James Watson, president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and co-discoverer along with Francis Crick of the DNA double helix structure, calls for treating stupidity as a disease that should be cured with biotechnology.
“If you really are stupid, I would call that a disease,” Dr Watson said. “The lower 10 per cent who really have difficulty, even in elementary school, what’s the cause of it? A lot of people would like to say, ‘Well, poverty, things like that.’ It probably isn’t. So I’d like to get rid of that, to help the lower 10 per cent.
“It seems unfair that some people don’t get the same opportunity. Once you have a way in which you can improve our children, no one can stop it. It would be stupid not to use it because someone else will. Those parents who enhance their children, then their children are going to be the ones who dominate the world.” Genes that influence beauty could also be engineered. “People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great.”
I'm with James on this one: More smarties and more pretty girls. What a wonderful world it would be.
Tom Shakespeare, a bio-ethicist at Britain's University of Newcastle, criticized Watson's remarks.
"He is talking about altering something that most people see as part of normal human variation, and that I think is wrong.... I am afraid he may have done more harm than good, his leadership of the Human Genome Project and his discovery of 1953 notwithstanding."
Countries where the people do not enhance the intelligence of their offspring are countries that will be left behind. "Naturalists" who do not want to see genetic enhancement of humans are going to be on the losing side in history.
Others think that beauty can not be genetically engineered because it is subjective.
Geneticist Steve Jones, at University College London, dismisses Watson's comments about beauty as "daft". "The concept of beauty is a subjective one," he told New Scientist.
This claim flies in the face of everyday experience. Why do pretty girls get elected home coming queens in high school? Why is there little controversy over who the top contenders are? Why do certain TV and movie stars become the predictable heartthrobs of millions all over the world?
Social science research finds there is a large amount of agreement on what constitutes attractive appearance. (also see this link for the same article)
Men and women generally agree about how attractive another person is, and are often quite accurate in predicting how others will rate their own appearance, new study findings show.
People are going to genetically engineer their kids. They will do this for intelligence, personality, looks, health, and other characteristics. There may well be some countries that pass and strictly enforce laws forbidding this sort of thing. But other countries won't pass the laws or that will not make a concerted effort to enforce the laws. The incentives for genetically enigneering progeny will be so great that people will find a way to do it regardless of what governments say or do.
Update: It may seem hard to believe but some scientists and medical doctors still deny genetics can control the level of intelligence.
Australian Medical Association's ethics committee chairman Dr Trevor Mudge said it was not yet known if intelligence was determined by genetic or environmental factors.
For ideological reasons some highly educated people do not want to admit that genetics is more important than environment in determining intelligence. Obviously toxins and malnutrition can prevent proper brain development. Obviously a mind's development can be messed up by putting a child in an environment in which it can not intellectually develop. But to suppose that environment is the only or even the main factor separating the average 90 IQ person from the average 150 IQ person is ludicrous. Yet as the previous article demonstrates it is still possible to go around and find people with impressive sounding titles and credentials who will deny the role of genetic variations in determining intelligence.
This debate will end when it becomes possible to genetically engineer offspring to be smarter (i.e. probably in about 10 or 20 years). The people who are willing to do genetic engineering to their offspring will stampede to use the biotechnology that does so. Many people who, if asked today, would say they oppose offspring genetic engineering will be first in line to use it when it becomes possible to do so. Many will decide it is so important to give one's own children every advantage that they will place this feeling ahead of whatever argument they advance today in opposition to germ line genetic engineering.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2003 February 28 03:01 PM Biotech Reproduction|