Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Medicine Science

Could Colorblindness Cure Be Morally Wrong? 981

Posted by timothy
from the don't-forget-deaf-culture dept.
destinyland writes "One in 12 men suffers from colorblindness, though '[t]he good news here is that these folks are simply missing a patch of DNA ... which is just the kind of challenge this Millennium is made for. Enter science.' But NPR's Moira Gunn (from Biotech Nation) now asks a provocative question. Is it wrong to cure colorblindness? She reports on an experiment that used a virus to introduce corrective DNA into colorblind monkeys. ('It took 20 weeks, but eventually the monkeys started distinguishing between red and green.') Then she asks, could it be viewed differently? 'Are we trying to 'normalize' humans to a threshold of experience?'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Could Colorblindness Cure Be Morally Wrong?

Comments Filter:
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:51PM (#31634866)

    "Would you like to be cured?"

    Problem solved.
     

    • by The Dancing Panda (1321121) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:55PM (#31634898)
      Or, if it makes her feel better to not call it a cure..."Would you like to see all the colors, like just about everyone else can?"
      • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:02PM (#31634966)

        Ah, but where does it end?

        "Would you like ultra-wide spectrum super-HD eyes with 60x optical zoom, Internet-connected HUD and complimentary laser cannons, just like everyone else has?"

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:05PM (#31634992)

          "Would you like ultra-wide spectrum super-HD eyes with 60x optical zoom, Internet-connected HUD and complimentary laser cannons, just like everyone else has?"

          Hell yes.

          • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:41PM (#31636454)

            I think Arthur C Clark touched on this in one of his books.

            If you have the ability to "correct" aberrations could there be fallout?
            If you could "fix" high functioning autistic so that they could be completely normal what kind of effect might that have on scientific fields which attract such people?
            What happens when you fix the obsessives so that instead of spending their evenings trying to solve theorems they go out and socialize?
            If you ask a teenager, who struggles to deal with people and is quite unhappy about not being normal, if he wants to be made normal- chances are he'll jump at it.
            Ask the same person 30 years later when his unusual brain structure or different ways of thinking about things or approaching problems has allowed him to become highly respected or wealthy and you may get a different answer.

            Look at the best and the brightest in almost any field and you'll find people who aren't normal.
            People who by certain measures could be considered to have various things wrong with them.
            If they had been given the option to be "fixed" the world might be a far poorer place.

            • by RightwingNutjob (1302813) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:46PM (#31636894)
              What kind of foggy-minded, mushy-headed, morality-agnostic incorrectness is this?!? We're talking about curing a physical disability. Something that doesn't just give someone a 'different', 'unique' or 'special' perspective on reality, but an affliction that removes and impedes capability to function as well as the rest of us. Would it be wrong to cure paralysis because it would destroy the culture of wheelchair basketball?
              • by compro01 (777531) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @01:25AM (#31637344)

                Something that doesn't just give someone a 'different', 'unique' or 'special' perspective on reality, but an affliction that removes and impedes capability to function as well as the rest of us.

                Actually, colourblindness can be legitimately described as a unique perspective on reality. One of my high school friends is fully red colourblind (protanopia). He's in the military where his colourblindness is an asset. Most camouflage is almost useless against him due to the patterns being designed with normal colour vision in mind. He also has far better night vision than a person with normal vision would have.

                • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:29AM (#31637746) Journal
                  > He's in the military where his colourblindness is an asset. Most camouflage is almost useless against him due to the patterns being designed with normal colour vision in mind.
                  > He also has far better night vision than a person with normal vision would have

                  An asset maybe to the grunts on the ground...

                  Might not be so good for those in vessels or vehicles or aircraft who need to know the difference between "green=systems OK, and red = something is wrong". Hey I didn't pick those colours. Somehow they became a standard - red = stop/bad, green = go/OK.

                  FWIW, it's not that difficult to give people with normal colour-vision some goggles that'll produce the same effect - colourblindness and better night-vision.

                  In contrast it was impossible to cure colourblindness, till now...
              • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @02:44AM (#31637566)

                If treatment to correct color blindness is immoral, then so is Lasik surgery to correct nearsightedness / astigmatism. Bring that further... making glasses for people with nearsightedness would be immoral on that same basis 'normalizing' the experience indeed.

                And prosthetics for people born with just one leg would also be immoral.

                Surgery to separate conjoined twins would also be immoral (even if they both wanted it).

                Why are they coming up with bullshit reasons to call a procedure immoral such as "trying to normalize humans to a threshold of experience"

                Of course we're trying to normalize the experience of those people who were in the unfortunate position of having a genetic disadvantage that causes physical disability compared to most of the population.

                It's only natural for people to want to better themselves.

                I do believe that attempting to impose your morals on others is immoral, particularly when you inconsistently are okay with other things that violate the same principals

                Much of the population has some sort of modification, even if it's just that they wear contact lenses all day every day to "correct" their vision.

                • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe AT jwsmythe DOT com> on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:09AM (#31639586) Homepage Journal

                      I agree totally. It's as morally wrong to correct colorblindness as it is to change any other aspect of a person. Does it change the person? Sure.

