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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?'"
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Could Colorblindness Cure Be Morally Wrong?

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  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:51PM (#31634866)

    "Would you like to be cured?"

    Problem solved.
     

  • Who knows? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MarkvW (1037596) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:52PM (#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!

  • by The Dancing Panda (1321121) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:55PM (#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 Thiez (1281866) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:56PM (#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.

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:57PM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:58PM (#31634940)

    I am color blind. It doesn't really cause me any problems other than a small number of awkward social situations where I can't observe something that is obvious to a room full of people. That and I can't see the numbers in the dot tests.

    But that actually sounds really freaky, a virus that can change my perception of colors. I've lived my whole life with color blindness and I have to wonder what it would be like to "cure" it suddenly. Who knows? Maybe I associate a given thing with a given color, and seeing it differently would be freaky or just not right, like waking up one morning to learn that ketchup is really green.

    If you came to me and said, I can give you something that'd cure your color blindness, I think I'd be inclined to say no. Life has been all right up to now without that "cure".

  • by epp_b (944299) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:59PM (#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 @09:00PM (#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.
  • by CoffeeDog (1774202) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:03PM (#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.
  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:04PM (#31634984) Homepage

    You are forgetting about all the accidents and injuries caused by people with colorblindness being less aware of warnings and other color-coded safety information. Society has to pick up the tab, and as such is within its rights to require every citizen to obtain full vision correction whether they like it or not!

    (Don't worry about the cost of the procedure; it will be covered by your government-mandated insurance purchase.)

  • by Velox_SwiftFox (57902) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:04PM (#31634986)

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

  • by khallow (566160) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:06PM (#31634998)

    Kind of like asking $sexual_preference people if they would like to be cured? Or perhaps asking $skin_colour people if they would like to be cured? Perhaps the "problem" is identifying colour blindness as a defect that needs a cure and trying to make all humans meet some baseline or be classified as defective.

    Asking someone if they want to do something is far, far different from making them do something. I get bombarded with advertisements all the time that tell me I have a problem: I'm too heavy, too light skinned, have teeth which aren't white enough, don't get enough exercise, have too many wrinkles, and have an inadequate penis and sex life. Do they then make me change my ways? No, they merely ask me to buy their products. I don't consider that immoral.

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:06PM (#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.

  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zadaz (950521) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:07PM (#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.

  • by SEWilco (27983) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:07PM (#31635024) Journal
    Why should the vast majority of women not be green?
  • Morally wrong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by J'raxis (248192) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:09PM (#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 Chaos Incarnate (772793) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:09PM (#31635058) Homepage

    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 TheNarrator (200498) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:10PM (#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 @09:10PM (#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 @09:16PM (#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?!?

  • Re:Stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KiloByte (825081) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:17PM (#31635162)

    While I despise being sue-happy, this is one of the cases where I really hope the child sues her parents when she grows up for intentionally crippling her.

  • by Eskarel (565631) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:19PM (#31635186)

    There's a little more gray area with deaf people. For better or worse, being deaf is part of what defines who they are and how they see and experience the world. It could be argued that changing the fact that they are deaf would change who they are as people, which can seem a little bit scary. Now personally I think that defining yourself by a disability is as mind bogglingly short sighted and stupid as defining someone else by their disability which is a form of prejudice, but people none the less do it.

    OTOH none of the people I know who are colour blind seem to define themselves that way. They don't seem to split the world into people like them and people like me, at least not on the colour blindness axis, so there's probably little risk of large personality shifts.

  • silly question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slew (2918) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:25PM (#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.

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

    by Snarfangel (203258) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:27PM (#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.

  • by Lloyd_Bryant (73136) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:42PM (#31635398)

    Seriously, there are those who consider a lot of what are generally considered defects/handicaps/etc "communities" that should be preserved. Deafness, for instance, autism as another. I think it's asinine but it's on-point to the question.

