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Human Germline Engineering: the Game-Changer
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It’s the year 2030, and Jack and Lizzie want to have a baby the old-fashioned way. Eschewing artificial reproduction techniques that combine sperm and ova in a dish, they retire to their dimly-lit salon with a bottle of Italian wine and a bowl of strawberries, put an old romantic movie on the DVD, and let nature take its course.

At work the next day, Jill’s mobile device beeps loudly three times upon receiving a signal from her implanted sensor bank. “Conception!” she texts Jack in a hurry, “I’m off to the clinic!” When she arrives, an intake nurse briskly congratulates Jill and gives her an injection arresting zygotic cell division, then another delivering nanobots to read the new baby’s gene code. Breathless, Jack joins her in the waiting room, and they begin to leaf through familiar brochures.

Like most parents, Jack and Lizzie want children who resemble them but are also better than they are. They’ve anticipated and discussed this moment many times. They’ll probably go for a 5- to 7-point IQ bump to make Baby smarter, but not so smart that he won’t talk to them. Baby will also be taller, handsomer and healthier than blind genetic recombination might dictate; he’ll be free of the alcoholic hot temper that crops up occasionally in Jack’s family tree; and Baby won’t have to worry about pancreatic cancer or depression, thinks Lizzie gratefully, remembering tragedies in her own family.

The Head Genetic Engineer calls Jack and Lizzie into his office and begins explaining what their new one-celled baby girl is like right now, and what she could be like after a few deft touches. Under the Engineer’s agile guidance, the happy couple choose to implement most of their original tentative plans but also make a few spontaneous alterations, deciding for example to complement their new baby’s unexpected musical talent with the gift of perfect time. Lizzie settles back for a third injection that will upgrade her baby from Wonderful to Improved. A few hours later, when the first injection wears off, embryonic cell division begins.

Far-fetched? Perhaps not. Human germline engineering (HGE) may be technologically feasible, economically viable and socially acceptable in the not-too-distant future. If HGE does begin to flower, it will change humanity and human society in ways that are currently only poorly imagined. And humanity, or at least those of its members tasked with formulating public policy, will have to adopt legal solutions to pressing questions that arise.

Four kinds of scientific and technological progress are bringing the revolution on-line. They work in tandem. First, geneticists figure out which genes do what, individually and in combination. Second, neurologists map the human brain and trace its functions. Third, programmers create computer simulations that predict the effects of juggling genes. Fourth, bioengineers create better tools to cut and paste DNA strands.

All four of those disciplines have been racing ahead, especially in recent years. There is no reason to assume that any of them will run up against insurmountable obstacles. Nor is it obvious that prohibitive costs will block HGE development or restrict its availability to tycoons whose superhuman progeny will rule the rest of us. On the contrary, DNA technology shows every sign of being amenable to the same types of forces that catapulted silicon chip development forward so powerfully. Indeed, society and the law may find it hard to regulate hobbyists creating new forms of life in their basements.

There is a global document, UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, suggesting that germ-line interventions are contrary to human dignity. However, it has no legal force. Another international instrument, the Council of Europe’s Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, actually did play a concrete role in making heritable modifications illegal in many European countries. Anglosphere nations like Canada, Australia and New Zealand also have bans in place, as do high-tech powers Israel and South Korea. However, the much-cited Araki worldwide survey of national laws shows an incomplete and inconsistent patchwork of regulation, which may be an invitation to reproductive tourism in the near term that sparks a race for the bottom shortly thereafter.

The United States and China do not ban HGE. The U.S. National Institutes of Health prohibits federal funding of research involving germ line alterations, and some speculate that the Food and Drug Administration may try to assert increased jurisdiction over HGE in the future, but otherwise the field is clear. China’s state-sponsored Beijing Genomics Institute is busy searching for the genetic determinants of human intelligence, and a team of Chinese scientists made headlines last year by genetically modifying human embryos using CRISPR/Cas9. It’s hard to see how a national-security-driven genetic arms race between the world’s two great powers can be avoided. Meanwhile, in the U.K., the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act and Authority (both abbreviated HFEA) arguably comprise the most well-developed regulatory system governing artificial reproduction and genetic techniques. The Authority maintains a general ban on heritable human DNA alteration, but it also recently allowed genetic modification of human embryos for research purposes.

