Reprogenetics and the "parents have always done it" argument.
|Publication:||Name: The Hastings Center Report Publisher: Hastings Center Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences; Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Hastings Center ISSN: 0093-0334|
|Issue:||Date: Jan-Feb, 2011 Source Volume: 41 Source Issue: 1|
A common argument in favor of using reprogenetic technologies to
enhance children goes like this: parents have always aimed at enhancing
their children through upbringing and education, so why not use new
tools to accomplish the same goal? But reprogenetics differs
significantly from good childrearing and education, in its means, if not
One way to begin making sense of new and often initially perplexing technologies is to see them as extensions of established technologies and practices. When we take this view of an emerging technology, we regard it primarily as a new way of doing something that we are already doing--a new means to an old end. This basic outlook matters for how we go about reflecting on and reasoning about the technology in question. Generally speaking, it supports a welcoming stance. If we are comfortable with familiar practices--which we often are--and if we see new technologies as mere extensions of these practices, we are quite likely to feel comfortable with the new technologies, too.
More specifically, the outlook just described is likely to inspire a way of reasoning about new technologies that Erik Parens has called the "we've always done it (and everything's been okay)" argument. The argument has the following structure: "If practice X has been morally acceptable in the past, and if practice Y is just like practice X, then practice Y should be morally acceptable now and in the future." (1) Parens criticizes a specific variety of the argument advanced to support human germ line genetic engineering on the grounds that we have already altered the human germ line in several other ways.
In this paper, I shall examine another variety of the "we've always done it" argument often found in the debate about a group of technologies sometimes called "reprogenetics." Broadly understood, reprogenetics encompasses "all interventions involved in the creation, use, manipulation, or storage of gametes and embryos." (2) This includes both in vitro fertilization and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, a technology that allows doctors to detect certain specifically targeted genetic disorders in IVF embryos. It also includes different methods aimed at manipulating the genetic make-up of these embryos (the germ line interventions that Parens discusses) and cloning.
Some debated reprogenetic technologies are still unavailable, while others are insufficiently developed for safe human use. Those that are currently safe and feasible mostly serve medical purposes. Many reprogenetic technologies--PGD, for instance--are or would be used in order to avoid bringing into existence children with agonizing and debilitating diseases. Reprogenetics enthusiasts defend such uses, but many also believe that it is morally permissible--even sometimes obligatory (3)--to use reprogenetic technologies to choose future children's characteristics unrelated to disease. These commentators claim that we should use reprogenetics to ensure that future children are not just healthy, but also intelligent, handsome, physically fit, and perhaps even morally virtuous.
It is in order to support that position that some variety of the "we've always done it" argument is invoked. One variety might be called the "medicine's always done it" argument. It goes roughly like this: medical knowledge and medical technologies have long been used for other purposes than to cure, prevent, or ameliorate disease. Cosmetic surgery and safe abortions are two examples, and there are many others. These "non-medical" uses have generally been quite acceptable. The argument holds that it is then also acceptable that the knowledge and technologies involved in medical reprogenetics be used for nonmedical purposes. (4) While this is a thought-provoking line of reasoning, I will not examine it further here. I will turn instead to another variety of the "we've always done it" argument that often crops up in this context.
The "Parents Have Always Done It" Argument
Consider the following passage from John Robertson's influential book, Children of Choice:
Several other bioethicists have posed analogous questions. (6) Here is John Harris:
Harris's answer is an emphatic "No!" In the same vein, but more succinctly, Nicholas Agar claims that "If we are permitted to produce certain traits by modifying our children's environments, then we are also permitted to produce them by modifying their genomes." (8)
The structure of the argument in the quoted passages may not be altogether transparent, but it is not far-fetched to explicate it precisely along the lines that Parens lays out. The argument then goes as follows: If it has been morally acceptable in the past for parents to shape their children's characteristics through rearing and education, and if choosing children's characteristics by means of reprogenetics is just like shaping them through rearing and education, then it should be morally acceptable for parents to choose their children's characteristics by means of reprogenetics now and in the future. In what follows, I shall refer to this as the "parents have always done it" argument. I hope to be able to show why this argument is flawed.
