When we think of what it is to be human, when we think of that which has most positively and deeply impacted our lives, it revolves around our connection to others. In a word, we think of love. And love, it seems to me, is perfected, made sacred by the acceptance and embrace of our individual and collective imperfections. This acceptance and embrace free us to experience the essence of another’s humanity and beauty and in so doing transcend the superfluous and meaningless.
But what if it’s possible to avoid ever giving birth to a child with a defect, an illness, some unwelcome condition? That time is likely here and yet our exploration of ethics to address such science is barely on the radar. As no sane, sensitive person would ever want to see needless suffering, does the vanquishing of suffering trump all else?
Today some scientists speak benignly of what they term advances in their work. In the example above it is the selective breeding of humans to, today, avoid children being born with various diseases. On the surface it seems like a noble idea. But that’s the problem. The science may have depth but the ethical conversation is superficial. It’s almost as if some scientists feel that the ethical questions aren’t that difficult. They’re confident people won’t abuse the science by, say, making designer babies. Really?
Former President Jimmy Carter speaks of the 160 million girls missing from the face of the earth due to selective infanticide and abortion. Their crime? Being female.
If this can happen today, exactly what will prevent parents tomorrow from customizing their offspring to be blond with blue eyes and an outstanding IQ? Will the rich be able to further separate themselves from the masses by paying for the latest science that can perfect their children to be?
Beyond all else, if science can design perfection, does the soul of humanity still remain? Do we even matter?