                      I went through corrective eye surgery years ago because I had a congenital cataract (i.e., I was born with it). By the time I was 18, my vision was 20/200 in my bad eye. The fix in the early 90's was pretty simple. Cut the lens out, and put a plastic one in. The method has changed slightly since then, but it's pretty much the same. Something they didn't tell me about until after was that the natural lens filters UV light. After the surgery, the spectrum of light I was able to see was increased at the UV end of the spectrum. Black lights no longer remain almost invisible, they are bright blue to me, only in that eye. Comparing the two eyes, some things like purple flowers, are different colors in each eye. It's kind of weird, but something I've learned to live with. Did the adaptation make me "super" in some way? Not really. It's just different. Color blind people see fewer (or no) colors. I see more in one eye. It was an elective surgery. If I hadn't had it done, I would be blind in that eye by now.

                      Is it any worse for me to have my vision corrected so I wouldn't be blind? Is it wrong for someone who is missing a limb to get a prosthetic limb?

                      I have a friend who was in an accident and has no control over her legs. She's making progress towards walking again in the future. Should she just accept the fact that she can't walk, and not try to be "normalized" (as TFA said)? If the ability is there, and the patient wants it, let them have it.

            • by drolli (522659) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:47PM (#31636902) Journal
              In my opinion (i am a physicist) the only good scientific field for highly functioning autists is math (because it may be possible to at least get a fixed position there), and even there i am not sure. In most other fields (including theoretical physics) the disadvantages seriously outweight the advantages. And with disadvantages i mainly mean the disadvantages for the autists. Do we have the right to drive somebody who is already isolated into total isolation, just because he does a good job at it? The important question would be to ask the autistic people is they like to stay autistic. In a world which is suited for autists they may want to. I am pretty sure i would take the cure in the very same way i would be willing to swallow antidepressants, drugs against epilepsy or ADD or wear glasses.
            • by thrawn_aj (1073100) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @12:06AM (#31637034)
              You make a good point. However, there is a fundamental difference between fixing "aberrations" that are centered in the brain/endocrine glands and doing the same with purely physical ones. Yes, I know that Descartes was simply wrong about mind-body dualism (as concluded on the basis of empirical evidence, not pretty arguments) and you cannot separate the two. The point is that not every affliction makes you "special" (though Hollywood or Lifetime would have you believe otherwise). That's a little bit like thinking gamma rays turn you into the Hulk instead of the reality where they'd just fry you up (but subtler, because mental illnesses still have that aura of mystery around them). In most cases, metal illnesses are just plain torture on the afflicted without conferring any offsetting benefits like you see so often in popular culture. For examples, please see this highly engaging article [cracked.com] on Cracked (yes, it's Cracked, but it's quite insightful in this case). We absolutely should be wary of mental illness cures but that doesn't mean they don't exist. We have come a long way from the sadistic meathouses of yesteryear when it comes to treating mental illnesses. Things do converge towards an answer more often than not. But everything you or I have said so far is only marginally relevant to the main aspect of the debate.

              The only relevant thing here is that it would be immoral to withhold treatment of ailments that the person chooses to have cured in the here and now just because a bunch of people (like the dissenter in tfa) have a certain idea of "the way things should be". By all means, have this discussion with the person before the cure (in the same way that some clinics make patients go through mandatory counseling prior to life-changing procedures like abortion). But we simply do not have the right, moral or otherwise, to make that decision for someone else. By the way, that distinction makes this argument highly asymmetric. It is simply not pro/against. It is a case of the debaters (you and I) just not having the moral right to choosing for someone else (in a situation where their needs can be satisfied without hurting someone else - I say this carefully to make my point inextensible to something like abortion [just don't want to mix this up with that can of worms]).

              In the example you used, I would be saddened beyond words if we lost a potential genius because he chose to fix something like OCD or autism and lead a normal life. But that does not give me the right to prevent him from making that choice. After all, people make that choice everyday when it comes to choosing a profession and no one ever suggests that such choices are morally wrong. There were at least three bona fide geniuses in my graduating class who could have (potentially) made revolutionary discoveries in the basic sciences had they chosen to do so. Instead, they decided that they would be happier in a more commercial setting with the purpose of making a good living. The world is a poorer place because of that choice. But I do not believe that anyone had the right to make that decision for them. Are the people afflicted with such diseases then less human than normal folk that a similar choice on their part (to be happy in a narrowly defined sense instead of being "special") is immoral? Kind of a selective and twisted morality if you ask me.

              The world cannot be made richer by the unwilling sacrifices of the afflicted. You may be surprised how many of these savants actually decline such cures. Believe it or not, the truly special people often place high importance on the things that make them special and willingly sacrifice mere happiness for the more elusive satisfaction.

              Sorry for being so verbose. I should have just said that the title of the first post pretty much says it all, and far more effectively than I just did -

              WTF? Just ask the patient

              QED

            • If you ask a teenager, who struggles to deal with people and is quite unhappy about not being normal, if he wants to be made normal- chances are he'll jump at it.

