Call it the “ick” factor.
Stories like the 2018 bombshell out of China, of a scientist manipulating embryonic DNA to produce the world’s first genetically engineered human babies, make people uneasy, often in ways they find hard to define. Our fear of genetics is diffuse and visceral and surfaces in a range of dystopian visions, from experiments gone wrong, à la Frankenstein’s monster, to worlds dominated by genetically enriched super-people. But while our antennae are attuned to things distant, scary and futuristic, we may be missing the more real and immediate threat: Genetic medicine as we practice it today is poised to alter our concept of disease and responsibility in ways that will make the world fundamentally more unfair.
If you could use reproductive genetic technology to make sure that your child did not have a genetic disease, would you do it? That question is not science fiction anymore for many prospective parents. If you have an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer because of a variant in your genes, there are now ways to make sure you...