Under such circumstances, the shock waves generated twenty years ago by the birth of Dolly the cloned sheep may soon pale in comparison to the hysteria that would follow the unanticipated birth of Molly the genetically enhanced little girl.

How then does one regulate HGE? At least four different kinds of options present themselves for consideration.

The first is prohibition. Prohibition might be temporary, pending further technological developments and the parallel development of an ethical consensus; or it might be permanent, as a matter of principle. Bans are favored by most religious establishments. For example, the Catholic Church’s instruction Dignitas Personae holds that “in its current state, germ line cell therapy in all its forms is morally illicit.” The faithful are joined in opposition by so-called “bioconservatives” of various stripes (Leon Kass, Jeremy Rifkin &c), ethical philosophers who attach near-sacred status to the human genome in its present form and warn of horrors to come should HGE come to pass. Prohibitionists also receive some support from some social justice advocates, who contend – incorrectly, I think – that HGE would only worsen problems of human inequality by reserving genetic enhancement for the already rich and powerful.

One major problem with prohibition is that it doesn’t seem ultimately sustainable, given its lack of uniform international support and the powerful human drives and desires propelling us toward HGE. Nor is it obvious that complete prohibition, even if possible, is truly desirable, at least insofar as it would prevent parents from correcting grievous genetic defects in their unborn children.

A second, completely opposite course would be coercive eugenics. Thankfully, there’s no visible constituency for forcing parents to modify their offspring genetically. If and when HGE technology proves itself safe, beneficial, convenient and inexpensive, and its use begins to be widespread, the vast majority of parents will almost certainly decide of their own accord to give their children every possible advantage, genetic or otherwise. Coercion would be neither desirable nor necessary.

A third option, also opposed to prohibition, is libertarian HGE. Many scientists, futurists and self-styled “transhumanists” (Gregory Stock, Nick Bostrom et al.) support unfettered free choice, and it may be assumed that companies able to make money from HGE will also advocate its widest application. Unfortunately, advocates of unfettered free-market approaches, perhaps dazzled by wonder or blinded by greed, apparently fail to take account of the awful consequences that would almost certainly quickly ensue if human genes were modified with wild abandon. Monstrosities and miseries born of human vice and folly would almost inevitably spur harsh regulatory backlash, definitively ending their libertarian spring.

Finally, government may compile and periodically amend a list of permissible HGE modifications. Should the government also facilitate the provision of such modifications to all desiring members of the general public, it could transform HGE into a great force for public health and social equality.

The latter approach, which may be characterized as paternalistic, finds precedent in the British regulations governing pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). PGD may be seen as a precursor technology to HGE and thus merits examination.

PGD typically is used by people who don’t want to pass on dangerous genes to their children. Sperm and oocytes produced by a couple are combined in a lab to produce a number of fertilized eggs, which are then genetically screened before a healthy one is selected for implantation. PGD’s original core purpose was to avoid having babies with early-onset, incurable monogenic diseases that are painful, degenerative, and sometimes deadly – diseases like cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, and Tay-Sachs. Soon its use grew to include later-onset conditions like Huntington’s disease, other ailments that are less severe or more curable, and even some illnesses that might not develop at all, depending on how genetic tendencies play themselves out over time. PGD use also expanded to include the creation of “savior siblings,” where the intended therapeutic benefit was not to the new baby itself but to a seriously ill older sibling in need of transplant tissue. More controversially, PGD has occasionally been employed in some places for non-therapeutic sex selection, and there have even been reports of parents seeking to use PGD to have children who share their own genetic disabilities, such as deafness or dwarfism.

The U.K.’s regulation of PGD has been thorough and judicious (see this Parliamentary report), choosing for example to allow sex selection only to avoid sex-linked disorders, and prohibiting selection for disability. The HFEA considers each proposed use on a case-by-case basis and publishes an often-updated list of permitted uses.

