What is a Christian response to gene editing tools like CRISPR?

(SeanO) #1

An article from WIRED on the gene editing tool CRISPR popped up on my feed today and made me think - what is the Christian response to a gene editing tool like CRISPR? What are the boundaries on how we make use of this type of technology? I’ve included a thread where @Anjeanette_AJ_Robert explains more about the technology and provides some additional resources.

My initial thought on this type of technology is:

  • sure, use it to make plants and animals more conducive to human flourishing - like disease resistant livestock or plants that grow in areas where there is hunger / it is hard to grow food, but first make sure you are not going to ruin the ecosystem when you introduce a new variety of plant / animal - sometimes we do not foresee the consequences of introducing new species

But what about diseases in people? Better not to touch it at all and leave it be? What are your thoughts???

Two summers ago, for instance, ExxonMobil announced that it had used Crispr to ­double the amount of biofuel generated by the marine algae Nannochloropsis gaditana . German researchers recently found a way to create Crispr’d pigs that are resistant to African swine fever, a disease that’s been ruinous for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

But other uses of the technology have been more disturbing. Last November, a Chinese researcher named He Jiankui announced the birth of humanity’s first gene-edited babies, twin girls with a Crispr’d version of the CCR5 gene, which he claimed gave them immunity to certain strains of HIV. (The fact that he made his change at the embryo stage means the girls will pass on their edited DNA.) The experiment was widely condemned as unethical, unnecessary, and potentially dangerous; Chinese authorities called it “abominable.” But it also augured the next phase of Crispr’s development—from a universally embraced lab tool to one with the potential to permanently alter species, ecosystems, and people.

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(STEPHANIE ANDERSON) #2

I agree that the CRISPR technology is FASCINATING!! In our day of exponential genetic advancing CRISPR is like the MENDELIAN manipulation of PEA PLANTS on steroid. The SCIENCE itself is outside of a MORAL framework, as is say Einstein’s theory of relativity, it just is. We didn’t even “INVENT” it, rather we merely recognized it as a quite NATURAL process in what we might call, BACTERIAL IMMUNITY. Bacterial with a prior viral invasion “remembers” the genetic material of the VIRUS and can enigmatically destroy the GENOME of a SIMILAR virus that comes to infect it again. What FALLEN HUMANITY might do with the TECHNOLOGY is where the ETHICAL questions come into play. If we try to answer the question posed using something like Gert’s 10 Rules Toward a Common Morality, a clear answer is even fraught. Each POTENTIAL use of CRISPR would need its own moral evaluation and even then, the answers would largely be couched of their POTENTIAL of break one or more of the rules. What is the likelihood that the proposed use of CRISPR might break the rules against (a) killing, (b) causing pain, © disabling, (d) depriving of freedom or (e) depriving of pleasure? GERM LINE Crispr therapy has the potential for HARMS beyond the current generation which is arguably “ABOMINABLE” as was argued in the Chinese case above. The extent to the PAIN and SUFFERING that could be rendered and played forward is good reason to TREAD LIGHTLY when IMAGE BEARERS unable to CONSENT to these MANIPULATIONS are placed at an IRREVERSIBLE risk.

There may be a stronger argument against running afoul of the Ethical Principles against MALEFICENCE, and RESPECT for AUTONOMY of the inchoate beings undergoing the genetic manipulations and the beings yet to come. Science will always pose new and different challenges to the FAITH, and some would make the argument that MORAL RULES do not transcend time and culture and describes the particular values of a specific group at a specific point in time.

As I see it G-d is the SAME yesterday, today and forever. Shalom!!