Given the human impulse to control nature with technology (an impulse especially evident in our age), it’s hard to imagine CRISPR not being used to produce enhancements in humans (consider militaries who want more effective soldiers, parents who want more beautiful and smarter children, governments who want more pliable citizens, etc.). One also sees the language of “taking charge of evolution” everywhere in discussions of CRISPR gene editing. Thus, we are told that CRISPR gene editing will for the first time give humans the power to take control of the evolutionary process.
Most who use such language see this newfound genetic power of CRISPR gene editing as a way to accelerate evolutionary change, making us bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, prettier, etc., and doing so much more quickly than the pokey pace of evolution by natural selection would allow. This is an interesting attitude because pokey-paced Darwinian evolution is also said to have produced the CRISPR gene editing system in the first place. So is natural selection smarter than we are, able to move evolution forward more effectively than we can (whatever it may mean for an undirected form of evolution, which is not supposed to have any telos, to move us forward)? Or are we, if not smarter than evolution as a whole, in a position to take a handoff from evolution and now, with CRISPR gene editing, do a better job than natural selection, at least from our place in natural history?
As it is, intelligent design has always regarded the creative potential of natural selection as minimal. At the same time, CRISPR gene editing, because it is a genetic technology used by human biologists to achieve specific ends, will always be an example of intelligent design. The big question, then, is whether CRISPR gene editing will allow for huge improvements of human and other animal forms via genetic enhancements. My prediction is that it won’t. Specifically, I predict that attempted enhancements of the human germ line using CRISPR gene editing will (1) quickly hit an “enhancement boundary” beyond which enhancements are no longer feasible and (2) prove self-canceling in the sense that intended benefits will be undone by unintended deficits.William Dembski, “An ID Prediction for CRISPR Gene Editing” at BillDembski.com (July 27, 2021)
He goes on to explain the reasoning.
Note: The whole thing reminds me (O’Leary for News) of something that happened in Canada over thirty years ago. There was a Royal Commission to look into the bioethics of gene and other manipulation and I was asked for testimony. A Commissioner asked me, why did I think that gene manipulation would be a bad thing.
I said it would be used to enforce social prejudices.
By way of explanation, I noted a comment made to me by a medical doctor who dealt in hormones. The doctor often saw children whose parents were worried about their growth patterns. But he never saw boys who were thought to be too tall or girls who were thought to be too short. He always seemed to be seeing boys who were thought by their parents to be too short or girls who were thought to be too tall.
Whatever else happens, anyone who doesn’t see where that must lead needs a short course in reality-based thinking.