Who gets to say?
Ronald Bailey misses the point somewhat [Essay, “Design your baby?” 3/21/02]. Bailey says, “If it’s all right to use efficacious medical treatments to cure a 40-year old with Alzheimer’s, it’s all right to prevent her from getting it in the first place.”
Hold on! We’re not talking about preventing this child (let’s call her “Ruby”) from getting Alzheimer’s. We’re talking about preventing the Ruby embryo from becoming a child at all. I’m not going to go so far as to say outright that this is unethical or should be illegal, but I do happen to think it borders on playing God.
Genetics is very complicated and intricate. What we know about the blueprint for human beings is a only drop in the bucket of reality. For that matter, the whole nature-nurture debate deals with an area we understand only dimly.
So you make sure your baby won’t be at risk for Alzheimer’s. How do you know the embryo you choose isn’t at risk for three more diseases? And who’s to say that medical science won’t come up with a cure for Alzheimer’s in the next 30 years?
Who’s to decide which human life, or potential human life, is more valuable than any other? Think of all the contributions made by the Einsteins and Helen Kellers of the world. Think of the harm done by the Ted Bundys and Jeffrey Dahmers.
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Time for some humility in the face of mystery.