If HGE is legalized and regulated under a licensing regime similar to that currently governing PGD, it would ideally pull prospective parents away from rogue clinics into a safer and more ethically responsible environment. However, it should be recognized at the outset that unlike PGD, HGE has the potential to bring about waves of successive revolutions in human affairs and their ideological underpinnings.

It is not difficult to imagine areas of society, law and public policy that would be quickly transformed by HGE. Health care would become unrecognizable in a world of designer babies and well-developed somatic gene therapies. Advances in genetics could also change approaches to environmental protection by engineering human resistance to climate change or to pollutants, or by modifying non-human species or even eliminating some dangerous ones while keeping their DNA on file in case of need.

HGE could also solve seemingly intractable problems posed by persistent racial, ethnic and sex-related differences. Currently, the West is plagued by cognitive dissonance resulting from, on the one hand, the expansive progression of egalitarian aspirations from equality under the law to equality of opportunity and finally to an insistence on equality of outcomes; and, on the other hand, increasing evidence suggesting that at least some important human group differences are strongly rooted in DNA. Cracking DNA’s code and learning to modify it will first settle complex nature-nurture disputes and then allow tomorrow’s children to incorporate, in combination, the most desirable human genetic traits that have evolved all over the planet.

Finally, HGE could generate new metaphysics to define man’s place and purpose in the world. Post-religious modernity finds itself in a quandary: It is no longer able to believe in old faiths, but when it discards them, it also loses the intricate webs of religious law, custom and obligation that bind and nurture families and communities. Secular ideology, with its prime political emphasis on freedom and the individual, has not yet devised workable substitutes for the ancient organic culture of religion. HGE, though, would force humanity to grapple anew with fundamental existential questions about our nature and purpose, within the context of creating and guiding future generations.

For example, shall HGE be restricted to therapeutic uses, i.e. preventing disease, or may we also splice in synthetic genes for the sake of enhancement, perhaps granting our children telepathy or the ability to fly? And if we combine thousands of existing alleles to enhance the next generation’s average IQ, or to strengthen their immune systems well beyond current human norms, is that therapy or enhancement?

Shall we also use HGE to improve humanity’s moral character, for example by designing children who are less reflexively fearful and aggressive than their parents, or who possess more far-ranging empathy? There are already thinkers who propose that we increase “genetic virtue,” notably Julian Savulescu, who warns that mankind’s destructive power now exceeds its wisdom and self-restraint, so that we must re-engineer ourselves if we don’t want to kill ourselves off.

Should humans continue to die? Aubrey de Grey might say no. But all things must end, eventually, and while most of us would like to live longer, healthier lives, perhaps immortality would rob life of its spice and vigor? No one knows.

Should we remain one species? And if we don’t, will one daughter species find itself still able to accord moral status to another, or to the mother species?

Should human childhood be shortened and accelerated? Should some animals be granted greater intelligence? There is no apparent end to such questions, and the answers are well beyond what we can determine today. The best we can do for now is to create a framework, constitutional if you will, for discussing and deciding such issues as they arise. Whether that framework resembles the U.K.’s PGD regime or takes some other form, it needs to be more flexible and evolutionary than the absolute legal bans existing in some countries, but also much more ordered and disciplined than the legislative vacuum present in others.

Jim Daniel is a comparative law scholar and author of Building the Network for Human Evolution

• Category: Science • Tags: Genetic Engineering, Human Genomics 
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  1. Great, great stuff. Those of us with a more conspiratorial view of history are probably envisioning a more dystopian outcome, ala Gattica, and given Hollywood’s propensity for predictive programming I’d advise utmost caution developing this technology. But I can see the merits, and there’s no easy answers to the endless questions. I suppose much of this technology is well ahead of what’s acknowledged publicly, too. Speculation but you KNOW there’s secret labs trying to get the upper hand for possible covert/military applications. I’d say it’s all but guaranteed. Interesting topic though, and a heck of a piece.

