John Moonstroller


This conversation is closed.

Should couples contemplating marriage use genetic testing to determine if they should have children?

It is a well known fact these days that some diseases are inherited by offspring from their parents. We know that some of us cannot take certain medications because our bodies lack the lock/key mechanism to use the medicine. Genetic research has created tools to screen couples to see if their marriage has the prospect of having healthy children.

One of the cheapest way to solve most of our problems associated with overpopulation would be voluntarily self sterilization. If a genetic test indicated a high probability that our offspring would be deformed, have early heart problems or any number of health conditions that would preclude their children from having a healthy life should voluntary sterilization be an option?

If such a social practice were to become a social trend, how might this impact society as a whole? What organizations might work, energetically, to destroy such a social trend?

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    Sep 17 2012: I've decided to close this discussion because I made a startling discovery watching Steven Hawkins on TV. If his parents had tested themselves they might have decided not to have children. Statistical studies have suggested that genetics may play a more significant role than previously thought and that environmental exposures may be less relevant with the disease known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis otherwise know as, "Lou Gehrig's disease".

    When I contemplate how far behind we would be in Theoretical Physics had Steven Hawkins been Terminated before birth, I have to believe that Testing to prevent the birth of children could do more harm to society.

    Einstein was considered to be a slow learner.

    Genetic testing, in my opinion, should only be used to discover ways and means of healing disease, not to predict if a married couple should have children. Perhaps as some in this debate have offered, we should let love progress it's natural course and roll the dice when we decide to have children. Perhaps it is our reverence for life that makes us human and worthy of our sense of self-awareness. Self-awareness is when you can look at yourself in the mirror and appreciate what you see and understand that it is you being reflected, something animals have a problem with.

    If there are no valid objections, I will close this conversation in 2 days.
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    Sep 15 2012: I still remember in high school biology class when we learned about genetics, we did a lot of practice problems associated with recessive and dominant gene and all the cross-genetic stuff, like predicting what color eyes of a couple's kids will have and calculating the probability. My friends and I used to joke a lot about "Who the hack will calculate those factors before they want to have a kid? Who cares when a married couple just want to have a child?"

    This new technology could be a useful guide to people whose ancestors possess some kind of genetic disorders like tay-sachs or galactosemia(as we know recessive disorders tend to appear across generation.) so that they'll have a grasp what might happen to their offspring.

    But to me I don't hope the technology will have any impact on people's values of dating and relationship, especially those at a early stage. We shouldn't entangle some genetic traits with our genuine emotions after all, and only for those who seriously consider settling down can take a pragmatic approach to test themselves.
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      Sep 15 2012: Excellent advice Hugo. Thank you. Would you say that genetics is something your generation will be interested in in the future? I haven't asked the question but do you think that teenagers should be allowed have access to genetic testing if they want to know more about their bodies?
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    Sep 18 2012: Its not just genetics, which is only the "nature" part of the equation.
    Genetic research is now demonstrating the epigenetics are a part of the genes that can change, and they do so because of the environment they are in. This is the "nurture" part of the equation.
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      Sep 18 2012: I'm sorry Theodore but you may have to simplify your statement so I can understand it's relation to the topic I proposed. Again, I'm sorry to be so simple minded.
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        Sep 18 2012: "If you think of our DNA as an immense piano keyboard and our genes as keys—each key symbolizing a segment of DNA responsible for a particular note, or trait, and all the keys combining to make us who we are—then epigenetic processes determine when and how each key can be struck, changing the tune being played."

        The easiest way to explain epigenetics might be to try to explain why identical twins, who share set genes, can have differences.
        The question arises over how one twin might have autism and the other does not. Where is the difference? Science has found that there are parts of a gene that can be effected by the surroundings or experiences of the individual child. What actually occurs is that a the coding for the production of protein changes, so the cell produces a different protein than the protein being produced by a genetically similar cell. This is what creates different outcomes.

        It was once thoughts that there some people carried a gene that predisposed them to addiction or alcoholism. Research has since shown that this is not the case, that it is instead the environment of the individual that causes the switch in the gene to create the addiction.