New Means to Questionable Ends
To begin with, allow me to briefly reiterate a familiar but easily overlooked point. We do not--or at least should not--welcome everything that parents currently do and have done in the past in the course of rearing and educating their children. (9) Parents may, for instance, mold their children in accordance with narrow gender or racial stereotypes, or other dubious societal norms. Or they may opt for schools and leisure activities that correspond more to their ambitions for their children than to the children's own wants and interests. These are just two examples. But they are sufficient to show that reprogenetics should not be welcomed without reservation even if it is merely a new means to the same old ends that parents have always pursued through rearing and education. This is because these ends are not always innocent or admirable.
This point significantly blunts the force of the "parents have always done it" argument. It reminds us that the idea that reprogenetics is just like rearing and education works both ways. If it is true that the reasons we have to be comfortable about the latter are also reasons to be comfortable about the former, then it is also true that the reasons we sometimes have to be concerned about the latter are also reasons to sometimes be concerned about the former.
However, this does not challenge that idea itself. A more fundamental objection to the "parents have always done it" argument--an objection that I shall develop at greater length--is that reprogenetics is in crucial ways not at all like rearing and education. Even if reprogenetics is used in pursuit of things that we rightly regard as worthy ends of these practices, it remains a more precarious means.
New and Greater Risks
Consider an example. One of the important things that parents try to cultivate in their children when bringing them up is a capacity to reflect upon and sometimes resist their immediate desires and impulses. Now suppose that parents could achieve this in part by having a genetic combination associated with increased self-control inserted into an in vitro embryo intended to become their child. (10) One important way in which this intervention would differ from the various environmental measures involved in ordinary upbringing is that it would come with different and arguably greater risks. The technologies involved are still far from perfect, (11) and our knowledge about how genes are correlated with behavioral traits is rather limited. So the effects of the intervention on the child would be difficult to predict and could be quite harmful.
These risks are easily overlooked if the intervention is thought of as being just like rearing and education, as the "parents have always done it" argument suggests. Such thinking easily underestimates the fact that the totality of effects of new means is often different from the totality of effects of old means, even if both aim at the same ends. (12)
Note that the concern about risks outlined here is contingent on current science and technology. If we learn more about how genes function and if we develop safer and more precise techniques for introducing new genetic material into embryos, the risks involved in such interventions will diminish. Indeed, arguments in favor of extensive use of reprogenetics for the shaping of nondisease traits usually take as their point of departure an imagined future scenario in which current scientific and technological limitations are largely overcome. (13) While risk-based considerations clearly advise against many reprogenetic interventions now, (14) they are less powerful as objections to the idea of extensive reprogenetic child-shaping in such an imagined scenario.
However, reprogenetics differs from rearing and education in a crucial way that has nothing to do with current limitations of science and technology. There is a difference between the two practices that cannot even in principle be overcome by scientific and technological progress. I will articulate this difference with the help of two rather unusual characters on the bioethical scene: Aristotle, and one of the most important modern interpreters of Aristotelian ethics, Hans-Georg Gadamer. However, I shall also suggest that we should recognize the difference whether or not we are Aristotelians--indeed, that we should recognize it regardless of what substantial theory in contemporary normative ethics we adhere to (if any).
Aristotle and Hermeneutics
A crucial but puzzling thing about Aristotle's ethics is that it so forcefully stresses the limits of philosophical theorizing with respect to practical life. In the Nicomachean Ethics, the philosopher offers detailed accounts of justice, temperance, generosity, and the other moral virtues, but always stops short of determining precisely what it takes to be just, temperate, or generous in any given case. That cannot be settled in a general and abstract characterization but only by someone who actually finds him- or herself in the concrete situation that requires these virtues be exercised, who has acquired them through practical experience, and who is able to successfully bring them to bear on the particular difficulties at hand. (15) Aristotle calls such a person phronimos ("practically wise"), and says that he or she possesses phronesis ("practical wisdom").
