Ever since DNA was first isolated in 1869, the concept of gene editing has existed. Yet as practical methods progressed further, research stagnated due to the need of highly specialised geneticists and equipment. Development of the economically viable CRISPR/CAS9 tool has opened major discussions around the globe concerning its ethical implications. Scientific advancement should not be completely impeded, neither completely free. A middle ground approach should be encouraged to influence expansion of humanity.
Positive Ethical Impacts of CRISPR
The most obvious use for CRISPR technology is curing patients with genetic related diseases. Research has found up to 3,000 diseases which show limited success of drug treatments: e.g. Trisomy 18 affects 1 in 6000 infants, with a 90% mortality rate. In 2015, CRISPR technology saved the life of Layla Richards. She had leukemia, but became the first person to have her life saved by gene editing. Her parents, who refused palliative care, took on the experimental treatment to extend Layla’s life. Harris argues, “as long as a life is worth living – according to the person [themselves] – we have a powerful moral imperative to save the life and thus to develop and offer life extension therapies.” The fear of adverse effects is sentencing these infants to doom and inflicting grief onto their parents which can all be prevented with this technology.
Another capability of CRISPR technology is increasing an individual’s intellectual capabilities to deal with global issues. Bostrom argues that problem-solving skills are always a factor in tackling complications; it follows that intellectual enhancement with this technology could be used to find cures for terminal diseases, solving global energy crises and improving global medical health. With a rapidly increasing global population, CRISPR also has the potential to aid human adaptability when considering extra-terrestrial environments. Szocik argues, “human beings are not evolutionarily adapted to colonised cosmic environments”. However, artificial acceleration of evolution may be necessary if the human species migrated to extra-terrestrial environments. At the current rate of global population growth, and an ever growing space exploration industry, this use of CRISPR is likely to be needed in the future.
Finally, CRISPR technology has the potential to decrease the rate of violent crime. Criminals with violent tendencies, which relate to mental health, could undergo treatment to alter the genes responsible for these characteristics. Currently, 50% of prisoners are reconvicted within a year of release. Treatment would allow violent criminals to reintegrate into society, and would protect the public from this prevented violence.
These possibilities demonstrate the overwhelmingly positive impact CRISPR could have. The advancement of scientific fields could lead to ground-breaking discoveries- e.g. cures for diseases – and solutions for global issues. The impact on society in general is significant because the technology presents an opportunity to greatly increase the safety of the population. Could any humanitarian society completely reject the advancement of humanity that CRISPR offers?
Negative Ethical Impacts of CRISPR
Although CRISPR has huge positive potential, the major question remains where should we draw the line? In conjunction with all the possible good it could accomplish, one cannot escape the fear of what could arise from playing ‘god’, giving humans power over nature and controlling the speed of our own evolution. ‘Designer babies’ with desirable genetic characteristics could become the norm as imperfections are eradicated , but many would argue it is imperfection, attributed to uniqueness that makes us human . Self-discovery and natural selection could become less apparent as people start dictating the lives of the unborn, possibly inadvertently pushing society into a more authoritarian state.
The short-term view that it could liberate one from disease and worry, may blind people from seeing the long-term consequences, initiating a “slippery slope” of overexcitement, leading to irresponsibility . The benefits must outweigh the risks, yet with such a lack of knowledge in this area, in addition to the stake of human life; much greater significance must be applied to the risks . As a result, soon after CRISPR’s viability was proven, scientists called for a temporary moratorium on human genome edits . The worry being that mistakes could be made with germ-line (egg/sperm/embryo) genetic modification, accidentally causing a new disease or mutation, which could be passed down for generations triggering irreversible changes to humanity.
In addition to the positives mentioned about life extension and intellectual improvement, detrimental problems could arise in the form of unfair allocation of procedures. The monetary wealth and influence of the so-called ‘elites’ would give them the opportunity to bypass the laws of the masses for selfish gain, as they have done all too much in the past. An ex-chairman of the US President’s Council on Bioethics, Leon Kass, viewed life extension as a childish and narcissistic wish incompatible with devotion to posterity . It is this perspective that seeds fear of growing inequality for present and future generations, when considering the relative egotistical nature of people in power. Though one can argue that it isn’t individual’s egocentricity that is the main cause for alarm, but rather the nationalistic viewpoint of countries to look out for their own interest, made even more evident by the recent election of President Trump whose ‘America First’ victory speech emphasized this mind-set.
It has been rumoured that countries like the USA and China are on their way to testing gene editing of soldiers to make “super soldiers” –. It is important that under the pressure of fear, instigated by advancement of one nations army over another’s, world leaders do not rush the growth of genetic engineering. This could cause an arms race leading to worldwide unrest . Thus, it is evident that even in the right hands, combined with naivety, it could have disastrous effects.
Although it has been argued that this is natural evolution for such an intelligent species, something with such an irreversible influence could be rushed, causing unforeseeable consequences. Transparency and open discussion are required for careful systematic advancement . Research and implementation should be monitored by a globally unified committee, and strong jurisdictions should be encouraged amongst individual nations.
 D. B. T. Cox, R. J. Platt, and F. Zhang, “Therapeutic genome editing: prospects and challenges.,” Nat. Med., vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 121–131, Feb. 2015.
 Herndon Jaime, “Fatal Genetic Diseases.” 2015.
 Cancer Research UK, “CRISPR gene editing: new chapter in cancer research or blot in the ethical copybook?” 2017.
 Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, “World first use of gene-edited immune cells to treat ‘incurable’ leukaemia.” 2015.
 J. Harris, Enhancing evolution : the ethical case for making better people. Princeton University Press, 2007.
 K. Szocik, K. Lysenko-Ryba, S. Banaś, and S. Mazur, “Political and legal challenges in a Mars colony,” Space Policy, vol. 38, pp. 27–29, Nov. 2016.
 The Conversation, “Hard evidence: does prison really work?” .
 BBC, “Gene editing: Ethical issues ‘should be discussed,’” BBC Health, 2016.
 OSHO, “Everyone is Unique,” Complete Wellbeing, Jul-2007.
 B. D. Baltimore et al., “A prudent path forward for genomic engineering and germline gene modification,” Science (80-. )., vol. 348, no. 6230, pp. 36–38, 2015.
 E. Rodriguez, “Ethical Issues in Genome Editing using Crispr / Cas9 System,” J. Clin. Res. Bioeth., vol. 2016, no. 2, pp. 7–10, 2016.
 R. Stein, “Scientists Urge Temporary Moratorium On Human Genome Edits,” National Public Radio. 2015.
 L. Kass, Toward a More Natural Sceince: Biology and Human Affairs. New York City: Free Press, 1985.
 J. Murphy, “The US and China are racing to create superior super soldiers,” SOFREP News, 2016. .
 D. Gayle, “Army of the Future,” Daily Mail, 2012.
 J. D. Moreno, “DARPA on your mind.,” Cerebrum, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 91–9, 2004.
 G. J. Annas, “The Prospects and Perils of Human Genetic Engineering,” in The Man on the Moon, Immortality, and Other Millennial Myths, vol. 1, 2000, p. 773.
Group 56: Yung Lian Tang, Samuel Stiles, Thomas Milnes, Thomas Butterfield