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Kaa
05-29-2013, 01:27 PM
Imagine that you and your spouse want to have a child, but because of a variety of unfortunate events have been forced to rely on IVF, in vitro fertilization.

In the middle of the process, Dr.Smith contacts you and says: "The fertilization of eggs was very successful, in fact there are far too many of them to implant. We have the capability to check the fertilized eggs for genetic abnormalities and discard ones with any. Would you like us to do that?" -- question #1.

A bit later, Dr.Jones contacts you as well and says: "You know you have too many fertilized eggs to implant, right? We have the capability to check the eggs for genetic predisposition to certain diseases -- for example, we can check whether the genes show a slightly increased likelihood of heart disease or diabetes later in life. We will choose the eggs without any such predispositions for implantation. Would you like us to do that?" -- question #2.

And finally, Dr.Brown also contacts you and says: "After these screenings, we still have too many eggs. We have the capability to estimate the future IQ implied by the genes. We can choose the eggs with the highest estimated IQ to implant. Would you like us to do that?" -- question #3.

What would you answer and do you feel there are any ethical issues with some answers to these questions?

Kaa

TomF
05-29-2013, 01:32 PM
You first. :D

Me, I'd maybe make an omelette.

seanz
05-29-2013, 01:40 PM
What would you answer and do you feel there are any ethical issues with some answers to these questions?

We've screened the eggs again, some of them have a genetic predisposition for vagueness.

AndyG
05-29-2013, 01:42 PM
At least in the UK I wouldn't be worried that I'm paying three doctors to do the one job.

Andy

Keith Wilson
05-29-2013, 02:11 PM
Yes, yes, and yes. Why not?

Paul Pless
05-29-2013, 02:12 PM
Yes, yes, and yes. Why not?
I'd be interested in screening my kid for Tiger Woods skills. . .

TomF
05-29-2013, 02:16 PM
I'd be interested in screening my kid for Tiger Woods skills. . .Golf? Or his other skills? :D

Glen Longino
05-29-2013, 02:16 PM
Hiss!
With the given information I'd answer yes to all three questions.

Paul Pless
05-29-2013, 02:17 PM
Golf? Or his other skills? :DI'm guessing his 'self promotion and marketing skills';) are somewhat dependent on his abilities on the golf course. . .

TomF
05-29-2013, 02:22 PM
I was thinking more about surviving blunt force trauma, and talking with his dead father.

Ian McColgin
05-29-2013, 02:23 PM
To take a case that happens in the real world - the "Fragile X Syndrome" is a genetic condition with a wide variety of adverse consequences. Among those consequences are that a woman with FXS is likely to suffer early on-set menopause. Given that, a woman who wants to maintain the option of pregnancy but just not yet would have some eggs harvested and preserved. Most would certainly have the eggs screened for the FXS gene and would not keep those.

Michael D. Storey
05-29-2013, 02:24 PM
As far as intelligence is concerned, seeing how we can set down's syndrome, etc aside, I would say that it is over rated. I would be anxious to avoid the temptation to say, 'Hey' don't be so dumb! You were spozed ta be smart!' At every 'fox paw', as George Wallace was known to say.

Also, no one has mentioned adoption, or the prospect of selling all those extra eggs!

Paul Pless
05-29-2013, 02:29 PM
As far as intelligence is concerned, seeing how we can set down's syndrome, etc aside, I would say that it is over rated. Quite so. I'm a firm believer that stupider people are happier, as a whole, than are smarter people.

Glen Longino
05-29-2013, 02:35 PM
Quite so. I'm a firm believer that stupider people are happier, as a whole, than are smarter people.

Ha! No I'm not!!!!!!!:)

Paul Pless
05-29-2013, 02:43 PM
Ha! No I'm not!!!!!!!:)You're not a believer? or you're not happier?http://i278.photobucket.com/albums/kk110/fredz859/WoodenBoat/forum/tongue.gif

Flying Orca
05-29-2013, 02:56 PM
Quite so. I'm a firm believer that stupider people are happier, as a whole, than are smarter people.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cNsmt2YZXA

Oh yeah, re the OP: yes, yes, yes.

bogdog
05-29-2013, 03:03 PM
Have any of them been candled yet, that wasn't clear in the first post.

