The Morality of Creating Designer Babies


Written by Joseph Dunsay. After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. For more Jewrotica writing by Joseph, check out The Disadvantages of Polygyny Make Couples Choose Monogamy, The Scientific Opinion Regarding Gender Specific Brains is Mixed, The Roman Empire Left an Imprint on Jewish Genes, Teledildonics May Help Jewish Husbands Travel, Madness and Humanity’s Gene Pool, The Significance of Secondary Sex Characteristics, Changing Views Towards Anal Sex, and Jewish Genetic Links to East Asia and South Asia.

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The Torah is an eternal document, which is why every generation of Jews must create new interpretations of the wisdom it contains in light of emerging technologies. A talk in the suburbs of New York City tackled the halacha related to several medical technologies, including gene editing. A new technique that makes it easier to genetically engineer a baby has caused Jews and gentiles alike to ponder the bioethical ramifications of this technology.

The Washington Post explained how CRISPR will prevent people from developing genetic diseases and revolutionize biology research. Genetic engineering involves cutting the DNA of an organism at a specific site, inserting a desired gene there, and splicing the DNA back together. CRISPR gene editing cuts DNA with an adaptation bacteria evolved to mince the DNA of invading viruses. It is significantly less laborious that traditional genetic engineering techniques.

This labor savings makes CRISPR groundbreaking, according to the Washington Post article. It not only has the potential to prevent muscular dystrophy and sickle cell disease; it can also make gene editing a feasible part of biological experiments in other fields. Biologists are harnessing CRISPR to conduct basic research on the roles specific genes play in the genomes of various species. Just as the paperback made it possible for authors to experiment with pulp fiction by lowering the price of books, CRISPR will enable start-up laboratories to develop new biological technologies that we cannot even dream of today.

Those afraid of technological progress have spoken against CRISPR, but Ronald Bailey, the science correspondent at Reason, defended the right of parents to genetically edit their children. From a libertarian perspective, morality is less about determining what is good than about determining who gets to decide what is good. Libertarians believe that individuals, not the state nor society as a whole, should make those decisions, provided they do not negatively impact others.

Bailey sees a fundamental similarity between past generations that wielded government power to control the human gene pool and the efforts of modern organizations that want to ban parents from editing the genomes of their future children. In both cases, authoritarians want to violate the autonomy of individuals in the name of protecting children from their parents or preserving some abstract ideal.

A British regulation, enacted to preserve the gene pool by requiring scientists to destroy any human embryos created with CRISPR rather than implant them into a womb, outraged one neoconservative, and Ronald Bailey echoed the sentiment. His Reason editorial went on to conclude that parents are the best guardians of their children’s genetic future, and by extension, the gene pool of the entire population.

Given Judaism’s emphasis on the bond between parents and children and its enthusiasm for medical technology, the libertarian arguments for allowing CRISPR should strike a chord with Jews. Parents want what is best for their children and can be relied on to make wise decisions on their behalf most of the time. The world will be a better place when parents have the ability to genetically alter their children.

After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. His LGBT erotic e-book launched in the summer of 2015.