    Don't let the "community" crap fool you - it's mainly politics. The larger a special interest group is, the more political influence it can assert. The more influence it can assert, the more goodies it can divert to its members.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:46PM (#31635432) Journal
    I remember reading that story and being shocked at how narrow minded the parents were. Why would you wish your children to experience a more limited fraction of the universe than they need to? If I had children and a doctor told me that they could have the ability to sense magnetic fields or see ultraviolet then I'd be very happy for them to have that opportunity. I wouldn't say 'no, please cripple their senses to the same degree that mine are crippled so that they can relate to me better' and doing so sounds like it comes very close to child abuse.
  • by aussie_a (778472) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:47PM (#31635440) Journal

    Here's a question: Is it morally wrong to beat your kids ears (careful not to do any brain damage in the process) so they become deaf? Then why is it okay to deny them treatment that will cure them of deafness?

    Of course, no-one wants the government forcing people to place cochlear implants into their children's ears. But as a society we can encourage parents to do it. Just as we encourage parents not to raise their kids as raging-racists.

  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:57PM (#31635554) Journal
    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 lots of people talking about 'betraying your heritage' or some other such nonsense.
  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:57PM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:57PM (#31635568)

    The comparison to cosmetic surgery is apt, I think. The question is whether humanity, in its western industrial variety, has forsaken actual genetic success for the appearance of successful genes. Cosmetic surgery allows people who should be less successful reproductively to fake their way in. Are we going down the same road when it comes to "curing" essentially cosmetic genetic problems?

    More importantly, if we permanently alter the genetic makeup of these individuals, are we irrevocably sacrificing our species' genetic resilience in favor of quick answers to avoiding the inherent differences we all posess? Who's to say that color-blindness is counter-successful genetically? Until we understand the repurcussions of genetically "curing" people who have marginal differences from the norm, maybe we should hold off on screwing around with the instruction code for life. When you have a truly debilitating illness, sure. But for something as petty as color-blindness, let's take a step back and maybe see what happens when we screw around in the truly necessary cases before adopting the nuclear cure for firecracker issues.

  • by ardent99 (1087547) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:02PM (#31635614)

    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. They grow up with that perceptual weakness being normal for them. If their eyesight were suddenly "fixed" to normal sensitivity, they might experience unbearable brightness, to the point of pain, similar to a normal person looking into the sun. Imagine someone who grew up deaf to high-pitched sounds suddenly hearing them; maybe they would suddenly experience a cacophony of noise around them in everyday life that is so annoying and distracting that they have a hard time coping? So similarly, if someone who grew up colorblind is suddenly able to see a new color, but their brain has not developed to handle it, might they not be able to cope with the new stimulation in a normal way?

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:06PM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:06PM (#31635666)

    I'm actually curious how much these "sicknesses" play a role in our future evolution. I'm no geneticist but I'm guessing that alot of these genetic transformations are mutations of some sort or another. If this is the case could these mutations eventually change into something else? I mean when the dinosaurs arms started getting smaller and smaller, eventually evolving into wings, etc. do you think somewhere, it might have appeared strange or different? What about skin color, hair color, etc.? Do you think that variations appeared strange at first, or even consider some defect or disease? Could color-blindness or even blindness be some mutations that may after thousands of years lead to some variations in the species? If so, what do you feel could be some of the issues with DNA modifications - could it potentially effect our future evolution?

    Just some questions and thoughts.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:09PM (#31635684)

    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 John Hasler (414242) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:12PM (#31635722) Homepage

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

  • by Dr Damage I (692789) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:17PM (#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 Mike Buddha (10734) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:18PM (#31635778)

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

    What if they find a gene that makes it so people won't post hypothetical situations on web sites that are for the sole purpose of being controversial, and that aren't really relevant to the conversation at hand, and cure those?

    "Would you like to stay relevant, like everyone else?"

  • by Geof (153857) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:20PM (#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.

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

    by IckySplat (218140) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:26PM (#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!

