Wouldn't you have to do that?

Given the opportunity to give your offspring a better than average chance at success/happiness in their life, would you choose to do so? Most people would certainly say yes.

If that meant a genetic manipulation for superior strength, intelligence, health, longevity, appearance… what have you… (superior to the norm of the day that is), would you do it? Again, with a bit of moral/religious/ethical wrangling and hand wringing, most people would also say yes.

But in the end, given the choice, not only would you - but wouldn’t that in fact become an obligation and thus not much of a choice after all?

I realize of course that with enough people opting for super-kids, the norm would quickly begin to change, however, what basis (if any) would there be for opting out?

On a a larger scale, do technological and social advances require us to embrace them and punish us when we don’t?

Pardon me for riffing on somebody else’s chord changes, but I’m going to try to get all Libertarian on you here (in a metaphysical sense only, of course).

It is my hope that I am able to bring my daughter up with a set of values that does not require her to equate “success” with “ability to acquire control over material resources”, or even with “ability to atract a ‘hunk’ for a mate.” I certainly hope she doesn’t have her happiness dependent on such considerations.

So, right off the bat, “appearance” becomes something of a red herring in the catalog of “superior” traits.

Originally posed by kaylasdad99

This is absolutely correct, now here’s a smart dad. Emotions are a big factor in this super child debate. Just because genetic research is happening, it does not mean in the next couple years people will all have super kids. The OP makes it sound like having super kids will become some kind of fad like wearing adidas instead of buster browns or rolling your jeans up letting them be baggy. I don’t think this kind of fad is what we are going to get.

As a matter of fact, if this ever happens I would assume only the upper tier of society will have access to it, and even then they will be the guinea pigs. Who knows, maybe all genetically altared children will grow a third arm at 4 years old, or have odd shapen craniums. ( this is extreme, but who is going to supply the test kids?)

Say it does happen I mean seriously, these ‘superkids’ will not be that much different when it comes to emotions will they? I mean they will still have to understand what getting your heart broken is, and getting stiches for falling off a wall feels like, being bullied by another child is like etc…etc… They may learn at a faster rate and possibly heal quicker, but changing a humans emotions at a genetic level will prove to be difficult, if possible at all.

As for the OP ofcourse everyone wants the best for their kids, duh … it has to do with what you are willing to do for your children and how you raise them. Are you going to be a good parent and raise your children with good values, morals, and a strong sense of the self, or are you going to genetically altar them and put the deck in sciences hand…??

A slight course correction for kaylasdad99 and Phlosphr:

An option to genetically enhance your child should in no way preclude you or absolve you from exercising expected parental duties such as instilling a good set of morals, teaching your children the desired family values and social skills du jour.

Let’s also presume that these genetic improvements don’t necessitate physical deformity as a price for superior intellect. This topic does not have to become an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I don’t think you should dismiss this aspect so eagerly. “Appearance” figures rather prominently in both animal and human reproductive endeavours as well as long term genetic material survival.

I presume such treatments would be extremely expensive. Presumably, the only people who would then benefit would be the already advantaged, who are already so far ahead of the general run of mankind that a few more advantages won’t make them any more elite. To shoot this argument down, it would merely be necessary to show that genetic modification to the rich would be to the active detriment of the non-rich. I imagine this could be done but I don’t have the energy for it just now.

ok Just for the sake of debate, I understand we are not entering the Twilight Zone, and I do understand that appearance is noteworthy. As a matter of fact more than just noteworthy, it is primary in most instances. However, if these children have superior intellects then what are the ramifications of that? Humans are the most complex mammals on the face of the earth [we think] and our young take on average 18 years to grow up if you will. What is going to happen in the future. Are the children going to be able to live on their own at age 8. no more adolescence because they are ‘smarter’ than children 50 years ago, so they need not go through adolescence. With this superior intellect will they no longer go through puberty as we know it today either? They may not be physcially deformed due to the superior intellect but hey seeing two 8 year olds engaged to be married because they went through grade school and college before they were a decade old maybe interesting. It may also be interesting to have great great grand kids by the time you see 29 years old. Assuming that higher intellect at a younger age would make a child learn faster and be more productive earlier, I think the natural evolution would be to reproduce earlier as well.
Imagine the first group of children to experience this. We would have children learning at such an accelerated rate, they would be surpassing their ‘normal’ piers in a matter of a couple grades. Theoretically, they would need speciallized schools for these children of alpha group. oops HUXLIAN slip. and physical deformity or not, we all know people can be ridiculed and picked on even if they look ‘normal’. Imagine an 8 year old in the mens locker room in a high school. There would be more than one little difference.

