In November 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui claimed to have created the world’s first genetically edited babies by using the recently developed CRISPR-Cas technology. A revolutionary step in genetically modifying humanity, but also a controversial one. Writer and philosopher drs. Marcel Zuijderland discusses this new aspect in the debate on human enhancement.
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Humans and technology are inextricably linked, they evolve together. According to Marcel Zuijderland, the debate on human enhancement is the debate of this century. ‘It is an illusion to think that if technology can allow us to transform our own human constitution, we will not do it.’ CRISPR-Cas is such a technology: a method in which DNA can be modified with unprecedented precision. It is relatively inexpensive and will have many applications.
Watch the video to see how genome editing through CRISPR-Cas works.
The CRISPR-Cas technology promises to cure hereditary diseases with great accuracy, but the editing technique also paves the way for a whole new generation of genetically modified food, genetic doping and designer babies. Editing the genome of babies is a new aspect in the debate on human enhancement that raises many ethical and philosophical questions.
Drs. Marcel Zuijderland studied philosophy and cultural anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. He teaches and writes on bio-ethical and technical-philosophical issues, with a focus on the topics human enhancement, reproductive technology and organ donation. He publishes in leading Dutch quality newspapers such as NRC NEXT, NRC Handelsblad and Trouw.