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Have you heard of “designer babies?”
Parents who use in vitro fertilization can already select an embryo by gender and screen for diseases. Gene-editing technology will eventually allow them to alter their future offspring’s intelligence, height, eye color, and more.
This scares some people. Eighty-three percent of Americans say editing human genes to improve intelligence goes too far.
“Of course they say that,” says Georgetown University Professor Jason Brennan in an interview with John Stossel. “When you have any kind of intervention into the body that’s new, people think it’s icky. And they take that feeling of ‘ickiness’ and they moralize, and think it’s a moral objection.”
Jenna Bush Hager, who’s the daughter of former President George W. Bush, recently said that “there should be things that we leave up to God.”
“I’m not really sure I’m going to take her word for it,” says Brennan. “If God appears before me and says ‘don’t do this,’ I’ll stop.”
“We already give our kids music lessons, braces, tutoring, karate lessons,” Stossel says. “Any advantage we can—why not also give them the best genes?”
In the future, he notes, humans could be much smarter—perhaps possessing the wisdom enough to avoid wars and travel to other planets.
Sheldon Krimsky, a professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Tufts, argues that it’ll “be a new way to create disparities in wealth.”
“Every bit of technology that we enjoy today follows the same pattern,” says Brennan. “You look in your automobile, and you have a CD player or an MP3 player, and a GPS. All of these things, when they first became available, were incredibly expensive,” he says.
When asked if he was simply opposed to technological progress, Krimsky responded, “I love change…But I think there are some boundaries.”
Will there be social pressure for everyone to have “designer babies”?
“It’s not so clear why that’s a problem,” Brennan says. “If everyone is making their kids healthier and stronger and smarter, and less prone to disease, and you feel social pressure to go along with that, good. Shouldn’t you do that as a parent for your child?”
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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.