We recently reported on the gene editing controversy when a scientist used CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to produce “superior” human babies. Jiankui He, a Chinese geneticist, announced that twin girls had been born with genes edited by his medical team to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
For several years experts have predicted that it will be possible in the future to produce “designer babies” by the technique He has used. The twins’ father has HIV, but their mother does not. We pointed out previously that human knowledge is not good enough to know what collateral damage we may create in such a project. There are also issues about whether humans should ever genetically modify human life. Playing God has enormous responsibilities, and the gene editing controversy brings up concern about the old “Frankenstein Complex.”
Since He’s announcement there have been numerous articles and responses by experts in the field backing what we said in our article:
Researchers say there was virtually no chance the girls would have been infected with HIV since their mother doesn’t carry the virus.
No evidence can verify that the editing was successful and didn’t damage other genes.
Previous CRISPR/Cas9 research has shown that some cells in embryos may be incompletely edited or escape editing entirely creating what is called a “mosaic embryo.”
He was asked why the research was done in secret and why he chose to violate established rules of CRISPR/Cas9. He refused to answer those questions.
Julian Savulescu who is a bioethicist at the University of Oxford said, “I liken it to Russian roulette. You can pull the trigger and not kill, but it doesn’t mean that what you did was right.” We would suggest that this gene editing controversy is a classic of example of the fact that science cannot determine the way its discoveries will be used. In this case, it appears this was a desire to become famous, rather than trying to improve the well being of human life.
There are many Christians who are scientists working with CRISPR/Cas9 and who have stated their dismay and feeling that their greatest fears are being realized. The gene editing controversy continues, and we will hear more of this.
–John N. Clayton © 2019