Is our future written in our genes? Recent developments in genetics give the impression of a rapidly increasing ability to predict our individual traits based on genomic information, and even to manipulate those traits through technologies such as CRISPR-based genome editing. For some physical traits, like eye color, and for genetically simple diseases, like cystic fibrosis or sickle-cell anemia, this impression is pretty accurate—we really can predict those things from a person’s genetic profile and we really could alter them in embryos with one or a couple of judicious edits.
But could we do the same for more complex traits, including psychological ones like intelligence? Again, recent stories suggest it is possible, at least in principle.
King’s College London geneticist Robert Plomin, in his new book, Blueprint, presents DNA as a “fortune-teller” that is “100 percent reliable” and that can “predict your future from birth.” He also argues that the “only systematic, stable and long-lasting source of who we are is DNA.” A U.S. company, Genomic Prediction, recently said it will offer embryo selection based on polygenic...