Sunday, September 17, 2006

People - can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em...

I have written before about the growing separation of sex from procreation. I was sadly behind the curve it seems. Thanks to PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) parents at risk and those simply with money and a progeny specification list are considering choices our ethical system never envisioned.
Probability and life span aren't the only standards we're relaxing. We're also applying PGD to less serious diseases. Encouraged by Britain's ruling on colon cancer, a London hospital is proposing to prevent autism by eliminating male embryos, which are more likely than females to get the disease. Two weeks ago, the New York Times described an American patient who plans to screen her embryos for an arthritis gene. The probability that the gene will cause the disease is only 20 percent, and if it does, the disease is highly manageable.
As we become wealthy enough to afford all the marvels that science can provide we raise our standards. Why accept what the gene-pool lottery will produce when you can rig the results? I'm not sure I blame young couples for choosing, nor am I sure what I would do in their place.

But I do know this, while we in the developed world are agonizing over whether our 2.1 children will be all they can be, developing country parents are using old-fashioned reproduction to put twice as many or more little feet on the ground. Do we need one more impediment to having children?

We still don't get it. It doesn't matter if you have all the stuff in the world or the easiest existence possible if it ends with you. Unless you are all that matters.

The flap over immigration is an argument we are having with ourselves to justify a fading ethnic group too busy to think of the future. History shows (and economics confirms) that the power of people wins out over wealth.

Assimilating immigrants to an "American culture" will slow when the dilution factor starts working the other way. This is not necessarily a problem, just a sign that cultural norms likely will be modified to accmodate the gravitational pull of a large and growing immigrant sector. Those "designer babies" could be designed for the wrong future.

The US is not the only nation facing this kind of quiet changeover. Economies need people, and our growth imperative (not to mention our collective debt) won't let us tread water.

It is fair to say the surprising election results in Sweden yesterday will be typical of the concern voters will show over how this economic demand for people is met. It will be interesting to see how nations with different approaches like Sweden and Japan solve their culture longevity problems even at the risk of fading economically.

The 22nd Century will belong (unsurprisingly) to those who show up.

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