The Corner

Time for Trump to Confront Biotech’s Life-Altering Power

Over at First Things, I have an essay provocatively entitled, “Trump Letting Scientists Play God.” Not only has he apparently not pondered one of the most epochal issues of our time, but he hasn’t even Tweeted. SAD!

Trump isn’t alone. With the deep desire to bash George W. Bush no longer driving the media–remember the stem cell conflagration?–its coverage of even more consequential biotechnological issues is sorely lacking. Nor has Congress or international agencies been of much use.

The only way I see to change the current torpor and spark a much needed international debate about how to best regulate biotechnologies such as CRISPR gene editing, human cloning, and the creation of synthetic life (to name just three) is for Trump to engage.

For example, CRISPR could be used to eradicate genetic diseases–much to be desired–but terrorists could also engineer a bird flu virus to create a deadly pandemic against which we would have few defenses.

No one in my lifetime has dominated the world’s attention like President Trump. Only he, it seems to me, has the juice to force these pressing issues into the public’s consciousness. As I state in the piece:

The greater the power in the hands of fallible human beings, the more pressing the need for checks and balances. In this field, that means national regulations and international treaties and protocols.

Instead, biotechnology today is substantially unfettered, and with that regulatory vacuum, the potential for catastrophe grows by the day.

The time has come for leadership. Only President Trump—the greatest media manager of our age—can focus the world’s attention on the potential problems associated with scientists playing God. Only his charisma can spark an international conversation about the scope of ethical rules that should maximize the benefit we receive from these technologies, while also constraining approaches that are morally destructive or unsafe.

More: “Trump clearly wants to go down in the history books as a president of consequence. I can think of no better way for him to accomplish that goal than by leading us into the beneficent biotechnological future we want, rather than risking the potentially dystopian one we could passively receive.”

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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