Is designing children right or wrong?

Most married couples face a decision to name their children. Meticulous details are invested to assure a unique name is chosen for both a boy and girl. In the near future, however, parents may be choosing more than just a name, but rather the perfect genetic codes for their child. It may sound a million years away, but in reality it is just around the corner. Professor Bonnie Steinbock, from the University of Albany, visited Castleton before break with a new outlook on genetic enhancement. Her message was to help people see the benefits of the procedure, but not to persuade one way or the other. She spent time on two common fallacies: genetic exceptionalism and fate decided by genes. It was apparent she has received many theological arguments because she lacked a spiritual outlook of the procedure, which happened to be what most of the audience members wanted to discuss.

The fallacies were explained in-depth. Genetic enhancement will not be able to determine a child’s natural ability because genes are half the equation. And a child’s environment is another determining factor. The atmosphere a child is raised in will impact the intellectual, spiritual, and athletic abilities most. Steinbock explained that there is no “magic gene” that can make a child smarter.

However, parents can prevent sex-oriented diseases by predetermining the gender of the baby through Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. She detailed the insurmountable amount of protection children could have from common genetic diseases, without harming the child’s autonomy.

It was apparent, however, that many biased minds look at the matter with tunnel vision. Steinbock explained that genetic modification will not be able to disrupt or change learning styles. The procedure can’t force talents on children, but depending on the gene, it may make them more receptive to certain interests like athletics, study, or musical. The gene change is not directly determining if a child will become a professional athlete or the next John Lennon. It still gives freedom to the child and is not, by any means, changing the authenticity of the child.

The only credible argument ridiculed was “social justice,” meaning that the procedure would be solely available to the wealthy thus making it more susceptible to government involvement. The government’s role would be to create common grounds so lower class citizens would have access too. It would be unfair for wealthy children to have more health advantages than the less privileged. Either way, it would allow for more government access in hospitals.

It truly was a privilege to have the debate projected in a philosophical manner. It gave everyone in the audience a chance to be open to distinctions among perspectives. The distinctions made it easier for a civilized discussion afterward, however, some of the questions were more pointed and argumentative.

But Steinbock answered them respectively and still maintained a philosophical attitude. The philosophy crew at Castleton is extremely happy to have been given insight on such an ethical concept. Genetic changes will be the talk of the next generation, so it is smart to be prepared now. However, an even more important idea is to be more open to the perspectives of others.

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