Skip to comments.Hit pause on gene editing: We have no idea what our attempts to play god with the human genome will unleash on humanity.
Posted on 01/22/2020 7:09:31 AM PST by SeekAndFind
As I said in a BreakPoint commentary last month, gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR and whats being called Prime Editing are existential threats. We have no idea what our attempts to play god with the human genome will unleash on humanity. Yet, we insist on charging ahead despite our imperfect knowledge with an unbounded confidence in our abilities.
Coming from a concerned non-scientist like me, these concerns can be easily dismissed as alarmist, but what if the concern comes from the Director of the National Institutes of Health?
It turns out that Francis Collins is also concerned. In a recent article in Discover Magazine entitled We Must Never Allow Our Technology to Eclipse Our Humanity, Collins called for a moratorium of at least five years on heritable human gene editing.
Heritable gene editing technologies, like Prime Editing, aim to edit genes that can be passed on to future generations, along with any unintended and dangerous mutations. This differs from non-heritable gene editing, which can be used to treat people with life-threatening disorders, such as sickle cell disease, HIV infection, cancer and muscular dystrophy.
Proponents of Prime Editing talk about the possibility of making any kind of DNA change that anyone wants at just about any site in the human genome. Thus, according to Collins, scientists and leaders around the globe have an obligation to consider the appropriate use if any of heritable human gene editing. This involves scrutinizing the safety of such experiments, including the risk of unintended mutations, as well as a clear-eyed analysis of actual medical need.
Anticipating some objections, the NIH Director added that the current arguments that the benefits outweigh the risks are surprisingly uncompelling.
Finally, Collins insisted that We must weigh the profound social, ethical and moral issues associated with modifying the germline in ways that could change the human species forever.
Its good to hear someone as prominent as the director of the National Institutes of Health voice many of the same concerns we have at BreakPoint. But, as Wesley J. Smith pointed out at National Review, its probably not enough. As Smith notes, when it comes to the rapid development of the most powerful technologies ever invented CRISPR germline gene editing, artificial life, 3-parent embryos, cloning, the Trump Administration has been, and I am quoting Smith here, derelict.
For the most part, while NIH Director Collins statement should be applauded, it is an exception. As Smith states, unless leaders higher up the food chain engage the question in more amplified media venues than Discover, Collins proposed moratorium will never happen.
In some ways, as I recently pointed out, the Communist Party of China, by sentencing Dr. He Jiankui to three years imprisonment for experimenting on fetuses using CRISPR, has demonstrated more commitment to reining in scientific hubris than our own government. Of course, given their track record, it would be silly to think that Beijing cares at all about humanity dignity and the sanctity of human life. Their reaction was almost certainly because Dr. Hes transgressions portrayed that country in an especially bad light.
In our country, scientists differ from Dr. He in only one respect: Theyre a lot more subtle about what they are doing than Dr. He was.
We need much more evidence that those higher up the food chain in this administration care about the issue and are willing to make it a priority. For that to happen, we have let them know that its a priority for us.
Gene editing, what Smith has called biotech anarchy, is among the greatest threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life that we currently face. I will say it again: It is an existential threat. Its time for Christians, and through them our leaders, to treat it like one.
I was really hoping to have my very own Minotaur.
“Hit pause on gene editing: We have no idea...”
Hit pause, and we’ll find out from the Chinese.
good luck getting them to use the litter box
Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs !
I’m thinking our domestic enemies would prefer the protagonists of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End: Large bipeds with cloven hooves, leathery wings, horns, and tails.
>>We have no idea what our attempts to play god with the human genome will unleash on humanity.
Trying stuff just to see what happens is kind of the point of science.
The Chinese are atheist and do not care about ethics. Pause and do nothing is about the same as appeasement to the Germans and the National Socialist Party.
Hit pause, and well find out from the Chinese.
Yep, "hitting pause" only works if everybody else is willing to hit pause. Unfortunately we don't live in that kind of world, there will always be somebody in the world willing to push the boundaries regardless of potential risk. And you risk getting caught with your pants down if you unilaterally cede a branch of research to others that might not have the best intentions.
“Hit pause on gene editing: We have no idea what our attempts to play god with the human genome will unleash on humanity.”
They said the same thing about gene splicing in the 70s which has been the greatest advance in biological research and development since Mendel.
Ethics can be decoupled from religion; however, the Chinese are atheists and don’t have ethics either.
We’ve finished our news
Homo Sapiens have outgrown their use
All the strangers came today
And it looks as though they’re here to stay
Wouldn’t it be nice to spine some intelligent genes into democrats?? Of course then they would not be democrats.
It is now possible to force traits.
In a generation we all could be red headed, 4 feet tall.4
That would be the end of the NBA.....
This is an announcement from Genetic Control: 'It is my sad duty to inform you, of a four-foot restriction on humanoid height'
“In a generation we all could be red headed, 4 feet tall.4”
Why would we force those traits instead of eliminating all genetic diseases and physical deformities?
The problem with gene editing is that scientists have almost no idea how the genes work, or the full ramifications of changing them.
There is a syndrome called 22Q11, which is a genetic deletion syndrome on the 22nd chromosome at location 22Q11.2. That small deletion can cause 200 different health defects. Every child with this deletion has a different set of health problems. 75% will have heart defects. 25% will become schizophrenic by age 20. 35% will have kidney defects. Scientists still haven’t figured out which DNA within this tiny deletion cause which problems.
Germline gene editing, artificial life, 3-parent embryos and cloning are not in conformity with the natural order of things, and so the Trump administration has not been derelict.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.