*A new technology that will change the world has emerged, called CRISPR, an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat. While the mechanics of this technology are an essay all by itself, suffice to say that it is a technique that alters genes, the formula for life in DNA. Discovered by a food company that was studying a bacterium called Streptococcus thermophiles, it turns out that CRISPR has the ability to alter the genetic makeup of whatever DNA where ever it is applied. Even if CRISPR turns out unable to genetically alter human beings, it is one step closer to our ability to do so.
The backlash against GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) still rages, while disease-resistant plants that could keep populations healthy are ignored. Golden rice, which would prevent blindness in children in Third World countries, was shunned for quite some time, all due to unjustified fear of GMOs. (I wrote a very sad research paper on that topic.) CRISPR is (from my admittedly shallow understanding) another method of altering DNA to resist diseases, among other things. The question before us is whether we should use CRISPR to alter our genetic makeup, and, more importantly, to alter the DNA of our offspring to make them healthier.
If the genetic investigation indicates that your child will be autistic, and you had the ability to stop it, would you do it?”
The same goes for any congenital condition from diabetes to heart disease to a full array of conditions that plague humanity. If not now, soon, we will be able to play God with the genetic makeup of our children.
This topic naturally leads us to the issue of eugenics. The definition of eugenics, from Google, is: “the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. Developed largely by Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race, it fell into disfavor only after the perversion of its doctrines by the Nazis.” Eugenics believed that the human race could steer its evolution into a healthier, smarter, and better stock of human potential. Why shouldn’t smart people procreate with smart people? I read that Einstein had two wives and as many as ten lovers. There were a lot of women wanting to have a child by this genius.
More than just an idea, eugenics was put into practice in the U.S. After all, who doesn’t want smarter, healthier children and citizens? One of the downsides of eugenics was that, in order to gain healthier and smarter citizens, some of the less-healthy and less-smart elements of the population had to refrain from procreating. In order to keep these folks from procreating, some of them were sterilized. In 1927, the policies of eugenics were put before the Supreme Court of the United States, and compulsory sterilization, a technique of eugenics to control reproduction of lessor citizens by the states, was ruled as constitutional. Several states sterilized citizens who were judged unfit, or intellectually disabled, “for the protection and health of the state.” The decision of Buck v. Bell, (274 U.S. 200 (1927)) has not been overturned since originally litigated.
The court ruled that compulsory sterilization did not violate the Due Process clause 14th Amendment. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. stated that: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is there a guarantee of a right to have children, whether you are a genius or mentally or physically disabled.
A new technology that will change the world has emerged, called CRISPR…”
Adolf Hitler thought that eugenics was a great idea, and he incorporated eugenics into his plan for a “master race.” Hitler’s program of eugenics was far more brutal. From Google, a description of Hitler’s program:
Those humans targeted for destruction under Nazi eugenics policies were largely living in private and state-operated institutions, identified as “life unworthy of life” (German: Lebensunwertes Leben) including prisoners, “degenerates”, dissidents, people with congenital cognitive and physical disabilities (including people who were “feebleminded”, epileptic, schizophrenic, manic-depressive, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, deaf, blind) (German: erbkranken), homosexual, idle, insane, and the weak, for elimination from the chain of heredity. More than 400,000 people were sterilized against their will, while more than 70,000 were killed under Action T4, a euthanasia program.
Hitler also started a program to breed more of the Ayran race, “Lebensborn” where young women were “bred” with officers of the SS. Many of those selectively-bred offspring are still in Germany, and also in Norway. Let me be clear. I in no way, shape, matter of form support the ideas of eugenics, especially Hitler’s interpretation of what it should be. If, however, we can eliminate diseases and congenital conditions, who is to say that we do not owe that health to our children? We don’t let our children play in traffic. By that same reasoning, if we can keep our offspring healthy by altering their genetic profile, do we not owe them that? Would you allow your child to be crippled by a genetic defect, even when you could have stopped it? We have people who shun vaccines, and, in some cases, these parents have been legally considered to be criminals, guilty of murder/manslaughter by ignoring a vaccine or a treatment that could have saved their child.
Already, the preferred donors to sperm banks tend to be highly educated, such as doctors. The Seattle Sperm Bank prides itself on highly-educated sperm donors, who are finishing medical/dental school or are already practicing physicians or dentists. Humanity will soon have to make some decisions.
As in much of living in the 21st century, legislation has not kept up with technology.
Do we alter the DNA of the unborn in order to give them a better life, as well as to benefit humanity?
Jeffrey Neil Jackson is an
Educator & Literary Mercenary
To read more about CRISPR, go to:
To read more of Einstein’s romantic conquests, go to: