Dr. Frankenstein, meet Dr. Spock

Thanks to genetic research, we may soon see people with the money to do so making sure their kids are born-to-succeed – parents paying to guarantee their kids have the right stuff.  I’m not talking about a straightened spine or a functional optic nerve.  I’m talking about designer kids: those made with healthy bodies, intelligent minds, and perhaps a certain specific ability to boot.

First, success isn’t happiness.  Let’s be clear about that at the start.

Second, having intelligence or ability is not nearly as important as knowing what to do with it.  So success isn’t necessarily goodness either.

Third, this ain’t a meritocracy.  Sure, there are certain attributes that are favoured, but as far as I can tell, intelligence and ability aren’t among them.  Sex is.  Colour is.  And a certain freedom from physical abnormality.  And yes, tall men, especially those with deep voices, get more respect than short ones who squeak.  But at best, these are necessary attributes.  They are certainly not sufficient attributes.

Success more often depends on being in the right place at the right time.  Have we found the good luck gene yet?  Success also depends on who you know.  The schmooze gene?  And who you know often depends on how much money you have.  In which case, the kids of people rich enough to design them don’t need to be designed. 

The thing is this: only to the extent that our genes control us should we get excited about controlling them.  Those advocating, and fearing, genetic engineering for its designer kids application seem to be forgetting that we are products of both nature and nurture.  There are many whose natural intelligence remained undeveloped for lack of encouragement or crippled because of excess criticism.  There are many with great bodies who were not even allowed to try out for the team.  How many Beethovens have we lost because a kid with musical ability was introduced to practice as punishment?  How many recess geniuses were never told on career day about life as a diplomat?

True, if everyone’s going to be creating tall, smart, white men, then we will experience loss of diversity – which is the kiss of death for any species.  But we’re way past kisses.  As a species, we’ve been fucked for a long time. 

To judge by what comes out of our education system, as well as (listen to any grade one teacher) what goes into it, we don’t have the nurture bit under control.  At all.  So why jump up and down about controlling the nature part? 

Ah – because we don’t have the nurture bit under control.


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