Chinese scientists revealed today that they have edited the genes of twin girls – while still in the womb. This remarkable news raises myriad questions – and concerns – about human evolution.
Will we one day give Darwin a run for his money by populating the world with only the genetically-perfect humans?
There’s more to human life than our biology, of course. Scientists currently agree that human behavior is a complex cocktail of nature and nurture, of both evolution and the very environment in which we live. Since we now have proof that nature can be manipulated, does this lend hope that someday we will be able to edit our biases?
The gene-editing article referenced here appeared on National Public Radio in the United States this morning: Facing Backlash, Chinese Scientist Defends Gene-Editing Research On Babies, November 29, 2018. It’s getting lots of hype, as it warrants. The genomic editing the scientists have done conjures possibilities of ‘constructing’ the features of pre-natal children including hair color, eye color, and height. More importantly, the scientists claim, their “editing” can create genomic features that resist certain diseases.
One possible (and simplistic) vision of the future is a world full of disease-free humans. But can scientists modify our biology faster than diseases can adapt to a changing world. It’s difficult to imagine since cancers, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune and neuromuscular diseases like MS and ALS are on the rise, not the retreat.
Environment is still a major contributor to our biases and the heuristics we use to make decisions. We might become better looking and have fewer diseases, but our decision making is likely to remain flawed because environment lacks scientific control.
Would life as a genetically-edited individual be better with shinier hair, whiter teeth and stronger bones while our decision making remains trapped by Darwinian development?
Until we identify the biological basis for biases and heuristics in our environment, and until we achieve the ability to modify them, no amount of editing will override who we are and how we think. This is where behavioral science comes in.
Behavioral sciences help us understand human actions and offers effective approaches to making environmental changes that successfully influence how we behave and the decisions we make. If you’d like to learn more, check out how BehaviorAlchemy applies behavioral sciences to help companies improve their ROI.
NPR Article: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/11/28/671375070/facing-backlash-chinese-scientist-defends-gene-editing-research-on-babies