What Aristotle suggests, in effect, is that moral knowledge is thoroughly practical, and thus, that it is fundamentally different from various forms of theoretical knowledge possessed by the scientist and the philosopher (episteme, nous, and sophia). But it is also different in various ways from the practical know-how of the craftsman or artist (techne). One important difference between the two forms of practical knowledge concerns the role of experience. The craftsman's skill has its origin in practical experience with concrete cases, but it can be abstracted from these cases and accumulated in general rules and methods that can be applied to new cases and taught to others. (16) Practical wisdom, on the other hand, does not become available as a rule or method and can therefore not be taught--it can only be acquired through practical habituation. It remains more thoroughly experiential. Indeed, some interpreters have suggested that phronesis is a form of experience, or more precisely, that it is the capacity to successfully put previous experience into new use and thereby deepen and revise it. (17)
There is an important lesson to be learned from Aristotle's emphasis on the practical and experiential nature of moral agency and moral knowledge. That lesson should be taken seriously regardless of what general sort of ethical requirement one thinks should guide our actions--in other words, regardless of whether one is a utilitarian, a Kantian, a virtue ethicist, a "principlist," or none of these. Getting things right in a morally difficult situation is never simply a question of acting on the right ethical requirement, whatever its content. One has to follow the right requirement to be sure. But just how to follow any kind of requirement, rule, or instruction can never be fully determined by that requirement, rule, or instruction itself, to cite a familiar Wittgensteinian point. (18) One also needs to be carefully attuned to the particularities of the concrete situation in which one finds oneself. As Onora O'Neill puts it, ethical and other practical principles necessarily underdetermine actions; they are not algorithms, but rather require a measure of judgment in order to be put to practice. (19)
I will soon turn to what the idea that moral agency requires careful attention to the concrete implies for the difference between, on the one hand, genetic interventions on embryos and, on the other, rearing and educating children. But first I will highlight a feature of that idea that is implicit in Aristotle's account of practical wisdom, but that is rendered explicit through Gadamer's adoption of that account into his philosophical hermeneutics, found in Truth and Method. Gadamer regards hermeneutical understanding as analogous to Aristotelian moral agency in the sense that it, too, involves grasping something distant and general by bringing it to concrete form. The interpreter of a historical text, for instance, reveals its meaning and place in a wider historical context by relating it to herself, her own purposes, and her contemporary situation, just as the moral agent comes to understand the nature of the virtues by asking what they require of her in these particular circumstances, where this particular difficulty is faced. Both forms of understanding thus have a fundamentally applied character. (20)
By articulating the interpretive dimension of phronesis, Gadamer hints at another important feature of that concept. Although the bulk of Truth and Method is concerned with interpretation of texts and other artifacts within the human sciences, Gadamer ultimately broadens the scope and claims that hermeneutical understanding is a basic feature of human existence, and that the model for this universal experience is the interpersonal encounter. Understanding through interpretation (whatever it is that one seeks to understand) is fundamentally structured as the process of two conversation partners reaching agreement on a common subject, despite initial differences, through a dialogical meeting in language. (21)
This brings the thoroughly social nature of practical wisdom into clear view. If phronesis is indeed an interpretive virtue, and if interpretation is at heart an intersubjective or relational affair, then phronesis is best understood as a relational capacity. It is exercised and developed in interpretive relationships with others. Such a hermeneutical reading of Aristotelian ethics serves to considerably flesh out the idea that practical wisdom is concerned with the particular. The attunement to the particular features of the concrete situation in which one acts, which Aristotle rightly underscores, involves attunement to the particular and concrete people that one acts with and toward. Getting things right in practical life requires sensitivity and responsiveness to the particularities of others.
Articulating the Difference
This detour through Aristotelian practical philosophy and hermeneutics helps show both why reprogenetic child-shaping is not at all like rearing and education and why this matters morally. Let us return to the previous example of self-control. When parents and educators shape such a trait in a child, they generally do so within the context of an interpersonal, interpretive relationship. The child is engaged in person, as a concrete and distinct individual with a particular set of potentialities and difficulties that have to be understood and negotiated correctly if the shaping is to be successful. Thus, there is opportunity for the careful attention and adjustment to the concrete and particular that wise choices require.
The role of experience in such "environmental" molding of a child's traits is especially important to note. Parents and educators generally rely on their own and other people's experience with other children, but that previous experience is not a simple rule that can be straightforwardly applied to new cases. It is instead challenged and modified in the encounter with the particularities of the new child. A similar experiential dynamic is at work over time within the relationship to that same child. When cultivating a trait like self-control, a range of methods and strategies are tried out. Some of these methods and strategies eventually turn out successfully and others do not, but often there is no sure way of telling the good ones from the bad ones beforehand. Progress requires learning from previous mistakes and partial successes as one goes. So the shaping of a child by way of rearing and education has a certain tentative, flexible, piecemeal quality that opens it to continuous experiential correction.
