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Reflections

Reflections on the talks and discussions



Heritable genome editing and freedom

(by Dr. Roberto Andorno)

The main point I wanted to make with my presentation is that a purely individualistic view about heritable genome editing is deeply misguided and short-sighted. Focusing only on the supposed “freedom” of potential parents to have genetically modified children and to choose their traits fails to consider the importance of preserving the freedom of future children not to be genetically designed by others... Why is nobody talking about this other, more fundamental freedom? Is it just because it sounds too abstract or philosophical? Is the State not supposed to prevent such radical, irreversible harm to the people to come? It is important to be aware that this harm (children’s commodification) is inherent to the alteration of the human germline; it happens no matter how healthy or genetically “perfect” those children might be.

I understand that it is difficult to get this broader picture of the issues at stake because we in the West live in extremely individualistic, utilitarian societies, and we are not used to think in terms of the kind of society we want to leave to future generations, and even less to think about harm to future people… But I am afraid the old categories are not applicable to the new, far reaching problems we are confronted with. We need to broaden our views and become aware that we have today a “metaphysical responsibility”, in the sense that we are urged to preserve nature (including human nature) against a misuse of the new technological powers (see Hans Jonas, The Imperative of Responsibility).

This is a short post I co-authored a time ago in connection with this topic :

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