Jewish World Review Feb. 20, 2004 / 28 Shevat, 5764
The birds and the bees, updated
"Son, it's time you learn where babies come from."
"My friend Billy Johnson says that babies come from the stork, but I know that's not true. I know a husband and a wife become very affectionate, a miracle happens, and then a baby is born."
"Actually, son, that's how babies USED to be made.''
"Son, scientists have made tremendous advances. Back in 2004, Korean scientists succeeded in making the first human clone. They were researching how to extract stem cells from embryos in order to treat diseases, but it was just a matter of time before some people began using the knowledge to clone babies."
"What is a clone, dad?"
"Son, cloning involves taking a single cell from an adult and fusing it with a donated egg cell whose own genes have been removed. The result is an embryo that is genetically identical to the donor of the cell. Because I was the cell donor for you, you are clone of me."
"Yes, son, but you're way better than I am. See, scientists also cracked the human genetic code back in 2000. The knowledge they gained was a boon to science and medicine, but it was only a matter of time before some people would use that knowledge to design their children. Once we cloned you, we then used the human genome to perfect you."
"I'm not following, dad."
"Son, the human genome is the DNA strand of more than 3 billion chemical 'letters' that spell out the instructions for how to build a human being. It took a long time, but scientists were eventually able to figure out which genes - and the millions of unique ways that genes react to one another - caused humans to be the way they are. Some people began using this knowledge to custom-build their children."
"You custom-ordered me the way you order a new car?"
"That's right, son. You have blue eyes and blond hair like me, but not my fair skin. Your mother didn't want you to get sunburned, so we reengineered your skin pigment. You'll get great tans for the rest of your life."
"Will I get bald like you, dad?"
"No, son. We fixed that, too. You don't have your dad's big nose, either. Your mother picked one out of a catalog. I think it was from the Michael Jackson line."
"And I'm smart because you made me smart?"
"Absolutely, son, though that was hard to do. There are so many genetic and environmental variables that cause intelligence, we had to take a few guesses, but we got lucky because you are really smart - much smarter than me."
"You should say 'much smarter than I,' dad."
"Exactly. You're athletic, too, son. I was clumsy and skinny, but you won't have to worry about that. You should be about 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, a lot taller than I am. I've already had talks with some major universities about your football scholarship."
"But that is just the beginning of what we did for you, son. We eliminated the gene that causes crankiness. And because your mother is such a neat freak, we ingested another gene commonly found in people who pick up after themselves. And you'll likely never get cancer, heart disease or a host of other illnesses."
"Dad, do you mean to say that I'm perfect?"
"That is right, son, a perfect human being: good looking, smart, pleasant. Maybe you'll be president one day or run a big company like Microsoft."
"Gee, dad, I should be flattered about all the thought you and mom put into me, but I wish you had me the old way."
"Nonsense, son. Humans have sought to perfect their offspring since the beginning of man. Plato's Republic encouraged selective breeding. In 1926, the American Eugenics Society proposed restrictions on immigrants from 'inferior' stock."
"Didn't the Nazi party try making their version of perfect people, too?"
"Son, there's nothing wrong with what we did. Thanks to people like us, there are fewer ugly children, fewer dumb people and less sickness. Your should applaud us for making you and society better."
"But, dad, don't you think you and mom did a lot of the stuff that G-d should be doing?"
"G-d? G-d who?"
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© 2003, Tom Purcell