Reader Poll: “If genetic engineering were to give parents the ability to screen out ‘personality flaws’ in their children, would you take advantage of it?”

Reader Poll: “If genetic engineering were to give parents the ability to screen out ‘personality flaws’ in their children, would you take advantage of it?”

Here’s the question we asked UFI readers:

“If genetic engineering were to give parents the ability to screen out ‘personality flaws’ in their children, would you take advantage of it?”

Here’s how readers responded:

0   Percent           Yes

97 Percent           No

3 Percent             Unsure

If given the opportunity, it’s pretty clear that  UFI readers would have no interest in tinkering with their children’s personalities via genetic engineering.  But an Oxford professor thinks that you have a “moral obligation” to do so.  After all, it is only responsible parenting to create “ethically better children,” Professor Julian Savulescu claims.

Through what he calls “rational design” he thinks we could have less violent, more intelligent, more pleasant people – in short, a better society.  Evidently the technology to accomplish this is close at hand.

Professor Savulescu argues that there is no reason why we shouldn’t be willing and indeed, motivated, to create people who are less likely to harm themselves and others.  You can read more about it here.  And then tell us what you think?

Good idea?  Bad idea?  and why.



  • Anastasia
    Posted at 04:29h, 25 August

    Using genetic redesign to create more “ethical” children? Seems a slippery slope indeed, considering that we are still not 100% sure which part of the brain contains morality potential. I would’ve voted no as well.
    Now, if the question had been about actual deformities, I’d have voted yes. I believe that, as a parent, you do have a responsiblity to make sure your offspring are as healthy and well cared for as possible. If given a choice between letting your child suffer from blindness, spina bifida, deafness, missing limbs, thyroid problems, autism, Down’s syndrome, etc or not, I would certainly take the “not”. For those who are already born and have these issues we should of course give them as much love, attention, care and life options as any other child/person…but I stand by my decision that we should eliminate the genes that cause these issues in the first place, ensuring that the next generation will not have any of these problems.

  • diane robertson
    Posted at 11:55h, 25 August

    I think it is very clear, that while genetics play some role in personality, a child’s environment, the choices of a child’s parents, a child’s choices,and even unforetold life events play a rather large role in the personality development of children. I really doubt genetic engineering could create “less violent, more intelligent, more pleasant people”.

    Social research and common sense tell us that children are most likely to develop into happy, hard working, intelligent adults if they are raised in a loving environment by a married man and woman who love each other and work hard toward the success of their family.

    If this scientist is truly interested in less violent, more intelligent, pleasant people then maybe he should lend his support to the traditional family because that is where the majority of the less violent, more intelligent, pleasant population are coming form.

  • Meagan
    Posted at 13:40h, 27 August

    Engineering currently means IVF, there’s no possible way to do this naturally unless you pick a spouse that has good genes. IVF also means living embryos are destroyed, it’s rare for parents to request that they be frozen and placed in adoptive families. There is no special tampering that fixes a child so they can be born without problems, it simply means denying life to a child because they are deaf, autistic, etc… Genetic engineering is abortion.

  • ChunLing
    Posted at 15:12h, 16 September

    I think that the moral incoherence of the idea of raising more ethical children by selectively killing those which have “undesirable” genetic traits is too large a point to ignore. One can argue about whether it is acceptable to eliminate children based on other potential deviations from human-normal biological development, but killing children because you identify their genetics as predisposed to unethical behavior raises a pretty fundamental contradiction. It is inconvenient for you to have children that might be willing to injure or kill other people for their own convenience, so you will kill those children–for your own convenience.

    Presumably one of the essential qualities of an ethical person is the ability to rationally contemplate the moral impact of decisions (this is, after all, what “ethics” means). So at what point are you going to explain to your “genetically ethical” children how you only permitted them to live based on their slightly increased chances of turning out ethical based on their genetic profile? And do you think that the rather high difficulty of reasonably contemplating the moral implications of such a fundamental question about the nature of their relationship to their parents might affect the probability of their commitment to ethics?

    There is also the small matter of what evolutionary biology continues to tell us about the normal genetic predisposition of humans (which most people of any sense have known all along). Genetic predispositions to immoral behavior are the norm, not the exception. And there are structural limitations in the nature of the normal human mind which make it difficult to contemplate rationally the negative outcomes of personal actions. Which is to say, if we seriously wanted to start screening out unethical traits, we’d have to start by eliminating ALL genetically normal children.

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