Crispr is alive and well and causing controversy throughout the world of science. It’s still in the intensely early stages, of course, so I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, but in the not too distant now, scientists will be able to “edit” genes in a human embryo to prevent a disease. As a writer and a professor of writing I stand strongly behind any form of editing. It is, after all, an attempt to make something better either by adding clarity, eliminating awkwardness, or, in this case, correcting errors. It is difficult to find fault with this.
Honestly, I know the arguments. Gene manipulation of any sort can lead to “designer” babies. Sure, parents with money will be able to not only eliminate disease but order up some character traits not already fine-tuned in the sperm. Those without the means will suffer the process of natural selection and have to be satisfied with what birth brings them. Further, the embryo-envy group will insist that this could lead us into dangerous territory including cloning, or possibly creating a robot-like race.
Slow down. There are regulatory speedbumps still to overcome. In the meantime, if we can scrape the cancer out of a kid why would we not want to? And when someone suggests it really should be “God’s will” how the baby comes out, I get frustrated, pissed off, and downright angry. Of course, all of my reactions are traits that could have been removed with one more run through of gene-check when I was born. But how can anyone not become infuriated? It is God’s will that children be born with cancer? Seriously? Cerebral Palsy? Cystic Fibrosis? Oh, come on. That’s sick. How (in God’s name) do these people not know it possibly was God’s will to enable scientists to finally have this moment where in some lab somewhere someone sat back, looked up and stared straight ahead, blinked, and said, softly to herself, “Praise God. We did it”? Under the acutely pretentious mentality that it was “God’s will” that misfortune remain standard, we should have no medicines, eyeglasses, or deodorant. You can’t have it both ways; the same God that “allows” tragedy to befall a newborn might just have balanced His intent with a scientist’s capability to solve the problem.
If some baby has a dangling modifier or comma splice, I say have at it. Eliminate the gene that bends toward polio, Chron’s, leukemia, or blindness, and on a personal note, Parkinson’s and ovarian cancer. Clean up the embryonic paragraph which begins with an incomplete digestive system, a fragmented spine, a misspelled heart valve. And, my dear scientists, surgeons, or managing editors—however you will be so labeled—while you’re in there, quickly skim through the frontal lobe and fine-tune the common sense. See what you can do about the math scores on SATs and the gene that enables tailgating, stealing, lying, and pain. This little move toward disease control could be a step toward babies designed to share with others, to empathize, to help the needy and to not text and drive.
I wonder, though, if personality traits can be manipulated as easily as cancer control. If so, can we finally make a move toward understanding and compassion? Is it possible that this discovery is the end to the common trend toward gluttony and greed? These designer babies might, by design, be intolerant of hunger, might make homelessness obsolete because of some doctor who checked the fetus galley sheets and noticed a gene which still allowed unnecessary suffering and had the presence of mind to grab a bottle of amniotic white-out. “Be gone, apathy!”
In a world where so many have no issue with the swerve toward technology and computers that think ahead, robots with limbs not unlike our own, what is so wrong with a step toward humanity? Instead of improving machines to help us make life more convenient and comfortable, how about making the technology obsolete by improving the people?
How much embryonic manipulation will it take before hunger is no longer an issue? How many edits is it before the desire for war doesn’t even enter someone’s mind?
People must stop being suspicious of science and finally understand that the human race is dying; we are on a slow decline and have become more accustomed to crude comments than constructive conversation, indifferent toward arms buildup and troop movement, and infinitely more blasé about hope, possibility, and peace. When did we decide that disease and suffering were simply part of humanity and will never change?
Still not convinced that gene-manipulation might be at least worth investigating further just to understand the possibilities? Then ask yourself this: If you knew your child was going to be born with a painful disease or perhaps die at ten-years-old from cancer, and you could stop it from happening, would you?