              I don't consider myself as having "aspergers" or whatever the modern fad geek fad calls it, but I do know that by many standards I would be considered "odd". I have known that I was odd for quite some time (initially, I simply thought everyone else was odd), and while sometimes I have thought about how it would be nice to be like most people sometimes, I have always been happy with the way I am. If you had asked me--at any time--whether I wanted to be "fixed" to be just like almost everyone else, I'm confident I would have said no. Though sometimes I was envious of aspects of other people, I never wanted to be like them, because I also saw the negatives to their way of living(But never to my conceited own of course).

              Of course, if you'd asked my parents at any point whether they'd like me changed, they would have said "Yes Please!". I don't hold it against them, because I can see exactly why they would; everyone wants that set of perfect children, loved by all and sundry. Left to the realm of private industry, all oddball like me would be "fixed" fairly quickly in life.

              But I know, and you know, that oddness goes with the territory when it comes to technology, science, and just about any other involved academic discipline. Most normal people will not spend several hours trying to work out a theorem, build a full adder, dissect a frog, read a 14th century ledger, stare at a star chart, etc, etc. These activities are all, as activities go, very odd. But they are also very useful. A normal person with a normal social, work and family life is not going to have the time or the inclination to do any of these things. The world needs oddballs, and for all we know, it may needs colour blind people too.

            • by quenda (644621) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @01:09AM (#31637308)

              If the patient thinks this is a moral grey area, he need the treatment stat!

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:06PM (#31635000) Journal
          No, I wouldn't. If everyone else has them, I want at least 120x optical zoom, ad-block on the HUD, and an automatic targeting program for the laser cannons.
        • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:06PM (#31635012) Homepage Journal

          Ah, but where does it end?

          "Would you like ultra-wide spectrum super-HD eyes with 60x optical zoom, Internet-connected HUD and complimentary laser cannons, just like everyone else has?"

          Hell, yeah!!

          That's even dumber than the first question.

        • by dennism (13667) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:11PM (#31635080) Homepage

          Ah, but where does it end?

          "Would you like ultra-wide spectrum super-HD eyes with 60x optical zoom, Internet-connected HUD and complimentary laser cannons, just like everyone else has?"

          Yes. Yes I do.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by GameMaster (148118)

          Your ideas intrigue me and I would like to sign up for your newsletter.

        • by Geof (153857) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:20PM (#31635796) Homepage

          Ah, but where does it end?

          "Would you like ultra-wide spectrum super-HD eyes with 60x optical zoom, Internet-connected HUD and complimentary laser cannons, just like everyone else has?"

          Actually, you have hit the nail on the head. The doctor goes to cure your son's colorblindness, and asks: "While we're in there, would you like to pay some more money to make him taller? Boost his IQ? Make him live longer?"

          I'm taking this example from Dr William Leiss [leiss.ca]. The problem is not that this would be wrong for the child (just assuming for the moment that there wouldn't be nasty unintended side-effects). The problem is the impact on society as a whole. Rich people can afford to extend their lifespans, make themselves beautiful, smarter, and so on. The elite become physically different from birth: physically, mentally, perhaps even morally superior. Imagine a society in which the rich lived twice as long. Do you think this would be just? Do you think freedom and stability could exist under these circumstances?

          If this happens, Leiss worries that there will be one more genetic tweak: some of these elites will make their offspring genetically incompatible with others. Differences between classes will be transformed into differences between species.

          Of course curing colorblindness on its own will not do that. It may be extremely desirable. But at some point fixing things turns into improving things, and that can be a very dangerous road to go down. There is no clear line between fixing and improving. Before we start down this path, we should think very hard about where we draw that line. Once the line has been crossed, momentum and the power of wealth will be very hard to stop.

          Someone I love very much is colorblind. But I think the dangers really do bear thinking about.

          • by George_Ou (849225) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:47PM (#31636008)
            People can afford to be different today and I don't see any problem with it. I don't hate wealthy people because they can afford nice cars, attain beautiful women (often more than one), and receive more specialized care. I see nothing wrong with their success and I hope to be one of those people someday. What I would hate is for someone like you to tell me that I can't strive to differentiate because it might upset a few people and make them envious.
            • by Geof (153857) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:21PM (#31636294) Homepage

              I don't hate wealthy people because they can afford nice cars, attain beautiful women (often more than one), and receive more specialized care. I see nothing wrong with their success and I hope to be one of those people someday. What I would hate is for someone like you to tell me that I can't strive to differentiate because it might upset a few people and make them envious.

              You are completely misunderstanding the argument. What you seem to be describing is a form of meritocracy. The American dream you describe assumes that with hard work anyone can succeed. Anyone could be smart, anyone could be hard-working. The worst-case of the society I am describing is one without that possibility. It is utterly unmeritocratic: no matter how hard you work, you would be unable to succeed because you were genetically inferior. You fail because you simply aren't smart enough, or haven't enough stamina, or lack the inbuilt emotional intelligence or what have you. The elite would be like an entrenched aristocracy, except instead of being merely more wealthy, they would also be physically and mentally privileged - and they would pass those advantages on to their offspring. Those advantages could be insurmountable.