  • by Puff_Of_Hot_Air (995689) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:32PM (#31635886)
    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). It raises ethical questions that need to be discussed. As a side note, my wife is colour blind (extremely rare for women), but she tells me she would not get the cure. She thinks of her colour blindness as part of her identity.
  • Re:Who knows? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:47PM (#31636006)

    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 ;-)

  • by George_Ou (849225) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:47PM (#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 genner (694963) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:55PM (#31636082)

    Actually, that brings up a good point. If you are talking about end users, I believe it becomes silly to ask if it's moral or not. To each their own and all. But what if you are talking about the parents of said 'end user' making that choice?

    The other option is to let the state dictate the parental decisions instead. Both systems would be abused but I believe the parents are less likely to screw things up.

  • Re:silly question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by webdog314 (960286) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:02PM (#31636142)
    Perhaps, but I'd bet none of them is a musician for a living. As an artist, I can tell you flat out, I would LOVE to be able to see a full palette.
  • by fragMasterFlash (989911) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:15PM (#31636250)
    Some would argue that we have that already in the USA, hence the rich conservatives blocking health care reform to maintain their superiority.
  • Price reduction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nten (709128) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:19PM (#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.

  • by Geof (153857) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:21PM (#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.

  • by Geof (153857) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:32PM (#31636402) Homepage

    No, at some point "fixing things" turns into "not fixing things", and that's pretty easy to differentiate. "Fixing things" is, by default, "improving things", at least for those who suffer from being broken.

    I don't agree that it is easy to differentiate. In some cases perhaps. But in most there is no objective standard for what is "normal." Our idea of normal is cultural, and some people draw the lines in very different places (there is extensive scholarship on this point). Genetics are not normative: evolution makes no value judgments about which characteristics are good and which are bad. Some turn out to be more successful in a given context, but that doesn't make them "good" in a human sense.

    I recall a news report that claimed introversion was a disorder that afflicted 25% of the population. Well, maybe in America. In China, if anything it would be extroversion that was considered abnormal.

  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:41PM (#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 Sefi915 (580027) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:49PM (#31636488)

    I'm not grayscale colorblind. But I have trouble, at times, depending on context, differentiating between blue-green, blue-purple, green-brown, brown-red, red-green, purple-gray, gray-green... I'm sure you get the picture.

    I'd love to be able to tell when my cellphone or DS Lite needs charging just by the light of the power indicator.
    I'd love to be able to tell my girlfriend that the red of her blouse goes great with the highlights in her hair.
    I wish I could see those Magic Image thingies.
    I hate picking out "the wrong shirt" on St. Patty's Day.

    I can't tell resistor colors apart - I had to get help in that class in school.
    I had to tell a Navy Sub recruiter that I am colorblind. He stopped calling.
    I can't play a lot of video games because of color problems. Metroid Prime, Devil May Cry. Had issues in certain zones in Everquest; still have issues in certain zones in World of Warcraft.

    It would make my life easier.

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

    by George_Ou (849225) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:49PM (#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 gorehog (534288) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @12:32AM (#31636790)

    Either let me cure my colorblindness or EVERYONE has to stop using red/green LEDS for status lights.

  • by Thiez (1281866) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @12:41AM (#31636844)

    > I get a LOT more sex, now that I'm out, than I did when I was a closet case and trying to be straight.

    And this couldn't have anything to do with your motivation? Might it be that you didn't try to have sex with quite as much enthousiasm as you do now?

  • by RightwingNutjob (1302813) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @12:46AM (#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 drolli (522659) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @12:47AM (#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 martin-boundary (547041) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @12:49AM (#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 edisrafeht (1199347) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @01:04AM (#31637022)
    You seems to be biased toward utilitarianism. Let some people suffer so that they can become great scientists? You're making a lot of optimistic assumptions here.
  • by thrawn_aj (1073100) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @01:06AM (#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 r00t (33219) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @01:56AM (#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.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @02:02AM (#31637278)

    But that's not really the point. Being color-sighted isn't better in every scenario, thus there will always be a beneficial situation for colorblind folk.

