Genetically Engineering ‘Ethical’ Babies Is a Moral Obligation, Says Oxford Professor

Richard Alleyne, Telegraph (London), August 16, 2012

Genetically screening our offspring to make them better people is just ‘responsible parenting’, claims an eminent Oxford academic.

Professor Julian Savulescu said that creating so-called designer babies could be considered a “moral obligation” as it makes them grow up into “ethically better children”.

The expert in practical ethics said that we should actively give parents the choice to screen out personality flaws in their children as it meant they were then less likely to “harm themselves and others”.

The academic, who is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics, made his comments in an article in the latest edition of Reader’s Digest.

He explained that we are now in the middle of a genetic revolution and that although screening, for all but a few conditions, remained illegal it should be welcomed.

He said that science is increasingly discovering that genes have a significant influence on personality—with certain genetic markers in embryo suggesting future characteristics.

By screening in and screening out certain genes in the embryos, it should be possible to influence how a child turns out.

In the end, he said that “rational design” would help lead to a better, more intelligent and less violent society in the future.

“Surely trying to ensure that your children have the best, or a good enough, opportunity for a great life is responsible parenting?” wrote Prof Savulescu, the Uehiro Professor in practical ethics.

“So where genetic selection aims to bring out a trait that clearly benefits an individual and society, we should allow parents the choice.

“To do otherwise is to consign those who come after us to the ball and chain of our squeamishness and irrationality.

“Indeed, when it comes to screening out personality flaws, such as potential alcoholism, psychopathy and disposition to violence, you could argue that people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children.

“They are, after all, less likely to harm themselves and others.”

“If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring—rather than consigning them to the natural lottery—then we should.”

He said that we already routinely screen embryos and foetuses for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome and couples can test embryos for inherited bowel and breast cancer genes.

Rational design is just a natural extension of this, he said.

He said that unlike the eugenics movements, which fell out of favour when it was adopted by the Nazis, the system would be voluntary and allow parents to choose the characteristics of their children.

“We’re routinely screening embryos and foetuses for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome, and there’s little public outcry,” he said.

“What’s more, few people protested at the decisions in the mid- 2000s to allow couples to test embryos for inherited bowel and breast cancer genes, and this pushes us a lot close to creating designer humans.”

“Whether we like it or not, the future of humanity is in our hands now. Rather than fearing genetics, we should embrace it. We can do better than chance.”

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  • dd

    The Nazi’s eugenics has come full circle for the left.  ha ha ha

    • The Worlds Scapegoat

       Projection is the pattern of behavior of the communist leftists. Just wait until they start rounding up whites and putting them into real gas chambers and not the imaginary ones during WWII.

      German tried to make whites better, now the left is trying to make everyone browner (dumber): Everyone except for the people in that little mental asylum in the south east corner of the Mediterranean. The Soviets supposedly tried to mate gorillas with humans in an effort to create a hominid more suitable for life under communist rule. I see they are still trying.

    • anarchyst

      Eugenics started here in the U S and was later adopted by Germany and Europeans . . .

  • Vil

    Brave New World… here it comes. And I am not a fan of it.

    • SarahConnor

      Yes, a slippery slope and then who gets to decide what is “ethical” or “unethical?” Also if some parent is told their baby has a “severe” problem and they as parents decide not to “fix” the child, who is to blame or who is held accountable if the child grows to harm society or is a detriment to society?

      If the “fixing” starts where does it ever end to make the “perfect” human?

  • Jupiter7

    Savalescu is a utilitarian philosopher. Utilitarians tend to say crazy things like this. Princeton Philosopher Peter Singer is another scewball utilitarian. Utilitarians don’t usually have a problem with infanticide either. Generally speaking, the problem with anayltical philiosophy is that the analytical philosophy arguments are almost completely bereft of social and cultural context. It is a style of argumentation that  reeks of an austic mindset. These are largely arid-dull arguments from strange characters who have spent way too  many years in school. It is graduate seminar nonsense. Does he really believe that war criminals such as Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton, Donald Rumsfeld, and Tony Blair would been identified as such while they were in the womb? In all likely hood, they would have passed the requisite genetic tests.

    • SLCain

      “Savalescu is a utilitarian philosopher. Utilitarians tend to say crazy
      things like this. Princeton Philosopher Peter Singer is another scewball
      utilitarian. Utilitarians don’t usually have a problem with infanticide
      either.”