              Also, I guarantee that the social barriers created on the basis of physical differences would be at least as much an impediment to success. If the rich look like supermen, there will be intense prejudice against anyone who obviously lacks those advantages. Prejudice would run rampant because it actually had a basis in fact.

              Historically the aristocracy were in fact physically different. The rich ate a diet including meat and a variety of other foods. The poor had only a limited diet of nutritionally incomplete foods - with insufficient protein, for example. Imagining eating a gruel of millet and turnips every day. The difference between rich and poor was manifested physically. You could tell a poor person just by looking at him: his status was physically marked on his body. In a physical conflict the rich would be likely to win simply because they were physically superior.

              You are also injecting an ideological implication when you talk about "hate." I never said anything about hating wealthy people. I spoke only of the kind of society such engineering would produce. If the poor could see that they had virtually no chance to succeed no matter how hard they worked, there would be constant unrest. As there was in the middle ages, when peasant revolts were a constant fact of life.

              • I see the problem (Score:5, Insightful)

                by George_Ou (849225) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:49PM (#31636490)
                "The American dream you describe assumes that with hard work anyone can succeed."

                I am sorry that I actually believe this due to the fact that I am an immigrant and never learned the entitlement mindset. "The worst-case of the society I am describing is one without that possibility. It is utterly unmeritocratic: no matter how hard you work, you would be unable to succeed because you were genetically inferior. You fail because you simply aren't smart enough, or haven't enough stamina, or lack the inbuilt emotional intelligence or what have you. The elite would be like an entrenched aristocracy, except instead of being merely more wealthy, they would also be physically and mentally privileged - and they would pass those advantages on to their offspring. Those advantages could be insurmountable."

                Has this ever *not* been the case throughout the world? Women for example will rarely mate with someone shorter than themselves. Women look for mates that can provide security (or at least the best they can attract). Men look for healthy (beautiful) looking women. Would you rather turn this upside down? I've personally seen this kind of nonsense in communist China where janitors were given the title of professor or doctor while the professors were drowned and doctors were sent to work the fields. I've personally suffered from this kind of upside-down society as have millions of other Chinese people

                Technology is actually the great equalizer as the cost of technology comes down. When in the history of man kind could anyone publish written or video content to the entire world on a shoestring budget? If humans could buy technology to improve themselves - and businesses will strive to ensure that the masses could afford the technology while still earning a healthy profit - it would equalize the difference.
              • by martin-boundary (547041) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:49PM (#31636924)
                You're making the mistake(?) of thinking this won't happen. Do you really think that wealthy people today, and tomorrow, do not intend to do just what you describe? Do you think you can stop them? Do you think anybody can stop them? All it requires are private medical facilities filled with people who are willing to secretly break laws for money.

                So my question for you is: if you outlaw genetic enhancements, won't only outlaws (=rich people) have genetic enhancements?

                The only way to prevent *that* is to regulate early and make *affordable* genetic alterations the norm.

              • by r00t (33219) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @12:56AM (#31637248) Journal

                What you seem to be describing is a form of meritocracy. The American dream you describe assumes that with hard work anyone can succeed.

                You're mixing up quite a bit here.

                Merit: it includes IQ, looks, strength, etc.

                American dream: everyone is ALLOWED to attempt success (unlike how some parts of the world work, with castes or nobility)

                Nothing says hard work will be enough.

                Anyone could be smart, anyone could be hard-working. The worst-case of the society I am describing is one without that possibility. It is utterly unmeritocratic: no matter how hard you work, you would be unable to succeed because you were genetically inferior.

                Genetic superiority is one kind of merit.

                You fail because you simply aren't smart enough, or haven't enough stamina, or lack the inbuilt emotional intelligence or what have you. The elite would be like an entrenched aristocracy, except instead of being merely more wealthy, they would also be physically and mentally privileged - and they would pass those advantages on to their offspring.

                This is how it works right now. Note however that there isn't a sharp line between elite and non-elite, and that the elite barely ever reproduce.

                Example: I chose a wife based on exactly those attributes, and she chose me in the same way. If you could add up all the attributes to make an eliteness score, you'd likely find that my score is nearly the same as my wife's score. There is an obvious reason for that: we all chase after the best we think we can catch. Now, unsurprisingly, my kids are turning out like my wife and I. It looks like I have passed my advantages on to my offspring.

                Historically the aristocracy were in fact physically different. The rich ate a diet including meat and a variety of other foods. The poor had only a limited diet of nutritionally incomplete foods - with insufficient protein, for example. Imagining eating a gruel of millet and turnips every day. The difference between rich and poor was manifested physically. You could tell a poor person just by looking at him: his status was physically marked on his body. In a physical conflict the rich would be likely to win simply because they were physically superior.

                Historically??? You can tell today. Obesity is very common among the poor people who live on corn syrup and trans fats. The rich folk subsist on organic produce and seafood. Lots of desirable things are associated with each other: having money, being educated, being tall, being non-obese, looking attractive, facial symmetry, not having STDs, etc.

                The difference is that today the poor are not excluded by law. They are unlikely to succeed, but they are allowed to try. We have social mobility, not a social lottery.