This tentativeness pertains not only to the various means employed in rearing and education, but also to the ends of these practices. In the course of trying to make their child more in control of his or her immediate desires and impulses, parents do not just evaluate the usefulness of different rearing methods. They may also come to question, reevaluate, or even abandon their initial view of the importance of self-control. How much self-control is really a good thing? Is it not sometimes better to just go along with one's desires, rather than restrain them? Might one even be harmed by excessive self-control if others exploit that trait? And what does all of that mean for the cultivation of that trait in this particular child? So in an important sense, shaping a child through rearing and education is also shaping oneself. As experience accumulates, one continually challenges and modifies one's conception of what is important in life--not just for one's child, but for oneself and others, too--and of how that is best achieved.
What I am suggesting is that bringing up and educating a child are characterized by certain "phronetic" qualities. It is doubtful that the same can be said of reprogenetic child-shaping. It is crucial to remember that such interventions are aimed at a different kind of entity: an early embryo, made up of just a few cells. Such a being can plainly not be part of a mutual, interpretive relationship in the way that even a very small child can. The future child for whose sake the genetic intervention is made is not yet at hand as a concrete individual with a specific set of potentialities, limitations, wishes, and aversions to which the intervention can be carefully adjusted. There is little opportunity for the attention to the particular on which good rearing and education rest.
Also, the genetic intervention lacks the tentative and open-ended quality characteristic of these practices. It is not employed in the course of an extended process where experience gradually accumulates and is allowed to challenge and modify the very goal that one intends to achieve, as well as one's conception of how to achieve it. The intervention is a punctual measure, an isolated means to an end already settled. This limits the scope for subsequent experiential correction.
In a sense, what I am suggesting here resembles a point that Jurgen Habermas makes in his book, The Future of Human Nature. Habermas's engagement with bioethics has been much criticized, (22) not entirely without reason. But I think that he is on to something very important when he stresses that "Socialization proceeds only by communicative action," where the "expectations underlying the parents' efforts at character building are essentially 'contestable,'" whereas "With genetic enhancement, there is no communicative scope for the projected child to be addressed as a second person and to be involved in a communication process." (23) What is troubling about genetic enhancement, Habermas suggests, is that it might jeopardize the future child's autonomy--the child's sense of "being the undivided author of his own life" (24)--and might thus ultimately threaten our collective self-understanding as moral equals. His explanation of how these far-reaching effects may occur requires some measure of imagination on the part of the reader, and may or may not be convincing in the end. (25)
In any case, my argument is distinct from Habermas's and less ambitious, although it trades on the kind of difference that he notes. Reprogenetic interventions target a very different entity than ordinary parenting does: an embryo at a very specific stage of development, not a growing child. Because they target such an entity, they also work within a very different time frame: they are punctual interventions, not processes extended and continually modified over months or years. This means that reprogenetics cannot rely on the careful timing, attention to detail, open-endedness, and reflexivity that characterize successful rearing and education. This makes reprogenetics a blunter and much more uncertain means, even when employed for the sake of ends that are normally quite appropriate for parents to pursue. And even if the technologies involved in reprogenetics were to become radically more sophisticated, it would remain a blunt and uncertain means.
But why worry about this bluntness? Parents and educators may err in any number of ways when they rely on more traditional means, despite the best intentions. Having tried for years to foster a set of desirable skills and dispositions in a child, they may realize that the methods employed to this end were the wrong ones all along. Or their admiration for some characteristic may in retrospect prove quite misguided, shaped by (say) shallow social conformity rather than their own considered values, or in any case not shared by the child. They may even foster characteristics that, while generally admirable, nonetheless turn out to be contrary to a particular child's interests. And parents and educators may well realize any such mistake only when it is too late to rectify it, if at all.