    • Replies: @tito perdue
  2. The fairest and most pro-civilization outcome would be to allow a wide range of freedom but prohibit “malicious” choices like lowering intelligence, introducing diseases, or maximizing overly nepotistic traits like filial piety.

    The outcome I suspect will actually happen is that a bioconservative/SJW alliance imposes restrictions in the name of “protecting human dignity” or somesuch nonsense. If all the major countries agree to enforce it, then all the smaller and out of the way places will also have to follow suit. Of course the billionaire class will be able to glide past these restrictions and upgrade itself at will.

    In other words, the pro-Illuminati William Taggart ending in Deus Ex: HR.

    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  3. 5371 says:

    It’s a valuable heuristic to ignore any utterance which contains the words “game-changer”.

  4. Leftist conservative [AKA "Make Great Again"] says: • Website

    if this becomes available while race-based affirmative action is still in effect, parents would do better to manipulate the baby’s genes so as to give it a dark skin….a college degree, no arrest record and dark skin, with ‘african american’ on the birth certificate, that is a ticket to a comfortable upper middle class life as a federal govt worker…..and not only that, but once hired, the kid could do very little at work and yet escape being fired etc. because the managers are too afraid to do anything.

  5. this is a must for the future of humans. fuck all religious nuts. it is the future. it isn’t a if, the moment designer babies is a thing, you can be sure anybody and everybody who is smart would be using it for their future babies if they can help it.

  6. I must say, I was surprised to find telepathy and the ability to fly shoehorned into an otherwise serious piece.

  7. @Anatoly Karlin

    china would not be following any kind of western consensus on this. as long as a country like china is doing all they can for designer babies, I doubt any consensus can ever be formed.

    isn’t china already doing research forbidden in the west?

  8. U. Ranus says:

    You’ll thank your parents for having blessed you with the late Brad Pitt’s great looks. Until the Estate of Brad Pitt sends the royalty invoice.

    Of course the long term effect on prospective parents could be more like, hey, why should we pay to raise yet another one of Brad Pitt’s sons? And the birth rate takes another nosedive.

  9. Rehmat says:

    Israel, the US, Canada, Australia, etc. top the ‘surrogate baby industry’ as long as it’s carried out in foreign poor nations.

    Last year earthquake in Nepal exposed another Israel’s secret to fight the Arab demographic ‘existential’ threat. In April two Israeli planes landed at Tel Aviv Ben-Gurion airport carrying hundreds of tourists and Jew gays including 26 Israeli babies for Jew same-sex couples from Kathmandu. The babies were given birth by Nepalese and Indian Hindu mothers.

    Under Israeli law only married heterosexual couples can use surrogacy in Israel. Same-sex couples and single parents are required to travel overseas and to enter into international surrogacy agreements, incurring extra costs and facing legal complications.

    Russia, Thailand and India have been destination of Israeli same-sex couples in the past. Israelis have used surrogacy practice in several western countries but found it very expensive. Many Asian and Western countries have banned commercial surrogacy, and it can cost up to \$150,000 in United States and Canada but only \$30,000 in Nepal.

    Scientists have failed to improve I.Q. by artificial birth techniques or cure hereditary diseases among people especially among certain ethnic Jewish groups. But the White Supremacy myths and Henry Kissinger’s non-White depopulation must continue ….

    • Replies: @Sherman
  10. “Should animals be given higher intelligence?”

    But, you repeat yourself.

  11. Sherman says:

    Hey Homer

    Last week Unz had an article about inbreeding in Muslim families.

    This can’t be good for eugenics.

    Maybe this explains you.


    • Replies: @Rehmat
  12. nickels says:

    I am amused at the scientific utopians.
    They dream of George Jetson.
    They enable mass immigration in the name of piety.
    They are barren because of their love of feminism.

    They dream of worlds that will never exist because their future is ethnic and civil warfare.

    Playing God has its downsides.

    • Replies: @Mar
  13. Rdm says:

    2030 is way too optimistic.

    No way you can get this kind of technology in 15 years.