          • Price reduction (Score:4, Insightful)

            by nten (709128) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:19PM (#31636270)

            As the rich pay the early adopter costs, the companies will continue to come out with better mods, reducing the price of the previous ones. The price for the older mods will soon come down enough for middle class folks to mod themselves, and eventually enough to be covered by insurance plans as standard. At least in the world we should strive to create, that is how it would work. There is nothing wrong with the wealthy getting it first, they pay more for it and thereby allow for a higher (if unequal) quality of life for all. It worked that way with lasik in the US. I'm not sure if it worked that way because it was an optional elective surgery so it wasn't the "pay-up or die" situation that allows for higher prices, or whether it was that the insurance companies were completely uninvolved, or for some other reason that the hops have hidden from me.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by nextekcarl (1402899)

          Why should it ever end? Does progress have a single predefined 'end point'?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        "Would you like to be cured?"

        Problem solved.

        If take this red pill you will be able to distinguishing between red and green. If you take this blue pill you will see colors no one has ever seen before. Far out man.

    • by Thiez (1281866) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:56PM (#31634912)

      Yeah, the 'moral dilemma' is kinda silly. But why stop at curing colourblindness? When can I get my IR and UV vision?

      What's interesting is that some women can see 4 colours instead of the 3 (or less...) the rest of us are stuck with. So there is definitely evidence that the brain can handle more input than it's currently receiving.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Velox_SwiftFox (57902)

        Which makes the question: Why should the vast majority of women be colorblind when their condition could be corrected?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:28PM (#31635266)

        What if they someday find a "gay gene" (or even just those for various intersex conditions) and cure those?

        "Would you like to be heterosexual, just like everyone else?"

        (The interesting thing about that is that you can piss off both sides of that debate. What if, in the future, being gay or not was indisputably a choice thanks to medical science? Would those who chose to cure themselves be seen as traitors or...?)

      • by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:57PM (#31635564)
        The moral dilemma is because of the implicit assumption that color-blindness is a fault that should be cured. It's just a societal notion that this is a flaw to be corrected; what if we figured out that there was a way to correct all those faulty brown eyes so that they were perfectly blue instead? Or let's say we could "fix" left handed people to be right handed? In other words, we're assuming a template for human beings the defines what is "correct".

        Similarly, there are segments of the deaf population who do not feel that being deaf is a flaw that needs fixing. If you ask "wouldn't you like to be able to hear stuff?" many will respond negatively, possibly suggesting that the better fix would be to alter other people's prejudices. To them the questions is as rude as asking "wouldn't you like to have blue eyes instead?"

        Color-blindness is not blindness, one can still see and distinguish colors. They're just distinguished in a different way from the general populace. Of course they can figure out traffic lights - red is on top, green is on the bottom. There is no handicap or disability here. If there's a problem in some configuration of lights or shades, then perhaps the fault lies with design that excluded a significant fraction of the populace. Imagine if someone designed a keyboard/mouse combination where the mouse was fixed to the right side of the keyboard; the left handers would legitimately claim that it was badly designed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by h4rr4r (612664)

          Are you really this dumb?

          Not seeing a color is a defect, they lack something. Having Brown eyes is a feature. Do you really not grasp the difference?
          This is a handicap, they cannot for instance become electricians. Nor can they figure out resistor color codes. The design is fine, these folks are as defective as they would be if they were missing a limb.

          Those deaf folks are just as dumb. This would be like me deciding not to wear contacts/glasses.

        • by Dr Damage I (692789) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:17PM (#31635770) Journal

          When I applied (unsuccessfully on physical fitness grounds) to join the Australian Armed forces, a colorblindness test determined that I was colorblind. When I asked what the consequences of that would be I was informed that I would be excluded from being employed in certain areas (electronics was the only one specifically mentioned). As this was one of my particular interests, I questioned their "diagnosis" and was subjected to a lamp test instead which showed that I was not colorblind.

          The point is, colorblindness is not a value neutral difference, it is a real handicap with real consequences for real people who might prefer not to have their options limited by a birth condition. Are you really saying that 1. Colorblind (or deaf) people should not be offered the opportunity to have their condition corrected and that 2. It is the people who want to offer them that option, not the people who want to withhold it, who are behaving unethically?

      • by westlake (615356) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:23PM (#31635826)

        Yeah, the 'moral dilemma' is kinda silly. But why stop at curing colourblindness? When can I get my IR and UV vision?

        Here is a tale from one of the great Now-It-Can-Told memoirs of World War I:

        Of Spies & [archive.org]
        Stratagems by Stanley P. Lovell

        Lovell was the director of R&D for the OSS. The man who became Bill Donovan's Professor Moriarty. You'll find no better introduction to the real world of spy tech than here.

        A most important field of deception and concealment concerned the landing of spies and saboteurs on enemy occupied coastlines, and at the exact spot where he or she would be met by friendly personnel from the underground organizations. This proved to be a most difficult problem for us to solve. Such landings had to be made on nights with no moon.


        Early in the war fixed lights and blinkers were used on the shore to mark the rendezvous, but enemy airplanes and sur face vessels often spotted them. Many an agent and his reception committee of resistance fighters were surrounded, picked up and summarily shot.