The bluntness of reprogenetics is problematic because it expands the scope for such errors. Because reprogenetic shaping of traits like self-control, intelligence, and physical fitness in a future child would not (were it feasible) proceed over time through a carefully attuned interaction with the child in question, the interventions would be prone to the same kinds of mistakes that parents and educators always risk making, just more so. One may expect such shaping to end more easily in results that are not what the parents really intended or not what they, upon further reflection, would want for their child. One may also expect it to end more easily in ways unwanted by the child, or otherwise contrary to his or her interests. Nor is it very far-fetched to imagine that disappointment and regret on the part of the parents, and resentment and reproach on the part of the child, would be likely to ensue.
These unfortunate outcomes are not immutable, however. The engineering of particular genetic combinations in embryos will not yield desired traits unless later paired with appropriate environmental measures. These later measures may well be deployed in the relational mode characteristic of good rearing and education. In some cases, a reprogenetic intervention may shape a child profoundly and irrevocably--and not just because its purely biological effects may occur very early or be difficult to avoid or compensate for, but also because the parental expectations behind it may resist subsequent revision, (26) or because the child's emotional or psychological response to the intervention or to the parents' expectations may be strong and hard to erase. (27) In other, less troubling cases, the intervention may be only a small first step toward shaping the trait in question, later followed by a tentative, flexible socialization process that leaves considerable room for accommodating biological effects and parental expectations to the particularities of the growing child. In short, the bluntness of reprogenetics may play out in quite different ways. It may matter more in some cases than in others. (Also, one may have very strong reasons to use a blunt means when it is the only means available to a highly valued end, like avoiding severe and debilitating illness--commonly the situation in the limited type of cases where reprogenetics is used to select offspring characteristics today.)
I am not claiming, then, that reprogenetic shaping of future children is always a bad thing, let alone that it should invariably be legally prohibited. Nor do I suggest that rearing and education are unproblematic practices. They are clearly not. My contention is just that there are morally important differences between the two forms of child-shaping. If one is thought to be just like the other, then these differences are overlooked. That is the problem with the "parents have always done it" argument. Thinking clearly about novel and spectacular biotechnologies obviously requires resisting hype on the one hand and alarmism on the other. But, as Parens indicates, (28) one must also be wary of another potential pitfall: the temptation to think of these technologies as merely new ways of doing what we already happily do. I hope to have provided further reasons why that temptation should sometimes be resisted.
I thank Kathrin Braun and an anonymous reviewer for this journal for pressing me to clarify my argument at several points.
(1.) E. Parens, "Should We Hold the (Germ) Line?" Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 23 (1995): 173-76, at 173. Parens points out that the argument is an instance of a broader style of analogical reasoning sometimes called the argument from precedent.
(2.) L.P. Knowles and G.E. Kaebnick, eds., Reprogenetics: Law, Policy, and Ethical Issues (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), ix.
(3.) The enthusiasts are divided on the question whether such uses are merely permissible or sometimes also obligatory. For a defense of the first view, see N. Agar, Liberal Eugenics: In Defence of Human Enhancement (Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell, 2004). Proponents of the second view include J. Harris, Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007), and J. Savulescu, "Procreative Beneficence: Why We Should Select the Best Children," Bioethics 15 (2001): 413-26.
(4.) D.B. Resnik, "The Moral Significance of the Therapy-Enhancement Distinction in Human Genetics," Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 9 (2000): 365-77, at 368-69.
(5.) J.A. Robertson, Children of Choice: Freedom and the New Reproductive Technologies (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994), 167.
(6.) Another influential group of authors writes: "If parents modify phenotype in pursuit of their goal of producing the 'best' offspring they can, then why not add to their arsenal of methods whatever genetic interventions may make it easier to accomplish some of those goals?" See A. Buchanan, D.W. Brock, N. Daniels, and D. Wikler, From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 160. I hesitate to count these authors among the proponents of what I call the "parents have always done it" argument, however; they seem less wholeheartedly enthusiastic than Robertson, Harris, and Agar about reprogenetic improvement of offspring.
(7.) Harris, Enhancing Evolution, 2.
(8.) Agar, Liberal Eugenics, 113.
(9.) M. Sandel, The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap, 2007), 52-62.
