Designer Babies, Week 2
Why We Should Select the Best Children
Wednesday 1 September from 5-6.30pm in ib3.307
This Wednesday, 1 September, from 5-6.30pm in ib3.307 the Deakin Philosophical Society will continue the discussion on designer babies. Last week Jason Bishop introduced us to the science of, and raised the central ethical questions surrounding, genetic testing and modification. This week we'll look at an argument why parents ‘should select embryos or fetuses which are most likely to have the best life, based on available genetic information’. Julian Savulescu, an Australian philosopher who was at the time Director of the ethics program at The Murdoch Children's Research Institute at The Royal Children's Hospital, made the argument in his 2001 article in Bioethics entitled, ‘Procreative Beneficence: Why We Should Select the Best Children’ (vol. 15, no. 5/6, pp. 413-26). A copy of that article is available online at www.deakinphilosophicalsociety.com/texts/savulescu/procreativebeneficence.pdf. Hard copies will be available on the door of my office, ic1.211, from Tuesday morning. Here is the abstract:
Eugenic selection of embryos is now possible by employing in vitro
fertilization (IVF) and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). While
PGD is currently being employed for the purposes of detecting chromosomal
abnormalities or inherited genetic abnormalities, it could in principle be
used to test any genetic trait such as hair colour or eye colour.
Genetic research is rapidly progressing into the genetic basis of complex
traits like intelligence and a gene has been identified for criminal
behaviour in one family. Once the decision to have IVF is made, PGD has
few `costs' to couples, and people would be more inclined to use it to select
less serious medical traits, such as a lower risk of developing Alzheimer
Disease, or even for non-medical traits. PGD has already been used to
select embryos of a desired gender in the absence of any history of sex-linked
I will argue that: (1) some non-disease genes affect the likelihood of us
leading the best life; (2) we have a reason to use information which is
available about such genes in our reproductive decision-making; (3)
couples should select embryos or fetuses which are most likely to have the
best life, based on available genetic information, including information
about non-disease genes. I will also argue that we should allow selection
for non-disease genes even if this maintains or increases social inequality.
I will focus on genes for intelligence and sex selection.
I will defend a principle which I call Procreative Beneficence: couples
(or single reproducers) should select the child, of the possible children they
could have, who is expected to have the best life, or at least as good a life as
the others, based on the relevant, available information.
A number of rebuttals appeared in the journal, available online through the Deakin library, for anyone interested in the counterarguments and objections. You can access the journal if you log in via this link to the Deakin library.
Savulescu's article is lucid and summarises many of the arguments for and against genetic engineering.
Stan van Hooft
Hope and Religion
Thursday 2 September from 3-5pm in ib3.307
In other news, Deakin's own Stan van Hooft will provide the next in our series of special presentations, this Thursday 2 September from 3-5pm in ib3.307. Associate Professor van Hooft's presentation will be on the topic of hope and religion:
Hope and hopefulness are ways in which we acknowledge the precariousness of our projects and the vulnerability of our existence. I will introduce the notion of “metaphysical hope” as an expression of eight features of hope and I argue that faith in God is not based upon rational argument or evidence. It is produced by metaphysical hope.
Stan van Hooft's books include Caring: An Essay in the Philosophy of Ethics (1995), Facts and Values: An Introduction to Critical Thinking for Nurses (1995), Life, Death, and Subjectivity: Moral Sources for Bioethics (2004), Caring about Health (2006), Understanding Virtue Ethics (2006), and Cosmopolitanism: A Philosophy for Global Ethics (2009). He is currently researching issues in global ethics and political philosophy, the concept of caring in contemporary moral theory, and the role of hope in politics and religion.
Stan’s talk is hosted by the Philosophy program in the School of International and Political Studies, the Alfred Deakin Institute and the Deakin Philosophical Society.
President, Deakin Philosophical Society.