        The ideal shore signal to guide the O.S.S. agent to the selected place was an ultra-violet beacon. A small UV bulb, powered by a single dry-cell battery, would flash intermittently for almost a year. The difficulty arose when we found that even a person with superior eyesight could pick out the ultra-violet signal in the blackness of night only from a distressingly short range. I could not detect it at all beyond one hundred feet. I was about to abandon the UV system of landing signal as worthless, when a surgeon specializing in cataract
        removals told me by chance that patients who had undergone that operation had extraordinary sensitivity to ultra-violet light. We asked for volunteers and tested several people whose cataracts had been removed. To our astonishment we found that they could see and pinpoint the little, flashing ultra
        violet light from over a mile away, whereas the rest of us could
        see nothing but inky blackness.


        Brave, elderly people, so selected, guided our operators
        infallibly to these normally invisible rendezvous. I am certain
        the Germans and the Japanese never had the faintest idea of
        how it was done.

    • by f3rret (1776822) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:10PM (#31635068)

      In all fairness it is a valid question to pose.

      Genetically altering humans is a fairly big ethical question. Granted curing color blindness is fairly harmless, but once we know how to do that and accept it can be done it pretty much stands to reason that we will find out how to do other things and will accept doing those.

      While curing color blindness and any number of genetic defects might in the long run be the best course of action, at least from a "continuation of the species"-viewpoint, at what point do we draw the line.
      I mean when we first begun to do surgery we did it to save life and for "the betterment of mankind", and now we are doing cosmetic surgery. In the case of cosmetic surgery the point can be made that people who have not had the surgery are at a disadvantage (Can't get certain jobs on ground of attractiveness, and so on), now when we start to do "cosmetic" DNA surgery we are tampering with humanity at a pretty basic level and run the risk of the species splitting off in to one (or several) different species, those who had have the genetic augmentations and those that have not.
      So once we are two different species what'll the augmented species think of the non-augmented one? Will the people who for whatever reason are not able to get or unwilling to get the augmentations done be considered as some kind of untermench or will the non-augmented line be terminated all together?

      I am not advocating that we should ban all genetic medicine, far from it, personally I would love to be cured of my colorblindness and I'm sure there are any number of people with various other genetic defects that would like to be cured.
      This also raises the question: how do we decide what constitutes a defect, and how to we go about determining if it should be cured? Also if we are set on removing genetic defects from the gene pool how to we deal with people who do not want the cure? Do we forbid them from breeding so they will not pass on their "defective" genes?

      Whatever is the case, it's a valid debate and one we'll WILL need to have before we do these sorts of things, even if they seem kind of harmless.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Robin47 (1379745)
      I think we might be missing the point. I read it as "Maybe we shouldn't have the cure available because it would be morally wrong." That strikes me as a lot more ominous.

      I'm deaf and they are researching a similar cure for my condition. I can't wait to hear again. But what if they decided it would be wrong to change me from the way my genetic makeup made me? Or maybe the people in a third world country shouldn't be helped to advance because they would loose their heritage? In each case, the people should h

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ardent99 (1087547)

      It seems most people are assuming that giving someone a perceptual capability that everyone else has would cause them to react to it the same way that everyone else does. But what if not? What if someone who lacks an ability to perceive something also has not developed a way of incorporating that sense into their thought processes, and if it is introduced later it causes them pain, confusion, or dysphoria?

      For example, imagine someone whose eyes are very insensitive to light, and sees everything very dimly.

  • Who knows? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MarkvW (1037596) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:52PM (#31634874)

    Who knows what kind of mutations would best preserve human life here on Earth . . . or in Space . . . or on another planet? We're infants playing with power tools!

    • Re:Who knows? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Snarfangel (203258) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:27PM (#31635242) Homepage

      Who knows what kind of mutations would best preserve human life here on Earth . . . or in Space . . . or on another planet? We're infants playing with power tools!

      After a few generations of letting infants play with power tools, who knows what carpentry skills would evolve.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aussie_a (778472)

      If we know what normal-sighted people's DNA looks like, do we also know what colour-blind people's DNA looks like? If so, could this procedure also make someone colour-blind?

    • Re:Who knows? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by IckySplat (218140) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:26PM (#31635846)

      Who knows what kind of mutations would best preserve human life here on Earth . . . or in Space . . . or on another planet? We're infants playing with power tools!

      You say that like it's a bad thing!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Who knows what kind of mutations would best preserve human life here on Earth . . . or in Space . . . or on another planet? We're infants playing with power tools!

      Or maybe that genetic defect was the one that in time was going to mutate the human race into the super advanced but immoral homo superior that would have exterminated us all and they just unwittingly saved the species ! Or maybe our engaging in random speculation isn't helping the argument and you should stop reading sci-fi and chill out ;-)

  • cb or CB? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Velox_SwiftFox (57902) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:54PM (#31634890)

    Are we talking about curing the lower case color blind or the upper case Color Blind?

