Last November, a Chinese scientist announced the birth of twin babies whose DNA had been modified. Gene editing of human embryos is expressly forbidden in federally-funded research in the United States. The announcement was denounced by many scientists around the world and by the Chinese government. Why?
For one, gene-editing has unknown risks—do we know all the consequences of changing even one gene? More critically, gene-editing of embryos introduces changes not just to these babies but to all their descendants. And if this were to become routine, we could have a society where parents design their children to be taller, smarter, and stronger. In light of this technology, how do we preserve what it means to be human? Are we wise enough to edit ourselves?
Francis Collins, founder of BioLogos and current director of the National Institutes of Health, said the recent work in China flouted ethical norms and was “profoundly unfortunate;” he is calling for strict oversight in the U.S. and around the world.