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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Genome Tinkering and Ethics

One of the famous aspects of science fiction is dystopian stories that had a bleak vision of the future, despite scientific and technological advances of humanity. Aspects of Orwell's 1984 are chillingly real (was 1984 a warning or an instruction manual?), and Huxley's Brave New World may be closer than we think. With CRISPR genetic editing added to our accomplishments, the future is now.

Dystopian views of the future involve unethical scientism and corruption. With genetic editing, the future is here.
CRISPR genome editing / Image credit: National Institutes of Health
Is genetic editing a good thing? Change the genome in individuals and eliminate certain defects, that sounds mighty fine on the surface. This naturally raises questions of ethics. Who makes the decisions and rules? If ethical considerations are established by people with a "survival of the fittest" and social Darwinian eugenics views, leaving out biblical views as "unscientific" because they threaten Scientism philosophies, we're in for a world of hurt.
New tools in the lab put human nature at risk. Can we trust fallible scientists to be ethical?

A dystopian future is becoming more plausible, thanks to genomic editing. We don’t mean to scare you. We’ll let the scientists themselves do that.

“Scientists from around the world are meeting in Washington this week to debate how best to proceed with research into gene-editing technology,” Julian Saveluscu begins an article on The Conversation. He’s not worried; he likes gene editing. He gives “Five reasons we should embrace gene-editing research on human embryos.” And he’s an ethicist, a distinguished visiting professor at Monash University. He knows about the risks.
To read the rest, click on "Genetic Tinkering Puts Brave New World at Our Doorstep".