    Being color-sighted is better in approximately every scenario.

    Just because you have 1 scenario where a color blind person had better job performance, does not mean there is a class of scenarios where it's better to be color blind.

    It's definitely a leap in logic to suggest there will always be a beneficial situation for colorblind folk.

    Inadequate justification that not everyone needs to be color-sighted.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:44AM (#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 Councilor Hart (673770) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:51AM (#31637596)
    I am colorblind and it is a serious handicap.

    Before the euro, my country had two bank notes of similar color. I couldn't tell one from the other by color. One of 10 times the value of the other. On a few occasions, I received more change than expected.

    I can't open an atlas and use it like you normally would. On every high school exam, the teacher had to help.

    I am also a physicist and I couldn't do the spectra analysis practicum during my first year of study. I am likewise limited in the amount of colors I can use to graph data. Some data are multicolored 2D contour plots. Either I have to ask someone what the values are or make educated guesses or apply other time consuming tricks.

    On the traffic lights, red is up, green is bottom. I hope they never change it/make it random or my life will be cut short.

    It limits my options in life. I can never be a chemist for example.

    I also feel I am missing out on some of the beauty in the world.

    And so on and so on.

    If someone loses a leg in an accident, do you deny him a wheel chair or prosthetic limb? Do you deny someone glasses as their eyesight deteriorates with old age? What about someone who is born deaf? Do you do deny that person the hearing aid implant?

    I am colorblind and I want a cure, damnit !!!!
  • the real issue... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hitmark (640295) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:52AM (#31637598) Journal

    comes when this goes beyond fixing "issues", and starts improving on aspects of the human body.

  • by slim (1652) <{john} {at} {hartnup.net}> on Saturday March 27, 2010 @04:06AM (#31637648) Homepage

    How is the parent post not relevant? He is talking about a condition that some actually view as a disease, others view as a lifestyle choice, and still others view as just the way some people are.

    If we can find someone who considers colour blindness to be a lifestyle choice, we're on our way to relevancy.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @04:29AM (#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...
  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jabuzz (182671) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @04:30AM (#31637748) Homepage

    Indeed, that is fine. On the other side if a cure for deafness becomes available as a British tax payer who has to subsidize deaf children and adults through a range of help and other things given to them, I would consider it completely fair for these benefits to be removed should the cure be removed. So in this particular case should Molly's parents refuse the cure for themselves and Molly then they will have tens of thousands of pounds of annual assistance removed.

    Morally there is no reason whatsoever for me to pay to provide assistance for a condition that can be cured.

  • by thrawn_aj (1073100) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @04:56AM (#31637820)
    That's very inspiring, but don't you see? - that's just the point. For every affliction recognized by the AMA, there is always SOMEONE who stared his affliction down and through sheer perseverance and determination, rose to heights he would never reached if he'd been born "normal".

    I applaud your courage and your attitude but what about the ones who didn't make it? For every success story like yours, how many fell by the wayside because they didn't have what it took to make it in this cruel world under the burden of their handicap? Or who simply had one too many problems to get out from under them? Shall we just tell them as they reach the end of their endurance and give up because it's just too painful that well, there was something that could have helped them by curing some or all of their problems but that society had deemed it immoral to take away the thing that made them special?

    How about the ones who simply didn't care to have their affliction be the defining feature of their lives and who have even greater aspirations for themselves? At the risk of offending you (I assure you that that is not my intention), I can't help but sense a bit of "well, I could do it - so can everyone else". Fair enough, but what if they don't have to? Would it be moral for me to wish an affliction on another human being simply because that may make him a better, stronger human being? There are challenges aplenty in this messed up world! Why would I wish for anyone to have more of them than absolutely necessary? It's not a videogame that one should wantonly jack up the difficulty level just for the added challenge.

