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Institute of Ideas. Hodder and Stoughton, 2002, £5.99, pp 80. ISBN 0 340 84835 9
Designer babies are often presented in the popular media as a kind of apocalyptical spectre of things to come in a brave new world where reproduction is the province of white coated scientists and potential parents in pursuit of trophy children. In this realm physical, intellectual, and social perfection is sought through the manipulation of genes and selection of favoured traits and attributes to the detriment of individuals who cannot compete and of society more generally through the loss of natural selection. It is therefore a pleasure to discover a short readable book that sets out the discussion and its many nuances in concise and accurate terms that will be accessible to all and should help to dispel some of these science fiction myths through scholarly debate.
This volume is part of a collection of books under the title Debating Matters that sprang out of a series of public debates organised by the Institute of Ideas. The conferences were intended to reinvigorate debate and the contestation of ideas and contemporary issues the Institute regards as “too frequently sidelined”. The arguments are presented by an authoritative who’s who of commentators who offer their own insightful readings of various aspects of the debate. Each essayist confirms the fact that the term “designer babies” is an inaccurate reflection of the current ability of science to actively fashion children with selected characteristics, and as a result …