But Again, I am just brainstorming for the sake of a good debate

I see nothing but trouble…

-this would create an even greater gap between the rich and the poor, not only would they have more money, their offpring have the opportunity to be near perfect - in the physical sense anyhow.

-this would force almost any athletic governing body to change it’s policy. Could they participate? Is this an unfair advantage? (rhetorical)


Can we outlaw gentic engineering? Capitolism should allow for this, shouldn’t it (if the alterees are willing of course)? (rhetorical)

I’m sure they’ll be expensive when they first come out, but after that, who knows? Some of the inventions we take for granted today were once status symbols of the wealthy. (Cars and cell phones, for example)

It’s certainly possible that that might happen once the technology becomes affordable, but think about it: centuries ago, sending your kids to school was considered optional.

I’m really not sure where I stand on the issue. But here are some things to consider:

  1. Just because we have the capabilities to do something doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the correct thing to do.

  2. Shouldn’t we concentrate on helping the children that are born now rather than ignoring them in the hopes of creating Kid version 2.0?

  3. What is the likelihood that there will be a revolt between the superiors and the inferiors? If you think this is science fiction, the Eugenics wars of Star Trek in some far distant future, think again. We already have hate groups that consider themselves to be genetically superior. What happens when we truly have genetically superior beings among us?

  4. Would the creation of intellectually superior humans lead to discoveries that we non-altered humans aren’t capable of?

  5. Will there be Affirmative Action, but for the non-altereds? If not, why would someone hire someone regular when they could get superman?

  6. For that matter, will those who have been altered have to register as being altered? Will they have to checkmark “genetically manipulated” on every form they sign and every test they take to differentiate them and not screw up the curve?

Why would helping existing children and enhancing future children be mutually exclusive?

I don’t know, but the increased number of smart people would allow science and technology to progress a good deal faster.

robodude I have two answers to your question of my question (#2).

  1. While no one would come right out and say it, there’s a very real possibility that people, the government in particular, will consider money spent towards the “better” kids to be money better spent.

  2. Given that there is a finite amount of resources (time, money, volunteers, etc.), there is a certain amount of mutual exclusivity between the two groups. Anything given to help those who are altered cannot also be given to those who aren’t.

Where, then, will our priorities lie?

QuickSilver sez:

I firmly believe that If I do my job right, Michaela will not only be able to see past superficial appearance, she will also possess a healthy skepticism about the inner qualities of one who telegraphs them by displaying an inordinate amount of concern for surface qualities.

QuickSilver goes on to say:

(the above to my assertion that “appearance” is a red herring)

I’m interested in learning more about how “Appearance” figures so prominently in long term genetic material survival. Also in learning what that means. Could you clarify, please? I’m not positing an either/or proposition of “brains v beauty”, but I do feel that a grown up person will place more value on the quality of a life mate’s character, than on his/her T&A, if you’ll pardon the expression.

Also, I worry that the ability to select for “superior appearance” will tend to take what is at present a subjective evaluation, unique to each viewer (or “beholder,” if you will), and gradually objectivize it, until a “Standard” for superior pulchritude is established and consistently acheived. Then comes the day when evry human being looks like every other human being. Then you’ve got a Twilight Zone episode that needs no physical deformity to have monstrous qualities.

IMHO, technological and social advances do force you to embrace them. And when u consider a parent-child relationship, there would be an obligation to conform to the super-kids idea, so as not to hamper the childs chances to compete in society in any way.

   There's a curious natural progression here which seems to suggest that its a progressive approach.

   We started with vaccinations for children. Initially only the rich could afford them, then it filtered through society. And now its pretty much an obligation.

   Next came ultra-sound and other techniques to detect birth defects etc in the womb. Right now only the rich can afford them. We see them become more common. IMHO, its on the road to become an obligation.

  Actual gene therapy seems to be the logical next step.

