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Genetically modified babies

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I was just wondering what people though about the practice of genetically modifying babies.

If you got your unborn baby screened and found that it had a gene consistent with alcoholism would you want to change it?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9480372/Genetically-engineering-ethical-babies-is-a-moral-obligation-says-Oxford-professor.html

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I was just wondering what people though about the practice of genetically modifying babies.

If you got your unborn baby screened and found that it had a gene consistent with alcoholism would you want to change it?

http://www.telegraph...-professor.html

Absolutely not! On one hand, because selectively breeding plants for industrial scale agriculture has led to the loss of genitic diversity, and close to the point where one disease could wipe out all of certain types of crops. We are having to broaden the genetic base of certain crop species using wild types to prevent this, I see no point in selectively breeding humans and wiping out certain genes, especially because they could have a second, hidden use, like if people genetically predisposed to alcoholism were also very creative or something. And secondly I do feel that this is playing God, it takes all sorts to make a world, and I'd be opposed on religious grounds.

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I was just wondering what people though about the practice of genetically modifying babies.

If you got your unborn baby screened and found that it had a gene consistent with alcoholism would you want to change it?

http://www.telegraph...-professor.html

When you say, "change it", you mean, "abort that baby and have another one that's 'perfect'". That's what the article is talking about: screening embryos so you can kill any that are imperfect. That's murder. I'm not going to murder my baby because they might be an alcoholic.

If, on the other hand, we're talking about modifying the DNA of a newborn baby or child, that's a different matter. If it's a serious, debilitating health condition, and you can give them (for example) an injection to fix the faulty DNA, then providing there's no health risk to the baby or any children they'd go on to have, then it'd be okay.

But that would only be ethical if you were treating an actual health problem, something that would lower their life expectancy dramatically, for example. It's not enough to say, "That baby has brown hair, and I'd rather it was blonde", or, "That child has a slightly lower IQ than average, so let's make them a genius", or "I'd really like my son to have a lot of physical strength, so let's change his DNA so he'll have greater muscle mass".

xxx

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This is messing with Gods work, I do not support it nor do I agree with it. It's one thing if the baby has an illness that would mean a short and or painful life for them, but silly things like personality and habits are just ridiculous. I especially dislike the part that said "whether we like it or not it's in our hands now" (or something like that) what exactly did they mean by that? Nothing is in our hands, God is responsible for life, and these people sound like they believe science is the answer for everything. Sorry if I sounded rude or something, I was only stating my opinion. Interesting article :)

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this is literally the kind of work i will be directly involving myself with in the future as a geneticist and it pAINS me to see people saying it is "playing god." if using technology to reduce/eliminate the risks for disease and defect is playing god, i want you to all stop visiting hospitals. no more surgery and no more medication, under that principle. we would have to accept our circumstance as something beyond our power.

 

no, i think as a developed and highly evolved species we should seek methods to improve our circumstance. our brains and our spirits would be strange gifts then, if we didn't put them to use.
 

and i don't know why abortion became a part of this discussion -- that is a whole other issue. this sort of practice does not affect post-embryonic humans; genetic modification to this extent would have to occur through direct manipulation of the gametes. most likely, they would use a slightly altered version of somatic cell nuclear transfer (which is used in cloning), by taking a base somatic cell, genetically altering it, stuffing it in an unused egg, and hoping it will divide normally, basically. it's not that successful though, and a lot of the eggs don't take. hopefully research can lead us to a better method or some unseen solution. but yes, the change the recipe; they don't hack up the cake.
 

also, "the perfect race" argument? do you really think if given this option, every couple is going to even seize it? and as for the ones that do -- you think they will all choose the same set of characteristics for their child? why would you think that? genetic diversity would not suffer, for as long as our ideals and preferences remain diverse.

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and i don't know why abortion became a part of this discussion -- that is a whole other issue. this sort of practice does not affect post-embryonic humans; genetic modification to this extent would have to occur through direct manipulation of the gametes. most likely, they would use a slightly altered version of somatic cell nuclear transfer (which is used in cloning), by taking a base somatic cell, genetically altering it, stuffing it in an unused egg, and hoping it will divide normally, basically. it's not that successful though, and a lot of the eggs don't take. hopefully research can lead us to a better method or some unseen solution. but yes, the change the recipe; they don't hack up the cake.

