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Thread: Genetic engineering... Is this possible?

  1. #1 Genetic engineering... Is this possible? 
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    I had an idea recently and I was wondering whether there's some specific reason why it wouldn't work. I was thinking about how we could make people smarter or stronger through genetic engineering or something and I thought - what if we could somehow select the best sperm and egg from a couple and basically force people to have a great baby. Whether it was athletic ability, physical beauty or whatever.

    Is there some flaw with this theory that I'm missing? I'm sure it would be really hard but it sounds possible.


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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    It is called "eugenics". It got a really bad name in the last century (something to do with a World War?).

    The more obvious problems are:
    - it isn't clear it would work in any useful sense
    - who decides which people are "best" and allowed/forced to breed and, even more worryingly, who is not good enough
    - is it ethically OK to control human breeding in this way


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    I think you thought I meant getting the two best people and making them breed to create a great baby. I actually meant taking any two people and somehow finding their best sperm and eggs (is that possible?) to create a gifted/beautiful/whatever person. Because I think everyone has the necessary stuff in them to make a remarkable child, just look at most families and there's usually someone in it who seems to stand out from their siblings at something. Couldn't scientists just kinda 'filter' these things? It would just be like choosing your baby's sex (which I'm aware isn't possible) but choosing other attributes as well.
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jolar View Post
    I think you thought I meant getting the two best people and making them breed to create a great baby. I actually meant taking any two people and somehow finding their best sperm and eggs (is that possible?) to create a gifted/beautiful/whatever person.
    Ah, I see. It isn't much better.

    The sperm and the eggs will all be identical. So you would have to do this after fertilization, in order to know what the genetic make-up of the embryo is. This raises its own ethical problems.

    You still have the ethical problem of "who decides" which embryos will live and die , and on what basis - their personal judgement of beauty or what is "good" in a person?

    Apart from that we have no way of knowing how the genes of an embryo will be expressed as an adult and, given the influence of environment on development and gene expression, I doubt we ever will.

    There have been a few cases where people have chosen not to use (in vitro) embryos that have an obvious genetic disorder. Or in at least one case, choose the embryo that is a genetic match to be an organ donor for another sibling. That is getting a little creepy.

    It would just be like choosing your baby's sex (which I'm aware isn't possible)
    It is possible (after fertilization) and it is done. This is also very controversial, particularly in cultures where more value is placed on male (usually) children.
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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    Quote Originally Posted by jolar View Post
    I think you thought I meant getting the two best people and making them breed to create a great baby. I actually meant taking any two people and somehow finding their best sperm and eggs (is that possible?) to create a gifted/beautiful/whatever person. Because I think everyone has the necessary stuff in them to make a remarkable child, just look at most families and there's usually someone in it who seems to stand out from their siblings at something. Couldn't scientists just kinda 'filter' these things? It would just be like choosing your baby's sex (which I'm aware isn't possible) but choosing other attributes as well.
    Technically this is possible. The reason that people are not doing this, is the enormous ethical and moral implications of such work. It is still eugenics.
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    "Eugenics, the n-word of biology"
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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    Cool. Eugenics sounds interesting.

    I can't really see any reason why it can't be possible, one day.

    "Eugenics, the n-word of biology"
    Lol. I personally don't have an ethical objection to it, but I get why it would be a touchy subject.
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    I seek a mate worthy of my seed, who will bear me many strong warriors! Together, I and the army I have sired with my battle-tested sperm will conquer all before us!

    But first I have to get a date...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    It is called "eugenics". It got a really bad name in the last century (something to do with a World War?).
    true that the Nazis applied eugenics with gusto, but let's not forget that many states in the US had legislation for compulsory sterilisation of people who were deemed "mentally deficient" : Eugenics in the United States
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Yeah, it was a worldwide fad there, for a while.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jolar View Post
    I had an idea recently and I was wondering whether there's some specific reason why it wouldn't work. I was thinking about how we could make people smarter or stronger through genetic engineering or something and I thought - what if we could somehow select the best sperm and egg from a couple and basically force people to have a great baby. Whether it was athletic ability, physical beauty or whatever.

    Is there some flaw with this theory that I'm missing? I'm sure it would be really hard but it sounds possible.
    Perhaps it'll turn everyone into a clone... and this will retard evolution?! Because: being weak or retarded might be beneficial in the future, so the gene pool will express it once a while to trial for the right condition. eg: if a brain eating Zombie virus eat all smart brainz, then only retarded people can still be around to rebuild humanity (like Forrest Gump maybe), but if you weed out all retard people then human will die out...
    Last edited by msafwan; February 3rd, 2012 at 03:24 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jolar View Post
    I had an idea recently and I was wondering whether there's some specific reason why it wouldn't work. I was thinking about how we could make people smarter or stronger through genetic engineering or something and I thought - what if we could somehow select the best sperm and egg from a couple and basically force people to have a great baby. Whether it was athletic ability, physical beauty or whatever.

    Is there some flaw with this theory that I'm missing? I'm sure it would be really hard but it sounds possible.
    Here you go... DNA code created
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    Of course what we are all seeking is a mate who has "better" traits than the others. We hope those traits will find their way into our children.
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