JBreeze
05-29-2013, 05:20 PM
Question #4: As we told you at the initial visit, we implant at least four eggs with the hope of having one or two develop into embryos...in your case all four genius eggs have developed into 4 viable embryos - two boys and two girls. We recommend you carry only one or two to full term.

What is your decision - which embryos and how many?

Flying Orca
05-29-2013, 05:25 PM
Obviously my partner would have considerable, tantamount to final, say in the matter, but I'd lean toward keeping only one. The sex wouldn't matter. This entire hypothetical is getting less likely (for me) by the minute, though, as I don't think I'd resort to IVF in the first place, and I think it's extremely unlikely I would want to have multiple embryos implanted.

George Jung
05-29-2013, 05:47 PM
NOt sure if it's changed - but generally, at least three embryos are implanted, anticipating that one or all may not 'take' - and the process is so expensive, among other concerns, as to that rationale. It's a conundrum.

JBreeze
05-29-2013, 05:48 PM
I haven't followed the field since the mid 1990's, so I'm not sure about the hypothetical nature of 1,2 and 3. However, the "reductions" in #4 are a real issue folks have to face. Three nurses I know decided to apply for IVF nursing positions due to Mon-Fri daytime work schedule, etc., but ended up declining the job offer after they considered their view of the universe and the prospect of being involved with "reductions".

Finally, I was around for ~ 50K deliveries, so I'm aware of a few of the sad stories associated with carrying multiple embryos - no need to detail them here.

It's a tough call on these questions - for both the prospective parents and health care personnel.

Keith Wilson
05-29-2013, 05:49 PM
In my own case, after not having kids the ordinary way and going though some of the less high-tech infertility stuff, we decided against proceeding to IVF, adopting instead. I don't regret it, although one always wonders about roads not taken. Even if one thinks that an embryo at that stage is nothing like a person, it's a tough decision. We have a friend currently pregnant with twins after IVF, and they had to consciously decide how many to implant.

Flying Orca
05-29-2013, 06:08 PM
NOt sure if it's changed - but generally, at least three embryos are implanted, anticipating that one or all may not 'take' - and the process is so expensive, among other concerns, as to that rationale. It's a conundrum.

Yeah, I'm aware of that. I'm proceeding on the assumption that if I could afford boutique IVF I could afford multiple implantation attempts, but I may be indulging in false equivalency, because if I could afford that, perhaps I could afford care assistance in case of multiple births.

George Jung
05-29-2013, 06:23 PM
Most of the folks I'm familiar with who have turned to IVF are breaking the bank, simply to afford what insurance doesn't cover. Desperate times/measures. But the concerns over a multiple gestation aren't the costs of child care; the risks involved, premature deliveries (with horrendous costs, plus risk of devastating outcomes for the kids, are the primary reasons for eliminating multiple gestations, should they all take. Emotionally, very trying/costly endeavor.

purri
05-30-2013, 02:36 AM
No to 2 and 3. Life's a lottery, get used to it.

bogdog
05-30-2013, 07:05 AM
What would you answer and do you feel there are any ethical issues with some answers to these questions?

KaaYes, and not really.

Kaa
05-30-2013, 09:54 AM
Interesting. Most people say "yes" to all three questions and see no ethical problems. The exception is purri who says "no" to #2 and #3.

And now I'll get out my long spoon and start stirring the pot... :-D

We'll start by putting out some terminology. One expression is "designer babies". Answering yes thrice implies that designer babies are a good thing, you want one (or more). Is that fine?

Another word is "eugenics". Not in the sense of sterilizing (or just killing) people you don't like, but in the sense of trying to improve the gene pool of the human race. Screening embryos for genetic defects and even inadequacy (not the best IQ) certainly does improve the gene pool, especially if it becomes widespread.

