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.”

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