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This excerpt was prepared for the August 25, 2004

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Excerpt: Is Our Future In The Stars or in the Genes?

U.S. 1 Technology Showcase speaker Gregory Stock does not shy away from controversial subjects. Herewith an excerpt from his book "Redesigning Humans: choosing our genes, changing our future," originally published in 2002 nd re-released in 2003 by Mariner Books.

"Safety aside, why shouldn’t we try to give our future children the talents we did not have or eliminate deficiencies that held us back?

"One social problem that might attend germinal choice technology, if it really can give our children raw talents, would be that such enhanced abilities would soon be less special. As in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, all the children would be above average. To the extent that talent and good health are heritable, children of some parents have an edge. Show me the brilliant intellectual who does not expect his child to be near the top of the class, the sports superstar who does not expect his child to have athletic gifts. Their genetics is not the whole store, but it is important. There is a reason adopted children tend to resemble their biological parents more than their adoptive ones: life does not start from scratch each generation; it takes from the past.

"What aspects of themselves people will want to boost or moderate is hard to say. But taken together, their choices will have a powerful effect on society. Children’s biological predispositions will come to reflect parental philosophies and attitudes, and thus children will manifest the ethos and values that influence their parents.

"Consider gender. Many couples would make different choices about the attributes of boys and girls. Thus, germinal choice technology might translate cultural attitudes about gender into the biology of children. If a society believes that women are (or should be) more empathetic and supportive, and boys more aggressive and independent, then whether or not these gender specificities are true now is not as important as the likelihood that they will gradually become true.

"Purely cultural distinctions could become more embedded in our genetics and may increase the biological differences among human populations. Each culture assigns its own value to trait such as calmness, obedience, and curiosity. To the extent that genes can influence these differences, germinal choice technology might reinforce them."

"In the future, humanity will be an ever-shifting melange of those who are biologically unaltered, those with improved health and longevity, and those with sundry other enhancements. In essence, we and our children increasingly will be reflections of our personal philosophies and values. Where today we sculpt our minds and bodies using exercise, drugs, and surgery, tomorrow we will also use the tools that biotechnology provides."


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