No doubt this is going to be tricky. But we could also solve a LOT of problems…
Fear of the unknown — the imaginary horribles — seem to be our greatest fears while (e.g) verifiable evidence of historically abrupt climate change, does not frighten those who should recognize is as our greatest preventable danger. And for some unfathomable reason, rules and regulations (which could prevent unethical practices) are included in the list of greatest fears.
I’m old enough to remember when in vitro fertilization – Louise Brown, the “Test Tube Baby” – was considered by some to be an abomination. Time will tell whether genetic editing causes more problems that it solves or vice versa, but both research and practice aren’t going to stop anytime soon.
Moving too fast with it, not doing the due diligence on something so over arching important, too soon too fast without proper safeguards can do much mischief.
We have a long way to go before we can ethically do this in humans. We know so little about how the genome is constructed or what the various pieces of it do. The Crispr technique is an amazing tool, but at this point in our hands it is only a tool for research, not for clinical use. There are too many unknown interactions and the probability of an undesired result is still too high. Remember the initial disasters with gene therapy. We now have some reliable uses for it under certain restricted conditions, but it has not turned out to be a magic wand therapeutically that was first imagined.
Every act of sex that results in a birth is genetic editing.
I only wish to remind folks that Nature itself performs genetic editing, only through other means. I include not just Darwin, but also the fact that inevitable hard X-rays and cosmic rays from outside our atmosphere can cut DNA in completely random locations. The mutation rate in Nature has never been zero…
We live in a capitalist world and there is no ethics in capitalism, so do not expect the impossible. One tweet from the president says enough, doesn’t it?
Perhaps we could find the Trump gene and extinguish it.
Upon reflection, there ought to be ways to put into place reasonable restrictions on human genetic alteration, assuming legislators have the spine to implement them.
For example, almost anything regarding the brain is WAY to complicated to mess with at this point. However, there are some that may be relatively simple.
Minimal criteria should probably include:
1. Clear and unambiguous negative impact on the person’s physical life status, say anything that would require surgery (“blue baby” issues, major physical problems, etc.).
2. Simple gene mechanisms, meaning that if you tweak it, you know what happens as a consequence.
Those two criteria would probably eliminate many ethically tricky actions right there, since it would be the elimination of the negative instead of the promotion of a debatable positive. Where we get questionable is the degree to which people make changes to suit cultural preferences – including eliminating things perceived as negative, which is why I referred to the physical status above.
Just some thoughts…
My biggest concern is that we will eliminate things that might not really be hindrances.
Stuart Carlson and Jerry Resler
April 12, 2017
May 28, 2018