Gene Pool Rules

Full-scale human evolutionary engineering is still far off, but, at some point in the future, it may well become routine. The challenge for humanity is twofold: to survive long enough to reach that point, and to cause the least amount of harm while getting there.

CLEVELAND – For thousands of years, humans have used genetic engineering to control the evolution of plants and animals. So it is inevitable that we will use it to shape our own evolution. Our efforts so far have been modest: online dating services are beginning to match subscribers on the basis of their genetic compatibility; parents increasingly screen embryos and fetuses, allowing only those with the healthiest genes to be born; geneticists are only slowly improving their ability to manipulate DNA directly; and no one is trying to make germline changes in humans that will be passed on to succeeding generations.

Full-scale human evolutionary engineering is still far off, but, at some point in the future, it may well become routine. The challenge for humanity is twofold: to survive long enough to reach that point, and to cause the least amount of harm while getting there.

Those most immediately at risk are children, who are in danger of having their genetic material manipulated in damaging ways. The harm can be physical (stillbirths, deformities, and genetic disorders); but, even genetic engineering that is technically successful can cause psychosocial harm to children, who may be shunned by peers for being odd-looking or merely “different.”

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