      The term we use today is “utilitarian”.  There used to be a more direct term for such beliefs.

      Evil.

      And yes, Mr. Moderator, when I say “evil”, I do genuinely mean evil.  To simply do what is expedient is often wrong.   It is often also understandable.  That is human nature – unfortunate, but there it is.

      But to spend an entire life in studied contemplation of human nature and human society, and to then coldy and dispassionately create a philosophy that says: That which is expedient is also good and right…………….that IS evil.

  • refocus

    They are already shooting the babies with all sorts of vaccines that effect behavior. 

    What else can explain the milk toast white boys and screaming white girls and super aggressive blacks?

  • Enar_Larsson

    Oh good, we’ll finally be able to fulfill our moral duty to eradicate hate. It’s getting too darn time-consuming to identify all the right-wing racists and make it impossible for them to hold jobs and buy food. Now we can just abort the monsters and build our ethical utopia.

  • What he’s proposing is to breed out the fight in newborns; to create a passive breed of humans who have no natural instinct to sense trouble or defend themselves.

    • The Worlds Scapegoat

       So he is proposing making Americans: People who are so stupid that they can’t sense the danger that is surrounding them nor do they want to defend themselves. White-Americans have already surpassed his proposal. They will destroy anyone of their own kind who tries to warn them about trouble or defend themselves.

    • rightrightright

      Muslim babies are born in families where cousins have married each other for generations.  These babies carry within them and manifest mental and physical deformities way out of proportion to their numbers within the population at large.  Genetic screening in their case just wouldn’t leave much of the original baby.

  • IstvanIN

    Wouldn’t screening out all the stupid, violent, unethical fetuses eliminate a certain race?  Perhaps this isn’t such a terrible thing.

  • Genetically engineered more ethical babies means whites and asians.

  • Sloppo

    When I think of eugenics, I think of the Nazis.  Their methods were thoroughly rejected on moral grounds by our wise leaders.  After seeing all those movies about the evil Nazis, we came to realize just how evil it would be to make any attempt to improve the genetics of our population.  Because we knew eugenics was evil, we decided to take the high road and we’ve been practicing the opposite of eugenics for several decades.  Dysgenics.  We pay the least intelligent, least functional, and most criminally prone members of our society to have more children.  In addition, we suppress the reproductive rates of the productive people by making them pay for our massive breeding programs and forcing them to live with the people we pay to reproduce.  We’re creating a utopia.

    • jeffaral

      Well said!   Better Eugenics than Dysgenics!

    •  Lol.  I saw a movie once where Hitler drove a car, used indoor plumbing, and praised capitalism.  I swore off cars, indoor plumbing, and profit right then and there.

      On the other hand, those lovely little critters known as commies, the world’s biggest mass-murderers, believe in “anti-racism” and racial equality.  Ergo, so does everyone else.  Makes perfect sense!

  • WhiteGuyInJapan

     My thoughts as well.  Only smart people with some foresight and a bit money will  bother with “genetic counseling”.  Not knocking it per se, but only a small fraction of humanity will take the time to do such things.  And smart, careful people aren’t really the problem…

  • I support this position completely. If we can eradicate diseases with strong genetic links, like arthritis, that would raise the quality of  life for billions of people. 

  • rightrightright

    She says parents should be allowed to choose whether to follow this route.   Dangerous thin end of the wedge.  Get the idea of genetic tweaking established as the norm across society and then denigrate and demonise the notion of that choice in the matter (after all, these experts know better).  

    You then will have illicit, unregistered parents having their kids on the quiet in the attic with Mum stifling her birth yells so that the experts’ troopers don’t find out a child has been born as nature intended.

  • Red

    “In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”
    “All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”
    “Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.” There was a long silence.
    “I claim them all,” said the Savage at last.Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. “You’re welcome,” he said.
    –Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

  • Who decides what ethics? “In other news from the Birkenau medical cneter’…

  • refocus

    From reading all of the comments I am pretty sure that only one of the posters has any first hand experience with human invitro. 

    Guess what?

    Its a closed shop. 

    And none of you get to play.