Finally, let me season the cauldron with social considerations. You know who's doing a LOT of select-for-desirable-traits research with humans? China. China is explicitly interested in breeding better humans, or, to put it more politely, improving the abilities of the future generations. Go read this: http://www.edge.org/response-detail/23838

But if it's fine for you to select for IQ among embryos, is it wrong for China to do it on a massive scale?

Kaa

Paul Pless
05-30-2013, 10:09 AM
Interesting. Most people say "yes" to all three questions and see no ethical problems. The exception is purri who says "no" to #2 and #3.

And now I'll get out my long spoon and start stirring the pot... :-D

We'll start by putting out some terminology. One expression is "designer babies". Answering yes thrice implies that designer babies are a good thing, you want one (or more). Is that fine?

Another word is "eugenics". Not in the sense of sterilizing (or just killing) people you don't like, but in the sense of trying to improve the gene pool of the human race. Screening embryos for genetic defects and even inadequacy (not the best IQ) certainly does improve the gene pool, especially if it becomes widespread.

Finally, let me season the cauldron with social considerations. You know who's doing a LOT of select-for-desirable-traits research with humans? China. China is explicitly interested in breeding better humans, or, to put it more politely, improving the abilities of the future generations. Go read this: http://www.edge.org/response-detail/23838

But if it's fine for you to select for IQ among embryos, is it wrong for China to do it on a massive scale?

Kaa

So you're gonna go off Phillip Allen (only in a slightly more sophisticated manner) on us and not offer your own opinion up?

bogdog
05-30-2013, 10:15 AM
We select for every other organism we breed. If the technology exists to select for important traits without damaging the embryos why not? Why should having a healthy child be such a crap shoot? The downside I see is selecting for gender based on cultural preferences. Of course I'm more interested in seeing this technology used to breed healthier longer lived dogs.

PS China is going to be the biggest pork producer in the world, that scares me.

Gerarddm
05-30-2013, 10:16 AM
Stewart Brand, he of Whole Earth Catalog fame, once noted " we ARE as gods, and might as well get good at it".

Eugenics to me absolutely refers to killing or sterilizing people considered to be defective by the state. It has nothing to do with selection to improve the next generation.

There are sperm banks for mensa-quality intellects, but the inexorable march forward as this article implies is not represented by reality. Look at horsebreeding, which for hundreds of years has attempted to breed super performance from supposed elite bloodlines. I don't see Secretariat's descendants regularly showing up winning the Triple Crown, do you?

It's not all nature, it's nurture too. Think also of the reverse of this question: would you select for implantation an embryo that had Say-Tachs, or the breast cancer gene? No loving parent would.

Every parent, I assume, wants the best for their child.

Keith Wilson
05-30-2013, 10:31 AM
A long spoon indeed; a well-mixed stew and metaphor both. :d

"Designer babies" is a silly propaganda term with very little meaning.


Another word is "eugenics". Not in the sense of sterilizing (or just killing) people you don't like, but in the sense of trying to improve the gene pool of the human race.The historical problem with eugenics, one reason it got a very bad name, was that it was often associated with coercion, exactly the things you mention - whether the violent Nazi type; kill off the undesirables - or the less bloody kind; just sterilize the undesirables. Another problem was insufficient knowledge - believing people who looked like you were necessarily better, not much understanding of genetics, not much understanding of intelligence. The more positive kind of eugenics described in the article might not be a bad thing at all. One's genes are one of the things that influence one’s characteristics as an adult. Why is attempting to improve the characteristics of people – either by eliminating obvious genetic defects, or by selecting for obviously desirable traits, necessarily any more unethical than, say, improving the nutrition of children and pregnant mothers? Improving the education of children? Certainly it can be done in an unethical way, but it’s not inherently wrong.

Kaa
05-30-2013, 10:58 AM
So you're gonna go off Phillip Allen (only in a slightly more sophisticated manner) on us and not offer your own opinion up?

I delayed my opinion to let the field go wherever it may. The opinion is unsurprising: yes three times. But then I see fewer ethical problem with genetic engineering than most people.

Kaa

Kaa
05-30-2013, 11:31 AM
The more positive kind of eugenics described in the article might not be a bad thing at all.

