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July 09, 2007

Ethics and Gene Therapy

A New York Times review of THE CASE AGAINST PERFECTION Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering. By Michael J. Sandel.

When norms change, you can always find old fogeys who grouse that things aren’t the way they used to be. In the case of football, Sandel finds a retired N.F.L. player to support his contention that today’s bulked-up linemen are “degrading to the game” and to players’ “dignity.” But eventually, the old fogeys die out, and the new norms solidify. Sandel recalls a scene from the movie “Chariots of Fire,” set in the years before the 1924 Olympics, in which a runner was rebuked for using a coach. Supposedly, this violated the spirit of amateur competition. Today, nobody blinks at running coaches. The standpoint from which people used to find them unseemly is gone.

To defend the old ways against the new, Sandel needs something deeper: a common foundation for the various norms in sports, arts and parenting. He thinks he has found it in the idea of giftedness. To some degree, being a good parent, athlete or performer is about accepting and cherishing the raw material you’ve been given to work with.


I view the difference between having gene therapy and not having it: like 5 card draw which we currently play where we all get random cards to a change towards Omaha. Choosing the best of two out of four cards that you are dealt and choosing the best three out of five community cards. Where we know which cards are best everyone would gravitate towards taking royal flushes, but just having the genes does not control the environmental factors. So sometimes it would have been better to have a full house or four of a kind based on what happens in the environment. How to judge the cards is still not clearly defined. If it turns out that low hand wins then a more flexible approach would be to take a low flush A, 2, 3, 4, 5 a little wheel that is a good low hand and a good high hand.

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