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Ultrasound of child with down syndrome

In 2011, poet and writer George Estreich wrote about the impact of biotechnology on family life in his first book, The Shape of the Eye. The memoir centers on how his family’s life was changed, and enriched, by the birth of his second child, Laura, who has Down syndrome.

Laura made his second book possible. In Fables and Futures, Estreich goes beyond the personal to describe the ways that genetic technologies affect society and the stories the promoters of such technologies tell about them. These “fables” affect not only how we view new technologies but also how we view normality and the rights and welfare of humans whom we have labeled as having various “disabilities.”

The stories we tend to hear about genomics, often little more than commercially sponsored visions of the future, are almost always about progress and happiness. According to Estreich, those who display any ambivalence about new genetic technologies risk being labeled “fearful, uninformed, paranoid, Luddite, vociferous, loud, anti-science, anti-technology,” a literary tactic “being used to heighten the authority of science.” Our silent and unquestioning...