February 26, 2024

Savulescu – We have a moral obligation to increase the intelligence of our children

Oxford bioethicist Julian Savulescu calls for genetic screening of the unborn for IQ genes.

Oxford bioethicist Julian Savulescu has again sparked controversy, this time advocating for the genetic screening of embryos and foetuses for intelligence genes.

In article published Wednesday in The Conversation, Savulescu referred to new research that identified specific genetic factors that contribute to low intelligence. A recent study, conducted by researchers from Cardiff University, showed that children with two copies of a common gene (Thr92Ala), together with low levels of thyroid hormone are four times more likely to have a low IQ.

If we screen our young for these predispositions, Savulescu claims, we might be able to address them before they have lasting effects on children’s intelligences. “Given that whole genome analysis is likely to be used in the future, why not use the [predictive genetic] information that is available to try to at least start off with a higher chance of a better life?” he asks.

If we can identify a predisposition in a foetus for low intelligence, we could intervene early with procedures like thyroid hormone supplementation. Savulescu believes such intervention to be a moral imperative: “If we could enhance their intelligence…we should”.

He also argued that IVF embryos should be screened for intelligence genes: “In my view, we ought to test embryos for such gene variants.”

Accusations of eugenics have been leveled at Savulescu in the past, and this article is likely to garner similar responses. This most recent piece forms part of Savulescu’s growing corpus of articles advocating for human enhancement.  

Xavier Symons
Creative commons
embryo screening
genetic testing
Julian Savulescu