  14. Mar says:

    Sometimes I wonder if the Tower of Babel is more relevant than we think.

    • Agree: nickels
  15. Agent76 says:

    November 6, 2006 Victims of Hitler’s plan for a master race

    Blond hair, blue eyes: the Third Reich’s sinister plan to boost the “master race” has left behind an emotionally charged legacy that lingers to this day. The Lebensborn Kinder – a long hushed-up aspect of Nazi history – were born in special maternity homes, places where mostly unmarried women and the wives of SS men gave birth to children with “good Aryan” blood. Now in their 60s, a group of these children met this weekend in the eastern German town of Wernigerode, telling their stories in the hope of quelling the taboos and flamboyant myths about the murky Nazi institutions.

  16. Rehmat says:

    Hi Sharon

    Muslims don’t need inter breading as within 1400 year their population has grown to 2.08 billion (CIA Book) while your race is stuck at 13 million during the last 3500 years.

    According to Israeli daily ‘YNet’, July 13, 2006 – “The conversion of Israeli Jews to Islam is on the increase due to deepening their knowledge of Islam and being disappointed in Judaism.”

    According to the American Jewish Identity Survey 2001 – out of approximately 5.5 million American Jewish adults (born to a Jewish mother- in order to be Jewish according to the Jewish law) – nearly 1.7 million say they are members of a non-Jewish religion (reported by Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2002).

  17. Agent76 says:

    This is nothing new and the movement actually began in 1883.

    The Eugenics movement reaches its height 1923

    The term eugenics comes from the Greek roots for “good” and “generation” or “origin” and was first used to refer to the “science” of heredity and good breeding in about 1883. Within 20 years, the word was widely used by scientists who had rediscovered the work of Gregor Mendel. Mendel had meticulously recorded the results of cross-breeding pea plants, and found a very regular statistical pattern for features like height and color.

  18. jay says:

    ”Currently, the West is plagued by cognitive dissonance resulting from, on the one hand, the expansive progression of egalitarian aspirations from equality under the law to equality of opportunity and finally to an insistence on equality of outcomes; and, on the other hand, increasing evidence suggesting that at least some important human group differences are strongly rooted in DNA. Cracking DNA’s code and learning to modify it will first settle complex nature-nurture disputes and then allow tomorrow’s children to incorporate, in combination, the most desirable human genetic traits that have evolved all over the planet.”

    The problem is the Western insistence of egalitarianism. Trying to make people equal is impossible. It is an impossible Goal even with this kind of technology.

  19. “Monstrosities and miseries born of human vice and folly would almost inevitably spur harsh regulatory backlash, definitively ending their libertarian spring.”

    So put the control in the hands of the least sane entity: government. It worked real well with the Constitution, fiat currencies, banking, drugs, defense, 2+ million laws, regulations, legalizing corporations, legalizing unions, creating terrorism, and so on. Quoting Ringo Starr: Everything government touches turns to crap.

    Man’s brain is just a high-function chimp brain that can make guns. The chimp part needs to be redressed first.

  20. Hayrick says:

    If human nature is any guide the ability to genetic engineer will be ramped up way beyond anything we contemplate now and providing money supply is in the sole control of government and a private bank monopoly the Military, or an equivalent spawn, will take control of reproduction. Make way for a purpose built future.
    Allowing people to think that they are improving their children’s chances will just be the emotional loss leader to the main game.

  21. Agent76 says:

    Dec 21, 2013 Creator of Creepy ‘DARPA’ Robots Questioned On Military Funding & Google Purchase

    With reportedly over \$10 million in funding from the Pentagon, Raibert is asked if his robots will be used by the U.S. military for its perpetual nation-building and aggressive wars.

    12.02.14 A Googler’s Quest to Teach Machines How to Understand Emotions

    A digital photo is nothing but numbers, he says, and if you separate the spoken word into individual phonemes, you can translate these into numbers too.

  22. Escher says:

    So our future is Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average.

  23. tito perdue says: • Website

    Superb! This technology offers a way to make America as wonderful as it was in 1950 – 90% white.

