Culture Ethics Genetics Human evolution Intelligent Design

Maybe “genetic superbabies” is the junior version of the Fountain of Youth

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The CRISPR babies scientist has been fired. (If not worse.) From the news: “CRISPR-baby scientist fired by university

Investigation by Chinese authorities finds He Jiankui broke national regulations in his controversial work on gene-edited babies.” “He provoked international outcry last November when he revealed that he had used the gene-editing technique CRISPR– Cas9 to modify human embryos in an effort to make them resistant to HIV; the embryos were then implanted into a woman and produced twin girls, Nana and Lulu, in November.

According to the investigation’s findings, He is fully to blame for the gene-editing project, and flouted regulations. (David Cyranoski, Nature)

The girls’ father was HIV-positive. The main reason some of us forebore to dance on the guy’s grave is that China, still officially Communist, is not a nice place and it’s not clear what justice would mean there. Certainly not respect for human life, not with that history. For example, He “flouted regulations”? What if the regulations had commanded him to do something like that?


He Jiankui, a researcher who announced in November that he had edited the genes of twin baby girls when they were embryos, fabricated ethics documents and violated government regulations in China, Xinhua News Agency reports today (January 21). Kerry Grens, “Scientist Forged Ethical Reviews for CRISPRed Babies” at The Scientist

Good to hear they’re taking it seriously. Meanwhile, how realistic is the whole idea of gene editing anyway?:

Will college applicants begin stapling their 23 and Me results to their entrance applications? Will parents seek to engineer smarter kids in the lab? I want to convince you it is a fool’s errand. In fact, distributions of risk for mental disorders are also increasingly viewed to involve hundreds or thousands of gene variants. Thus, while the volition to improve our genomes is clearly evident by the ambition of scientists—and codified in the myths of Gattaca, Jurassic Park, Andromeda Strain and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—the reality is that genetic risks and advantages are not as straightforward as computer circuits. Jim Kuzobek, “The Myth of Genetic Superbabies” at Scientific American

We would be happy to hear from someone who knows of a limit to human folly and misguided ambition.

See also: Aging has always been with us, say researchers (to no one’s surprise)

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