Several millennia of evolution have taught us an invaluable lesson -keep pace or get sidelined forever. While Darwin aptly captured the essence of this argument in his hypothesis on natural selection, there was one aspect that was conspicuously untapped in his exposition. The role of technology in biasing the natural selection process was overlooked.
Fortunately for us, over the years scientists have been extensively probing this angle and their results have been, at the very least, astounding! Unsurprisingly, today, we possess the requisite technology to ‘manufacture’ near-perfect babies. A little tweaking of that ever-so-tiny strand of DNA, and we have the next wonder-kid ready to rock the world! Of course, this comes at a steep price today but, in the near future, technological advancement is sure to make this an affordable solution for the masses.
Soon we will probably have thousands, nay, lakhs of couples queuing up outside the friendly neighbourhood genetic laboratory to create their super-babies. All hereditary problems and medical nightmares will be avoided even before the embryo takes shape. Indeed, all medical practitioners will go out-of-business, for they’ll have no one to treat. The world will become a perfect place!
Seems desirable, doesn’t it? Who wants children who’re anything but perfect? How can any parent possibly wish for an inferior child? After all, Darwin needs to be defeated by making everyone so perfect that nature cannot possibly select who’s to go and who’s not to.
A little bit of gene-tampering won’t really stop them from re-mutating and attacking more virulently. So the dream of ‘ailment free humans’ is no more than a wishful dream.
Welcome back to reality. Let’s take one step back and analyse what’ll happen if genetic tailoring is allowed. For a start, let’s talk about Dolly, the sheep. She was cloned using the best possible technology wasn’t she? She still died of a lung disease. Moral of the story- technology can create the perfect set of genes but it can’t avoid them from mutating due to changed environments!
In today’s world when hazards of technology are introducing newer illnesses everyday by toying with natural balance, technology is yet to catch-up with primitive infections such as viral fever, let alone dealing with cancer and AIDS! Viruses have constantly mutated in a bid to survive and have successfully done so for billions of years, beating all forms of technology (including what we call as state-of-the-art medicine). A little bit of gene-tampering won’t really stop them from re-mutating and attacking more virulently. So the dream of ‘ailment free humans’ is no more than a wishful dream.
Yes, genetic tailoring can help eliminate, or at least minimize, hereditary issues. But is that really enough to justify the huge ethical arguments on either side of this raging debate? Is toying with natural selection, which was intended to weed out the weaker species, a viable option? At present, few have the answers. But one thing’s certain- this issue will certainly remain a hotbed of medical ethics. After all, who doesn’t want a super-kid?!