Jeebus people, we do germline editing every time we fuck for a child

Or at least every time we do the horizontal tango in an attempt to have a child, rather than just for fun, we are germline editing. Which makes all of this simply pabulum:

Future generations, however, are not able to consent to germline editing that will manipulate their welfare in ways that we cannot yet predict or alter if things go wrong. Looking back, our descendants might or might not accept our decision as legitimate, but they will have no way of changing it. It might look obvious that they would welcome a future free of genetic disability, but even if there were no unintended or unforeseen adverse consequences – which is extremely unlikely – they might not. There have been cases in which deaf parents using IVF techniques selected an embryo with congenital deafness; they did not regard deafness as a disability and felt that a deaf child would integrate more readily in their community.

Proponents of modifying the human germline often say that we make decisions for our children all the time – about their education, for example – but there is a major flaw in this argument. As a consequence of our actions, the descendants we’re talking about will still be having decisions made for them even when they are adults: education doesn’t permanently alter a child’s genome, nor affect the genes it will pass on to its own children. Moreover, gene editing is not the only way to eliminate adverse or fatal genetic conditions in embryos: we can already use conventional embryo screening and detection procedures, such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

One sorta assumes that Professor Dickenson at least considered the genetics of fucking whoever it was to create Anders and Pip Lustgarten, no? After all, other than the accidents of the backseat fumble most women do think a bit about whose children they are going to have. Darwin was quite emphatic on the point.

18 thoughts on “Jeebus people, we do germline editing every time we fuck for a child”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    I am a little bit uncomfortable with not drawing a distinction between the random re-assortment of genes that God and/or Nature intended and the purposeful tinkering by idiots who think they are God and can do better than Nature.

    What we do fumbling about in the back seat is very different from deciding that our grandchidren should have gills.

    Although I would be interested to see how far you could push this argument before everyone got really uncomfortable. Our descendents will curse us for turning the British isles into Jamaica-on-the-Mersey for instance.

  2. It’s not really that simple Tim. I daresay some children have looked at their parents and wished they’d made better choices or something- “damn this big nose, why did mum marry Mr Noseybonk?”- but it’s not the same as knowing your parents sat down and made that choice consciously for you to have whatever attributes you have. Imagine the angst.

    Which is why I tend to think when in futurist mode that the only real advantage will be when you can make those choices for yourself, by having a biotechnology that allows the individual to make changes for themself by control at the cellular level. You know, dial up your Body Morph app on your phone, that kind of thing.

    I can’t say I’d relish the prospect of having to design my kids like this. Whatever choices you make, they’ll be the wrong ones.

  3. In which case everyone would be born with a standard genome, with all options included. And hopefully not too many bugs.

  4. The tech is there, it will get used.

    Unintended consequences have to be observed and mitigated, and then the particular procedure regulated.

  5. So Much For Subtlety

    Arnald – “The tech is there, it will get used. Unintended consequences have to be observed and mitigated, and then the particular procedure regulated.”

    And yet I can’t help feeling dropping the bomb on Hiroshima was not a good idea.

  6. Arnald – “The tech is there, it will get used. Unintended consequences have to be observed and mitigated, and then the particular procedure regulated.”

    How long before the state in all its benevolence decides that parents cant be trusted and the state needs to enforce standards.

    Lo and behold, the Fabians get their eugenics after all.

  7. Obviously, regulation is the be all and end all in arnauld’s world.

    No unintended consequences there either.

    So further regulation.

    Rinse and repeat.

  8. Well, no, monoi

    I’m saying the tech will get used. People are saying it shouldn’t, ie banning and regulating it prior to any use.

    I’m not having an ethical opinion, I’m saying when it does get used then it’ll be obvious how it was done and what has happened after. That’s where the regulation should come in for any future decisions. Did I really need to explain that?

    SMFS mentions Hiroshima – it shouldn’t have happened, but it did, and now we have conventions that it shouldn’t happen again. Indeed, we had MAD to regulate it.

    You lot are obsessed with reading stuff into what I write simply because I argue against tax dodging and espousing white supremacy.

    Pavlovian.

  9. Can you imagine if we’d had the nuclear arms race without Hiroshima ?

    World would probably have ended around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

  10. Tricky one. On the one hand SMFS has a point. Just because it’s naturally occurring doesn’t justify doing (more) of it yourself. Similar to abortion in that respect. And there will be unintended consequences.

    On the other hand, not practicing the technology means many generations having to put up with terrible genetic disabilities, like being Belgian.

  11. In the future young liberal idealistic couple have first child with the we want natural attitude (or can’t afford treatment), see all the issues this causes in a world where engineering is the norm so spend the money on second child, makes for a rosy siblings relationship.

    Gattaca set up a reasonable scenario for what happens when gene tinkering becomes the norm, it just becomes another way to define tribalism and discrimination, after all someone still needs to clean the toilets and empty the bins.

  12. Random = good
    Designed = bad

    Why?

    Because people are people. For some people evolution(random)=bad and God did it(designed)=good. Similarly genetic engineering is an issue that draws on the emotions which leads to this type of debate.

  13. @bloke in France
    I refer you to the general differences in health and robustness of mongrels/crossbreeds (random) and pure breeds (designed)

  14. So Much For Subtlety

    bloke in france – “Random = good Designed = bad Why?”

    That is not quite right. You mean

    Within the framework that has worked for us as a species – Good

    Unchained arrogance inflicted on others for whimsical reasons = Bad.

    Perhaps when we have enough knowledge of how genes work this might be a good idea. Perhaps when we are smart enough as a species to understand what is best for our descendents. Until then I don’t think mothers should be encouraged to engineer their daughters to look like Katie Price and take to the pole with glee. Deep Throat was a film. Not a set of instructions.

  15. “Perhaps when we have enough knowledge of how genes work this might be a good idea. ”

    This is the crux of the matter. We still don’t.
    Don’t get me wrong… In the past 25 years our knowledge of what genes are, what they do, and how they interact has…exploded. Think of IT and how fast *that* developed, only 5 times as much. At least.

    And we’ve still only sort of figured out the basics. As always, how things really work are a wee bit more complicated than PopScience publications, or worse, regular “news”papers present.

    Gene “editing” , with current knowledge, can at best alleviate a very limited number of well-studied afflictions caused by single-point mutations, when and if, provided, etc.
    And there’s nothing there that current IVF techniques, or the less scientific, more informal, and much older techniques of “donorship” can’t solve to begin with.
    “Gills and Wings”? Forget it. If it could be done, Nature would already have proceeded with gilled cetaceans, and winged mammals bigger than a decent-sized rat.

  16. “Gills and Wings”? Forget it. If it could be done, Nature would already have proceeded with gilled cetaceans, and winged mammals bigger than a decent-sized rat.”

    Well, no. ‘Nature’ would only have proceeded if there was an advantage for whatever species.

    Geneering (as my current book calls it (Dan will know)) to create something to fulfil a function will become a viable technology. Obviously not now, but as explained only thirty years ago we were downloading porn a pixel at a time.

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