Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Gene Genius

It’s hard to imagine how, back in the early part of the twenty-first century, people were so reticent about so-called ‘three-parent babies’. History is full of such tales of horror and the fanciful consequences of meddling with nature; all just groundless hysteria. Mary Shelley wrote the worrisome fable of Frankenstein after hearing about Luigi Galvani’s remarkable discoveries of the effect of electrical currents on amphibian musculature. Two centuries later, an Australian celebrity scientist was jailed when the full horror of his monstrous experimentation with spare part siblings became clear - Jake the Peg was clearly an abomination against creation.

Back in 2015 the British government became the first country to allow the creation of IVF babies with DNA from three different people. Today of course, mitochondrial donation  is commonplace and it is not unusual to source DNA from as many as a dozen donors* in an attempt to produce healthy new humans. Far from being abhorrent, designer babies are, if anything, the norm rather than the exception. After all, who wants to rely on fickle mother nature to perform her genetic lottery with all the old-world’s uncertainties of outcomes? Back then, not only could they not specify the sex of their children, they had three fewer genders than we have to choose from now.

(*Historical note: One of the early setbacks in adopting the procedure came about when the auto-correct facility of a research fellow mistakenly replaced ‘donor’ with ‘donut’, an object lesson in why it was a mistake to allow US English to dominate the field of communication. Mind you, the resulting offspring were delicious.)  

The biggest objections came from the now defunct religious communities which, a couple of hundred years ago, were so busy killing each other off you would have thought that the possibility of creating inherently malleable allah-babies, yid-kids buddha-babs and god-toddlers would have seemed like a gift from the fictional almighty himself. But luckily they just carried on shooting until their superstitions literally died out. The way was clear, at long last, to forge ahead with the dream of perfecting the human race.

Seven parents - what could possibly go wrong?
Today, all children are perfect

A few naysayers protested about what might go wrong; hideous deformations, crippling disabilities and the alarming possibility of epigenetic interactions or genetic throwbacks were all threatened. But, apart from a few primitive groups living in the distant past and trying to recreate the mythical times of Hendrixstock and Geldofia and follow the spiritual ways of the flower-poor, everybody today uses the state family formation services to redeem their vouchers and dial up the children they want, whenever they want. With a free replacement service on demand the system is flawless. And talking of flawless, far from the gloomy predictions of hideous deformity we have a wondrously uniform svelte, athletic physiques. And beautiful prehensile tails.

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