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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RE: All these arguments
8/21/2012 11:20:23 AM
Actually, the only argument that's needed is this: Character "flaws" are not simply encoded in DNA.
There is a very wide "character landscape", overall bounds to the parameters that your DNA sets (and certain genetic based illnesses will confine you to one section of that "character landscape" more than others), but what character you actually develop is determined by your upbringing, life experiences, personal choices, and what thoughts you choose to dwell on.
The brain is very plastic, it is never set in stone by genetics beyond its construction or debilitating genetic illnesses. The very thoughts you mull on day in and day out will cause your brain to change shape and connections to re-model themselves to re-enforce those thoughts and the directions they lead -- you can build your own personality.
Heck, we haven't even touched on epigenetics yet. That little inheritable, non DNA encoding of information that is determined by your environment. Just because you have a gene for something, doesn't mean it'll be active if your epigenetics decides to lower it, shut it off completely, or conversely enhance its expression.
Genes in DNA are simply our tool set we have stashed in the shed. Which tools you use, how often, at what times, and in an attempt to solve what problems is decided in a large part by your epigenetics. And since those change based on what we experience throughout our lives, they cannot be "engineered".
In short, this whole discussion is moot: 1) the brain's executive control ability nullifies trying to ingrain personality as it can override and build a new one, 2) epigenetics override genetics in response to environment and experience, allowing inheritable "nurture" that trumps "nature".
RE: All these arguments
8/21/2012 5:33:15 PM
What does environment have to do with genetic flaws that prevent you from having normal thought patterns, general reasoning skills, or more.
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