    • by digitalchinky (650880) <dtchky@gmail.com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:30PM (#31635286)

      We should be talking about curing my non-existent sense of smell too :-(

      At least with color blindness people go "oh, how many fingers am I holding up?", but you tell someone you have no sense of smell, they go off and consume the most vile crap they can find just to let rip with a dirty sloppy arsed fart in the interests of testing the aforementioned anosmia. Now don't get me wrong, the entire planet smells exactly the same to me no matter my location, but farting on me...

  • Tetrachromat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eightball (88525) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:57PM (#31634918) Journal

    I am waiting for the tetrachromat patch. So, I think you can assume my position.

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:57PM (#31634920)
    i think it would be morally wrong to have the ability to cure the colorblind (or any other disability or disease) but not do it out of some delusional religious belief.
  • Sure why not (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cheesybagel (670288) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:58PM (#31634934)
    Plus infrared and ultraviolet.
  • by epp_b (944299) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:59PM (#31634942)
    What kind of stupid, half-witted, pseudo-concern is this? This is the same as asking if a cure for cancer is morally wrong; after all, it, too, is [ultimately] due to faulty genetics.
  • Consenting adults (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:00PM (#31634950)
    I'm a consenting adult.

    If I want to put a drug into my body, it's my right. If I want to put a penis into me, it's my right. If I want to put my penis into something, it's my right.

    If I want my DNA changed, then it's my right. Anyone who says otherwise is a prohibitionist and a statist, just like people who support our government locking up consenting adults for other victimless acts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If I want to put my penis into something, it's my right.

      Depends on what you want to put it into—if it's another living being who doesn't/can't consent, that's not your right.

  • by Twinbee (767046) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:02PM (#31634968) Homepage

    When Qualia [wikipedia.org] is concerned, nothing is certain. It's reasonable to produce scientific measurements of this and that. But what colours (or saturation) they *map* to inside the brain is another matter. For example, some creatures are monochromats, which means they can probably only see one colour. But what that colour actually is, is anyone's guess.

    Apparently, some people have four colour cones instead of three. Do they see a new colour competely outside our range, or just have extra 'depth' to distinguish our current range more easily?

    • by eh2o (471262) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:17PM (#31635768)

      The answer is they have extra depth, actually extra spectral resolution.

      Color perception is a byproduct of the retina being stimulated with a particular spectral distribution of light. Its a spectral sampling, much like how the ear samples the spectral distribution of sound, but a totally different method and with much much lower resolution.

      We all see the same spectra, some people get more or less information than others. Mainly this manifests in differences in discrimination ability between colors as well as disagreement about what constitutes a "color match" between observers that are getting different information.

      Debating about what this maps to in the head is mostly an exercise in mental masturbation, the brain simply integrates available information in a statistically optimal fashion.

  • by CoffeeDog (1774202) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:03PM (#31634974)
    I can see how the topic of meddling with DNA to augment/fix people can be a slippery slope, but by itself the question of "is it morally wrong to cure colorblindness" seems to be the same as "is it morally wrong to cure short/far sightedness". We already normalize things like this and it's entirely by individual choice. You can choose to wear your glasses or not and now you'll be able to get your color vision corrected or not.
  • not wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

    by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:07PM (#31635018)
    It can't be wrong if we are fixing an inability to process particular wavelengths of light.There are definitely other things that we could do when we mess with bio-engineering /genetics etc that could raise moral and ethical issues . Now, using DNA to provide someone the ability to hear like a dog etc etc, that is more serious stuff ofcourse or maybe not. Maybe it is moral that if we have technology that can improve our senses, it is ok to improve it even if we humans were not gifted with it at birth. I dont believe Nature is perfect.
  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zadaz (950521) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:07PM (#31635022)

    No. It's not "normalization". Being able to differentiate between colors is incredibly valuable.

    Now if they were researching gene therapy to make swarthy folks more acceptably white we might have something to complain about.

    In a related note: If I could get gene therapy to let me see further into the UV and IR ranges I'd totally go for it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      Actually, the skin colour question is not entirely different. Having dark skin and living in Scotland increases your chances of suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Having light skin and living in (most of) Africa increases your chance of skin cancer. If people thought of skin colour in a rational way, rather than as some important part of their self identity, there would probably be a lot of customers for a treatment that let them toggle their melanin production. Unfortunately, there would probably be
  • Morally wrong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by J'raxis (248192) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:09PM (#31635054) Homepage

    How about you just let people invent the cure and then let them ask the individuals who are colorblind if they want to be cured or not? It's only "morally wrong" if you try to force someone to be "cured" from something they don't see as a disease.

    Let's ask another question: Is it morally wrong to deny someone a cure because in your own infinite arrogance you think it's "wrong" to give it to them?

  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:10PM (#31635066)

    Ahh... Another Dr. Pangloss who believes we live in the best of all possible worlds... We've been dealing with this sort of idiocy for quite some time now, at least since Voltaire satirized it in 1759

    http://www.shmoop.com/candide/dr-pangloss.html [shmoop.com]

    Dr. Pangloss and his philosophy are the principal focus of Voltaire’s satire. Dr. Pangloss, Candide’s tutor and mentor, teaches that in this best of all possible worlds, everything happens out of absolute necessity, and that everything happens for the best. This philosophy parodies the beliefs of Gottfried Leibniz, an Enlightenment era thinker who believed that the world was perfect and that all evil in it was simply a means to greater good.

