Genetically Engineered Children and Moral Panic

Hu JianKui and his team created a genetically engineered human baby. Many of the news articles that followed labelled his actions as morally unethical, dangerous and immoral. What’s interesting is that the vast majority of these articles didn’t actually state their reasoning. There are good reasons to doubt the ethics of what Hu did ranging from uncertainty over the patients consent to whether there were better alternative treatments. Most of the articles I saw near the start of the news cycle didn’t mention these reasons. They didn’t explain why editing children’s genes to make them safer from a horrific, life-destroying disease was bad. They didn’t explain why it’s okay for the state to determine for parents what genes their children can have, okay for it to condemn children who could be healthy to a life of disease. They didn’t explain why gene editing is dangerous or so unethical. The lack of argumentation combined with how one sided the coverage is disappointing but not surprising. I’m not sure that eugenics and genetically engineering humans is a good thing. I am sure about is that one sided discourse in which a scientists efforts to make babies immune to HIV is painted as dangerous, unethical, immoral and exploitative without serious consideration is not conducive to a good epistemic culture or rational, productive legislation of future technologies.

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