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Bioethicist Arthur Caplan predicts designer babies

Genetic Crossroads
November 21st, 1999

Here's a particularly egregious recent example of the irresponsibly

uncritical manner in which future applications of genetic
technologies are presented in the popular media, by both journalists
and noted academic bioethicists.

These excerpts are from "Baby, Oh, Baby: Nothing About 21st Century
Offspring Will Be Infantile: What's that on the horizon? It's a
bird, it's a plane, it's Super Newborn" by Jonathan Dube, ABCNEWS.com.

[In the 21st century] "we'll probably be able to order up designer
babies with whatever features we desire. Or, if we prefer, simply
clone ourselves. `I do believe we'll go there,' says Arthur Caplan,
director of the University of Pennsylvanias Center for Bioethics.
`And it'll create a whole new array of ethical problems.'

"`Absolutely, somewhere in the next millennium, making babies
sexually will be rare,' Caplan speculates. Cloning will be possible,
but Caplan expects it'll be little more than a novelty, as most
people won't be interested in virtually duplicating themselves.

"But many parents will leap at the chance to make their children
smarter, fitter and prettier. Ethical concerns will be overtaken,
says Caplan, by the realization that technology simply makes for
better children.

"`In a competitive market society, people are going to want to give
their kids an edge,' says the bioethicist. `They'll slowly get used
to the idea that a genetic edge is not greatly different from an
environmental edge.'.By the time these `smart' babies are born,
they could be taught via direct transmission of electrical impulses
into chips implanted in their brains. `You might download French
into the 3-year-olds brain directly,' Caplan says."

The full report can be viewed at


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