Futurists and science fiction writers have been wrestling over the issues surrounding “designer babies” ever since the science of genetics was invented. However, Seeker reports, a recent experiment using CRISPR, managed to alter the genetic makeup of several human embryos. What was once theoretical is now at hand. The old questions about how far we should go in controlling our genome have taken on increased relevance.

Ending old genetic disorders

CRISPR technology could be used to not only fix genetic abnormalities in the womb but to eradicate them.

The feature of altering the genetic code of a human is that the modified genome is thus passed on to his or her descendants for all time. Conditions such as Downs Syndrome and the horrible condition that afflicted Charlie Gard could become things of the past. One can even go further and remove genetic tendencies toward diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease. Most people, even those who are put off by the idea of altering the human genome, concede that this would be a good thing.

But what about improving human traits?

The red line past which many ethicists hesitate to go is the idea of improving desirable human traits. Parents would naturally be interested in increasing the intelligence and Athletic Ability of their children.

One can even imagine using CRISPR technology to enhance Physical Attractiveness.

Besides the standard objection of “playing God,” a practical consideration of creating two types of humans, ones that have been improved in the womb and those who have not. The procedure is likely to be costly, at least at first, so the well to do would be more liable to have their unborn children undergo the procedure.

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Some may decline due to ethical or religious reasons, but generally, children who have not been enhanced will have parents with lower incomes.

Fortunately, the future of designer babies is ways off yet. The genetic code that determines intelligence, for example, is too complex that current technology is insufficient to altering it with any degree of precision.

Still, questions need to be asked and answered now before the technology of human enhancement is upon us. Should we ban such procedures unless it is used to fix genetic defects? That policy may not be an option. Some countries may allow or even mandate the technology for their elites, the theory being that having a population of enhanced humans will constitute a strategic advantage.

Maybe the solution is not so much to forbid human enhancement but to regulate it and to make it available to all. Designer babies may be thought of as “playing God” but then so were vaccinations at one time. The future of human enhancement may be inevitable.