BE; Bad people making sense: Theoretical children of a lesser god

May 20, 2008


Note the Video above. A congenitally deaf couple has decided that they want to produce a child through invitrofertilization. They are planning on sorting through all of the potential embryos, and selecting the one which will be guaranteed to produce a deaf person…like them, and their other daughter. Allow me to restate that for clarity: they are using genetic screening to insure a pre crippled child that properly matches their special little family.

They, of course, bristle at the notion that deafness is detrimental in anyway, and see a law being passed to prevent deliberate selection of defective embryos, as discrimination against the deaf. They assert that, were they to not choose a little deaf baby, it would be tantamount to admitting they are handicapped in someway…as opposed to belonging to the exclusive, and oh so trendy, deaf subculture.

I will go a long way to prove a point…and I can respect trying to make the best of a rough deal…but eventually you move past a maintaining a brave front, and into delusional bravado. I’m going to make a controversial statement here: given the choice, it is better to not be Deaf or Blind, than it is being deaf or blind. The Garfield’s would disagree with me on that…but the Garfield’s, are fucking retarded. Perhaps[1] not retarded in the classic developmental sense, but possessing a lack of perspective so glaring it vastly overshadows their auditory deficiencies.

They argue that their handicap is just a mild perceptual hurdle; something more akin to a language difference, than a congenital defect: when they are scrapping their kid’s big wheel off a bus grill, because the little tyke didn’t hear the horn blaring, they can comfort themselves with the semantic victory they’ve achieved. Hey, I don’t want to think of myself as a murderer…but that won’t bring all those drifters back to life; you are what you are, regardless of how that reality makes you feel.

I am sure there is some deaf, blind, insensate goon, hanging in a sack on his parents den wall, that would happily assert [2] there is nothing wrong with his lot in life…since he doesn’t know any better…as he lives in a sack on a wall, and lacks perspective.

Likewise: If you’ve been deaf since birth, you aren’t really qualified to judge the relative merits of the world o’ sound… so maybe ask a hearing friend if there are any hidden benefits: like Music, fire alarms, and talking in the dark, before you damn your children to eternal silence.

Just because you can’t hear, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen. [3]

But perhaps I’m being too autocratic in my judgements. Perhaps each of us is entitled to inflict whatever crippling infirmity we want on our unborn childen. For that that matter: Why stop at merely selecting a defective embryo? If, by chance, the Garfield’s child acquires the curse of hearing, they should be allowed to deafen it with hat pins and scarlet fever…maybe ugly[4] up it’s faces with bricks a little so it matches it’s jug eared C.H.U.D ugly parents. Additionally: the children of paraplegics should have their limbs bound until they are useless; the children of the blind lasered into darkness at first blink; and the (adopted) children of the French, chemically instilled with a deep, and shameful, cowardice.

After all, isn’t the mark of a truly devoted parent the desire for our children to suffer the same misery and disadvantage as the generation before… so as to keep them humble and bound to us?


I can’t help but picture the C.H.U.Dleys staring up at this big McDonalds style menu in the geneticist office.

Dr. Swank: What can I get for you sir?

Mr Chuddley (signing): We’d like to add another broodling to our happy family. Nothing fancy though.

Dr. Swank: Of course. The basic model comes with ten fingers, five senses, and a three year limited warrantee.

Mr Chuddley: Oooooooohhhh…five senses…seems a little flashy, don’t you think?

Dr. Swank: No, not really. To be honest that is the absolute bare minimum we can offer by law.

Mr Chuddley: Yeaaah….thing is, my wife and I are deaf, so it’s probably in the Childs best interest that it’s deaf as well…for symmetries sake.

Dr. Swank: Are you sure…we offer hearing at no extra cost…actually we’d have to charge extra to make sure the child is deaf.

Mr Chuddley: I don’t mind paying top dollar for quality.

Dr. Swank: That’s deplorable. Are there any other crippling physical deficiencies you’d like us add? Maybe have the hands fuses together in club like structures.

Mr Chuddley: Tempting…but again…symmetry.

Also: my wife and I are incredibly selfish and spiteful…Is there anyway that you can work that in there too?

Dr. Swank: I’m sure that will work its self out in the natural course of things.


[1] Lets apply the exhaustive Three point Beats Entropy Retardation Matrix:

a- Dressing in matching jeans and black sweaters, when there is already a disturbingly strong brother/sister resemblance

b– Unable to identify a Starling by call alone

c– Sees no downside in child lacking a major sense

It’s not looking good for the Chuddleys.

