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Designer Babies Will Be Godless Achievement Machines
Kyle Munkittrick   Feb 28, 2011   Science Not Fiction  

Are designer babies a danger to the middle class?

Should we, as a society, specially breed children for submission to the Achievatron to defeat Chinese mothers and live up to the genetic “Sputnik Moment” in which we find ourselves? Will designer babies be atheists? Peter Lawler, ostensible smart person, seems to think so!

If I am translating his compassionate conservative gibberish properly, Lawler is under the distinct impression that the goal behind designer babies is to make a more productive populace and that doing so will wreak havoc upon our families and lives.

Some background on Peter Lawler. He writes for Big Think, loves The New Atlantis, and was on the President’s Council on Bioethics (PCBE). For those of you unfamiliar with George Bush’s President’s Council on Bioethics, they were the brilliant minds behind halting stem cell research, focusing on it-worked-for-Bristol-Palin abstinence-only sex education, and being generally terrible philosophers and thinkers. Charles Krauthammer was asked his opinion of ethical issues, I kid you not.

In short, the PCBE happily rubber-stamped the backwards and anti-science decrees of Bush and Cheney in an effort to supplicate the deranged Christian base of the Republican party. I tell you all of this lovely information so you have a working context for the luminary that Big Think has decided to employ.

Thus, on to the question: Will designer babies turn the USA into a culture of compulsory overachievement?

Oh BabyLet us examine Lawler’s argument proper, if such a thing can be said to exist. Most of his post is a cobbled together string of non-sequitor rhetorical questions posing as an argument. But he’s a professor, so I’ll show some respect and presume he makes sense.

Lawler’s argument is that if we enhance our children, it’s so they will be competitive and productive, and to make sure enhancement doesn’t increase inequality, we’ll have to make sure they’re all enhanced to the max, regardless of the benefits for the actual child.

Though he doesn’t cite the paper, Lawler’s argument seems to be based on Allen Buchanan’s “Enhancement and the Ethics of Development.” Buchanan’s argument is complex, but part of it revolves around the idea that previous forms of human enhancement (agriculture, printing press, microprocessor) had huge benefits for the economy. Thus, it is logical to conclude that the State has incentive to provide, um, incentives for families to enhance in the name of productivity and the economy.

However, Lawler isn’t addressing Buchanan, merely a disfigured straw-man version of Buchanan’s argument. Lawler’s rhetorical goal is to lead the argument to a point of absurdity, where you’ll react, aghast at how awful a world with enhancement will be. The crowning moment is when Lawler says that the society will neither welcome the “gift” of a child with Down syndrome, nor will it tolerate “all those stupid and disease-ridden Mormon and Catholic kids.” Not so, for the following reasons…


Note: For actual coherent thoughts on designer babies, I suggest Anders Sandberg’s post “Making Babies.”

Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
Nicole Sallak Anderson is a Computer Science graduate from Purdue University. She developed encryption and network security software, which inspired the eHuman Trilogy—both eHuman Dawn and eHuman Deception are available at Amazon, the third installment is expected in early 2016. She is a member of the advisory board for the Lifeboat Foundation and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.


While the idea of a government mandate to produce super children is quite frankly ridiculous the idea that parents will select for traits that may result in such a world isn’t.

Genetic engineering will at least at first be used by parents on their children and as such parents will likely select for traits that they feel give there child the greatest chance of success in life.  After all this is what parents already do in the form of extracurricular activities, summer camps and college prep courses and there is little reason to think this new tool will not find a similar use.  If we look at what our society currently values (the acquisition of wealth and status) its not too far of a stretch to say that we may end up with a world of wunderkids simply as a result of what more or less amounts to a form of natural selection.

Mr. Miunkittrick,
You seem to have a complete lack of understanding of Western Civilization; history of intellectual thought; people’s amazment with Scientific Progress (even when it turns out to be wrong, or initially claims more than it can support) ;Science Fiction; and the eventual social outcomes of all this rush to the Natural Sciences.  Do you not even know the history of eugenics in this country and abroad?  Hitler? Soviet and Japanese experiments on humans?  Your Scientism has so boxed in your mind, that you seem to know nothing of the past, except Scientific success, and can see only of the future, Scientific Salvation.

Your youthfull arrogance and thought, which is certainly glued to your professors’ should be forgiven a bit. 

Your dispersions of a group of stellar intellectuals who were not all of one view can only be explained by the above.  Maybe jilted Professors whose arrogance and petty jealousy (and Leftist views) causes them to teach you thusly, and you follow blindly.  Unfortunately intelligence doesn’t imply good judgement, maturity, charity, or genius. (And being in a Master’s program most certainly doesn’t imply the maturity to have clear or free thinking.)

Your commnets about George Bush, and Republicans, shows clearly, as is usually the case from the Left, that rather than discuss the Questions, they prefer to throw sand in the eyes by talking about social, pololitical issues.

Your article could easily be trimmed to a couple sentences if you left out all the vitrolic and unrelated verbage.

I hope in ten years, you’ll grow to a point of 1)studying the “other side”, so that 2) if you still disagree, you will have enough understanding to critique it clearly, and 3) in a mature manner.

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