  On the other hand, genetic manipulations also sets the stage for abuse of the technology. For instance ,

a) Breeding a super-race.
b) Richer folk will have a head start. Does seem to have the potential to enlarge the gap.
c) Uncertainity of consequences. Outside changes to our gene structure could lead to complications maybe 2-3 generations down the line. ( an alarmist argument but I dont know if we can discount it ).

 So even tough it seems to be the logical next step, It also seems to be the top of a very slippery slope. But If we do embark on this road, then IMHO, parents wouldn't have a choice but to conform.

An interesting question, but I disagree that all parents would choose to have these procedures done.

Let’s look at each trait you’ve chosen for modification individually:

** 1- Strength:** I would find any increase in strength above what is normal to be completely superfluous. Once we learned to build machines, strength above that needed to turn a wrench is mostly unnecessary.

** 2- Intelligence:** Were it possible, I might go along on this one. However, our understanding of the causes of intelligence is a bit too lacking at this time to be sure that this will ever be possible. It may in fact turn out that environment plays a stronger role here than heredity. At this point we just don’t know. What we do know, though, is that high IQ is not a good predictor of financial or social success. So it remains unclear if there is any benefit to be gained here, too.

** 3- Health: ** This is the one no-brainer of the group. However, notice the reaction of most people to the idea of genetically modified foods that may be healthier.

** 4- Longevity:** Closely related to health, and outside of known health issues it is a bit difficult to say for certain that increased longevity is possible or desirable. If you offered people a way to delay the onset of aging, maybe. But if you are just going to increase the length of old age beyond its current limits, count me out.

** 5- Appearance:** This seems to have garnered the most reaction, and I think I know why. First I can’t imagine how it would be possible to improve my daughter’s appearance, and I’ll bet most parents feel that way about their children. Secondly, the first thing most families talk about when a new baby is born is who they look like. “Oh, he has Grandpa Ben’s nose, and your Aunt Tillie’s ears” and so forth. Somehow it’s not the same having your parents tell you your son has George Clooney’s chin.

Lastly, I wonder why you didn’t give us the option of making changes in personality? Given the choice, most parents would have their own children rather than adopt. Why do you think this is, and how much genetic change do you think we can make before a parent begins to feel that the child isn’t quite theirs?

All good points but let me focus the discussion a little more…

I picked the characteristics of stenght, intelligence, looks, longevity, etc… out of a hat. Feel free to choose, add or subtract whatever attributes you like. I can take the time to defend or tear down each one with the rest of you but this is not the objective of this thread.

I’m not entirely sure that the upper crust of society will be the only ones who will benefit from these modifications. I think society has sufficient foresight to ensure that this technology does not become a wedge to further separate the haves from the have nots (though we hardly need more wedges). In fact, I would say that HGM (Human Genetic Modification) will be more of an equalizer than a deviding force. In fact, exclusive health clubs, expensive “health” foods, elective cosmetic surgeries, and various other trapping of the rich and famous have done more to separate the classes than HGM ever could.

To realize this we need only look at GM foods. This technological advance has made a significant impact in third world nations. It’s just the tip of the iceberg but I see no evidence that Monsanto and their partners in crime are keeping this technology all to themselves and their rich friends. Granted, they may have various alterior motives for their perceived generousity (let’s leave those for another discussion) but at the end of the day, poor people on poor lands in poor countries have benefited greatly thus far. I see no reason why a HGM for resistance to malaria and HIV would be implemented according to more isolationist policies.

Also I recall very vivdly how the emergence of personal computers in the workplace in the late 70’s was herralded as a great technological advance and also a harbinger of great unemployment because said devices would replace people in the workplace. I suppose it did in some few cases but over all I suspect that many people feel rather foolish about the mass panic now. The computer industry seems to have fueled economy and jobs rather than destroy them. It also seems to have made some poor but enterprising people very rich. Not sure if it has made a significant number of rich people poor.

It is my argument that genetic enhancements of humans does not necessarily spell disaster and further division between classes. And even if it did, it would not be anything new given a thorough look at past human history. We are the products of conquest by technology. From bronze over stone to iron over bronze to guns over swords and arrows. Not only that, great Helenic and Roman empires fell to people they considered to be barbarians at the time. Still the memes of those empires survived even if the actual empires and ruling classes did not.

