Designer baby

Designer baby

The colloquial term "designer baby" has been used in popular scientific and bioethics literature to specify a child whose hereditary makeup (genotype) would be, using various reproductive and genetic technologies, purposefully selected ("designed") to be the optimal recombination of their parents' genetic material. The term is usually used pejoratively to signal opposition to such use of human biotechnologies.


A common objection to the notion of using reprogenetic technology to create a "designer baby" is based on the ethics of human experimentation. Modern bioethical codes such as the Declaration of Helsinki condemn experiments on humans that are unnecessary, dangerous, or without the subject's consent. A report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) voices these concerns in the context of inheritable genetic modification, concluding that this biotechnology "cannot presently be carried out safely and responsibly on human beings" and that "pressing moral concerns" have not yet been addressed. Most opponents of this use of reprogenetic technology refer to its possible social implications, distinguishing between genetic modifications used to treat people with disabilities or diseases and those used to enhance healthy people. They are particularly wary of this technology’s ability to lead to a new eugenics where individuals are "bred" or designed to suit social preferences such as above average height, certain hair color, increased intelligence, or greater memory. While the prospect of future generations of "better people" is not necessarily negative within itself, concern rather arises from the possibility that such groups of people might become prejudiced against one another due to a feeling of lost common humanity with non-enhanced or differently-enhanced groups. Within journalistic coverage of the issue, as well as within the analysis of bioconservative critics, the issue of safety takes a secondary role to that of humanity, because it is thought that the ethical issue of safety can eventually be resolved by innovation and so should not be focused on due to its fallibility. The so-called Frankenstein argument asserts that genetically engineering designer babies would compel us to think of each other as products or devices rather than people, and the spectre has often been raised (for instance by the Center for Genetics and Society) of young parents-to-be who might one day send away for a catalogue, compose a list of desirable features and order a custom infant produced to specification.

Despite the pejorative nature of the term "designer baby", a minority of bioethicists consider the notion of a designer baby, once the reprogenetic technology is shown to be safe, to be a responsible and justifiable application of parental procreative liberty. The usage of genetic engineering (amongst other techniques) on one's children is said to be defensible as procreative beneficence, the moral obligation of parents to try to give their children the healthiest, happiest lives possible. Some futurists claim that it would put the human species on a path to participant evolution.


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