October 5, 2013

"Genepeeks... digitally combines the DNA of a client and a sperm donor to gauge the odds that a future baby would have various genetic disorders."

"Donors whose 'virtual children' consistently have a higher risk of inherited disorders will be removed so the prospective mother is left with the best matches — at least from a genetics standpoint."

What is wrong with that, as long as the service doesn't claim to be able to do anything more than it can do, which is, apparently, reducing some of the risk of heritable defects?

The usual bio-ethicists and other quasi-philosophers and busybodies weigh in and say things like: "It amounts to shopping for designer donors in an effort to produce designer babies... We believe the patent office made a serious mistake in allowing a patent that includes drop-down menus for which to choose a future child's traits. A project like this would also be ethically and socially treacherous."

They say things like that even though they would not say that female reproductive choice is generally an ethically and socially treacherous project. If women have the freedom and power to reject any partners they don't want and to use birth control and abortion to avert any pregnancy that doesn't align with their personal conception of what is worth doing, then we have an amazing new world, we've yet to perceive what it will be like over time, and we have no way to go back if the results of this "project" turn out badly.

Not all of us have committed to female reproductive autonomy, but it is, for the most part, the law and the dominant culture here in the United States. What is the basis for depriving women of these technological tools?

If women were truly free to select the genetic material to which to devote their reproductive efforts, we might end up, after a few generations, with a population of gangly giants, as all the ladies choose "tall" and "thin" on their drop-down menus. I do worry about that sometimes. 

38 comments:

Inga said...

I think women are already being genetically picky naturally, based on more than physical appearances. If short, fat, bald men, or otherwise unattractive men with immense personality and incredible intelligence, can get beautiful women to mate with them, and they do, then we get a smarter population, not a bad thing, right?

As far as screening for inherited disabilities and conditions, why not? No fertilized eggs are wasted, no little blastocysts murdered. Healthy babies are born with less likelyness to pass on genetic disorders when they reproduce.

Hagar said...

The Wrath of Khan.

betamax3000 said...

Drop Down Menu For Mia Farrow:

Woody Allen

Frank Sinatra

Other

betamax3001 said...

Is It Possible to Be Genetically Disposed to Drinking Pina Coladas and Getting Caught in the Rain?

betamax3000 said...

NY Times Reader's Drop Down Menu:

William F. Buckley

Malcolm Gladwell

Woody Allen

Bob Boyd said...

Here's a concept for a new reality show.
Assemble a group of women who will compete all season for the chance to be impregnated with the jism of a prominent celebrity in the final episode.
Instead of 'The Bachelor' it could be called 'The Batch'.

Bob_R said...

The funniest thing is that they think there might be some way to stop it. The Brave New World is upon us, we just have to go along for the ride. As has been discussed here before, we can see in China that there are a lot of people in this world who think that lack of a Y chromosome is a genetic disorder.

m stone said...

The believing Christian will respond that this is a foolhardy venture to foil God's plan for each individual, regardless of the undesirable traits each of us carries for a reason.

Rightly so.

It would be a disaster.

This is a "clay says to the potter" example.

Moose said...

It all harks back to the founding principles of Planned Parenthood in Eugenics. We're always looking for ways to "improve the race", up and including preemptive genocide.

Inga said...

The suffering of children born with genetic conditions should be considered and not be taken lightly. It's not as if an existing fertilized egg was tested, rejected and then destroyed because if some genetic issue. Women and men naturally are drawn to those that have the appearance of health in the types they choose to mate with.

betamax3001 said...

If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape,
I'm the sperm that you've looked for, inseminate with me and escape."

Fritz said...

Put income on the drop down menu and see what kind of sperm women choose.

Renee said...

Women have that autonomy, by choosing the dad and choosing to have sex with him. When us it our right to reduce the other sex to his sperm/egg/DNA? I can't sell my kidney... but for the purposes of creating a child to be raised by non-kin without access to paternal relatives?

Sam Hall said...

We are heading towards designer babies just as fast as the tech will allow. It doesn't matter how much the nanny class screams or what laws are passed, it will happen. Think of it as evolution in action

betamax3001 said...

Drop Down menu for Yacht Rock Fan:

Rupert Holmes

Christopher Cross

Seals

Croft

Captain (if Tenille Permits)

EDH said...

Not all of us have committed to female reproductive autonomy, but it is, for the most part, the law and the dominant culture here in the United States.

A revealing way to put it. Unfortunately, a woman's reproductive "autonomy" (widely viewed as a "positive" freedom to do what one wants to do) often comes at the direct expense of a man's lesser reproductive "freedom" (a "negative" liberty not to do what one doesn't want to do).

betamax3001 said...

