The world's first gene-edited babies have been born in China recently, according to startling news. The babies are immune to HIV/AIDS because a gene segment was removed from the zygote. It is said they are “the world’s first gene-edited babies immune to HIV”.
Since the news was announced, the issue of “gene-edited babies” has sparked heated discussion concerning ethics and morality, as well as security. Well, what is the famous anthropologist Mr. Hu Jiaqi’s view on the issue? The author has sorted out two important points of view through interviews.
Key point I: The developing “Human Gene Editing” is bound to bring crisis to mankind.
Human genes are rational because they are the result of billions of years of natural evolution. Will human editing of genes arbitrarily cause a crisis?
In fact, there is no mature technology for accurate editing of human genes at present. With the existing technologies, it is very difficult for human beings to avoid failures because the human genome consists of billions of bases.
There is a phenomenon called "off-target effect" in gene editing.
What does being off target mean? In short, it means the gene is located mistakenly. The negative impact of off-target gene editing is far beyond our estimation. The safety of gene editing is affected because of the off-target effect. It is one of the most important issues in the application of gene editing technology.
However, even if it is on-target, there may also be unforeseen serious consequences as the technology develops.
The famous anthropologist Mr. Hu Jiaqi held the view years ago that it would be entirely possible for humans to reconstruct themselves in the near future by altering their genes.
And the crisis brought by science and technology themselves will be far greater than the current state of primary development of science and technology.
The similar view was mentioned later in the book Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Hawking. There will be gene-edited super humans in the future. Not only do they have a longer life and better physical quality, but also they may even have higher IQ and better memory than ordinary people.
Once the gene editing technology is mature, it will bring tremendous pressure on the lives of civilians who have no access to the resources of gene editing, and even bring disaster to them.
What makes us even more frightened is that the modified genes are bound to be passed on to their descendants through such editing at the level of embryo. This is equivalent to adding a new variety of gene to the human gene pool. After generations of reproduction, there will even be incalculable mutations.
Key point II: The moral and ethical issue of “gene-edited babies”.
In fact, many scientists were able to use the gene editing technology years ago. But the scientists around the world were unwilling to or were afraid to use the technology because of the uncertainty of being off target and unpredictable mutations, and the more important moral and ethical issue.
The research of“gene-edited babies”was approved by an ethical committee called Ethical Committee of Shenzhen Hemei Gynecological and Pediatric Hospital. However, the Shenzhen Health and Family Planning Commission said the organization of Ethical Committee of Shenzhen Hemei Gynecological and Pediatric Hospital had not put on required record.
So far, more than 100 scientists said in a signed joint statement, “We are firmly against and condemn the research.” They think the so-called biomedical inspection exists in name only.
It is mentioned in the book Saving Humanity by the famous anthropologist Mr. Hu Jiaqi, “The so-called gene reconstruction technology is to cut, paste and repair genes on DNA with enzymes so as to create creatures that meet our own needs based on our own wishes. The technology has been widely used so far. Scientists are able to produce red, yellow and brown cotton, and breed seedless watermelons and seedless grapes. They can let frogs grow six eyes and let mice have no tails. The reason lies in the technology of gene reconstruction.
Human beings will be able to, if they want to, reconstruct their genes in the near future. Especially today, we know that the Human Genome Project has comprehensively studied and sequenced 3 billion base pairs of human DNA and more than 20,000 genes made up of the base pairs, and considerable results have been achieved. With the further development of biological science, it is entirely predictable for human beings to thoroughly understand all human genetic structures and the human life code that they represent in the near future. So we are able to freely rebuild ourselves as long as we make a little effort on this basis.”
“People neither consider the negative effects of science and technology, nor do they doubt the justice of the development of science and technology. We have been marching forward bravely to the depth of science without any scruple. Because of such basic historical facts, we cannot fully believe that human beings will be able to control the development of science and technology in the future.
At present, babies are used as an experimental article to modify the genetic code through gene editing. Their future will be exposed to unknown risks. What is more terrible is that even half-human and half-beast monsters may be created through gene editing in the future if human beings disregard morality and ethics, the relevant ethical regulatory bodies fail to act, research is carried out for a temporary impulse, or some scientists are overwhelmed by commercial interests.
This is not an alarmist definitely. If the issue of “gene-edited babies” is not condemned but allowed to develop, human beings will surely taste the bitter wine brewed by ourselves.
During the interview, the famous anthropologist Mr. Hu Jiaqi emphasized more than once that the issue must be condemned from an ethical point of view. Once Pandora's box is opened, human beings will not always be lucky to escape the disaster. We will have to restrict the development of science and technology since law and morality can not really play a restrictive role.
With the emergence of various gene editing technologies, ethics and morality are always a threshold to enter the gate. Meanwhile, faced with the benefits brought about by the operation of commercial capital, scientists should maintain moral integrity and uphold the rationality as scientific researchers. They should not be callous to seek such so-called results that only attract attention and serve their personal interests. Humans can no longer be so numb.
As what the famous anthropologist Mr. Hu Jiaqi said, “When people accept all scientific and technological achievements without much thinking, they will inevitably show indifference to the negative effects of scientific and technological achievements. However, disasters always stem from numbness. The sea is often very calm before the arrival of huge waves but the undercurrent is surging on the bottom of the sea. When the whole society is numb, a devastating disaster may be just ahead of us.”