluded to, seems to indicate that's not necessarily the case. A lot of people who elect to have children do work hard to raise them well, though, and I tend to think on balance that's a good thing for everyone.

    I'm also not sure there's anything inherently more virtuous about caring for someone else's child than for your own, as you seem to suggest.

    You must be using some definition of the word "hypocritical" that I'm not familiar with.

  • by fish_in_the_c (577259) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @04:40PM (#28353239)

    You truly don't understand what the objection is.
    The question is not 'what does some book say' it is 'what is human life worth'. Medicine exists for the purpose of improving the quality of human life, raising the dignity of the human being. When medicine fails to do those things , it does harm and becomes immoral.
    in this case however there are more human lives to be considered then just the infertile parents, there is the life of the embryos created in vitro , each of which should be treated with the respect due a human being , because each has every potential that every human being had , when their body was the same age.
    Why, in itâ(TM)s most basic sense in murder wrong? The answer is simple, it destroys trust and endangers the whole society. If murder wasnâ(TM)t considered wrong and illegal , no one would feel safe enough to conduct commerce or interact and society would collapse.
    Anything that cheapens human life , and the human person, has a similar effect , only to a greater or lesser degree, depending on how it affects the person, and the group. Anything that cheapens the value of the human person makes them more of a thing and less of being is immoral.
    Creating human beings in a laboratory is beneath human dignity and should be illegal. Every time it is done , your life, and my life , become a little less valuable , because life moves from being something precious that should be protected at all cost closer to a commodity, something to be bought and sold.
    How can any reasonable person expect that after life and death themselves have become commodities to be bought and sold that human beings should not be bough, sold, and exploited in any way that is useful to the wealthy or powerful, and the social establishment?

    In vitro fertilization, slavery and murder, torture are all wrong for the same reason, in order to carry them out you must first stop viewing a person as a person and treat that person instead as a thing, to be used.
    Every act like these diminishes the value of citizen ship , endangers all other rights and freedoms, because on what can a right be based , if the right to live is something that can be decided in a laboratory, by an impassioned chemical test?. We are not just things in some collective group called humanity. Each of us is a unique individual and deserves to be treated as such..

  • by MachDelta (704883) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:53PM (#28356121)

    Or we could just build robots that don't have to wait for puberty and will never question their orders either. Plus they're not made of that ancient and not-so-bulletproof "meat" technology.

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