Will Banning Genetic Engineering Kill You?


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Will Banning Genetic Engineering Kill You?

By Edward Hudgins

December 3, 2015 -- One headline reads “British baby given genetically-edited immune cells to beat cancer in world first.” Another headline reads “Top biologists debate ban on gene-editing.” It’s a literal life and death debate.

And if you care to live, pay attention to this philosophical clash!


Exponential growth in genetic engineering

Genetic engineering is on an exponential growth path. In 2001 the cost of sequencing a human-sized genome was about $100 million. By 2007 the cost was down to $10 million. Now it’s just over $1,000. Scientists and even do-it-yourself biohackers can now cheaply access DNA information that could allow them to discover cures for diseases and much more.

Recently, for example, baby Layla Richards [at right] was diagnosed with leukemia. But when none of the usual treatments worked, doctors created designer immune cells, injected them into the little girl and the treatment worked. She was cured.

Designer babies?

But there have been concerns about such engineering for decades; indeed, precautionary guidelines were drawn up by a group of biologists at the 1975 Asilomar conference in California. And now, at a joint conference in Washington, D.C. of the National Academies of Medicine and Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, a cutting-edge genetic engineering tool known as CRISPR-Cas9 came under attack because it can be used to edit the genomes of sperm, eggs, and embryos.

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins argued that the children that would result from such editing “can’t give consent to having their genomes altered” and that “the individuals whose lives are potentially affected by germline manipulation could extend many generations into the future.” Hille Haker, a Catholic theologian from Loyola University Chicago, agreed and proposed a two year ban on all research into such manipulation of genomes. Others argued that such manipulation could lead to “designer babies,” that is, parents using this technology to improve or enhance the intelligence and strength of their children.

These arguments are bizarre to say the least.

Damning to misery

To begin with, there is virtual universal agreement among religious and secular folk alike that from birth and until a stage of maturity at which they can potentially guide their lives by their own reason, the consent of children is not needed when their parents make many potentially life-altering decisions for them. Why should this reasonable rule be different for decisions made by parents before a child is born?

And consider that the principal decisions with gene-editing technology would be to eliminate the possibility of the child later in life having Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, cancers, and a host of other ailments that plague humanity. Is it even conceivable that any rational individual would not thank their parents for ensuring their health and longevity? Isn’t this what all parents wish for their children? Why would anyone deny parents the tools to ensure healthy children? How much continued misery and death are those who would delay genetic research or ban this new technology inflicting on parents and children alike?..... (Continue reading)

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Explore:

*Edward Hudgins, “How anti-individualist fallacies prevent us from curing death.” April 22, 2015.

*Edward Hudgins, “Google, Entrepreneurs, and Living 500 Years.” March 12, 2015.

*Edward Hudgins, “Global Warming and Reckless Precaution.” September 20, 2013

*Edward Hudgins, “FDA Stopping the Genetics Revolution.” December 11, 2013.

*Sam Kazman, “Better Never?” April 22, 2010.

*William R Thomas, “Transhumanism: How Does It Relate to Objectivism?” June 29, 2010.

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I argue that we need a Human Achievement Alliance to explicitly raise achiever consciousness, celebrate achievement, promote value creation, and change policy. Achievement is undermined in the culture, in many of our institutions, and by government. We need to go on the offensive!

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The producers could help themselves and "us" more by showing unashamed pride for their achievements. A little too much of: "I did it for our community"; "I couldn't have done it alone"- self-deprecating modesty and guilt.

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