Religion & Science: Should we let genes pick babies?

If we could build a stronger, healthier, smarter human being, should we?

Would it be our moral obligation to do so? Or, would this be playing God?

Genetic science already offers the means to design our babies—or at least some of their characteristics. Want a boy instead of a girl (or the other way around)? Sperm sorting can be used to determine the sex of your child. This type of reproductive genetic technology is used in some Asian societies.

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) can be used to screen for thousands of genetic conditions, diseases and disorders. In this process, test-tube embryos are created and tested. Those with unwanted genes are discarded. An embryo with the desirable genes is implanted in the womb and brought to term. Recently, a clinic in the U.S. announced that it will use PGD to help parents pick their child’s hair color, eye color, and skin complexion.

It won’t be long until you can select from a menu of human characteristics for your offspring. This week, we’re considering a whole range of provocative issues raised by sociologist John Evans in his latest book, “Contested Reproduction: Genetic Technologies, Religion, and Public Debate.” (You’ll find links to earlier posts on this in the right margin.)

Human genetic engineering offers the prospect of a “posthuman” species—free from disabilities, long-lived, resistant to disease. Some ethicists say it is our moral obligation to use science to create this new species. But there is widespread agreement among Americans that reproductive genetic technologies should not be used to enhance the human race. This agreement cuts across religious lines. For example, the majority of conservative and liberal Christians agree that these technologies should not be used to select for intelligence or strength in offspring.

Do you agree?

Where do you draw the line when it comes to the use of the science of genetics?

“Comment” below, please.

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