Last year, famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson came out against the genetic modification of human embryos – also known as “designer babies.” Since then, several different scientists have participated in research conducting genetic modifications of non-viable embryos. And just this month, an international committee convened by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Medicine in Washington, D.C. has given the go-ahead in said research.
Despite all of this, Business Insider decided to republish their video of Neil declaring opposition towards a future of “designer babies.” It’s unclear whether he’s since changed his mind, but in response to his statement in question, Neil deGrasse Tyson is wrong: designer babies are the future!
In particular, they’re the future of viable deep space travel. Let’s not forget that space is a hostile environment for us humans – from radiation to micro-gravity conditions. According to research, these conditions alone cause bone loss at a rate of 1 to 1.5 percent per month. They’ve also been shown to cause certain genetic anomalies in those who’ve spent upwards to a year in space.
This is all research that was conducted on human adults, however. For children, it’s that much more dangerous.
“We are all tired of being stuck on this cosmical speck with its monotonous ocean, leaden sky, and single moon that is half useless. Its possibilities are exhausted, and just as Greece became too small for the civilization of the Greeks, so it seems to me that the future glory of the human race lies in the exploration of at least the solar system!”
– John Jacob Astor IV,
A Journey in Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future, 1894
The following is an excerpt from one of my previous writings that was published last year:
Like any horny human who’s dreamt of exploring the cosmos, you’ve more than likely had the subsequent envisioning of having sex in space. Ignoring the fact that sex in space would be a far more complicated task to achieve than “down here” on Earth, what’s even more important to contemplate is the likelihood of conceiving children in space as well. And in this possibility, no other result would come other than the quick and painful death of said child.
Deep space might be a gradual death sentence for us biological human adults, but for children, that death sentence would be far quicker. Which is why we must come to the realization that, without the aid of advanced technologies like gene editing, our journey into the cosmos will be an infertile one. While it might seem like a cliché to justify a claim based on a “think of the children” argument, but yes, please, do think of the children!
Today, we might be clamoring out into every direction about the ethical implications of a future of genetically modified children — aptly referred to as “designer babies” — but without the promise of genetic engineering, it would subsequently be unethical of us to conceive children while exploring the cosmos. With it, however, we’ll be able to genetically modify newly conceived human embryos to accommodate the harsh conditions of space. From there, they’ll gradually join the spacefaring population of cyborgs, exploring and colonizing the universe.
We have very difficult — albeit very important — questions to be answered ahead of us. And we mustn’t allow them to put us at an impasse, or else Earth might very well be the only home we know of throughout the universe.
Photo Credit: Michael D. Lemonick, “Designer Babies,” Time (January 11, 1999) via Center for Genetics and Society