        There was recently some articles about this that would help to explain it better.
        National Geographics article on "Twins." The part about epigentics is toward the end of the article.

        This podcast is an overview of an article from Scientific American. It's slightly more technical, but ts not important that one understands it completely to grasp a general understanding of how it works.

        I hope this helps.
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          Sep 18 2012: I understand, kinda like when I use a capo to alter the key of my guitar.

          The tuned strings are the DNA sequence and is linked to Middle C on the piano keyboard. Using a capo alters that tonal quality up or down considering where on the fret board I apply it. Of course when I say down, I know that middle c is the base location, or the basic DNA structure we are working with.

          So, what is your response to the topic? Do you think we should apply this Genetic and Epigenetic knowledge to help create a better human race or should we just let well enough alone with human beings and seek genetic remedies for what ails us?
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        Sep 18 2012: The point as you will see is that genes can express themselves in a variety of ways.
        Even in race horses, having the right genes does not make it a Triple Crown winner.
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    Sep 14 2012: The idea that God knows best has been promoted in this conversation. What few people know is that the Eugenics movement, profoundly illustrated in Nazi Germany was started in the United States and adopted by the Nazis as a method to improve the Aryan Race.

    "It was founded and funded by from various corporate foundations including the Carnegie Institution, Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harriman railroad fortune.[6] In 1906 J.H. Kellogg provided funding to help found the Race Betterment Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan.[8] The Eugenics Records Office (ERO) was founded in Cold Spring Harbor, New York in 1911 by the renowned biologist Charles B. Davenport, using money from both the Harriman railroad fortune and the Carnegie Institution." ~Wikipedia

    The American Breeder’s Association was the first eugenic body in the U.S., established in 1906. It's founders and membership included, Alexander Graham Bell, Stanford president David Starr Jordan and Luther Burbank.

    These associations promoted government intervention in attempts to promote the health of future citizens.
    "Several feminist reformers advocated an agenda of eugenic legal reform. The National Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and the National League of Women Voters were among the variety of state and local feminist organization that at some point lobbied for eugenic reforms." ~Wikipedia

    An IQ of 70 or lower meant sterilization was appropriate in North Carolina.

    Ironically, as the Eugenics movement came to the United States, the churches, especially the Methodists, the Presbyterians, and the Episcopalians, embraced it. They recently apologized for their involvement in the Eugenics movement:

    Methodist bishops endorsed one of the first books circulated to the US churches promoting eugenics.

    It was scientists who fought valiantly to end these atrocities by cultist Christian groups.
    God must be a scientist.
  • Sep 12 2012: These technologies are still very new.

    In the not too distant future, I think that genetic testing will become routine among those who can afford it. People who are serious about finding a spouse will routinely exchange this information, perhaps in confidence, or perhaps making it available to their friends in their online profile. It will be interesting to see how this affects dating and social status.

    These technologies can seem Orwellian, but I think the best way to look at it is an opportunity to avoid needless pain. I am a loving person. If I learned at an early age that I had a high risk of some horrible genetic disease that could strike at any time, I might decide that I did not want my future spouse to suffer through that with me. I just might decide to not get married. I would certainly want my spouse to know about it before making a big commitment.
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      Sep 14 2012: They are new Barry and should be approached with care and a critical eye the their maturity. We should also establish if there is a market for such things. Will people want to take those tests. I am surprise by how little people know about the subject.
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    Sep 12 2012: John, If the two people are above board with each other and they have met the others families then these possibilities are on the table. The fact the twins run in the family or that a specific abnormality is rampant on one side are certainly items to be considered.

    If a defect is a high possibility then a responsible couple may want to volunteer for the test. By knowing that this will occur they could seek medical opinion as to the life expectency, hardships, special care, etc ... that will be required.

    This is a personal decision that intelligent, caring, and responsible couples will approach with the facts on the table. That we have the technology available to make the facts known is a great tool to be use in this decision making.

