This article caught my eye mainly because of the clear stance presented in the title. Though it deals mostly with the subject of genetics, I felt that this article related to our class because it touches upon the common human desire to be bigger and better. Evolution revolves around that idea as well, because through time we acquired traits that helped us adapt to changing environments. Even now, there is debate over what we can do to make us even better. One of our class bloggers last week posted about genetic enhancements for babies in future generations, enhancements that would supposedly be for the better of mankind. These articles interesting are because there are so many different ways to interpret them, but also because they spark debate and bring interesting perspectives to light.
The problem with something that tampers with genetics, however, is the ethical issues that accompany it. Savulescu points out this problem in the beginning of the article, despite his stance that genetic screening should be embraced. In the middle of the article, however, Savulescu states (with reference to those with an IQ below the “threshold” of 75) that “if we could enhance their intelligence, say with thyroid hormone supplementation, we should.” I felt that this was poorly written; he states this as if he has a say in what people want to do with their bodies. Yes, it may be statistically true that those with an IQ between 75 and 90 are at a disadvantage when it comes to acquiring jobs, earning money, and being recruited for the military, but it is not up to anyone else to decide what you do with your brain and your genetics. I would also like to point out the fact that there is no cited evidence of thyroid hormone supplementation having been tested on any humans yet; thus, we do not actually know whether or not it would “enhance intelligence.” What does it even mean to “enhance intelligence”? Would you get better at math and science? Would your social skills improve? There’s a blurred line here when it comes to defining “intelligence,” and Savulescu fails to speak to that issue.
Savulescu also states in the paragraph before the “Nature and Nurture” section of the article, that “the interventions I am arguing for would only benefit those with an IQ of 70-85 – so it would in fact reduce inequality.” Here I would question why he thinks the enhancements would ONLY benefit those with an IQ in that range. Though this genetic screening is aimed at supposedly enhancing the IQ of those in that range, there is no implication that it would only benefit them. Savulescu does not elaborate on the relationship between the increase in IQ and and the reduction in inequality, either. He also mentions that “enhanced education” and “environmental modifications” are alternatives to genetic screening, but I feel that those terms are very broad. What exactly does “enhanced education” refer to? He doesn’t take into account the fact that there are many that are homeschooled, and others that can’t afford to attend schools that are viewed as better in terms of preparing students to do well later in life. Does “environmental modifications” refer to a student’s home/social life, or the literal environment? At the end of article, he also says that “All we can do in life is try to reduce the chances of bad things happening, and increase the chances of good things happening. That includes using genetic information to ensure children have the best shot at a good life.” I do agree with the first sentence, but will genetic enhancements ACTUALLY ensure that children will have the best shot at a good life? There’s more to a “good” life than intelligence.
Savulescu is very opinionated in this article, and this is obvious in statements such as “in my view, we ought to test embryos for such gene variants.” I respect his views and his take on genetic enhancements, but I feel that he could have approached the subject with a more open mind and with less of an emphasis on statistical data. Statistics are not always reliable and can only get you so far in research.