Well, I'm thinking less in terms of "wrong" and more in terms of implications and consequences.

A quick example. Imagine a near future where IVF is sufficiently perfected so that the success rate is over 99%, like lasik eye surgery now. A couple -- a healthy couple, no issues -- wants a kid and discusses their options with a doctor. And the doctor says: "Well, of course you can have a kid the old-fashioned way, but this is risky, very risky. You don't know the sex, your kid might turn out to be predisposed to some diseases, he might turn out to be just low-IQ. Now, our service guarantees a boy if you want a boy or a girl if you want a girl. We guarantee not-worse-than-average vulnerability to this list of illnesses, and most importantly, we guarantee a better IQ. Yes, it's expensive, but surely it is worth it! If you choose to have a natural kid, how will he compete with others of his generation who are *selected* to be healthy and smart? Do you want to condemn your future kid to being worse than most?"

Social consequences just might get interesting...

Kaa

Gerarddm
05-30-2013, 11:58 AM
They did a film based on that premise. Gattaca, starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.

Kaa
05-30-2013, 12:09 PM
They did a film based on that premise. Gattica, starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.

That's Gattaca, yes. However the idea of biologically different subgroups, one superior and one inferior, is much older than that.

Kaa

TomF
05-30-2013, 12:13 PM
As various here know, my family's been involved off and on over the years with the L'Arche movement - a group whose purpose it is to provide long-term (i.e. family-like) communities for people with mental disabilities to live in. Based on that experience, I'd argue that there would be an enormous cost to society were we to "improve" out such people from our midst.

A big part of what we've learned of love, of fairly unconditional acceptance, of the intrinsic value of humans quite regardless of their attributes, we learned from L'Arche members. It's been pivotal for my wife's healing from her own hyper-intellectual and hyper-achieving yet love-lacking family of origin, and for the way the rest of our family now views the world. Quite simply, I've never met people with such open hearts, and it's been terribly humbling.

When Herself and I wanted to have children, she started fairly late - and we were under a significant amount of pressure to have a whole range of progressively more intrusive tests to inform us of this or that potential disability. It was hard to convince people - particularly the medical community - that it really didn't matter to us. That whatever disability might have come with the package, the package was entirely wanted, would not be aborted. And that certainty grew as a direct result of the enormous blessings we've experienced over the years working with people with mental disabilities.

For what it's worth, as my dear spouse knows too well, hyper-intellectual capacity itself is frequently accompanied by disabilities in other capacities ... like emotional sensitivity and compassion. In our experience, those qualities are heightened among the mentally "disabled." The social consequences of eliminating such people would be very real, and not entirely as many might anticipate.

Keith Wilson
05-30-2013, 12:21 PM
Social consequences just might get interesting...No sh!t. It's been the subject of science fiction since the genre was invented; remember Wells's Morlocks and Eloi in The Time Machine? OTOH, people with lots of money and education now get the very best medical care and nutrition, send their kids to excellent preschools, get all them sorts of other activities, tutoring if they need it, hotshot summer camp, better colleges, etc, etc, so this might not be something revolutionary, but just another advantage for rich kids. FWIW, social inequality over the long term has decreased dramatically in developed countries.

Tom, I'm not at all sure there's any necessary connection between greater intelligence and emotional disability. They can go together, but there may not be any general correlation at all.

Kaa
05-30-2013, 12:22 PM
I'd argue that there would be an enormous cost to society were we to "improve" out such people from our midst.

Careful, Tom, lest that be read as paying for social benefits with private suffering.

Kaa

Keith Wilson
05-30-2013, 12:26 PM
. . . paying for social benefits with private suffering.Now there's a topic. Too big for this thread, though. Here's a link to a really excellent short story on the subject: Ursula K. LeGuin's The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. (http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/dunnweb/rprnts.omelas.pdf)

Kaa
05-30-2013, 12:34 PM
Tom, I'm not at all sure there's any necessary connection between greater intelligence and emotional disability. They can go together, but there may not be any general correlation at all.

