The Corner


China Turns Against ‘Rogue’ Gene Engineer

Scientist He Jiankui attends the International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong, China, November 28, 2018. (Reuters/Stringer)

Engaging in biotechnological and other medical research in China can free one from normal ethical concerns. After all, this is the country that has allowed imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners to be tissue-typed and killed for their organs, which are purchased for big bucks by complicit outsiders who don’t want to wait in the triage line.

But it isn’t necessarily safe. The brag by Chinese scientist He Jiankui (known once-affectionately in the research and bioethics communities as JK) that he genetically engineered twins to knock out a gene associated with HIV infection, has blown up in his face instead of leading to a Nobel Prize.

Worse (for him), it made China look bad. So, the tyranny is wielding the hammer, pretending that JK broke laws and esteemed ethics protocols while engaging in this research.  From the Xinhuanet story:

Chinese authorities on Thursday ordered suspending research activities of persons involved in the gene-edited babies incident, denouncing the matter as “extremely abominable in nature” and in violation of Chinese laws and science ethics.

The gene-edited twins matter reported by the media has brazenly violated Chinese laws and regulations and breached the science ethics bottom line, which is both shocking and unacceptable, Xu Nanping, vice minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, told Xinhua.

Moral of the story: Don’t embarrass tyrants!

Ditto “the scientists” and their enablers in bioethics, who screamed and yelled at JK at a big international PR symposia in Hong Kong long planned to move the research forward into the next stage. In reality, they are not upset about what JK did, but rather, about when he did it.

The plan has always been to permit genetic engineering. They just wanted to go through the usual Kabuki-theater process of supposed hand-wringing about ethics to make us, the great unwashed, believe all was under control.

But even that pretense might be collapsing. A noted bioethicist came to JK’s defense in Science. Meanwhile, our friend Rod Dreher has reported that the dean of Harvard Medical School wants to go full speed ahead into genetic engineering now.

Moral objections to manufacturing human life? What moral objections? Safety? Oh, pshaw. We’ve had enough animal testing. Let’s get on to Brave New World!

And what’s to stop them? The technology has dramatically outpaced the governance. There are few binding U.S. rules governing this research and almost a total paucity of international protocols. That means that the ethical parameters of the most powerful technology since the splitting of the atom research could well be reduced to the lowest common national denominator.

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