Drop Down Menu for the Discerning Woman:

Betamax3000

Betamax3001

Naked Bob Dylan Robot

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...

Not to worry. For centuries to come babies will be predominantly be made the old fashioned way. A smattering of children at the margin mean zip in the big picture.

William said...

I feel that gingers' time on earth is numbered. Sure people will say that they don't want their kids to be at risk for skin cancer, but we all know that what they're really afraid of is having some red-haired Uriah Heep, blotched with freckles, greeting them at breakfast......And there's nothing healthy about being left handed. It can more properly be described as a neurological disorder than as simple hand dominance.

Ann Althouse said...

"I feel that gingers' time on earth is numbered."

Then dark-haired women better not choose the sperm of blond men.

Ann Althouse said...

I myself am a person of red hair and freckles.

I still have the freckles. They seem childish, but they hang on longer than the hair color.

Edward Lunny said...

" What is wrong with that " Nothing. These choices are already being made on a coarser, larger scale. Women can, and do, choose mates based on their physical make up as well as that of their parents. This method provides a more diverse pool of candidates at hand and an instant result, all without the 9 monthish waiting period.
Like so many other choices, some will make choices for the wrong reasons. Such is life. Despicable people making despicable choices cannot be prevented by any law and attempts at restrictions will lead to some form of black market.
As far as the " usual bio-ethicists and other quasi-philosophers and busybodies " no surprise there. They don't want folks to make such choices for themselves because they'd prefer to reserve that power for themselves. They aren't any different than the boobs whom argue against gmo foods despite all of our foodstuffs being the result of millennia of selective breeding.

Inga said...

They are making the choice for themselves. As far as I know no is being forced to use the service, completely voluntary.

Carl said...

I doubt that this leads in the direction of greater female reproductive autonomy.

If all around you women are choosing their sperm donors, will you be left out? Anyone who has seen the competition between suburban mothers knows the answer to that in a flash.

So...we will enter a ruthless competition between mothers for the very precious sperm of certain males.

What does that suggest about the price those supreme alphas can extract? What does that suggest about the resulting society? Democratic or autocratic? Dominated in its laws and mores by what the legions of begging women want, or by what those relatively few fantastically in-demand alphas want?

I suggest this is as liberating for women as is the first hit of crack for the opiate addict, or the seductive ease of GMail for the guy with secrets to hide from the NSA, or how much easier government-run and government-paid health care seems to be.

Revenant said...

Sounds like a great invention to me, assuming it actually works.

People who complain about "designer babies" truly mystify me. The mindset they're using is totally alien to my own.

Fritz said...

""I feel that gingers' time on earth is numbered."

Then dark-haired women better not choose the sperm of blond men."

You're a better lawyer than a biologist. Red hair is not a mixture of dark and blonde, but rather a unique recessive gene on chromosome 16, which causes the production of pheomelanin rather than eumelanin.

The only way a child can get red hair is if both parents carry the gene, though neither need have red hair.

Ann Althouse said...

"Red hair is not a mixture of dark and blonde, but rather a unique recessive gene on chromosome 16, which causes the production of pheomelanin rather than eumelanin."

So I was lied to by the feminists who told me the Irish have red hair because they had black hair but they were raped by blond Norsemen?

Ann Althouse said...

Also, if you have ever tried to dye dark brown hair blond, which I did in the 90s (in the days of Manic Panic, when blue was a preferred color and green was not), you'll know that it's very hard to get down past the red stage and into blond.

Fritz said...

"So I was lied to by the feminists who told me the Irish have red hair because they had black hair but they were raped by blond Norsemen?"

Uh, yep. You sound surprised?

Ann Althouse said...

"People who complain about "designer babies" truly mystify me. The mindset they're using is totally alien to my own."

I think it makes perfect sense if you adopt a completely traditional morality in which a man and a woman marry and only have sex within a context of love and openness to whatever gift of life nature/God sends their way. One must rise to the joys and trials of caring for whatever child arrives, including a severely disabled one. This is the test of character, and this is the true meaning of love in marriage and the only acceptable implementation of the sexual and reproductive forces.

But if you don't hew to all that (or most of that), and you have birth control and artificial insemination, then these fears of "designer babies" are simply oppressing the females who are unable to form an alliance with a male with the best traits. This female may have relatively low-quality traits herself. Why can't she choose to upgrade her line in the next generation? She is putting all the work into the childbearing and much or all of the work into the child raising. Why, when sperm, even of the highest quality, is plentiful, should she be deprived of the best raw material?

