Meeting of the Minds: Genetically Modified Humans

Date(s) - February 25, 2014
7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

The Vancouver Club

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Company of Disciples and Centre for Inquiry Present Meeting of the Minds: Genetically Modified Humans

Genetic engineering

Conceiving the future

The Econimist Feb 7th 2008 | From the print edition

PREPARE to enter the era of directed human evolution, says Ronald Green, a bioethicist and seasoned scientific observer, in his new book, “Babies by Design”, which came out in America last November and is now being published in Britain. In the very near future scientists will be snipping and splicing the DNA in human eggs, sperm and embryos, not only fixing faulty genes but adding enhancements too. Soon, we may be able to eradicate terrible genetic diseases such as Tay-Sachs and cystic fibrosis. We may be able to make our children more resistant to disease than we are—as well as wiser, stronger, longer-lived and more beautiful.

The promise is clear; the risks, scarcely less so. That one scientific slip could mean the creation of a whole new genetic illness is only the most obvious. By rewriting our own operating instructions we will be changing our relationship with the world around us, and each other. Will children become mere consumer goods? Will they suffer under the weight of too high expectations—or be rejected if they turn out to lack the traits their parents paid for? Will the rich get the best upgrades and abandon any sense of a shared human condition? Will we cease to be human altogether?

In this clear-eyed and generally optimistic book, both promise and risk are ably weighed and balanced. The science is clearly explained, and there are signposts to help guide us through the moral maze. The future as imagined in science fiction is mined for clues: interstellar genetic engineers; pod-gestated babies; secret government research laboratories; total war between the “genobility” and the unenhanced rump of humanity.

Mr Green argues convincingly that many opponents of genetic enhancement are suffering from “status-quo bias”: the belief that the way things are is the best way they could be. Those who lament, for example, that life extension will undermine marriage (imagine committing to a century together) forget that advances in public health added three decades to American lifespans in the 20th century.

He addresses some difficult questions. How much risk should a parent be allowed to take on behalf of a child? What should we do if parents want to eliminate homosexuality in their offspring, or if black parents seek children with lighter skin? What about parents who want odd, or dangerous, adaptations—children with high red-blood-cell counts who could be super-athletes, say, but could also have a far higher risk of heart disease?

Mr Green offers some guiding principles. Genetic interventions should be considered only if they are in what would reasonably be regarded as the child’s best interests and about as safe as IVF. Those that offer only positional advantage should be discouraged. Since legislation is likely to lag behind the science and to be too heavily influenced by status-quo bias, “wrongful life” lawsuits, in which children sue foolhardy parents and the scientists who humoured them, will become the main check on the new technology. Of the vertigo-inducing glimpses of the future on offer in this book, this is perhaps the most terrifying.

What are your thoughts? Come and join us as we explore a theist and atheist approach to genetically modified humans!

What is The Meeting of the Minds?

Every last Tuesday of each month we will be hosting a forum where we bring topics that affect us daily, topics within categories such as: culture, religion, finance, ethics and the environment. Each month, we will bring forth one topic along with 3 break out discussion questions. A Theist(s) will bring her/his perspective on the topic while an Atheist(s) will bring her/his perspective. The evening will then proceed with break out discussions and reconvene with an open forum. This month we will continue our series on Genetic Modification and move our focus from crops to human beings. 

Who Can Come?

You are all invited. The topic of the night will be brought forward on the night of and we promise that the topic and discussions will be worthy of your participation!


There is only a cover charge to help us pay for the venue rental. $5 online and $10 at the door per person. A Cash Bar is open for you to purchase any beverages 


The Meeting of the Minds will be held at The Bar 3 in the Vancouver Club,  915 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. Parking is available in the Easy Park located on West Cordova


The Meeting of the Minds will begin at 7:00pm and end promptly at 9:30pm. You are invited to further mingle for the remainder of the evening.

We hope to see you there!

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