The three-day international summit is being held in D.C. and is being convened by the U.S. National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the
Most notably, the discussion regarding gene editing will largely revolve around the future prospect of what are known as “Designer Babies” – children being genetically modified before birth at the whim of their parents for both medical and non-medical applications.
“[W]orries about the technology’s darker side have mounted ever since Chinese researchers in April reported results of an experiment to edit a defective gene in a human embryo. For ethical reasons, researchers say they used an abnormal embryo… [S]ome scientists and bioethicists worry that gene editing may be used one day to create “designer babies” and forever alter the human genome.” (via U.S. News)
Which then raises the question: why are we even having this debate in the first place!? Shouldn’t any debate regarding gene editing instead revolve around the question of how we can make gene editing as safe as possible and not reach into the hands of those with nefarious motives? Gene editing tools are becoming cheaper by the day. As a matter of fact, just a few weeks ago, molecular biophysicist Josiah Zayner made history when he started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, promising DIY CRISPR Kits that’ll cost less than $200. CRISPR/Cas9 is one of the world’s most efficient gene editing tool to date and is now being open-sourced for the world to take advantage of.
A year ago, Serious Wonder spoke with the author Jamie Metzl, who was also the Director for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs for the National Security Council under the Clinton Administration and subsequently Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy & Public Affairs and Information Technology. There we not only discussed his book Genesis Code: A Thriller of the Near Future, but also the future implications of gene editing and Designer Babies.
“The future is not only fast approaching, it is already here. If we froze science today and had no more revolutionary advances, only continued evolution of technologies that already exist, we would be able to significantly enhance our species in only a matter of years. Our genetic code touches the essence of what it means to be a human being, but as the science for manipulating it advances exponentially our dialogue about this technology, what it means, and how to manage it has hardly begun.”
– Jamie Metzl
Lastly, if we’re to have a serious discussion about the future of gene editing and Designer Babies, then we also need to include space exploration as well. If we truly wish for our species to become space explorers, then the legalization of Designer Babies is the only route one should take regarding these debates. Due to our current biological limitations, traveling out into deep space for long periods of time just isn’t possible without negative side effects to our overall health and physiology.
When you then consider the extreme likelihood that people will also be having sex in space during these long voyages, gene editing becomes an even more abundantly clear solution. Without gene editing, children born in deep space will be subjected to both radiation and micro-gravity conditions, of which would eventually kill them. Where is the ethical and moral concern for these children here?
You want to talk about ethics? Then we must recognize the ethical responsibility to ensure that future children born in deep space are genetically prepared to accommodate those conditions. No human, either adult or child, will be able to explore deep space until we end this pseudo-moralistic, neo-luddite crusade against future gene editing and Designer Babies. The sooner we come to accept this, the sooner we’ll realize just how irrelevant debates really are over whether gene editing and Designer Babies should be legal or outlawed. Either we adapt and prepare for the future or be thrown into the dustbin of history. Your choice.