Chinese Scientists May Soon Be Able To Genetically Engineer Smarter Children

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A company in China is attempting to identify common alleles in the DNA of some of the world’s most intelligent people. If they can be found, the research may let parents select an embryo containing the so-called "most intelligent" DNA, potentially bumping up intelligence by up to 15 IQ points.

According to Vice, the scientists and researchers at BGI Shenzhen have taken on the genetic engineering project and are getting close to figuring out the common allele among the "genius" DNA. 

Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist, is among the 2,000 luminaries who donated DNA to the science of smart.

In an interview with Vice, Miller explains in more detail what exactly the research may be able to achieve, and why China is far more advanced in genetic research.

Miller says that even if IQ is boosted in one generation by a seemingly small increment, the potential of even more intelligent offspring increases as well and can improve society in all sectors. “Even if it only boosts the average kid by five IQ points, that’s a huge difference in terms of economic productivity, the competitiveness of the country, how many patents they get, how their businesses are run and how innovative their economy is,” he said.

China’s past with eugenics has paved a way for current Chinese geneticists and researchers to be leaders in the field, despite what many perceive as controversial science. Under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s and '80s, managing China’s booming population became a priority. By the time technology allowed for it, prenatal testing and screening for birth defects and gender were common among Chinese parents who only had one chance to have a child because of the one child policy implemented by Deng. And though gender-selecting abortion is illegal in China, this did not stop many parents from killing or abandoning baby girls.

This project, by BGI Shenzhen, Miller said, is rooted in the idea of prenatal screening, but does not cross lines of genetic engineering or adding new genes. “It’s the genes that couples already have,” Miller said, adding that “that kid would belong to that couple as if they had it naturally, but it would be the smartest a couple would be able to produce if they had 100 kids.”

Miller says genetics research is so advanced in China is because of a lack of religious culture that inhibits Western research. “We have ideological biases that say, ‘well, this could be troubling, we shouldn’t be meddling with nature, we shouldn’t be meddling with God.’”

But most Chinese, Miller believes, have no qualms about genetically engineering babies.

“An audience would say, ‘Obviously you should make babies genetically healthier, happier and brighter!’’

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