 

Abortion became part of this discussion because that's what the article is talking about. As I said, it's not about curing diseases; the article is discussing screening human embryos so that unhealthy ones can be "discarded".

 

this is literally the kind of work i will be directly involving myself with in the future as a geneticist and it pAINS me to see people saying it is "playing god." if using technology to reduce/eliminate the risks for disease and defect is playing god, i want you to all stop visiting hospitals. no more surgery and no more medication, under that principle. we would have to accept our circumstance as something beyond our power.

 

There's a big difference between using technology to cure diseases and embryonic screening. Surgery and medication is curing disease and defects to make people healthy. Embryonic screening is killing people if they have a disease or defect, not curing the defect itself. That's why it can't be done.

 

Now, you pointed out that there might be other ways to "fix" genes besides embryonic screening. As I said, that's not what the article in question was referring to. The method you mentioned, which involves genetic alteration of the egg and sperm cells before conception, is not something I can support either. I believe in respecting God's design for the creation of human life. Catholics believe that sex and procreation are meant to work together and should not be separated. Contraception is wrong because it takes procreation from sex, and likewise, it's wrong to take sex from procreation. Any kind of reproductive technology - or any act that deprives a child from being conceived via an act of marital intercourse - is contrary to God's plan, and doesn't respect the dignity of the child. As a survivor of IVF myself, I can personally vouch for this.

 

also, "the perfect race" argument? do you really think if given this option, every couple is going to even seize it? and as for the ones that do -- you think they will all choose the same set of characteristics for their child? why would you think that? genetic diversity would not suffer, for as long as our ideals and preferences remain diverse.

 

That's probably true. But I think it'd be a sad world where anyone with a disability is seen as being "less than perfect". We already have tests that can determine whether an unborn child has a disability or medical condition, and our society encourages the abortion of babies who test positive for such conditions. In many countries, including the UK and USA, about 90% of babies who test positive for Down's Syndrome are aborted.

 

We'll probably never be able to eliminate all disease and disability. But even if we are able to some day, we first have to change our society into one that treats those with these conditions as equals. If we can cure people, then we should, but we have to remember that no one is less "perfect" because of their condition. We shouldn't look down on or pity those who are different. We should treat them as we treat any other person, for we are all made in the image and likeness of God. Every one of us has flaws, but we all have value in God's eyes.

 

xxx

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It sounds like another Eugenics movement but this time under the guise of science instead of prejudice/racism. The way history repeats itself is eerie... 

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alright, to be honest i didn't really bother with the article, so please see my argument as seperate. i didn't mean to address embryonic screening -- just wanted to explain the most likely method scientists would be going into as far as genetically modifying babies go. as far not wanting to alter the gametes...i'm sorry, i can never agree with you on that. i refuse to believe some individuals' religious beliefs are enough to justify the perpetuation of human suffering. even still, it's not something that will ever be forced upon everyone. you have the right to procreate as you wish, as i have the right to do it as i wish.

 

and no, disabled people are not less than perfect. their situation is simply not ideal... why not save them from it? i'm sure most would tell you that if their handicap could be taken away, they would be glad for it. there's just no good reason to condemn future generations to cancer and mental illness and disfigurement rather than helping them. not one.

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It sounds like another Eugenics movement but this time under the guise of science instead of prejudice/racism. The way history repeats itself is eerie... 

or perhaps, there is no conspiracy. perhaps these scientists genuinely care about humanity and wish to put all their life into improving it through rational and non-violent methods.

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If modifying it could keep them from having a debilatating condition that could be easily fixed by changing something, then I agree with it. But I don't agree with the killing of the embryo just because its not 100% perfect.

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or perhaps, there is no conspiracy. perhaps these scientists genuinely care about humanity and wish to put all their life into improving it through rational and non-violent methods.

