Altering Humanity: A Done Deal
But take this to the bank: the end result will be a wide open assault on God-given nature of humanity.
“They” are the scientists, ethicists and religious leaders working around the world to develop guidelines for human gene editing (HGE).
The stated goal is to develop ways to halt a variety of diseases—such as Sickle Cell Anemia and Tay-Sachs disease—at the embryonic level. If successful, those, and other illnesses would be eliminated from the human germline and not be passed on to future generations.
All that sounds noble, so what could possibly go wrong? A lot. Everything from unintended mutations to an all-out drive to create superhuman designer babies giving an unfair advantage to the wealthy not to mention a decline in global moral and ethical standards.
HGE has been condemned by the United Nations and is outlawed in 40 countries (China, North Korea and the United States are not among them).
China made waves last year when it announced it had, for the first time, edited the genomes of human embryos (all which they claimed were “abnormal” and therefore suitable for destruction).
Genetic engineering (GE) is not new. GE using recombinant DNA first appeared in the 1970’s with the creation of genetically modified bacteria. Genetically modified mice were created in 1974, while genetically modified food has been sold since 1974.
A relatively new gene editing technology, called “CRISPR,” has proven to be a game changer in altering life. It’s a fast, flexible and inexpensive way to manipulate the code of life. It’s the technique used by the Chinese last year in their embryo experiment.
The CRISPR technique employs a natural process used by ordinary bacteria to defend against invasive viruses. It enables scientists to cut and edit a piece of an organism's DNA, the same way editors used to edit movie films.
Gene editing was the subject of a recent landmark summit in Washington, D.C.
The “International Summit on Human Gene Editing” was sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the Royal Society (United Kingdom) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12032015a).
The conference, which attracted hundreds of scientists, policymakers and the President’s science advisor, focused on implications of the technology and how it should be regulated.
The overriding problem with the whole process was established in opening remarks by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), a Ph.D. physicist.
“CRISPR and related technologies have the potential to revolutionize the treatment of diseases but could be used in many ways not beneficial to society,” Foster was quoted as saying.
Ya think? How about the problem of destroying human lives that are used in experiments?
Jennifer Doudna, a Berkeley biologist who co-invented CRISPR, was quoted in The Week magazine proclaiming: “Most of the public does not appreciate what is coming.”
Undeterred by the destruction of innocent life and the potential dangers, the organizing committee ended the conference by strongly endorsing the use of CRISPR and similar methods for basic research that involves altering the DNA sequences of human eggs, sperm, and children at the earliest stages of development.
Or how about the prospect of creating “designer babies” who are super healthy, good looking, intelligent or athletic?
At least here, the group showed some temporary reservations.
They said actually trying to produce a human pregnancy using modified germ cells or embryos would currently be “irresponsible” because of ongoing safety concerns and a lack of societal consensus.
Not surprisingly, however, the group left the door open to that possibility as well.
Alluding to the potential virtual unlimited use of the process, California Institute of Technology biologist David Baltimore told the gathering: “Over the years, the unthinkable has become conceivable. We’re on the cusp of a new era in human history.”
Make no mistake. The genie is out of the bottle; the cork can’t be found and the unbridled pursuit of whatever a lost world deems valuable is just around the corner.
As those working to protect the sanctity of the precious life God has given us, we need to be vigilant, informed and ready to speak out when necessary.
Sources: sciencemag.org; washingtonpost.com; nationalacademies.org; theweek.com.