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Not So Precise

Even if people tried to design a “perfect” baby, Megan Allyse at the Duke University Institute for Genome Science and Policy and Marsha Michie from Stanford School of Medicine write in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that people and their genes are too complex to predict.

Already, they write at the Journal, parents can screen for and select embryos without certain severe genetic diseases — which most people agree should be possible. But Allyse and Michie note that there are more and more opportunities to take carrier screening further. They recount the case of a couple that recently had potential embryos sequenced to determine which was the most viable, and they write that a company called GenePeeks has announced that it will begin examining a woman’s DNA and that of potential sperm donors to find better genetic matches.

These efforts may be for naught. “It may seem like creating the perfect child will eventually be a matter of who can pay for it. But predicting whether a couple's offspring will be the next Mozart or Einstein is about as easy as predicting the precise location and airspeed of a hurricane nine months in advance,” Allyse and Michie write. While genes that influence something like musicality may be known, they likely only increase that trait by a small percentage.

Further, they write that each person has their own personal mutations that crop up at conception that cannot then be controlled for. “Parents have always tried to control their children's destiny, and complex gene algorithms are merely the latest manifestation of those efforts,” they write. “But these techniques will only reveal that human life is too multifaceted to be reduced to a mathematical formula.”