Op-Ed

Published by the Hampshire College Population and Development Program

At the cusp of dot-com frenzy and the biotech century, a group of influential scientists and pundits has begun zealously promoting a new bio-engineered utopia. In the world of their visionary fervor, parents will strive to afford the latest genetic "improvements" for their children. According to the advocates of this human future (or, as some term it, "post-human" future), the exercise of consumer preferences for offspring options will be the prelude to a grand achievement: the technological control of human evolution.

My first close encounter with this techno-eugenic enthusiasm was in a 1997 book written for an unconverted lay audience by Princeton geneticist Lee M. Silver. In Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World (New York: Avon Books 1998), Silver spins out scenarios of a future in which affluent parents are as likely to arrange genetic enhancements for their children as to send them to private school.

Silver confidently predicts that upscale baby-making will soon take place in fertility clinics, where prospective parents will undergo an IVF procedure...