Science

Designer babies, Eugenics, Nazis, Brits, Uncle Sam and cautionary tales

31 Jul 2017 | By Anish Chakraborty
Designer babies, old disaster in new form

Designer babies - yes, that's what we're talking about. One can decide each aspect of the babies' traits, starting from hair to their personalities.

This topic comes in the limelight due to the fact that the first known attempt to create genetically modified human embryos was carried out in the United States, recently.

This is humanity's next big question in evolution.

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In context: Designer babies, old disaster in new form

31 Jul 2017Designer babies, Eugenics, Nazis, Brits, Uncle Sam and cautionary tales

EugenicsEugenics is a strong word

Before we talk about the current method, there is one term you should know about - Eugenics. It's a Greek term that loosely translates to good race.

The objective of Eugenics is to improve the genetic quality of a selected set of individuals via certain practices and to create a superior race, perfect human specimens, better than the rest in all aspects.

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HitlerHitler's hit list

Let's take a trip to Nazi Germany during the peak of Second World War. Hitler wanted to create a superior Aryan race.

Another part of Eugenics is to eliminate the strains of so called defective races or individuals. To him, it was Jews, LGBTQ, disabled etc. We know what he did.

Good guys of this war i.e. America and UK were not any better.

GovernmentBrits and Uncle Sam

UK government passed the Mental Deficiency Act in 1913, with one defining principle i.e. people with learning disabilities can't be bundled with the rest of the community.

USA went one step further. Almost 60,000 people were sterilized in the USA between the 1930s and 1970s. Miscegenation laws there targeted disabled, mentally ill, people of color, and the poor. The procedures repealed in the 1970s.

ChinaChina, the dragons story

Now let's come to 2015. Chinese scientists used the genome-editing technology CRISPR to modify human embryos.

This practice sent a ripple against the scientific community raising questions like if this was ethical or not and finally an international moratorium on it was placed.

Chinese tried it again, twice ignoring the ban. The results were not satisfactory. Now, it's USA in 2017.

USANow we are here

We are calling it the USA effort, but this was led by someone who is from the former Soviet Union.

Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University made use of the gene-editing technique to create embryos, which can become designer babies.

Reportedly none of these genetically altered embryos were developed for more than a few days or implanted in a womb.

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NobelNobel and noble intentions

Gene editing can eliminate diseases hereditary in nature and save lives. But we always find the potential to do more harm than good.

Alfred Bernhard Nobel, who invented dynamite and started the Nobel Prize said, "As soon as men will find that in one instant, whole armies can be utterly destroyed, they surely will abide by golden peace."

Nope, more wars happened.