[2] Were he able to communicate in any way.

[3] And this isn’t some covert pro-life agenda: If thought it would give me powers I’d spend my lunch hours snatching newborns from unwed mothers…that I might harvest their delicious stem cells.

[4] If fairness, their ugliness likely has more to do with them being British, than is does them being deaf, or bad parents.


16 Responses to “BE; Bad people making sense: Theoretical children of a lesser god”

  1. Pollyanna Sassmaster Says:

    To be fair, I think you should give some credit to the American lesbian couple that pioneered the deaf designer baby movement back in ’02. They didn’t bother with IVF; they just stuck to selective breeding and hoped for the, uh, “best”:

  2. In responce to Pollyanna’s link

    The sad part is both the ladies in questions are mentals health therepists…I shudder for their paitents.

    a quote from then

    “”But you know, black people have harder lives. Why shouldn’t people be able to go ahead and pick a black donor if that’s what they want? ”

    The are equating lacking one of the big three senses, to being Black…wow.

    They too are trying to push deafness as a “Cultural movement”. Lacking a sense is not a culture…it’s genetic defect…like Down syndrome. How would they react to people trying to create blind children, so they could enjoy that unique expirence.

  3. Jive Says:

    Carnivorous Humanoid Underground Dwellers… it’s not everyday your favorite Blog references your favorite movie that you never rented but always said hi to on the way through the video store.

    Thank you BE, you bring joy to my otherwise bleak existence.

    In regards to the post I have to agree with Sir Valiant. A life without any hardship could I suppose lead to your children growing up to be over privileged jack asses but making them deaf deliberately has got to be among the more stupid ideas I have encountered in some time. I wear glasses. I fucking hate them. If I could guarantee excellent vision for my kids I’d do it in an instant. The world is a fucked up place, wouldn’t you want your kids to be as fit and clever as possible? the quick and the dead, darwinism, etc…

  4. w0rmwood Says:

    The real irony here, is that this couple – apparently fighting for the right to be different, and reproduce children of the same kind – are actually setting precendents that ultimately hurt their ’cause.’

    Selection itself is a very slippery slope.

    While I do agree that these parents seem to be making a foolish choice, I would not appeal to Darwinism or basic tenants of ‘fitness’ to explain why it is a bad idea.

    Genetically selecting the ‘best’ traits of a child, is a dangerous path. Partially because it wreaks of the culturally subjective eugenics programs of the past, and partially because even if it were possible to agree on a set of ‘most desirable’ traits: their universalization would serve only to quash the very essence of human existence – difference.

  5. w0rmwood Says:

    my point is somewhat supported by the link that was automatically generated above:

    “Deaf couples choosing deaf babies is sick”

    There the author, while mirroring our discomfort with parents choosing a child likely to share their hearing impairment, goes on to relate this to the issue of gay and lesbians having children – apparently another example of children being allowed to grow up under ‘bad’ conditions…

  6. thekenji Says:

    I suspect the couple has not fully come to terms with their deafness in the grander scheme of things.

    If, to them, deafness was truly a superfluous thing that did not separate them from society in any functional way then why would they want to choose deaf or NOT deaf anyway? Why should it matter? Why not let nature run its course?

    It seems they have something to prove- it’s an indirect admission that having overcome the difficulties of their condition themselves is not enough. They need to demonstrate it through their child. At least, that’s what it looks like to me.

    The fact of the matter is, of course, it’s pretty undeniable how many more opportunities are available to a non-deaf person in the world- despite all the accommodations the first world makes towards people of all conditions, both logistically and ethically, the first world comprises maybe 20% of this planet anyway. The rest of the world is not nearly so affluent that it can afford the needed infrastructure.

    It’s a slippery slope indeed. It doesn’t take much to go from the above statement to parents wanting to select all the traits they think will help their child. How can you blame them? It’s hard to understand the subtle importances of hardship. If you’re already choosing to create a child with a chosen mate, in a chosen city, with hard-earned funds, on a diet of healthy food and principled beliefs, few people would stop there and not go the extra mile of choosing favourable genetic traits. First you choose “NOT prone to cancer” and “NOT blind”… with so little effort you can throw in a few “not prone to obesity”‘s and “is taller than average”‘s.

