The Chinese have engaged aggressively in genetic engineering on born and unborn persons, with some significant ethical violations. One ongoing experiment attempted to use genetic engineering to cure an adult who was afflicted with both HIV and leukemia. They appear to have had some success; the leukemia is in full remission after two years, although the HIV infection remains.
Three cheers for genetic science! Right? Yes, as long as we’re talking about genetic editing of adults. Such editing is extremely unlikely to cause changes in the genetic information that is inherited by children and future generations. Genetic engineering of human embryos, on the other hand, can wreak havoc on future generations, and embryonic human persons are killed in the procedure and associated research.
Nearly everyone expressed moral outrage when a Chinese scientist announced that he had altered the genes of twin embryos and then “allowed” the girls to be born. Most of the outrage had to do with the possibility that such born persons could pass on their genetic alterations. The researcher claimed he wanted to alter the genes so he could make the girls immune to HIV. He didn’t say anything about the fact that alteration of such genes may cause persons to be smarter (variously defined). One must wonder what his real motive was. Using genetic engineering of embryos to enhance many characteristics like intelligence is the Holy Grail for geneticists. It is also morally problematic, as revealed at www.humanpreservation.org.
Successes for genetic engineering in adults and born children often undermine arguments for such genetic engineering in embryos, which is much more problematic morally.
It is crucial that when the public hears about genetic engineering, they know the difference between the procedure in adults versus embryos. The term “heritable genetic editing,” used for genetic engineering of embryos, obscures the true moral issues and the fact that it is dignified human beings who are manipulated, manufactured, and killed in the process.
For more information on genetic engineering of human embryos, see http://www.humanpreservation.org.
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