By Amanda Greene
The term ‘designer babies’ refers to genetic modifications made to pre-implantation embryos to modify the characteristics that the offspring will possess. Although the research is still developing in the United States, at the end of November 2018, Chinese geneticist He Jiankui declared he had implanted embryos genetically modified with the CRISPR-Cas9 technique into two women. This announcement has aroused many comments and controversies in public opinion and the scientific community. Many people find it terrifying even to consider the possibility that parents could desire to select their children’s genes, particularly for traits other than diseases.
What is the specific objection? Of course, there are safety concerns, particularly those brought on by unanticipated and adverse side effects. For instance, studies on mice have demonstrated that the insertion of a specific gene improved their ability to navigate mazes but also caused them to be more sensitive to pain. Such a scenario would eliminate most, if not all, forms of genetic modification. All new technologies create safety concerns; however, they rarely result in requests for a complete ban.
Perhaps the issue is completely foretelling the traits one’s offspring will or won’t have rather than exercising influence over features. It is possible to believe that genetic treatments significantly impact your children’s personalities more than other child development methods. If this is the argument, it illustrates the “fallacy of genetic determinism,” the idea that our genes determine our traits. Of course, genes play a part in the features we possess, but what makes us who we are is the consequence of numerous genes interacting with one another and the environment. Even if you had access to a child’s complete genome, like a clone, a parent would not have full control over the child’s traits. “All that anyone will ever obtain through the use of cloning, or any other reproductive technology, is an unpredictable son or daughter, who won’t listen to his parents any more than my children will listen to me,” said Princeton microbiologist Lee Silver. As a result, the term “designed babies” itself is misleading. Nobody will ever be able to “create” a child, or foretell the traits, aptitudes, skills, virtues, and vices the child will possess.
Admittedly, when parents decide which genes to give their kids, they do it without the kids’ knowledge or permission. But this applies to everyone, not just those who have had their DNA altered. None of us get to pick our DNA. What moral importance does it have that our genes were forced upon us because of someone’s decision rather than through random chance? Some scientists argue that the advancement of ‘designer babies’ “will have profound moral and cultural implications as the science progresses: Societies can come to view human life—all life, modified or not—as something that can easily be toyed with and discarded.”
Additionally, like other “assisted reproductive technologies,” many more embryos are created than are implanted and subsequently delivered. The remaining embryonic human beings are either frozen in perpetuity or destroyed. This research poses an immediate threat to the right to life of the unborn.” With the increasing concerns about an unborn fetus’ life in the United States, the advancement of ‘designer babies’ will cause several legal implications on how to govern these situations.
Hence, we should not always do something just because we can do it. Humans must govern technology, not the other way around, to avoid becoming a technocracy. At the same time, we must avoid falling into the Luddite trap. Only if technology is constrained by morality will new biotechnologies be able to promote human flourishing and cure and prevent disease.
 Andrea Lavazza, Parental Selective Reproduction: Genome-editing and maternal behavior as a potential concern, 10 Frontiers In Genetics 532, 532-34 (2019).
 Antonio Regalado, Exclusive: Chinese scientists are creating CRISPR babies, MIT Tech. Rev. (Nov. 25, 208), https://www.technologyreview.com/2018/11/25/138962/exclusive-chinese-scientists-are-creating-crispr-babies/.
 Bonnie Steinbock, Designer babies: Choosing our children’s genes, 372 The Lancet 1294-95, 1294 (2008).
 Ryan Anderson, Just because we can create genetically modified babies doesn’t mean we should, The Heritage Found. (Dec. 17, 2018), https://www.heritage.org/marriage-and-family/commentary/just-because-we-can-create-genetically-modified-babies-doesnt-mean.