Children who resulted from embryos edited for looks or smarts would be the “designer babies;” those created from embryos edited for disease prevention would be … But in fact such distinctions are difficult to parse in real life.
Configuring the genetic makeup and traits of future children is a way of designing them—even if the choices seem unambiguously good, as when choosing to remove a genetic variant that causes serious disease.
Actually talking about such imaginary babies—however far-fetched their existence seems—could help us start that discussion.
Only by acknowledging that a future defined by designer DNA is possible can we decide whether we are comfortable with the risks, or even aspire to that future.
Any child born from an engineered embryo is, in a sense, a designer baby. Beliefs can change over time in ways that underscore how problematic it would be to alter future generations.
Only considering the products of the most frivolous choices to be “designer babies” makes it seem as if there is a clear and easily enforceable line between acceptable and unacceptable uses of germline editing. Up until 1973, to cite one example, homosexuality could be diagnosed as a psychological illness; we think about it much differently now.
” Reading the article, you might be left with the impression that even thinking about designer babies would be alarmist, unscientific, or just silly.
As public interest advocates who are focused on the social implications of human biotechnologies, my colleagues and I see how often the term “designer babies” serves as a distraction in these discussions—and we usually avoid using it ourselves.
When we talk about gene editing technology, we often talk about—but almost never deeply consider—the concept of designer babies.
Consider this article in The New York Times, titled “Gene Editing for ‘Designer Babies’?