Critics slam new test that can predict risk of low IQ in embryos

The mob has found a new issue to scream about, this time with embryo testing.  Via Daily Mail:

IVF clinics may soon use a controversial screening technique to get rid of embryos which are likely to grow up with low IQs.

A company in the US offering tests which can pick out ‘mental disabilities’ – and, in theory, predict intelligence – has confirmed it is in talks with fertility clinics.

The news has stoked fears about a rise in designer babies, which could be created by parents wanting to erase undesirable traits from their children.

Experts say it is ‘repugnant’ to think about terminating embryos because they are expected to have lower than average intelligence.

And further down:

Campaigners against screening for Down’s syndrome already argue an inclusive society should not be trying to erase people with disabilities.

Lynn Murray, spokesperson for Don’t Screen Us Out, told the New Scientist: ‘If we consider inclusion and diversity to be a measure of societal progress, then IQ screening proposals are unethical. There must be wide consultation.’

Sorry Ms. Murray, but I reject your underlying assumption that societal progress is measured by inclusion and diversity.

IQ-Bell-Curve

I guess this is supposed to be some kind of ethical dilemma but I’m really not seeing it.  What parent wouldn’t want their children to have every possible advantage in life to succeed?  Nobody is saying that we want to kill off mentally challenged people.  This isn’t even abortion.  It’s pre-selecting the best embryos that have the lowest risk for mental retardation.  Period.

People often times place some kind of ethical or moral superiority on something just because it is a tough situation.  Poverty, for example.  Being poor is not a virtue.  Being rich does not make you inherently evil.  The same goes with something like this.  I have all the admiration in the world for parents who have mentally challenged children.  It surely must be one of the most difficult jobs in the world.  But that doesn’t mean that you’re doing something inherently virtuous if you had the ability to greatly lower the risk of mental retardation and chose not to.  That is not virtuous in any way.

If anything, one could look at it as a selfish act.  Like it or not the reality is mentally challenged individuals are a huge financial burden not only to the family but also on society.  One that we wholeheartedly support for those now.  But couldn’t one make a moral argument to try and weed out mental retardation both for the family and also to society at large?  Going further, might it not be what’s best for the individual and the nation to have the best and brightest constituency possible?  Or at the very least one that tries to raise the lowest levels of IQ in the nation?  Read The Bell Curve, probably the best (and most easily readable) book on the topic of IQ in American society.  IQ is the best predictor we have for success.

It doesn’t seem that unrealistic to think it may be a necessary requirement just to keep up with other countries.  It’s not a stretch to think that China could one day require IVF for all births, with each embryo being selected for the highest intelligence, athleticism, or whatever trait they’re looking for possible.  Think Gattaca.  Over time that would make a mighty formidable Chinese population.  One that would have a distinct advantage over other nations that did not do this.  It’s an interesting thought experiment at least.

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