The same thing was said for the Eugenics movement. No one thought it was bad in the past and those who said it was bad were also labeled as conspirators. I'm sorry but you don't have history on your side at the moment. Personally I am very interested in genetics but mostly to find possible biomarkers for diseases but this is where I draw the line. I understand that you don't care about a person's religious preferences but if a parent comes in and does not want their children genetically modified then that is their decision. You condemning a person for their religious beliefs is not going to make them change their minds and instead it will only make them believe more. But from what I can tell from your posts you don't care a person's religious obligations and thus you do not understand many of the commentators on here. No one is trying to attack you (I definitely wasn't) so let me have my comment and my religious beliefs in peace because they are not hurting you one bit. You said your viewpoints it is already posted on the forum and honestly that is all you can do because I'm not changing my mind because of your viewpoint of the subject. We are just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

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even still, it's not something that will ever be forced upon everyone. you have the right to procreate as you wish, as i have the right to do it as i wish.

 

obviously i respect the freedom to choose; i am not trying to force everyone along my path.

 

and so i have every right to argue my viewpoint. sure, you can choose to ignore it, too. but i had to say something -- "it's playing God" has got to be the worse excuse i've seen and i see it all the time when this comes up. we have been given the brainpower to make and use special tools to improve our condition, and no one would condemn the use of other medical practices like they do this one. i have even explained that the method of genetically altering babies to save them from inevitable defects does not involve killing any of them, but changing the gametes. but even that was rejected, and i don't know why. i don't know why anyone would choose the possibility to have their children endure extensive radiation and drug therapy to treat cancer, when instead we can make it so the cancer does not happen. how is that the better way?

 

also, is there any bible quote that would even address this? does it ever say that humans should not try to combat the plagues that they suffer, but rather submit to them?

 

and i'm not discussing the historical aspect, or what people's feelings about it were then. the concept of eugenics was to sterilize groups that were thought to be genetically inferior... and in extreme cases, such as the holocaust, to exterminate them. THAT is nothing at all like what scientists wish to do today. they wish to kill or sterilize no one -- only to provide technology that can improve the circumstance of all people who would accept it.

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And I've been so good recently... *Sighs*

Alright let's get this started. "Playing God" is one of the flimsiest excuses I've ever heard. To play at being god would mean you have taken over every aspect, every facet of life. From creation to destruction. We certainly seem to have taken over every aspect of destruction, however in terms of creation we are still novices. If the Gods truly did not want us to tamper with their work they would not have allowed us to do so.

Jegsy: There is no dignity in a child. A child is all selfish squalling for what they need, be it food, a change or a hug. I know of your hangups with IVF from that old thread. And I still deny that it's a cold and undignified way to come into the world. Do you mourn your period? Does a man mourn the sperm he shoots off into a tissue? There are plenty of cold marriages that produce children, a child who is forced to stand alone for the bus on their first day of school, who never has their parents come to school or football games (Soccer for you North Americans). That is a cold and undignified way to enter the world. Entering in a petri dish to a warm and loving family who want nothing more than to love you is not.

loyalhero: Eugenics was a good idea, put into practice in terrible ways. Just as self defence is a good idea. And yet we don't equip our children with rocket launchers. At its heart eugenics was the idea that inbreeding and other destructive breeding habits should be avoided. It was the work of a few shortsighted men who decided that they had the right to force others to follow their (warped) versions of this good advice.

I can't see where noelle attacked your religion, she simply stated her views as you did yours. It's funny how often we have to agree to disagree with you.


Here's a parting quote for you all: "With engines of destruction, we have killed our gods."

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Does the process discussed in the article really involve abortion? I'm genuinely curious. "By screening in and screening out certain genes in the embryos" makes it seem not, while "...people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children" makes it seem possible.

 

I have to disagree as well with the knee-jerk "playing God" reaction. I doubt God would look down in disappointment and exclaim, "C'mon, I meant for that baby to be born missing limbs and blind (extreme example) or with a predisposition to addiction (less extreme example). I don't know much about the science behind all this, and neither am I an expert on morals and ethics, but it seems ridiculous to immediately jump to the conclusion that if we embrace this science as a society that we'll usher in a 1984 style way of life, or that a "superior race" within humanity will be the ultimate goal. I'm all for improving the human race as a whole though (there's certainly plenty of room for it), and this seems like a potential vehicle for some of that improvement.

 

Not everyone believes in God, and many of those who do don't believe he individually designs every detail and trait of a person. It seems like completely avoiding the abilities this technology could offer would be assuming that how a person is born, without any interference with anything about them, is how they were "meant to be" or something. Not everyone believes that.

