Genius Babies

The internet headline was “engineering genius babies” out of China. Not true. But the reality is very interesting. We’ll check it out.

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

The headline flying all over the digital universe was head-turning: “China is engineering genius babies.” “Superbabies” was the follow-on. And it was not exactly correct. But it wasn’t entirely wrong, either.

And it’s not just China stepping toward that brave new world. China is studying the genetics of intelligence, and how to apply them.

The whole world – the U.S. very much included – is studying genetics and reproduction. How to avoid defects and disease via the test tube. Will sex for reproduction soon look primitive?

This hour On Point: Superbabies.

– Tom Ashbrook


Nita Farahany, Professor of Law, Philosophy, Genome Sciences & Policy at Duke University School of Law, and a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

Lee Silver, Professor of Molecular Biology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, Co-editor of the journal of the International Mammalian Genome Society, Fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and author of “Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World” (1997).

Dr. Steve Hsu, member of the core team at BGI’s Cognitive Genomics Lab, Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University.

From Tom’s Reading List “At BGI Shenzhen, scientists have collected DNA samples from 2,000 of the world’s smartest people and are sequencing their entire genomes in an attempt to identify the alleles which determine human intelligence. Apparently they’re not far from finding them, and when they do, embryo screening will allow parents to pick their brightest zygote and potentially bump up every generation’s intelligence by five to 15 IQ points.”

Slate “China is not “engineering” babies. Even if it were, Chinese scientists wouldn’t know how to genetically engineer a genius. And even if they did know how to genetically engineer a genius, the fact is that you can’t ensure genius, because genius depends on environment as well as genes.What is true, though, is fascinating, exciting, and troubling. Scientists are already developing the capacity to screen human embryos for a wide variety of genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anemia.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Nov 26, 2015
This photo taken July 31, 2012 shows a "tiny" house April Anson built in Portland, Ore. For the past couple of months, 33-year-old Anson and her friends have been planning, measuring, sawing and hammering their way toward completion of what might look like a child’s playhouse. (AP)

Tiny houses, micro-apartments. They’re hot. Americans are downsizing.

Nov 26, 2015
Jewel performs in the On Point Studio on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. (Liz Gillis / WBUR)

Singer-songwriter Jewel asked “who will save your soul”? Now she’s talking about saving her own. We’ll talk to Jewel.

Nov 25, 2015
Three of baker Renee McLeoud's delicious pies, on display in the WBUR studios. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Bring your appetite! We’re gathering around the radio table with three chefs and new Thanksgiving recipes.

Nov 25, 2015
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Pulitzer Prize winning Iowa writer Marilynne Robinson, arrives to the State Library of Iowa in the Ola Babcock Miller Building, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

On the day before Thanksgiving, we talk with Marilynne Robinson – one of America’s greatest authors, thinkers, moralists — about fear and hope in a hard, frightening time.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Fresh Ideas For Your Thanksgiving: Recipes
Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015

Did our Thanksgiving 2016 episode make you hungry? Good news — we’ve got recipes right here.

More »
Karl Rove Still Won’t Get Involved In The 2016 G.O.P. Primary
Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015

Karl Rove may say he’s not endorsing or getting involved in the 2016 G.O.P. presidential primary, but that won’t stop from offering advice on how to beat Republican front runner Donald Trump.

More »
Roger Cohen And Barry Posen On ISIS
Monday, Nov 23, 2015

A brief, but illustrative exchange between Barry Posen and Roger Cohen during our conversation on ISIS today.

More »