I am guessing Aspies would be cited as examples. But if you look at the undiagnosed-with-any-mental-issue general population, I, too, am quite uncertain of a link between rational/logical intelligence and emotional capability.

Kaa

Keith Wilson
05-30-2013, 12:37 PM
FWIW, they got rid of Asperger's as a diagnosis. It's all Autism Spectrum Disorder now, the same thing but greater or lesser severity. Makes sense to me.

BrianY
05-30-2013, 12:42 PM
Is it legal to sell fertilized human eggs?

TomF
05-30-2013, 12:44 PM
Careful, Tom, lest that be read as paying for social benefits with private suffering.

KaaGreat topic - Ursula LeGuin anyone? :D

While I take your caution, it's not what I meant. Certainly many of the mentally disabled folks I know suffer - for instance most have very limited options to experience romantic love, however surrounded by loving friends. I don't benefit because of their suffering, I benefit because of the unfiltered gift of friendship.

What we found was that the really key difference with the mentally disabled is that very often they have no "screens" to filter their emotional interactions - and they live with a kind of emotional intensity that's not available to those of us who do habitually screen and filter ourselves. We can (and habitually do) interpret that unfiltered living as a disability - as evidence of a lack. But it can be equally validly interpreted as a gift, which makes that range of emotional experience much more accessible and expressable.

Keith, I agree that a sharp mind and a truncated capacity for emotional interaction aren't necessarily co-terminus, but they are stereotypically correlative. We often think we observe intelligence in the ability of someone to compartmentalize, and not let emotions interfere with analysis. Training oneself to do that is a terribly helpful skill in some kinds of thinking, and presumably people having less range at the outset have a natural advantage in those fields. As are various placements on the autism spectrum ... where one has a wide range of emotions oneself, but in degrees according to one's placement on the spectrum is oblivious to or unaffected by the emotions of others.

I've been thinking of this a fair bit in the last couple of days - my daughter's university graduation this week, and we've spent the time at awards banquets, a convocation, and various other places where the high-achievers in her class have been feted. Very nice, bright kids (and attending faculty), but many are astonishingly socially inept. For all of their brilliance in one area of life.

Kaa
05-30-2013, 12:57 PM
FWIW, they got rid of Asperger's as a diagnosis. It's all Autism Spectrum Disorder now, the same thing but greater or lesser severity. Makes sense to me.

Well, not exactly. The "spectrum" is a very wide umbrella, everything that falls underneath it is definitely NOT "the same thing".

Asperger's, in particular, is defined by normal or better-than-normal speech development, but noticeable social/empathy issues. There are also "inverse" cases, without a name as far as I know, where severe speech delay is accompanied by normal or almost-normal social and emotional skills. All of that gets classified as ASD, but there is a *lot* of variety there.

Kaa

bogdog
05-30-2013, 12:58 PM
Genetic selection is only one part of the equation to producing a healthy child. There's that nine month gestation period when all types of ugly things can happen that can cause everything from loss of a child to a child with genetic damage.

TomF
05-30-2013, 01:00 PM
Very true. And all the nature-through-nurture perspectives too, once the womb-cooking is done.

Kaa
05-30-2013, 01:08 PM
While I take your caution, it's not what I meant.

I know, but there are implications...


...they live with a kind of emotional intensity that's not available to those of us who do habitually screen and filter ourselves. We can (and habitually do) interpret that unfiltered living as a disability - as evidence of a lack. But it can be equally validly interpreted as a gift, which makes that range of emotional experience much more accessible and expressable.

If you want emotional intensity, it's hard to beat MDP. However, as far as I know, this intensity doesn't not make people happy, rather the reverse...


Very nice, bright kids (and attending faculty), but many are astonishingly socially inept.

Careful, Tom (I start to sound like an old granny, don't I? :-D) -- social ineptness is not at all the same as emotional/empathy limitations.

Kaa

TomF
05-30-2013, 01:27 PM
I do not think, for all your old-granny-like turns of phrase, that I'm really being misunderstood, eh?