 

@Jegsy- I agree that babies found to have some disability should not be aborted (well I'm against abortion at all), but I don't think they're aborted because they're seen as inferior or "less than perfect." I think people just don't want to have a baby that they know is going to experience a lot of excess suffering. If there is any way to cure disabilities and diseases in the embryo (which I assumed that was what this thread and the article were about due to the words "modified" and "engineering") then I don't see any reason against it. If I were disabled in some way and found out my parents could have fixed the problem before I was even born, but didn't because of religious or moral reasons, I'd have a hard time forgiving them, honestly. 

 

Again, I'm assuming this thread and the article are about altering our babies before they're born to improve their life and their usefulness to society, and not about killing those babies deemed unfit.

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Not everyone believes in God, and many of those who do don't believe he individually designs every detail and trait of a person. 

 

 

I believe this. I believe all things are ultimately the will of God... and yet free-will isn't compromised. But ultimately this is absolutely irrelevant. Even if God individually designs every detail and trait of a person this doesn't mean God wants us to sit around and not improve that individual's quality of life.

 

I believe God created disease (how could He not... unless you believe that something comes into existence without God's creating it which sounds like polytheism to me). But just because God creates things like disease doesn't mean He doesn't want humanity to work to cure the disease. The two are not in opposition even remotely.

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This is a long thread and I didn't quite read everything. But I will say this, I'm against engineering an 'alcoholic gene' or something like that. The only time I'd be OK with engineering is if it prevents the baby from having some kind of debilitating disease or condition (And that's assuming that everything else about the child will function normally after you do this).

 

If the child to be born has an alcoholic gene, then the parent's can do their job and teach the child early on about the situation: No need to engineer something like this. That just doesn't make sense to me. That's going too far. And, yes, as with everything else: You can go too far with things like this.

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Also.... if the parents had the opportunity to save their baby from untold suffering as a result of a serious disease or disability and opted not to, I'd liken them to Christian scientists who choose not to use medicine when the child's life is in danger: Totally irresponsible and immoral.

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I took a human genetics course right before I graduated and I actually presented a paper that dealt with embryonic genomes. As of now they can determine the baby's genotype by taking a sample of the mothers blood when she is a few months into the pregancy because some of the fetal blood makes its way into her blood. At this point this tool is projected to be useful for predicting what diseases a baby may have so that a plan can be made prior to birth to prevent death or a progression of problems that could be prevented by simply monitoring what the child eats (such as phenylketonuria). The science just isn't advanced enough to be able to predict whether a baby will grow up to be an alcoholic or an addict based on what genes he/she has. My professor had his genome sequenced by 23andMe, and it said he had a high likelihood of becoming a heroin addict, but he's never touched drugs in his life. lol. It is possible to determine some of the protective variants of a gene as well as disease promoting variants, but less than 10% of the genetic basis for most diseases has been discovered so far. Pretty much no genetic basis has been found for problems such as depression and bipolar disorder. For example, I could have 2 genetic variants that protect me from developing diabetes, but I could have 6 disease promoting variants too that predispose me to developing diabetes. However, heritability of diseases is also affected by the environment, so just because I have more harmful variants doesn't mean I will develop diabetes.

 

 

So right now the only way to control who becomes part of the world population is to screen the genotype and abort the pregnancy if people think its too risky to have that child. I personally would never have an abortion, and I wouldn't give too much weight to the results of sequencing a fetal genome right now. Any information you get from sequencing anybody's genome at this point is only useful for providing suggestions on how to improve your lifestyle to keep your risks of developing diseases as low as possible. Which even then, the suggestions are pretty much the same for everybody anyways. lol. If gene therapy was possible I would consider it in regards to preventing something that would impact the child's health, but I wouldn't resort to changing things as meaningless as eye color or hair color.

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I was just wondering what people though about the practice of genetically modifying babies.

If you got your unborn baby screened and found that it had a gene consistent with alcoholism would you want to change it?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9480372/Genetically-engineering-ethical-babies-is-a-moral-obligation-says-Oxford-professor.html

Nope, wouldn't change my non-existent children for the world, shall love them exactly how they turn out to be.

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