It's warring on women. And it's class warfare too.

These liberals who celebrate the right to choose have an incoherence problem.

Now, I think the biggest danger is that women with full choice -- sperm choice -- will lean toward a few qualities thought to be superior and there will be unintended effects, such as previously unnoticed diseases of the excessively tall or autism caused by the excessive pursuit of high intelligence.

And the women who produce super-babies might bring their own distorted expectations to the childrearing process. The children, knowing what their mothers have done, might take a weird new attitude toward their mothers (who are so much shorter and less pretty and dumber than they are). What's that home life going to be like?

And of course there will be all the usual handwringing about eugenics, even as the handwringers are smart, pretty people who are only too pleased to produced superior offspring of their own. But for those other people to have the same access to superiority, leveling the field of competition for their own little angels... that, that is Hitleresque

Ann Althouse said...

"Uh, yep. You sound surprised?"

What surprised me was the information that the story of red hair is the story of rape.

Being a red head, I found this disturbing.

When did this "unique recessive gene on chromosome 16" arise? Can you trace it back or are you just seeing where it appears in a being alive today?

William said...

I have always wondered why, given the disproportionate number of world historical figures with red hair, women do not seek out red haired men for bed partners with the same avidity that they pursue NFL quarterbacks. From Alexander through Jesus and on to Jefferson and Woody Allen, the great men of every age are nearly always red haired. You would think that, at least subconsciously, women would be drawn to men with red hair. It has, nonetheless, been my sad experience that women were more likely to conjugate despite rather than because of my red hair. Perhaps Prince Harry has had a different experience, but, as a general rule, red hair doesn't give men a leg up in the mating game.......,Oddly enough this handicap does not attach to red haired women. Red haired women have a certain flair, and there are even recorded cases of women coloring their hair red to capture that cachet......I just don't understand this. It has no Darwinian basis.

Fritz said...

"When did this "unique recessive gene on chromosome 16" arise? Can you trace it back or are you just seeing where it appears in a being alive today?"

Like any mutation, it could appear spontaneously and be present in a population at low levels, but it appears to have been evolutionarily favored in Northern Europe due to better vitamin D production in cold and darker areas. The British Isles are the hot spot for red hair world wide.

Of course the Vikings did help spread it around some, by rape and intermarriage, but not by the mechanism you first mentioned.

Curiously, it appears that many Neanderthals in northern Europe and Asia were also red haired, but the version of the gene that caused their red hair was slightly different than the one responsible now. Did that gene mutate and leave us with the current one, or did the modern one arise separately? We may never know. It is also thought that Neanderthals contributed approximately 5% of the modern genome to people outside of Africa.

Ann Althouse said...

Is it wrong to what to know your percentage of Neanderthal? Is it wrong to want to know each other's percentage and to feel -- if you've got a lot -- an affinity with others who have a lot.

That would really be racism!

cubanbob said...

I myself am a person of red hair and freckles.

I still have the freckles. They seem childish, but they hang on longer than the hair color."

Don't worry. Be happy. A good looking woman who isn't crazy will always have choices in men.

As for these woman seeking "designer" sperm, unless child support laws are changed those guys are probably wary or at least they ought to be. Sperm donors have been sued for paternity and child support.

Inga said...

What I find interesting is dark haired people with freckles. Or freckles in dark skinned people. Just seems out of place.

Fritz said...

"Is it wrong to what to know your percentage of Neanderthal?"

I can't see why. It's not like you can do anything about your ancestry.

"Is it wrong to want to know each other's percentage and to feel -- if you've got a lot -- an affinity with others who have a lot."

It might be silly. My sense for the results is that the "% Neanderthal" they can assign to a person isn't very accurate or precise; there aren't that many samples of Neanderthal genes, and they covered a lot of ground for a long time, so we don't have much data for the range of variation. I would be very surprised if they're accurate to 0.1%.

"That would really be racism!"

Or even subpeciesism or speciesism, depending on which version of the taxonomy you believe. (Currently, Neanderthal is either regarded as a subspecies of Homo sapiens, or a separate species, Homo neanderthalensis).

Michael Ryan said...

Well, the technology would save us the discomfort of what to do when the "gay gene" thing is finally worked out. I've thought for some time that when we know that genetic basis there will be some tough decisions to be made. If you like that "reproductive autonomy", are you still OK with it if it's used to eliminate fetuses likely to run out to be gay adults? If you are anti-"reproductive autonomy", would you be willing to make an exception in this case?