    Pretty scary. But sadly maybe inevitable. Given the wealth some people have in this world, and given their likely views on life, I don’t know if there is any force in this world that will stop them from taking advantage of such technology.

    But we’re mainly concerned about the stupid masses and what would happen if they adopted these techniques on a wide scale. I’m thinking… the stupid masses are already producing idiotic cookie-cutter children anyway. Maybe we should let them run themselves into a genetic monocultural dead-end.

    On the other hand, humans have a interesting rebellious streak as well. Many people try to break out of conformity by going to extreme lengths in the opposite way (which is, ironically, somewhat conformist). But you can definitely say that there are countless people trying to push various boundaries.

    So who knows, maybe the Garfields of the world will produce an even more diverse place. Evolution works in mysterious ways.

  7. I am actually fairly pro-Eugenics as a whole…they are just doing it backwards.

  8. thekenji Says:

    What if by choosing a deaf child they accidentally choose a genetic strain that gives the child superhuman echolocation abilities?

    Or an even trickier question: what if it’s only this child’s grandchildren who would have the super powers?

    Some genetic traits may take a few generations to isolate. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually some powerful families employed eugenics preemptively in this way, many generations before their desired target.

  9. thekenji Says:

    Hmmm, I guess that’s very similar to the Benejezzerit (sp?) sisterhood.

  10. “Or an even trickier question: what if it’s only this child’s grandchildren who would have the super powers?”

    I think I’ve made it clear in the past that unless I posses superpowers…I will descend into madness and villiany if anyone else acquires them.

  11. Mike Says:

    I think what hit me right away was that this couple was making a decision for their child. In a sense they are deciding something about that persons body without their consultation. I just can’t agree with that. If the child matures to age of consent and decides that he/she wishes to be deaf then I’m fairly certain that could be arranged. If the parents genetically engineer the child to never be able to hear that’s a pretty big fuck you to the poor kid. This isn’t a, mommy and daddy missed your 5th birthday, kind of therapy fix if the kid decides he was dealt a bad hand.

  12. “Cannibalistic” Humanoid Underground Dweller


  13. Feel-ya Says:

    To Mike: “I don’t think they were genetically engineering the child to be deaf, more like they were selecting an already deaf child – or one with a high
    probability of being so.”

    It’s pretty sad. I agree with a lot of what was said above. Wanting the best for our children should be paramount. We shouldn’t want the best for our children within the constraints created by the choices we’ve made for them before they were born.

    However, I ask myself if it’s any different from the choice of simply having a child? Never mind choosing its genetically expressed traits.

    A child is born into the consequences of the lifetime’s accumulation of its parent’s choices. A parent’s strengths and shortcomings, which in part result from their choices in life, affect how a child will be raised and how it will develop. Therefore to a certain extent the child is limited both physically and socially by those choices before even being born.

    Of course, a child has agency throughout its life. But aside from choosing a child’s genetically expressed traits, there will always be predetermined social, physical and environmental constraints that are imposed on that child’s life prior to birth.

    Making choices such as the ones the deaf parents are making is just more deliberate. And making such choices has a much more profound impact on the development and direction of a child’s life. We can always escape or break from the teachings of our parents and their own shortcomings in life, but we cannot break from a genetic defect.

    I’m not trying to justify such choices; rather I just want to put them within a greater context. Personally I think it would be terrible to want something like that for one’s child. I like to think that we raise our children so that they can have and experience the things we couldn’t in our lives. That’s part of the beauty of raising children.

    I heard this Greek proverb the other day and I find it speaks to this a bit: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Just the same, parents should want for their children what they do not have or may never enjoy – in this case: the ability to hear.

    It’s deplorable to want less for your child.

  14. Rodney Says:

    I don’t like where this is going. We are going to create something we can’t control…and then we will be in trouble. Just because you can do something, does not mean that you should.

    I disagree with modifying embryo’s at the very root of the subject so that umbrella covers what these two are doing.

  15. engtech Says:

    This reminds me of the whole issue around nut allergies.

    By trying to keep these kids alive we are breeding in a predisposition to nuts that will ultimately lead to our easy invasion by an alien species wielding peanut butter.

    Things are better if we just let the chips (and nuts) fall were they lie.

  16. Stiletto Says:

    “I think I’ve made it clear in the past that unless I posses superpowers…I will descend into madness and villiany if anyone else acquires them.”

    Being good looking is not satisfying enough? Well, at least you aren’t French.

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