Thus, though society that has been significantly modified through genetic manipulation may be unrecogniseable to us in a few hundred years, why should that matter? Are we not as unrecognizeable to our ancestors of a thousand or two thousand years before? The argument that society will be fundamentally changed due to this type of advance is both obvious and irrelevant. I see no reason why we should eschew technology for fear that it will change us. Proceed with care, yes. But eschew, no.

But back to GM for a second. We may abhor the unethical practices of Monasanto and bemoan the uncertain short term gains of GM foods vs their potential dangers. If you are like me, you probably even make a very consious effort to avoid GM foods when possible. But at the end of the day, the genie is out of the bottle. There is no going back no matter what we do. Even if every single one of the GM foods created to date is found to be defective and dangerous, science will march forward with new GMO’s having learned from past errors.

So I ask you once again; Do think that HGM is an avoidable or inevitable eventuality? (Explain your answers for bonus points.)

I think that the issue gets more murky if you propose more humble goals for gene manipulation. Phlosphr, you seem to be thinking of truly “super-children”, an idea so fantastic it is hard to grapple with.

A more interesting issue is the idea that through genetic manipulaiton you could insure that your kid was, not an Einstien, but gifted. Bright. Like most of us are. If you could do that, would it ever be right not to do it?

Another good example would be obesity. I’m overweight. Everyone in my family is overweight, except for my mother, who manages to slim down for periods of a few years at a time by dedicating her entire life to the process. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a genetic component to this. (Though, of coures, it is not the only component). If I could chose to turn the fat gene off (or the thin gene on, however it ends up working) for my unborn child, I would do it in a second. It wouldn’t insure that they would be slim–after all, lifestyle is still a big factor–but it would at least give them a level playing field to start from. I can’t imagine telling my grown child that I could have done such a thing and opted not to.

There’s a curious natural progression here which seems to suggest that its a progressive approach.

We started with vaccinations for children. Initially only the rich could afford them, then it filtered through society. And now its pretty much an obligation.

Next came ultra-sound and other techniques to detect birth defects etc in the womb. Right now only the rich can afford them. We see them become more common. IMHO, its on the road to become an obligation.

Actual gene therapy seems to be the logical next step.


Truthfinder and Quicksilver both bring up excellent points like this.

The fact of the matter is that this will be the future of child-rearing. I compare it to the avalability and later necessity of a college education.

At first, only the rich will utilize it; but it won’t put other children in jeopardy because so few “superkids” will be involved.
However, as time goes by, a higher percentage of parents will opt for the “superkids”, to give their children a better chance at a great life.

As more and more parents use it, and the competition for mates and jobs gets more intense, more potential parents will just factor it in for pre-birth expenses… much like a college education. Next thing you know, Merrill-Lynch has the “superkids” savings plan so you’ll be able to afford it for your children.

Every parent works hard for the well-being and success of their child. Why not before birth? Think of all the diseases that could be eradicated.

Also, some distinctions must be made here. Are we talking about “superkids” in the sense of building the perfect human, or “superkids” in the sense of perfecting the genetic DNA of what is available between the two parents?
Or is that the very heart of the argument?
Whatever the case, I’d support the latter, condemn the former.

I dare you to draw the line between the former and the latter. Particularly after several generations of toying with the human genome.

My thinking is that simply erradicating disease, learning disabilities and other defects will not be the last stop. Producing people who can breath under water, or in poisonous environments (for purposes of planetary exploration), or long lives (again for long term space travel), or humans who don’t require sleep, etc…etc…etc… will be the inevitable, though not immediate goals.

And what’s wrong with that?

“And what’s wrong with that?”

Plenty. Think about sickle cell anemia. It comes from a partially expressed recessive gene. This means:
Two copies of gene: very sick-very bad
Zero copies: average Joe
Many, many genes have more than one function. By eliminating these “disease” genes from the population we will decrease our genetic diversity. I don’t want my descendants to be made from standardized parts. Decreased genetic diversity also decreases our ability to survive future unforseen events - like some monster plague.

Think eliminating genetic diseases from the population is far-fetched? We eliminated Small-Pox. We eliminated Polio. We want to save lives. Genetic “therapy” is just around the corner…

My advice: Confine genetic alteration to somatic cells, and then only when absolutely necesary. We should stay away from the gametes lest we become an Aldus Huxley novel.