  • anarchyst

    The early 20th century eugenics movement start right her in the good ol’ USA.  It was then adopted by Germany and other European countries.
    Let’s see–engineer “racism”, self-interest and cultural preference out of whites while engineering “racism” and self-interest INTO all other races.
    It seems that this is the situation that we have now.
    Humans are not crops that can be genetically engineered for increased yield or resistance to pests . . .

    • IstvanIN

       Oh, I wouldn’t say that.  We can breed cows, horses and dogs for particular traits, why not humans?  We are all mammals, you know.

      • anarchyst

        Thank you for your comment . . .
        The question I have is, who decides?? 
        Would you like to see all whites “deracinated”, devoid of all racial pride and identity while seeing “those of color” with an inordinately great sense of racial identity and pride??
        If those of the “tribe” get to decide which characteristics humanity will have (under a eugenics program), whites will definitely be “bred” out of existence.
        The uniquely white concepts of “natural rights”, limited government,  individual initiative and responsibility would definitely be bred out of us whites.  You see, these IDEAS are too powerful to be entrusted to the only group that has come up with them . . .
        Be careful what you wish for.

  • Empty talk. It begins with some successes & people get carried away. Screening for some diseases like Down syndrome are realistic, but most of the rest is science fantasy.

    There had been precedents in history. Bohr’s model of atom worked great for hydrogen, but flunked for all others; Schroedinger equation is good for all non-relativistic atoms (and not only atoms- nuclei, particles,..)- but you cannot solve it exactly because potentials are so complex.
    Technologically, controlled/cold fusion was thought to be within reach during 1950s. As yet- nothing.

    So, I think these genetics guys just got carried away. Sure, some progress is to be expected, and I believe it will have repercussions for some clearly genetic diseases.  Just, this stuff is inflated.

  • anarchyst

    The question I have is, who decides??
    Would you like to see all whites “deracinated”, devoid of all racial pride and identity while seeing “those of color” with an inordinately great sense of racial identity and pride??
    If those of the “tribe” get to decide which characteristics humanity will have (under a eugenics program), whites will definitely be “bred” out of existence.
    The uniquely white concepts of “natural rights”, limited government, individual initiative and responsibility would definitely be bred out of us whites. You see, these IDEAS are too powerful to be entrusted to the only group that has come up with them . . .
    Be careful what you wish for.

  • Give YOU a break? You clearly have not had to give up something you love to do because of arthritis. I had to cut my clarinet playing down to nearly-never, because of the searing pain throbbing through my hands and wrists. That makes this very real, and very personal for me.

    •  You haven’t read the article carefully enough, or haven’t thought the possible extreme implications. No one rational being is against elimination- if possible- of arthritis, MS, diabetes type 1 etc. It’s meddling into personality traits & psychological types, proposed in the text, that most people find repulsive.

      • Of course I’ve read the article, and I understand how people are freaking out about it. I also understand that this Oxford professor probably was under “publish or perish” pressure to say something that would get his and Oxford’s names in the news. 

      •  Who cares what most people find repulsive?  I find most people’s moral outlook repulsive.  Fed to them by their god Television.  Their opinions on eugenics are certainly no exception.

    •  If someone gave the the power to cure one but only one human physical aliment with the snap of my fingers, it would be arthritis.  Mainly because those who suffer it are in constant pain.  Arthritis sufferers don’t have good days, they have less bad days.  And when they have worse days, their pain turns even the kindest faintest soul into an insufferable hell on wheels.

      I was always taught that the things in life most worth having are the things that you don’t know you have until you no longer have them. We don’t know how good is the condition of not living in constant pain until we do.

  • potato78

    Why some “white” people are so obsessed with Nazi?  Nazi had lost its battle to Anglo-white in World War II.  Nazi is loser.  In this world, winner will write history.  So anglo-white has wrote and been writting history right now.  If Nazi won the World War II.  It’s no probelm that Nazi write history. 
    As to Jewish, they should never forget about Nazi’s crime to the Jews.  If they do, their IQ should be condemned. 

    However, “genetically engineering “ethical” babies is moral obligation.” is aboslutely right and especially to Americans. 

  • Shawn_thefemale

     Well said, I A,  and much food for thought. I, too, think the number of  irreparably brain-damaged monsters wandering our streets and filling our jails is grievously underestimated. Such violent, uncontrollable  behavior caused by frontal lobe absence would clearly stand out in normal, socially and morally conscious home settings, and thus bring about earlier removal from society in some fashion. However, the same behavior hardly stands out  in the wild, disconnected and aggressive chaos that passes for black ‘families’, and therefore, isn’t even noticed until the behavior is so outrageous for such a long time that their luck with law enforcement-or their life- finally runs out.