    Every twist of the plot, every new natural disaster, disease, and incident of robbery or assault in Candide is intended to prove Pangloss’s Optimism utterly absurd and out of touch with reality. Pangloss’s personal sufferings alone are more than unusually extreme. In regard to his own misfortune, Pangloss responds that it is necessary to the greater good. The result is that the philosopher appears utterly blind to his own experiences as well as the horrors endured by his friends.

  • by Laebshade (643478) <laebshade@gmail.com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:10PM (#31635070)

    I say "fuck you" to your moral objection. Color blindness is a disability. It may not be anywhere near as serious as being handicapped, missing an appendage, or say, a whole eye, but it does cause problems nonetheless.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:16PM (#31635134)

    If I could get my colorblindness fixed/cured/eliminated and it's affordable, I'd do it. Seriously, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but there's stuff I simply don't see and I'm not even that color blind. The orange paint on grass used by contractors? Essentially invisible to me. Entire fields are closed to me due to colorblindness. Can't become an electrician due to color coding, for example.

    The whole "moral" aspect is by people who think that an amputee shouldn't want their legs back just to be "normal" (obviously, an extreme example).

    If I'm colorblind and that can be fixed, awesome.
    If I'm blind and that can be fixed, awesome.
    If I'm deaf and that can be fixed, awesome.
    If I'm paraplegic and that can be fixed, awesome.

    Seriously, how is this possibly a moral argument?!?

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:06PM (#31635660) Journal

      It's a moral argument because political correctness means that we aren't allowed to refer to people who perceive a subset of what everyone else perceives as defective, or by any terms that imply such a thing. We have to call them 'differently able' or some other such nonsense. It has become a core idea of our culture (somehow) that you shouldn't try to improve people, you should just accept them as they are.

      Our descendants, who can alter their skin pigmentation at will, see from 10nm to 1000nm, hear from 0.1Hz to 100kHz, and directly perceive magnetic fields will mock this idea to the extent that it deserves to be mocked.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think the issue that people are missing is not "would you want to be cured from X problem", rather it is the manner of the cure. This cure modifies your DNA, and our genetic identity is something that defines us. I see paralles to the concepts raised in "the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind". This specific case of colour blindness is not particulary controversial or worrying, but playing with DNA takes us down the GATACA path (enhanced DNA, class balance between those with access vs those without etc
  • silly question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slew (2918) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:25PM (#31635234)

    better link [hplusmagazine.com]

    Would curing a slow-growing cancer or rheumatoid arthritis morally wrong?
    How about giving someone a pair of glasses, or contacts or perhaps laser-eye surgery?
    How about restoring hearing to a deaf person (or simply the ability to hear about 20KHz again)?
    How about vaccinating against rubella or meningitis to prevent deafness?
    Or vaccinating people succeptible to polio or small pox?
    Well one could argue that many of these are approximatly the same level of intervention as curing color blindness.

    The article generally assert that if DNA is some magic new science to be wary of because someone else's "fix" can be another person's "enhancement" as if this is some sort of new issue. Sadly it is not. HGH is a recent example of something not-dna related. HGH is medically useful to accelerate the development of children that have development deficiencies and are used by some atheletes to gain an enhancement. Some people are taking ritalin and adderall to help with hyperactivity, but others to get better SAT scores. An older example might be taking antibiotics or steroids.

    DNA retro-technology isn't moral or immoral, it's just a new technology like many others that spun out of scientific research. The people who apply the technology are either moral or immoral (or amoral) about it. Sadly there are some of each type that apply any technological advance. I guess the question at least keeps bioethicist employed.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:12PM (#31635722) Homepage

    ...it is to even ask such a question.

  • I'll do it... but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by retech (1228598) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:45PM (#31636466)
    It's been the single most defining element to my life. Colorblindness shaped my world view from my early youth and has only served to reinforce that view. I'm colorblind. Typically Red Green and I've known since right around my 6th birthday. My grandfather and older brother were as well and when I started getting things wrong I experimented to see if I was or not. I'd pick crayons that had a basic title: Skyblue, Brick Red, Lemon Yellow and I'd find a selection of men and women (teachers, aunts, uncles), without the label, I'd ask them: What color is this crayon? I found if I asked 10 separate people I got 10 answers. If I asked 10 people in a group I got about 4-6 answers and an argument amongst them. One Christmas gathering I did this and it ended up turning into a huge family argument. Granted they're a bit dysfunctional. This taught me that we clearly live in our own shell of a world. Each of our perceptions are unique unto us. I find it a miracle that we've ever communicated or agreed on anything at all. Men already see 30% less of the spectrum than women, yet a colorblind man will insist (very often) that he's correct. I sincerely doubt that any two people have a 100% understanding or perception agreement on anything they experience together. If I were ever a juror and had to decide on a case that was based on eyewitness testimony I do not care how I felt, I'd dismiss it entirely. We are grossly flawed in thinking there is a universality to our understanding of our life. We live in bubbles only barely seeing into someone's bubble.

Dead? No excuse for laying off work.

Working...