(10.) This is not just idle speculation. Recent criminological research suggests that self-control is partly genetically determined; see K.M. Beaver et al., "Genetic and Environmental Influences on Levels of Self-Control and Delinquent Peer Affiliation: Results from a Longitudinal Sample of Adolescent Twins," Criminal Justice and Behavior 36, no. 1 (2009): 41-60. Of course, this means neither that a particular genetic combination has been associated with the trait, nor that there are currently methods for detecting or manipulating that combination.
(11.) For a recent review of current possibilities and limitations of these technologies, see J.E.J. Rasko and D.J. Jolly, "The Science of Inheritable Genetic Modification," in The Ethics of Inheritable Genetic Modification: A Dividing Line? ed. J.E.J. Rasko, G.M. O'Sullivan, and R.A. Ankeny (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 17-33.
(12.) R. Cole-Turner, "Do Means Matter?" in Enhancing Human Traits: Ethical and Social Implications, ed. E. Parens (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1998).
(13.) That is, discussions of reprogenetic technologies tend to proceed from what Agar calls a "pragmatic optimism" about such technologies; see Agar, Liberal Eugenics, 34-38.
(14.) Such considerations also clearly advise against clinical research aimed at developing many imagined reprogenetic interventions; see N. Daniels, "Can Anyone Really Be Talking About Ethically Modifying Human Nature?" in Human Enhancement, ed. J. Savulescu and N. Bostrom (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2009), 25-42, at 38-41.
(15.) This is why Aristotle characterizes each virtue as a mean between two vicious extremes, but regarding where that mean is to be found, only says that this is to be determined "by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it." See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. W.D. Ross (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1980), 1107a.
(16.) The nature of techne is most extensively laid out in the Metaphysics. See Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. H. Tredennick (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980), 980a-982b.
(17.) H-G. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 2nd ed. (London, U.K.: Continuum, 1989), 319; J. Dunne, Back to the Rough Ground: 'Phronesis' and 'Techne' in Modern Philosophy and in Aristotle (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993), 290-95.
(18.) For an excellent discussion of this issue, see C. Taylor, "To Follow a Rule ... ," in Bourdieu: A Critical Reader, ed. R. Shusterman (Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell, 1999), 29-44. Taylor notes that Wittgenstein's point implies a need for something like Aristotelian phronesis; Ibid., 41.
(19.) O. O'Neill, "Practical Principles and Practical Judgment," Hastings Center Report 31, no. 4 (2001): 15-23.
(20.) Gadamer, Truth and Method, 320-36.
(21.) Ibid., 385-91.
(22.) Agar, Liberal Eugenics, 116-20; Harris, Enhancing Evolution, 137-42; E. Fenton, "Liberal Eugenics and Human Nature: Against Habermas," Hastings Center Report 36, no. 6 (2006): 35-42.
(23.) J. Habermas, The Future of Human Nature (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 2003), 61-62.
(24.) Ibid., 63.
(25.) Bernard G. Prusak has provided readers of this journal with an excellent explication and unusually charitable appraisal of Habermas's argument, noting its unavoidably tentative character. See B.G. Prusak, "Rethinking 'Liberal Eugenics': Reflections and Questions on Habermas and Bioethics," Hastings Center Report 35, no. 6 (2005): 31-42.
(26.) D.S. Davis, "The Parental Investment Factor and the Child's Right to an Open Future," Hastings Center Report 39, no. 2 (2009): 24-27.
(27.) Habermas is right to emphasize the child's response to the intervention and the parents' intentions, regardless of whether he is right about the profound effects that the response may have on the child's self-determination. See Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 53-60.
(28.) Parens, "Should We Hold the (Germ) Line?"
Erik Malmqvist, "Reprogenetics and the 'Parents Have Always Done It' Argument," Hastings Center Report 41, no. 1 (2011): 43-49.
A case could be made for prenatal enhancement as part of parental discretion in rearing offspring. If special tutors and camps, training programs, even the administration of growth hormone to add a few inches to height are within parental rearing discretion, why should genetic interventions to enhance normal offspring traits be any less legitimate? (5)
if the goal of enhanced intelligence, increased powers and capacities, and better health is something that we might strive to produce through education ... why should we not produce these goals, if we can do so safely, through enhancement technologies or procedures? If these are legitimate aims of education, could they be illegitimate aims of medical or life science ... ? (7)
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