Chinese scientists succeeded in a rudimentary form of “gene editing,” the first step toward the genetic engineering of human embryos, permanent genomic changes that would flow down the generations.
Given the eugenic possibilities, the foreseen and unforeseen consequences, and our lack of wisdom to recreate ourselves, this should be considered an “off limits” area of human endeavor.
But Big Biotech, government technocrats, and the new eugenicists never say no–although they usually mask their full speed ahead mentality–by opposing what can’t be now done–in order to gain acquiescence to do what now can, or soon may, be done.
Key example: We oppose reproductive cloning, the biotechnocrats say–which can’t yet be done in humans–but want complete permission to engage in therapeutic cloning.
Cloning is cloning is cloning. Therapeutic cloning is just a different use of the cloned embryo than reproductive cloning, but the identical cloning technique is used in both. Moreover, TC is the essential step required to make RC feasible.
The same pretense is now being deployed around gene editing. The Obama Administration–through O’s head science adviser John Holdren–supports science organizations ”convening international meetings”–not held at Motel 8, by the way–that would seem to be potentially against gene editing.
But it is really a mere feint intended to calm the public, while allowing gene editing research going forward unimpeded. From,“A Note on Genome Editing,” (my emphasis):
The Administration believes that altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time.
Ah, the old “at this time” hedge. Holdren is merely saying that edited embryos should not be brought to birth or destroyed for use in medical treatments, for now.
That’s because it can’t be done yet reliably. Holdren’s statement is meaningless pretense that expresses zero moral opposition to the genetic engineering of the human genome, but merely urges “caution” and “discussion.”
Back to Holdren:
It is important that the NAS’ international summit fully explore the implications of germline editing for the current generation and generations to come across the globe, as well as the potential for alternative technologies that do not require germline alteration to deliver similar medical promise. The Administration looks forward to seeing the results of the scientific community’s discussion.
This is merely the usual–let’s let the scientists tell us what is ethical position–always taken by advisers who are part of the research in-crowd.
No. Something as potentially powerful as germ line engineering shouldn’t be up to the people who want to germ line engineer. Besides, this crowd ultimately never limit themselves permanently.
I can tell you right now what the meeting “consensus” will be: Full speed ahead on embryo research, but don’t try to apply it outside the lab, for now. The usual yadda, yadda, yadda.