Monday, May 24, 2010

When is Eugenics not Eugenics?

eugenics |yoōˈjeniks| - plural noun [treated as sing. ]
The science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. Developed largely by Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race, it fell into disfavor only after the perversion of its doctrines by the Nazis.
Ignoring the fact that the above definition is quite biased, let's talk about eugenics.

I was listening to a podcast today about the ethics of IVF, and one of the things brought up was how IVF was inherently used for eugenics. Several embryos are created and at some point they are scanned for genetic defects. Only the "healthy" (where healthy means it passes the requirements of both doctor and parents) embryo is allowed to survive - the rest are killed.

Of course this is tragic. But what if science advanced to the point where a cell's DNA could be examined without destroying the cell? One could then take genetically scan egg and sperm cells, and only combine the ones with the desired traits (or lack of "defects"). Still eugenics, but without the moral problem of killing human beings. Is it immoral to choose which of your sperm and egg are used to create a child?

How about the case where two people choose to have children with each other (or not) based on having the desired traits (or "defects"). Technically you are choosing sperm and egg, just allowing a larger amount of variance. Still eugenics? Still immoral?

How about choosing a mate with white skin, brown hair and good teeth, because youwant children with those characteristics. Still eugenics? Still immoral?

Where do you think the "line" is, and why?


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