Oxford Professor: Parents Should Be Able to Alter Genes in Embryos for Character Flaws
August 20, 2012 10:08 PM
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(Source: Columbia Pictures )
Professor Julian Savulescu
The process would be similar to checking embryos for conditions like Down's syndrome
Imagine being able to design a human the way we use computer software to design every day items like clothing or furniture. University of Oxford Professor Julian Savulescu recently said that parents should have the choice to do such a thing, allowing them to create the kind of child they desire rather than leaving it to chance.
According to Savulescu, the
manipulation of genetics has evolved
over the years and has already proven to be beneficial to those who are expecting. For instance, parents can use tests, which focus on particular genes in embryos, to see if their child will have certain conditions like Down's syndrome.
While this type of testing is not seen as an issue, Savulescu said the testing of an embryo's genes to see what kind of personality flaws it could have has raised concern amongst the public -- and he believes it shouldn't.
"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 to select ethically better children," said Savulescu. "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."
Savulescu's ideas have been compared to those of the Nazis, who adopted the eugenics movements during World War II. However, Savulescu argues that this is different because parents can choose to participate or not. They don't have to genetically alter their children, but they should be able to choose to, he said.
"Whether we like it or not, the
future of humanity
is in our hands now," said Savulescu. "Rather than fearing genetics, we should embrace it. We can do better than chance."
Savulescu posed this argument in a recent article in
What do you think? Could eliminating potential character flaws in embryos create a perfect human race, or could there be serious, unseen implications with having so much power over this thing called life?
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8/21/2012 11:11:17 AM
I'm ASSUMING he meant removing the sociopathological or whatever "evil" traits Hitler had before he was born, not preventing him from actually BEING born. So he would've actually been born with a sense of empathy and a conscience. Who knows? If his positive traits were still intact, his ambition, his charisma etc, he possibly still could've led Germany out of the depression into greatness, without resorting to war and genocide.
8/21/2012 11:24:38 AM
Without major defects that could pre-dispose him to interpreting things in a certain bent (such as towards sociopathy, which could have still been countered if he had been guided to channel away from it) the man he became was from the life he lived and was raised in.
Want a simple experiment to see how this works? Lordy, just look up psychology in the first place. The prison experiments (highly unethical) where the student volunteer's personalities completely changed in response to the "prison" situation they were simulating. Or how about if a child is given little to no interaction and simply locked away, resulting in them becoming animalistic. None of that is encoded in DNA.
This whole discussion shows a complete blindness (forgetting they even exist!) to two whole major fields of science: the ancient field of psychology and the newer field of epigenetics.
8/22/2012 8:25:32 AM
Psychology is barely more than a century old. I'd hardly call that ancient.
As to locking kids away and watching them behaving like animals: you don't need to do that to see kids behaving like animals. Just give them several candy bars. Adults only need to consume quantities of alcohol or for a lot of money/gold to fight over.
That said, some people go through events in their childhood and become bad people. Others go through the same events and become good people. The question then is why one becomes bad and the other good. Perhaps that's what we are wondering about in terms of whether or not certain character traits can be taken out or put into a string of DNA.
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