Developments in gene editing are often met with moral panic. Every new announcement raises outrage over the audacity of scientists “playing God”. The existence of mutant mosquitoesand designer babies are often framed as threats – evidence that science fiction has crossed over into real life.
There are clear dangers when the language of fear and scandal hijack public conversations on complex matters. But this doesn’t mean we should leave the discussion on genome editing – the process of altering an organism’s genetic sequence to produce favourable characteristics or remove unwanted ones – solely to scientists.
That danger was sharply underscored in 2018, when a young Chinese researcher announced he had engineered the birth of what may very well be the first genetically modified humans. “I feel proud,” he told the public, a year before he was jailed for forgery.
And so we reach an impasse. As global leaders face pressure to regulate genome editing, questions about who drives these ethical debates persist. Should leaders listen to scientists, who may be vulnerable to moral blindness, or to the... see more