    I would argue that this is a personal option available to couples ... if it becomes a trend so be it. Organizations that push or fight personal decisions are, in my opinion, out of line .. even though they mean well (sometimes).

    This decision involves the couple, the future child, and the families of both. It should be thought out and discussed. The test only provides facts to be considered and do not make demands.

    The decision to have a child after 40 years of age is not so different. You are aware of the dangers involved but the decision is still yours.

    All the best. Bob.
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      Sep 12 2012: Good report.

      Yes. I am assuming the there is no institutional pressure on anyone to conduct these test. By becoming a social trend, I'm supposing that society on it's own decides to do these tests because it could benefit everyone by reducing inherited genetic anomalies. Perhaps those who are deeply in love might consider adoption.

      In Cuba, people with HIV are allowed to live a bit above the average social level if they voluntarily move into a living environment developed exclusively for them. They are not forced to live there, they are enticed.

      They get better food, less work demands; in general a better life on average compared to the rest of the society.

      The health community could help develop this social trend by handing out information about genetic disorders and the Government could assist by developing tax options, etc, for those married couples who decide not to have children; Enticements not demands; no laws. The cost of health maintenance for some children born with these genetic disorders is very high and most of it is taken from the wallet of the tax payer.

      In short, we are taking control of our own destiny to reduce the world population and the level of genetic disorders being passed on from one generation to the other. I'm sure the overall cost reductions would amount to a considerable sum of money on a world scale.
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    Sep 12 2012: No !
    It would not be marriage (for better or worse) they would be contemplating, but some Orwellian Utopia, It would end in tears.
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      Sep 12 2012: Peter, Can you site some cases that support your opinion?
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        Sep 13 2012: It's just an opinion, as I don't think such a thing has happened yet. The strength of the human race lies in it's diversity.

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          Sep 13 2012: It is happening everyday, even more in wealthy circles. There are many groups that practice these ideas. Do you have any idea how much it would cost you to have your genetically clean daughter associated with a group of like minded genetically clean young males who are first in their class on almost everything they do? You couldn't afford it.

          I remember back in the old BBS days when these organizations were first forming on the net.

          Yes Peter, it is a daily practice in our "world" society today. Without the proper credentials (genetic imprinting) you can't even get in these clubs.
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        Sep 14 2012: Well John you are educating me; I thought Mr. Hitler was the last person to try & improve the breed. Thankfully the "Master Race" never quite got off the ground. When we look at genetics we get various expert opinions..
        1) We are evolving onwards & upwards.
        2) We are degenerating from a previous high.
        3) We have lots of old redundant DNA.
        4) We just don't understand the function of the 'redundant' DNA.
        5) We are being swamped by an ever increasing amount of mutations; 'genetic load'.
        6) Mutations are good things & are the author of genetic advancement. Etc......etc.....

        Any individual scientist will pick & mix this lot according to his own experience. You tell me that people are paying top dollar to have them mess with their offspring ? I prefer the old fashioned way. Marry someone you truly love & 'wing it'. God knows best.

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          Sep 14 2012: I'm afraid you missed the picture entirely Peter.

          It's not about changing the babies while in the womb. It's about genetic testing to see if you have some trait you might not want to pass on to your offspring. Maybe the wife may decide to take on contender number two instead of number one. Women make choices as to who they want to settle down with and sometimes they make the wrong choice, only to discover the husband doesn't appear to take to raising a downs syndrome child. Women are the ones mostly opting for this testing.
          A friend of mine who is a police officer, found out too late her husband didn't like genetically disabled children. Ten years of wasted marriage to find out God's advice was a waste of time.

          It's not about experts, it's about common sense. Hitler wasn't a scientist, he was a brutal dictator. He didn't know squat about genetics. We, of course, are smarter than Hitler and a tad less brutal I might add.

          We are not talking about individual scientists either. We are talking about everyday health care and child planning. Women tend to understand these thing a bit better than men, so I guess that is why they are the ones opting for the testing.

          Why have a defective child if you don't have to? Is there something wrong with healthy children?