Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Roarke's New and Hot (Week 6)

A panel on the ethics of genetic engineering was held yesterday at Stanford, hosted by the Center on Ethics and the Program in Ethics and Society. The panel focused on the use of new technologies that are used to conduct genetic screens of embryos, allowing parents to pick and choose the "best." Such genetic "hyper-parenting" is sometimes compared to eugenics (the so-called "self-direction of human evolution"), which we'll talk more about when I give my presentation on Wednesday. Panelists included Professor Michael Sandel of the Program in Ethics and Society, Law Professor Hank Greely, and Pediatrics Professor David Magnus, three preeminent scholars in this area.

As the development of such genetic technologies will likely proceed at a faster rate than the government will be able to keep track of and control, discussions like this one held yesterday are urgently needed so that we, as a nation and a planet,, can develop legal standards to regulate such practices.

Is genetic engineering really unethical, or is it merely a more scientifically advanced way of ensuring a happy life for one's children? Hyperparenting is something parents of all species have been doing forever in countless other ways, from choosing a good mate, to providing nutrition, shelter, and support to the growing child, to more modern variations like paying for SAT prep and private school tuition, but is it going too far to actually genetically predetermine our childrens' traits? While such technologies will of course only be available to the wealthy, isn't that true to some extent for most of the advantages hyper-parents give to their kids today anyway?

Read the brief daily article here.


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