Babies by Design
The Ethics of Genetic Choice
Ronald M. Green
Yale University Press, $19, 288 pp.
There is by now an extensive literature on current and prospective developments in genetic engineering aimed at altering our children. One group of commentators finds these developments deeply troubling. This group claims that genetic engineering violates nature and expresses a demand for mastery and control that is at odds with compassionate parenting. Another group finds such criticism unpersuasive. Though in favor of greater public oversight and regulation of current reproductive practices, this group is generally optimistic about a future of increasing control over genetics and reproduction. Then there is a third group, this one made up of unabashed enthusiasts, some of whom call themselves “transhumanists.” They seek to end what they call the “genetic roulette” of ordinary conception. They want us to use reproductive technologies to remake ourselves, apparently quite literally, into a new species—techno sapiens.
Ronald M. Green, the Cohen Professor for the Study of Ethics and Human Values at Dartmouth College, belongs to the second of these groups. The eight chapters of his latest book, Babies by Design, range from concerns about the potential effects of genetic enhancement on sports and parenting to fears about playing God. Green, who has a distinguished record as both a bioethics scholar and an adviser to governmental and industry panels on issues of embryo research and reproductive medicine, says he has sought in this book to be evenhanded...