A year ago, the MIT Technology Review broke the news that a Chinese scientist used the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR to genetically modify human embryos.
The scientific community called Dr. He’s actions “profoundly disturbing” and “monstrous,” among other things.
Their hypocritical response was reminiscent of a scene from “Casablanca,” where Captain Renault claimed to have been “shocked, shocked” that there was gambling on the premises.
As it turns out, that was the least-troubling finding about Dr. He’s experiments. Instead of reproducing the desired genetic variation, the Chinese team “[created] novel [genetic] edits whose effects are not clear.”
By the way, “novel genetic edits” is code language for “mutation,” and I don’t mean the kind that produced the X-Men. I mean “mutation” as in cancer and other illnesses. As the Guardian pointed out, “CRISPR remains an imperfect tool because it can lead to unwanted or ‘off-target’ edits.”
Even the Chinese government, not normally known for its concern over human suffering, cited the potential lethality of these mutations when it punished Dr. He for his unauthorized experiments.
In a morally sane world, this kind of risk would prompt people to re-think the whole “playing god” worldview that is underlying gene-editing research. Of course, our world, especially when it comes to technology, is anything but morally sane.
Even as they were denouncing Dr. He, other scientists were working toward the same goals, albeit more discreetly. In fact, they were using CRISPR themselves.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet