Over the past few years the term gene editing has emerged with ever increasing frequency. But what exactly is gene editing? In a nutshell, it’s the ability to change everything about you—your eye color, your skin color, your shape or build, even your ability to contract a cold—on a cellular level. All of these factors can be manipulated through gene editing.
Since the dawn of humanity, our species has searched for a way to end or cure sickness. Over the years this quest has taken some pretty twisted turns. While some scientists have spent their lives searching for cures to ailments, others have asked: “How can we change humanity to eliminate disease?” This line of thinking produced what many today call eugenics—the science of artificially breeding the perfect human.
While eugenics as a whole is widely considered an ethical abyss, scientists across the world have taken the underlying notion of eugenics and applied it to new fields of research. This is where the story of gene editing began. As we learned more about the way diseases work, we realized that in most cases those diseases can be linked to the presence of certain genes in our biological makeup that predispose us to contracting that disease.
Upon realizing that the “link” was a genetic trait, scientists shifted attention yet again to determine how they could mitigate the effects of that gene. And this is where science stalled for many decades, since the technology to change genes simply did not exist.
Until recently that is.
Since the turn of the 21st century, we have discovered how to isolate and remove the genes responsible for nearly every major disease in existence using a technology called CRISPR. But this knowledge comes at a price—costing millions of tiny humans their lives.
The only way to facilitate this type of gene editing is for preborn children to be altered when they are still just tiny embryos. After they are altered, they are then implanted inside their mothers via IVF. As if that wasn’t bad enough, most of these altered children will never develop because scientists discard them as medical waste the minute their scientific experiment is finished. Millions of preborn babies are literally thrown away every year in a quest to end sickness. It sounds like the plot of a horror movie, but I assure you it’s real.
Technology like this presents a host of ethical dilemmas. One such dilemma is how to talk about a topic like this with your child. Within the next decade we will see CRISPR become a mainstream tool, and children altered by this process will become more commonplace. So how do you prepare your family for the ethical firestorm which will soon surround you?
Remember that for every action there is a consequence. In the case of gene editing, we may not see those consequences for decades. Whatever you do, do not make the mistake of assuming this won’t impact your child’s future. If you lay a solid foundation now, then you need not fear them falling into the trap of believing such a destructive science could be good. Educate yourself about the issue. Educate your children. And pray diligently.
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