I am not claiming that intellectually gifted folks have universally puny emotional sensitivity, or that intellecutlaly disabled folks are universally emotional savants. But I really don't think you'd be feeling so confused were you to have dinner one night at a typical University awards banquet, and dinner the next night at a L'Arche community supper.

Heck, I went to the awards banquet - the latest in a series I've attended over the years - and am very proud to see my kids being celebrated. And very impressed by the other fine people being recognized. My point is that if these are typical representatives of people who in your thought exercise would be selected for ... and mentally disabled would be selected out ... there'd be a real loss. Because the way we ascribe value when making such choices is itself pretty truncated.

Waddie
05-30-2013, 01:40 PM
Yes to all the questions; if it was good enough for the Nazi's it's good enough for us. We now have the capability (or soon will) to build that master race - let's get on with it. Nature isn't sacred, we screw with it constantly. Maybe Monsanto can help out in this - they're pretty good at gene modification. Of course, the offspring might be a vegetable. What could possibly go wrong?

regards,
Waddie

bogdog
05-30-2013, 01:46 PM
Yes to all the questions; if it was good enough for the Nazi's it's good enough for us. We now have the capability (or soon will) to build that master race - let's get on with it. Nature isn't sacred, we screw with it constantly. Maybe Monsanto can help out in this - they're pretty good at gene modification. Of course, the offspring might be a vegetable. What could possibly go wrong?

regards,
Waddie

I would really hate to see Monsanto get involved in this considering my investments in other gene tech companies, I like to stay diversified. Monsanto is just one of my ag companies I'd like to keep it that way. Anybody want some illegal wheat cheap?

Kaa
05-30-2013, 01:47 PM
But I really don't think you'd be feeling so confused were you to have dinner one night at a typical University awards banquet, and dinner the next night at a L'Arche community supper.

Well, I don't have the experience that you had, but my expectations (which are, of course, purely in my head) would be that the stark differences could be articulated in terms of self-consciousness, a strong reflexivity which leads to being acutely aware of being looked at and evaluated, and which causes (especially in kids) awkwardness, fear of mistakes, presentation of a mask instead of a true face. I don't think nerdy kids as a rule have impaired emotional sensitivity -- they certainly have less openness, less direct honesty, less acceptance of themselves compared to simpleminded folk, but I'm not sure I'm prepared to make a universal virtue out of, let's say, projecting an unfiltered version of yourself out to others.


My point is that if these are typical representatives of people who in your thought exercise would be selected for ... and mentally disabled would be selected out ... there'd be a real loss. Because the way we ascribe value when making such choices is itself pretty truncated.

That's an interesting view. So do you feel that a world without mentally disabled is a worse world than the one in which they would exist?

Kaa

P.S. To clarify, I'm not arguing that IQ is the be-all end-all of genetic improvement. It was just a convenient example in the OP. The issue is really about selecting whatever you feel are *desireable* traits.

Kaa
05-30-2013, 01:54 PM
Of course, the offspring might be a vegetable.

Soylent Green is good for you :-P

Kaa

TomF
05-30-2013, 02:06 PM
...That's an interesting view. So do you feel that a world without mentally disabled is a worse world than the one in which they would exist?...Yep. On a purely selfish level, I've grown considerably as a result of friendships with them. The same is true of pretty much all the not-disabled people I knew in L'Arche. More importantly though, their impact on their community is not at all insignificant.

Kaa
05-30-2013, 02:14 PM
OK. Interesting. I wonder if Flying Orca will chime in...

Kaa

Keith Wilson
05-30-2013, 02:59 PM
. . . everything that falls underneath it is definitely NOT "the same thing".I defer to greater knowledge. Not my area at all, and I probably shouldn't even have expressed an opinion.


One problem with even the most benign eugenics at this stage of civilization is that our understanding of the genetic cause of various positive traits is still pretty rudimentary, and the risk of screwing something up is significant. This is a practical problem, however, not a moral one.

L.W. Baxter
05-30-2013, 03:53 PM
Dang, Tom F made me tear up. While reading the bilge. ???

Either I'm too sensitive, or else I'm gettin' soft.