One interesting potentiality covered from the readings is Anthony James’s work with eradicating certain types of mosquitoes that are responsible for hundreds of thousands of death a year (Specter, pg. 1). If we did eradicate these disease carriers, that would obviously benefit many, but how sure are we that we know and understand the negative effects of doing this? Could we trigger a socio-trophic cascade, killing creatures down the line like frogs who might be eating the mosquitoes? And then that affects whatever eats the frogs, and so on and so on. From past examples we have seen in this class, unforeseen consequences can really, really suck to deal with (Berkeley Pit, asbestos, fossil fuels, etc). Thus we have a very hard question to answer due to a lack of information: how do we balance the lives that we will likely save by exterminating these mosquitoes, versus the potential drawbacks, which could range from potentially very little all the way to severely hurting entire ecosystems?
As for the question on should gene editing be performed on humans, this is something I would prefer to have 3,000+ words to answer, but will see what I can do in these confines. From my limited understanding of this technology, it sounds like there are germline modifications, i.e. modifications that will affect future generations, and non-germline modifications, i.e. curing cancer in a specific patient. There looks to be less risk with non-germline modifications, but when it comes to germline modifications, there are many interesting drawbacks to consider, and I want to focus here on moral considerations as I am less educated on the biological ones. I am going to pose some of these considerations as questions for the reader to think about and maybe respond to.
If a religious couple discovers they are pregnant with a homosexual child, should they be allowed to “edit” it to be heterosexual? Or the same question, but for a transgender child.
Should the wealthy be allowed to pay for smarter, more attractive, and stronger children compared to people with less financial resources?
If a black couple wants their child to have lighter skin and have more “European” traits in order to help their child succeed, is that ok?
If a couple found that their child might be genetically predisposed to favor a political side that was opposite to the parent’s (http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu/heritability_of_partisan_attachment.pdf), would it be acceptable to edit that predisposition to go along with the parent’s values?