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November 30, 2021 43 min

We’ve come a long way since DNA was first discovered in the mid 19th century. Today’s scientists are using powerful engineering techniques to edit genes in human eggs and sperm, curing diseases and repairing defective genes before a child is even born. Some scientists are excited about these therapies, championing them as an exciting opportunity to create immunity to viruses, eliminate serious illnesses like AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, and possibly reverse aging. Like prior innovations in medicine and technology, why wouldn’t we embrace a science that allows people to live longer, healthier, and happier lives? Others are alarmed. They are worried that these new techniques raise a host of profound ethical issues. While eliminating genetic diseases is a worthwhile endeavor, many parents might be inclined to use this science to create designer babies: children who are smarter, taller, or have other supposedly desirable traits. And these tools aren’t cheap. They will surely be available to the rich first, creating a terrifying new dimension to the growing economic inequality crisis. Scientists also point out that ‘playing god’ and editing genes will alter our DNA code forever, and one mistake could inadvertently introduce new diseases into the human gene pool. While the desire to cure genetic diseases is a noble one, the manipulation of our DNA is more likely than not to push humanity towards a dangerous and dystopian future no one wants. 

Arguing for the motion is George Church, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and MIT

Arguing against the motion is Joyce Harper, Professor of Reproductive Science at the Institute for Women's Health, University College London.

GEORGE CHURCH

“If we bring the cost down, help with education, and make sure there's a dialogue that goes on in both directions, then everybody will have access.”

JOYCE HARPER

“I worry that these technologies will not be accessible to all and I also worry that people will use them for non-medical reasons. We will have a rich-poor divide that will become bigger and bigger as technology advances.”

Sources: 

ABC News, France24, Today Show, NBC News, VICE, PBS, Gattaca, Critical Past

The host of the Munk Debates is Rudyard Griffiths - @rudyardg.  

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This podcast is a project of the Munk Debates, a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to fostering civil and substantive public dialogue - https://munkdebates.com/

The Munk Debates podcast is produced by Antica, Canada’s largest private audio production company - https://www.anticaproductions.com/

Executive Producer: Stuart Coxe, CEO Antica Productions

Senior Producer: Ricki Gurwitz

Editor: Reza Dahya

Associate Producer: Abhi Raheja

 

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