Loading...
Bless the heart of the stormwater advisory group that suggested to raise the stormwater fees to record levels. I wonder...

Gene editing is here. It's an enormous threat

MarcThiessen

Marc Thiessen

Loading…

Sunday, December 2, 2018

A Chinese scientist's claim to have created the first genetically edited babies has evoked widespread condemnation from the scientific community. "This is far too premature," one American genetic scientist told the Associated Press. But here is a larger question: Should we be doing this at all?

The Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, used a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR to alter the DNA of two children in a petri dish and attempt to make them resistant to HIV. This is not what has American scientists up at arms. In fact, researchers in the United States have done the same thing. The difference is that He implanted his edited embryos. The American researchers killed theirs.

The prospect of genetically eliminating crippling diseases is certainly appealing, but this promise masks a darker reality. First, there is a difference between genetic engineering and the extremely promising field of gene therapy, in which doctors use CRISPR technology to repair the DNA of defective nonreproductive cells — allowing them to treat cancer, genetic disorders and other diseases. In gene therapy, the genetic changes affect only the patient. In genetic engineering, scientists alter the entire genetic structure of the resulting human being — changes that are then passed on to future generations.

Playing with humanity's genetic code could open a Pandora's box. Scientists will eventually be able to alter DNA not just to protect against disease but also to create genetically enhanced human beings. The same techniques that can eliminate muscular dystrophy might also be used to enhance muscles to improve strength or speed. Techniques used to eliminate dementia may also be harnessed to enhance memory and cognition. This would have profound societal implications.

Only the wealthy would be able to afford made-to-order babies. This means the privileged few would be able to eliminate imperfections and improve the talent, beauty, stature and IQ of their offspring — thus locking in their privilege for generations. Those at the bottom would not. This could be a death blow to the American Dream, the idea that anyone who is willing to work hard in this country can rise up the economic ladder.

Indeed, genetic engineering could actually eliminate opportunities for those at the bottom. For example, one path to higher education for those at the bottom is scholarships for athletic or artistic talents. But in a world of genetic engineering, those scholarships will disappear for the unenhanced poor — and with them the opportunities to improve their economic prospects in life. 

If we begin to create perfect children in labs, over time society will begin develop an intolerance for imperfection. If your children have an illness because you didn't genetically eliminate it, or if they can't keep up because of their unenhanced cognitive abilities, then that makes them an unjust burden on the rest of us. As we are separated into the enhanced and unenhanced, respect for the dignity of every human life will be diminished.

So will personal responsibility. If we don't make it in life because we are unenhanced, it's not our fault. And if we do because we are enhanced, we don't get the credit. As Harvard University professor Michael Sandel once wrote, "It is one thing to hit 70 home runs as the result of disciplined training and effort, and something else, something less, to hit them with the help of … genetically enhanced muscles." Genetic engineering could rob Americans of the obligation, and the joy, of earning their own success.

Then there is the threat to women's equality. If genetic engineering can offer the promise of eliminating disease, it will also allow parents to choose the sex of their child. That could lead to greater sex discrimination. Just look at China, where the one-child policy led to mass infanticide of girls. If you believe that gender bias exists, then that bias will be expressed through genetic engineering — with potentially disastrous implications.

It will also lead to an explosion in the number of discarded children. For every child born via in vitro fertilization, there are multiple fetuses which are created but never used. Today, the Department of Health and Human Services reports, there are more than 600,000 cryogenically frozen embryos in the United States. If genetic engineering through in vitro fertilization becomes common, that number will skyrocket, sparking a profound moral crisis.

Here is the bottom line: We should not be playing God. Genetic research holds the promise to prevent, cure and even eliminate disease. But when it is used to create made-to-order "super children," we have crossed a moral line from which there may be no return.

Marc Thiessen is an author, columnist and political commentator. He served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

December 10, 2018

How should we respond to the urban-rural divide? The question has legions of politicians, scholars, journalists, and businesses scrambling for answers.

I respect their efforts. But I feel compelled to point out, respectfully, that the question is poorly conceived. Most people live in neither truly…

john hood.jpg

December 10, 2018

Orange County, California, Register

For too long, Congress has abdicated its constitutional obligations with respect to war powers.

On Nov. 28, the Senate took an important step toward reasserting this authority by voting 63 to 37 in favor of moving ahead on a resolution directing the removal of US…

December 10, 2018

It makes no political or geopolitical sense for President Trump to cozy up to the Saudis or Russians to the extent he has. It does make economic sense — for him, his family and his family enterprises.

Follow the money was the mantra used by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl…

douglascohn.jpg

December 09, 2018

There's something uncomfortably sterile about life-expectancy rates.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that average American life expectancy shortened by a tenth of a year, as it did last year, it's forgivable if the problem isn't immediately obvious. Sure, we might have…

Robert Gebelhoff

December 09, 2018

"When you strike at a king you must kill him," Ralph Waldo Emerson once said. Well, this year China tried to strike at President Trump for daring to launch a trade war with Beijing — and missed the mark entirely.

After Trump imposed massive tariffs on Chinese goods earlier this year,…

MarcThiessen

December 08, 2018

Many consider the National Football League to be the most successful professional sports organization in the world. To many, having an NFL team is a signal a city and region have arrived and are in elite company. This is one reason why NFL franchises sell for in the multi-billions of dollars.

But…

Mike Walden

December 08, 2018

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“There is no Plan B because there is no Planet B,” Emmanuel Macron lectured Donald Trump — in English — when the American President withdrew from the Paris climate agreement last year. Well, apparently there is a Plan B after all. Macron stopped his…

December 08, 2018

Back in 1897, an eight-year-old girl, prompted by naysaying friends, wrote The New York Sun wanting the truth about the existence of Santa Claus. Today that letter might be answered by apparent congressman-elect Mark Harris, confirming not only Santa’s existence, but also that his name is…

Tom Campbell

December 07, 2018

There is a lot about President George H.W. Bush that we will miss. And the current occupant of the White House puts into vivid relief the things that we will miss the most. Our president today couldn't be more different from Bush. I hope the values that Bush brought to his distinguished career in…

EdRogers

December 07, 2018

All of the leaders assembled at the Group of 20 meeting in Buenos Aires committed their nations to the fight against climate change, except one — President Trump, of course. But pay him no mind. As the proverb says, "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on."

We don't have to wait for history…

Eugene Robinson
326 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 33
        Next Page»   Last Page»