The ethical dilemma必威体育官网 of designer babies
So what if I could make for you a designer baby? What if you as a parent-to-be and I as a scientist decided to go down that road together?
In the early 1960s Wilt Chamberlain was one of only three players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) listed at over seven feet. If he had played last season, however, he would have been one of 42. The bodies playing major professional sports have changed dramatically over the years, and managers have been more than willing to adjust team uniforms to fit the growing numbers of bigger, longer frames.
What if we didn't? What if we thought, "That's a bad idea," but many of our family, friends and coworkers did make that decision?
The trend in sports, though, may be obscuring an unrecognized reality: Americans have generally stopped growing. Though typically about two inches taller now than 140 years ago, today’s people—especially those born to families who have lived in the U.S. for many generations—apparently reached their limit in the early 1960s. And they aren’t likely to get any taller. In the general population today, at this genetic, environmental level, we’ve pretty much gone as far as we can go, says anthropologist William Cameron Chumlea of Wright State University. In the case of NBA players, their increase in height appears to result from the increasingly common practice of recruiting players from all over the world.
Let's fast-forward just 15 years from now. Let's pretend it's the year 2030, and you're a parent. You have your daughter, Marianne, next to you, and in 2030, she is what we call a natural because she has no genetic modifications. And because you and your partner consciously made that decision, many in your social circle, they kind of look down on you. They think you're, like, a Luddite or a technophobe.
Growth, which rarely continues beyond the age of 20, demands calories and nutrients—notably, protein—to feed expanding tissues. At the start of the 20th century, under-nutrition and childhood infections got in the way. But as diet and health improved, children and adolescents have, on average, increased in height by about an inch and a half every 20 years, a pattern known as the secular trend in height. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, average height—5′9〞for men, 5′4〞for women—hasn’t really changed since 1960.
Marianne's best friend Jenna, who lives right next door, is a very different story. She was born a genetically modified designer baby with numerous upgrades. Yeah. Upgrades. And these enhancements were introduced using a new genetic modification technology that goes by the funny name CRISPR, you know, like something's crisp, this is CRISPR. The scientist that Jenna's parents hired to do this for several million dollars introduced CRISPR into a whole panel of human embryos. And then they used genetic testing, and they predicted that that little tiny embryo, Jenna's embryo, would be the best of the bunch. And now, Jenna is an actual, real person. She's sitting on the carpet in your living room playing with your daughter Marianne. And your families have known each other for years now, and it's become very clear to you that Jenna is extraordinary. She's incredibly intelligent. If you're honest with yourself, she's smarter than you, and she's five years old. She's beautiful, tall, athletic, and the list goes on and on. And in fact, there's a whole new generation of these GM kids like Jenna. And so far it looks like they're healthier than their parents' generation, than your generation. And they have lower health care costs. They're immune to a host of health conditions, including HIV/AIDS and genetic diseases.
Genetically speaking, there are advantages to avoiding substantial height. During childbirth, larger babies have more difficulty passing through the birth canal. Moreover, even though humans have been upright for millions of years, our feet and back continue to struggle with bipedal posture and cannot easily withstand repeated strain imposed by oversize limbs. There are some real constraints that are set by the genetic architecture of the individual organism, says anthropologist William Leonard of Northwestern University.
It all sounds so great, but you can't help but have this sort of unsettling feeling, a gut feeling, that there's something just not quite right about Jenna, and you've had the same feeling about other GM kids that you've met. You were also reading in the newspaper earlier this week that a study of these children who were born as designer babies indicates they may have some issues, like increased aggressiveness and narcissism. But more immediately on your mind is some news that you just got from Jenna's family. She's so smart, she's now going to be going to a special school, a different school than your daughter Marianne, and this is kind of throwing your family into a disarray. Marianne's been crying, and last night when you took her to bed to kiss her goodnight, she said, "Daddy, will Jenna even be my friend anymore?"
Genetic maximums can change, but don’t expect this to happen soon. Claire C. Gordon, senior anthropologist at the Army Research Center in Natick, Mass, ensures that 90 percent of the uniforms and workstations fit recruits without alteration. She says that, unlike those for basketball, the length of military uniforms has not changed for some time. And if you need to predict human height in the near future to design a piece of equipment, Gordon says that by and large, you could use today’s data and feel fairly confident.
So now, as I've been telling you this imagined 2030 story, I have a feeling that I may have put some of you into this sci-fi frame of reference. Right? You think you're reading a sci-fi book. Or maybe, like, in Halloween mode of thinking. But this is really a possible reality for us, just 15 years from now.
31. Wilt Chamberlain is cited as an example to
I'm a stem cell and genetics researcher and I can see this new CRISPR technology and its potential impact. And we may find ourselves in that reality, and a lot will depend on what we decide to do today. And if you're still kind of thinking in sci-fi mode, consider that the world of science had a huge shock earlier this year, and the public largely doesn't even know about it. Researchers in China just a few months ago reported the creation of genetically modified human embryos. This was the first time in history. And they did it using this new CRISPR technology. It didn't work perfectly, but I still think they sort of cracked the door ajar on a Pandora's box here. And I think some people are going to run with this technology and try to make designer babies.
[A] illustrate the change of height of NBA players.