    That would lead one to wonder if it could be a cycle: much of blacks’ typical behavior, i.e., drug use, beatings, poor nutrition, etc., contribute to such brain defects; which creates more drug use, beatings, etc. In addition, a large number of those brain damaged monsters reproduce like rabbits as blacks do, and are very possibly passing on their same defect.

    Psychopath or sociopath: both need removed from society.

  • While I do think it would be beneficial to weed out genetic illnesses I, like the rest of you, have my reservations when they want to tinker with behaviors.  I just envision some do gooder fool trying to wipe out ethnocentrism because he/she doesn’t find that trait to be ethical.  I think some sensible things like voluntary sterilizations of the unfit and genetically defective would suffice.

  • Eugenics bad but euethics good?

    • potato78

      Not necessary.  Really depend on how you use them and technologies have reached that point to be utilized without much side effect.

  • Brits call for more peaceful society but bring in more violent blacks and encourage their women to mate with them.  Liberals denounce violence but promote rap music.  These liberal shits are so dumb.

    • potato78

      For example, one male black marry Britain-white female for one family.  Babies they produce: one looks white, three looks blacks.  If Brits try to remove the black phenotype, the society might have to let the one looks white, three look blacks to marry pure Brits-whites for 6 or 7 generations to remove the black phenotype.   So expensive!!!

  • AmRem

    slave babies 

  • Of course. I just don’t understand how people think that genetic makeup of, say, 5 months old fetus can be changed.

  • Since this is a theme on amren, I’d just point to absurdity in the article. You just can’t alter genetic structure of a fetus. It would be- diseases aside- equal to change of a race of a future human. Say, 2 Asian parents want a White child with freckles. And, off we go-on a 4 months old fetus some genetic modification is made to make her/him White baby.

    Of course, it’s impossible. I can’t even imagine how it would be executed.

  • refocus

    Ok Mr. Scott.

    Please explain the milk toast white boys and screaming white girls.

  • potato78

    “Genetically Engineering “Ethical” Babies Is a Moral Opbligation, Says Oxford Professor”  The topic is very good topic to discuss and needs money for exploration.  However, we do not have any money to discuss and explore anymore.

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/08/grover-norquist-george-h-w-bush-lied-to-the-american-people/

  • Michele

    If a couple has a choice about whether or not to get pre-implantation screening, and then has a choice about whether or not to proceed with the implantation or not, then I’m all for it. 

  •  Uhm, if you were picking a century to live in, which would you choose?  The more honest you are, the closer your choice comes to the present.

    You have the “big brains” to thank for that.

    It never ceases to amaze me, the ingratitude of people who’d be living in huts if left to their own devices.  Or rather, the extraordinary ability of some (many) people to ignore the positive and focus on the negative.

  • I know about screening, but:

    1. most diseases are too complex for that. In the case of cancer, “cancer” is actually a cover term for 100-200 diseases.

    2. we don’t know the threshold of activation. The presence of some gene constellation may indicate 90% possibility that an adult will develop some specific disease; in other cases, say, 50%. What then ?

    3. of course, human genome has been only partially deciphered. I don’t believe that “junk DNA” is just that- junk, superfluous. We don’t know 98% of human genome & still claim we know all the basic stuff.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noncoding_DNA

    4. it’s useless, especially since almost all pregnancies are “natural”. And if they want widespread screening of the fetus DNA to detect future sick humans- this is beyond even Mengele’s wildest expectations.

  • anarchyst

    Thank you for your comments . . . what you are defining used to be called “culture”.   Peer pressure to preserve the culture is what is needed today.
    Best regards,

  • How would I even know the difference? Since I wouldn’t know the difference, I don’t think I’d care.

  • GravitonX

    It seems quite obvious that couching any behavioral argument in genetics in bound to blow up in your face.

  • Africans back to Africa.. Mexicans back to Mexico.. Jews back to wherever they can get over on someone elses government..etc, PROBLEM SOLVED.  America will be White once again and will prosper beautifully. But with these illegals bringing in all the 3rd World diseases, Africans and everyone else draining our bleeding heart government, were going nowhere. Extinct maybe.