These Stylish New Genes

CRISPR can edit genes, delete or replace parts of DNA, and has the power to even treat illnesses once thought incurable like HIV and Hepatitis. Gene editing can have effects on a human before they even develop in the womb, correcting genetic defects or enhancing desired traits. Genetic engineering can even neutralize some species (as demonstrated by a subspecies of mosquito) from being able to carry the malaria parasite (Specter, 1). This is a far leap from simply artificial selecting traits in crops. It now enables us to make significant changes in the appearance of organisms and to force evolution in a way that isn’t just selecting a breeding pair out of a litter of foxes (see Russian domesticated fox experiment) containing the traits that you like. It’s now physically reaching in, and messing with the very blueprints.

CRISPR is an amazing technology but it shouldn’t be used on humans. At least not yet. At this point it would only serve to further deepen the divide between the social classes. Let’s be honest. Who can actually afford it? Rich people, that’s who, rich people who can now make themselves genetically superior and live longer than the average person. Terminal illnesses and death used to be the great equalizer, and giving the 1 percent more tools to be even more privileged is not something I’m entirely thrilled about. Has anyone seen the movie GATTACA, with Ethan Hawke? It talks about this very concept, a future where people can pay to get genetically enhanced designer babies, and even though in that very universe it’s illegal to discriminate against ‘inferior genes’, people do it anyways. People with superior genes get better jobs, while people who are ‘invalids’ don’t, and are relegated to menial labor (assuming that automation doesn’t even kick them out of even that). That’s the exactly the sort of thing that can happen to us. Children that are genetically enhanced by wealthy parents are going to be expected to succeed and pressured, in an age where we already overwork our children, and children who aren’t are going to be further discriminated against. Right now, people can get genetic defects regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender and whatnot. In the future… it could be a sign of being in the ‘wrong’ type of social class. Is that the future you guys really want?

This whole thing reeks of the same pitfalls and dangers that infested the eugenics movement, and I don’t like it. If we’re not careful, a new ‘master race’ of humans can arise, and we won’t be them.