Sunday, December 21, 2008

23 Kislew 5769: ‘Erev Ḥanukkah/Humbug Day/4th Advent


Worthy causes of the day: “Cure Childhood Cancer - Raise Awareness and Funding, “Ban Toxic Phthalates in Toys!”, and “Demand justice in post-Katrina shootings”.

Note:  Tonight is the first night of Ḥanukkah!

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Breast cancer gene-free baby due”: The baby in question is being grown from an embryo created through in vitro fertilization and specifically chosen not to carry a gene which carries an increased risk of breast cancer. The point of this is to deliberately not pass on a defective gene so this baby and his/her descendants will not suffer from its effects. I find it rather odd that anyone is worried about this sort of thing. As it is written:
Josephine Quintavalle, of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "The most important thing is that people realise this is not a cure for breast cancer.
"In addition, we must not forget the embryos which were discarded because they did carry the gene.
"Moving to screening embryos for susceptibility genes, rather than inherited conditions, has broken through a barrier.
"What next? It is going further along the line which ultimately ends in designer babies."
Note that last line.  First of all, it is judging something based on its real or alleged consequences at least decades down the line.  This is not legitimate, as someone sufficiently creative might invent a line of causation between any two actions that far apart in time, thus allowing one to prejudge anything negatively.  Secondly, what, pray tell, would be so wrong with designer babies?  Parents for the most part seem to want the best for their children.  This is why parents go out of the way to do things to make it more likely their children will have good lives, such as invest a lot of time, money, and effort in educating them.  That parents would want their parents to have better genes, too, is not only unsurprising, but it is something someone has probably has already done something about using our traditional method of reproduction.  It is difficult to imagine that no one, in choosing a mate, would not have any thoughts about what sort of children would be the result of the union.  There is even a famous story to this effect:
A strange lady giving an address in Zurich wrote him [Shaw] a proposal, thus: `You have the greatest brain in the world, and I have the most beautiful body; so we ought to produce the most perfect child.' Shaw asked: `What if the child inherits my body and your brains?'
Indeed, this is something women seeking to get pregnant via donated sperm have to consider.  Will anyone dare complain about anyone who uses the traditional method of reproduction to try to produce a superior child?  And considering that it is possible to load the die (so to speak) anyway, why would taking a shortcut using genetic engineering be any more objectionable?  Yes, we might complain about parents who asked a genetic engineer to give their future child a trait which really does not matter, e.g., a specific eye color—and future genetic engineers may well try to persuade such parents not to bother with such a genetic alteration or refuse to perform it.  But what is so wrong about making children healthier, smarter, or more creative?  Why should we not try to give future generations advantages we do not currently have?

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is The Great Fruitcake Recycling Project. Enjoy and share the weirdness and perhaps a recycled fruitcake.

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