Would you genetically alter your children

If you went to the doctor and he says that your wife (or you) were pregnant and that with new research he could do a genetic screening and modify some genes of your children. He assures you that the procedure will not cause any damage. Do you do it?

Ye,s I would like to improve my child’s life to the extent that I can. Seems like a no-brainer to me.


How come the only ‘No’ choice is based on morality? How about “No - why should I take that doctor’s word for it?”.

Because I wanted the question to be based on making a choice rather than refusing to make a choice based on fear. For the purpose of the question assume you have perfect knowledge that the procedure is safe/effective.

I’d do it for medical issues including reducing risk of illnesses. I sort of feel uneasy about the idea but, rationally, if I’d give my child a vaccine to lower their risk of a disease then this shouldn’t be much different.

Going beyond that to increase their intelligence, etc seems like changing more fundamental aspects of who they are as people rather than concerns about their health.

Ok, reviewing the questions, and with perfect knowledge that it safe and effective, seems reasonable to improve his health or quality of life. Designer stuff no, but if you feel like it then go ahead.

I started down that path then realized they aren’t yet anybody that has fundamental aspects to change.

Up to you, which is why there are the different levels of yes (I’m viewing them as if you would do option 3 you would also allow option 2). So what sort of genes would you be willing to change? Major issues like downs syndrome? Removing all genetic disease (like lowering the chance of diabetes or breast cancer)? or would you go a step further and try to enhance genes like making your child smarter, or more likely to be an athlete (genes for sprinters muscles, or enhanced lung capacity). Or would you be willing to go so far as doing completely cosmetic changes (such as eye color or even skin color)

Also at what point have you made so many changes that it’s not even really your child any more?

There’s kind of a gross implication here that adopted children aren’t “real”. Or that children of gay parents where only one donated sperm/egg are “fake”. I think you mean “biological/genetic children”, but I don’t really see how it matters, though I understand the urge to biologically create a child instead of just raising one.

Given perfect knowledge that it wouldn’t hurt, I don’t see why not, though I admit I’m extremely wary about such modification if it isn’t a public good. It’s a very scary thought that rich people could have more perfect children just because they can get gene therapy for them in the womb.

Without perfect knowledge, I definitely wouldn’t. Not in principle, but I’d be extremely hesitant to be an early adopter of this sort of technology.

I would stop at removing clear defects.

Trying to maximize “good” traits seems too… maybe narrow-minded is the best word for it.

It’s way too easy to prioritize certain visible or economically valuable traits over less tangible items. I’m sure we’ve all met someone who is perhaps not so bright and not so hot looking and not particularly ambitious, but they’re just a genuinely nice person who brightens up your day every time you see them.

Of course, plenty of average people are miserable trolls; I’m not saying there’s necessarily virtue in being average.

What I am saying is that there are virtues we don’t understand well enough to tweak genetically and any tweaks we do will make us less diverse as a population. That could have unintended side effects. One obvious unintended side effect would be seen in cultures that prefer heterosexual male children (India, for example). If an entire generation turns out to be 90% that way, it will be a very unhappy generation indeed.

Only, I don’t, and given that IME I know more biochemistry than the immense majority of doctors, I would change doctors to one not peddling woo.

Yep, for absolutely quantifiable* values of quality, I can’t see why it’d be conscienecable to do otherwise.
*AFAIK, Intelligence and athletic ability aren’t really measurable in that sense.

The problem is that we’re talking about a technology that really doesn’t exist today. If it helps think of the doctor on star trek doing the asking.

Children are composed of genetic bits and pieces of everyone who has gone before them biologically. I took great comfort in seeing behaviors, looks, gestures, etc. come from my boys that were almost carbon copies of those of a parent, grandparent or other individual I’d known and loved in my lifetime. I would never want to lose that.

However, as we grow more and more sophisticated in our ability to treat diseases and genetic disorders in utero, I would be perfectly fine with correcting those types of issues scientifically, thus saving the child years of grief and/or suffering over something correctible.

But no, I’d never want a ‘designer’ child. I love my boys and my grandson for all their quirks and oddities and occasional strangeness. I adore my grandson’s beautiful red hair that seems to have materialized from nowhere if you look at his living relatives. I wouldn’t change that for the world. He is the epitome of beauty to me with his little ‘copper top’.

I happen to know that I carry at least two genetic diseases that cause pretty awful problems. If I had had the choice, I would certainly have wanted to make sure those markers were removed from my child, just on the strength of not perpetuating awful diseases through the human race.

Yep. I would happily eliminate the chance for various diseases, and equally happily increase my child’s potential for intelligence, athletic ability, height (to a point!), etc. I value my future children’s chances at being happy, healthy, and successful far more than any concerns I’d have.

I would not make any superficial changes (hair, skin, etc.) that affect nothing but appearance.

To me, it seems like there’s a big difference between adjusting someone’s athletic ability and adjusting their intelligence. Your intelligence is more . . . who you are. It’s not like there’s a spectrum from “dumb to smart” - it’s the way you perceive the world, the subjects you’re good at, the way you process information, etc. I’d worry that every parent would opt for the super-smart gene, and we’d end up with a bunch of kids who’re all intelligent in exactly the same way. I’d be more open to changing superficial appearances (relatively more open; I still wouldn’t do it) than changing the way someone’s mind functions.

I voted fix the obvious genetic defects*, which for me would include very strong and well-established risk factors like BRCA1 variants that confer a 50% lifetime risk of breast cancer.

However, even given perfect genome editing techniques, it’s somewhere between hard and impossible to predict the effects of fixing genetic variants that are known risk factors for some disease. With every genetic risk factor, we typically only have correlating data, and causation is extremely hard to pin down. At best we have a good hypothesis that removing some risk factor will reduce the risk of disease. But most good hypotheses are wrong! That variant may merely be genetically linked to the true genetic causal factor. Or perhaps whether it increases or reduces risks depends on a complicated web of genetic interactions with other variants, all interacting in nonlinear ways.

If you make a lot of changes to remove risk factors and add factors correlated with desirable traits, there will be a lot of unpredictable side effects. A few such changes might be okay, but we can’t know that for sure until a lot of other people (not me!) decide to use their kids as a guinea pigs, merely in the hope of reducing the risk of heart disease by 3% or increasing height by 1/2".

*nitpick: Down’s syndrome can’t be fixed with edit-a-few-gene techniques. There’s a whole extra chromosome that would have to be removed in every cell.

I’m so not a biologist, but I’d also be somewhat worried about having a child that’s edging towards the human equivalent of a monoculture. Is a new disease going to show up in their lifetime that happens to be effective on people with these genes? That would be a fairly ironic epidemic.