    And more to the point, can't you extrapolate from ADD (as in your case) to EVERY SINGLE HEALTH PROBLEM EVERY SEEN and say that curing that problem was morally wrong because it disrespected the courage and inspirational fortitude that their lives might have displayed? What if I held out the example of Roosevelt as an inspiring example of how a man could have polio and still be one of the greatest presidents the free world has ever seen (which would be fine) but further went on to say that eradicating polio might have been the wrong thing to do because the disease might have brought out the best in some people. Clearly, the polio example is ridiculous ... right? What about AIDS or cancer? Or (more on topic) blindness? Is restoring sight to the blind equally immoral?

    At some point I can't help but feel that people are making a virtue out of necessity and holding on to it even when it becomes optional because it has now been converted into a virtue.

    Mind you, all of what I said only makes sense if the alleged cure is actually reasonably safe and WORKS. Given a choice between a completely uncertain cure and a reasonably certain but uncomfortable life, I would probably want to choose the latter. I can't imagine the kind of dilemma a parent would face if asked to choose between such bleak options but the choices are not always so stark.

    I can only say in conclusion that if mankind was "meant" to always play the hand that was dealt (if that even means anything), we would still be living in caves and cowering in the dark. Science (especially medical science) is humanity looking "Fate" in her disgusting, passionless eyes and telling her ever so politely to go F*** herself.
  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @05:10AM (#31637872) Journal

    Short-sightedness can also be viewed as unique perspective on reality. After all, you can see at close distances where other people can't. Yet AFAIK no one has ever had any moral problems with correcting it.

  • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @06:00AM (#31638034)

    You seem to be assuming that the superior people will continue to believe that capitalism is the bee's knees and that genetic enhancement should cost a lot. What if instead they rejected capitalism and created a utopian society and extended genetic enhancement to anyone who wanted it?

    Or what if they embrace capitalism, start selling enchantments cheaply enough that the masses can afford them - you know, like powerful personal computers are sold these days - and perhaps even offer to pay for enhancing their own workers for the productivity boost?

    Capitalism has a lot of downsides, but keeping things that are cheap to produce out of the hands of the masses isn't amongst them.

  • by cvd6262 (180823) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @09:47AM (#31639078)

    Great point.

    The obvious parallel here is hearing impairment. The deaf community does not consider themselves to be disabled (though that confuses me when a deaf individual sues for accommodation under ADA). When cochlear implants became possible in the 80's, deaf protests were held outside Senate hearings on whether to cover them with Medicare.

  • by Coppit (2441) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:29AM (#31639286) Homepage

    A few thoughts...

    First, I'm colorblind. I'd say it impacts me maybe 1% of my life. Graphs at work must use primary colors. Earlier in life I had the damnedest time with resistor markings. Even now when I crimp CAT5 cable I have someone double-check the colors. For a lot of colorblind people, they can detect the colors, it's just really hard and they have to stare and concentrate. Of course total colorblindness (no color at all) is a different, more rarer condition.

    What I wanted to point out though is that earlier in the thread someone got chastised for asking what people would think about a "cure" for gayness if it turned out to be due to a genetic difference. The reason that's a good question is that, unlike colorblindness, it brings into the picture concepts of self-identity and culture. AFAIK no one identifies strongly as being colorblind, or considers themselves part of the "colorblind community".

    We ran into this exact problem with my son, who has the Connexin 26 mutation, making him profoundly deaf. We were faced with a choice regarding the "cure" of cochlear implants. The deaf community is strongly against them, in large part because they see the coming demise of sign language and their culture (IMHO). They would go so far as to use disingenuous arguments like "let the child decide when they are 18"--way after the period of language acquisition. In the end we decided that being deaf wasn't "normal" despite what the deaf community said. Was that elitism or practicality? Being deaf has a much bigger impact on one's life than being colorblind.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 27, 2010 @11:00AM (#31639524)

    What he's really saying is he cannot afford to have his vision fixed so you should not be allowed to because it's not 'fair'.

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang

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