Silver Spoons and Golden Genes


Dov FoxFollow

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Advances in reproductive control over offspring DNA invite us to ask whether there is reason preserve a measure of genetic randomness in human reproduction. This Article defends one moral good of the natural lottery: genetic luck shores up the moral bonds on which social solidarity depends. The development of therapies to repair debilitating conditions before birth would be unequivocal cause for celebration. But we should be troubled, I suggest, by prenatal intervention into healthy traits like strength, memory, and intelligence.

Exploiting insights from behavioral economics, I argue that the present fact of genetic contingency, by attuning us to the influence of luck in our lives, provides a powerful reason for the privileged to share their fates with those who have less. But transferring the reins of genetic control from chance to choice would, by inflating our sense of entitlement for how our lives turn out, make it far more difficult than it already is today, I predict, to convince the successful that they should adopt a generous moral posture toward those who are less fortunate. I conclude that enhancement is worth resisting to the extent that it would recast biological inequality from a matter that we address collectively to one that we expect either parents to prevent or children to manage on their own.

Publication Info

33 AM. J.L. & MED. 568 (2007)