Now, before I go on, some of you may hold up your hands and say, "Stop, Paul, wait a minute. Wouldn't that be illegal? You can't just go off and create a designer baby." And in fact, to some extent, you're right. In some countries, you couldn't do that. But in many other countries, including my country, the US, there's actually no law on this, so in theory, you could do it. And there was another development this year that resonates in this area, and that happened not so far from here over in the UK. And the UK traditionally has been the strictest country when it comes to human genetic modification. It was illegal there, but just a few months ago, they carved out an exception to that rule. They passed a new law allowing the creation of genetically modified humans with the noble goal of trying to prevent a rare kind of genetic disease. But still I think in combination these events are pushing us further towards an acceptance of human genetic modification.
[B] show the popularity of NBA players in the U.S.
So I've been talking about this CRISPR technology. What actually is CRISPR? So if you think about the GMOs that we're all more familiar with, like GMO tomatoes and wheat and things like that, this technology is similar to the technologies that were used to make those, but it's dramatically better, cheaper and faster.
[C] compare different generations of NBA players.
So what is it? It's actually like a genetic Swiss army knife. We can pretend this is a Swiss army knife with different tools in it, and one of the tools is kind of like a magnifying glass or a GPS for our DNA, so it can home in on a certain spot. And the next tool is like scissors that can cut the DNA right in that spot. And finally we have a pen where we can literally rewrite the genetic code in that location. It's really that simple.
[D] assess the achievements of famous NBA players.
And this technology, which came on the scene just three years ago, has taken science by storm. It's evolving so fast, and it's so freaking exciting to scientists, and I admit I'm fascinated by it and we use it in my own lab, that I think someone is going to go that extra step and continue the GM human embryo work and maybe make designer babies. This is so ubiquitous now. It just came on the scene three years ago. Thousands of labs literally have this in hand today, and they're doing important research. Most of them are not interested in designer babies. They're studying human disease and other important elements of science. So there's a lot of good research going on with CRISPR. And the fact that we can now do genetic modifications that used to take years and cost millions of dollars in a few weeks for a couple thousand bucks, to me as a scientist that's fantastic, but again, at the same time, it opens the door to people going too far. And I think for some people the focus is not going to be so much on science. That's not what's going to be driving them. It's going to be ideology or the chase for a profit. And they're going to go for designer babies.
32. Which of the following plays a key role in body growth according to the text?
So why should we be concerned about this? We know from Darwin, if we go back two centuries, that evolution and genetics profoundly have impacted humanity, who we are today. And some think there's like a social Darwinism at work in our world, and maybe even a eugenics as well. Imagine those trends, those forces, with a booster rocket of this CRISPR technology that is so powerful and so ubiquitous. And in fact, we can just go back one century to the last century to see the power that eugenics can have.
[A] Genetic modification.[B] Natural environment.
So my father, Peter Knoepfler, was actually born right here in Vienna. He was Viennese, and he was born here in 1929. And when my grandparents had little baby Peter, the world was very different. Right? It was a different Vienna. The United States was different. The world was different. There was a eugenics rising, and my grandparents realized, pretty quickly I think, that they were on the wrong side of the eugenics equation. And so despite this being their home and their whole extended family's home, and this area being their family's home for generations, they decided because of eugenics that they had to leave. And they survived, but they were heartbroken, and I'm not sure my dad ever really got over leaving Vienna. He left when he was just eight years old in 1938.
[C] Living standards.[D] Daily exercise.
So today, I see a new eugenics kind of bubbling to the surface. It's supposed to be a kinder, gentler, positive eugenics, different than all that past stuff. But I think even though it's focused on trying to improve people, it could have negative consequences, and it really worries me that some of the top proponents of this new eugenics, they think CRISPR is the ticket to make it happen.
33. On which of the following statements would the author most probably agree?
So I have to admit, you know, eugenics, we talk about making better people. It's a tough question. What is better when we're talking about a human being? But I admit I think maybe a lot of us could agree that human beings, maybe we could use a little betterment. Look at our politicians here, you know, back in the US -- God forbid we go there right now. Maybe even if we just look in the mirror, there might be ways we think we could be better. I might wish, honestly, that I had more hair here, instead of baldness. Some people might wish they were taller, have a different weight, a different face. If we could do those things, we could make those things happen, or we could make them happen in our children, it would be very seductive. And yet coming with it would be these risks. I talked about eugenics, but there would be risks to individuals as well. So if we forget about enhancing people and we just try to make them healthier using genetic modification, this technology is so new and so powerful, that by accident we could make them sicker. That easily could happen. And there's another risk, and that is that all of the legitimate, important genetic modification research going on just in the lab -- again, no interest in designer babies -- a few people going the designer baby route, things go badly, that entire field could be damaged.
[必威体育官网，A] Non-Americans add to the average height of the nation.
I also think it's not that unlikely that governments might start taking an interest in genetic modification. So for example our imagined GM Jenna child who is healthier, if there's a generation that looks like they have lower health care costs, it's possible that governments may start trying to compel their citizens to go the GM route. Look at China's one-child policy. It's thought that that prevented the birth of 400 million human beings. So it's not beyond the realm of possible that genetic modification could be something that governments push. And if designer babies become popular, in our digital age -- viral videos, social media -- what if designer babies are thought to be fashionable, and they kind of become the new glitterati, the new Kardashians or something?