  24. “But all things must end, eventually, and while most of us would like to live longer, healthier lives, perhaps immortality would rob life of its spice and vigor? No one knows.”

    -You’d probably succumb to cancer eventually. In fact, immortalizing cells is one thing that typically occurs in the development of cancer.

    “Should human childhood be shortened and accelerated? Should some animals be granted greater intelligence?”

    -I think we’d probably find that a lot of these sorts of things wouldn’t work out well- there’s a decent chance that during the evolution of humans and other animals, that these things or something similar appeared and failed.

    I’m not in favor of too much governmental involvement in these decisions. The UN and Western govt flood the West with immigrants, reward past group failure by giving present day descendants privileged treatment (gardening by “pulling the flowers and watering the weeds” to paraphrase an idea by Peter Lynch), spend untold trillions from our kids’ futures on foolish liberal pipe dreams, etc. Do we really want these people deciding what genetic engineering to allow and what not to allow?

  25. Caprizchka says: • Website

    “Monstrosities and miseries born of human vice and folly would almost inevitably spur harsh regulatory backlash, definitively ending their libertarian spring.”

    This is new? unique to HGE? unaffected by exotic investment instruments engineered through cronyism and nepotism?

    Given that the introduction of naturally occurring microbes into one’s body can mimic nanotechnology in terms of gene expression to include facial appearance, my biggest concern is that such “natural” inputs would no longer be allowed such as to screen against them at airports.

    Naturally, my concern here is biased because I love to travel.

  26. Eugenics is a helluva good idea, and when it gets going the parents who stuck to the natural course are going to have to face an interesting question from their children: “Why didn’t you help me when you could?” The second generation will go eugenic, 99%.

    Whoops, maybe 98, there are always accidents.

  27. JohnK says:

    A more complete and accurate summary of what the religious nuts of the Catholic Church think and teach about germ-line modifications is here:

    Part 1:
    Part 2:

    Read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts from Part 2 (my comments in brackets):

    “In theory the Church embraces germ-line gene therapy. [*therapy*; meaning germ-line modification to cure genetic disease.] If curing genetic disease in one patient is good, then curing the disease for the whole family for every generation after is even better. The problem is that as current technology stands, to make the germ-line modification means that a human life has to be created and manipulated in a lab dish. The Catholic Church rejects the creation of human life in a lab. Once technology is developed that will allow the germ-line gene therapy to be accomplished without IVF or cloning and can be shown to be safe without major side effects, then the Catholic Church can embrace it. So while germ-line gene therapy is not now moral, it could be in the future.”

    “As for germ-line genetic enhancement, if genetic enhancement is immoral for one individual [it is], it is certainly immoral if it is done to every generation that follows. A germ-line genetic enhancement means that children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on will also be enhanced. This is the granddaddy of all unethical human genetic engineering. It is one thing to enhance yourself, it is quite another to force it onto generations that never asked for it.”

    “…like most people these days, he [Ronald Bailey] is only thinking about the rights of the PARENTS and not of the resulting children and grandchildren. He argues that telling parents they cannot genetically enhance their offspring is forcing our ‘visions of good’ on them. I argue it is the parents who would genetically enhance their progeny that are forcing ‘their visions of the good’ on their children.”

    “So what is the current state of genetic engineering in humans? Right now most genetic engineering is being attempted only at the somatic level for gene therapy. The attempt is to cure disease and only in the somatic tissues that are affected in a specific patient. This means that the genetic modification is only for the person who needs it and will not be passed on if that patient has children. Unfortunately, somatic gene therapy has had some pretty terrible side effects including cancer and death. The gene therapy was only undertaken because the risk of the genetic engineering was outweighed by the devastation of the genetic disease. With the risks inherent in genetic engineering, genetic enhancement of an otherwise healthy individual is downright dangerous, and germ-line genetic enhancement of future otherwise healthy individuals is morally unthinkable. [Note: not ‘unthinkable’ per se (obviously we can think it), but ‘morally unthinkable’, meaning: it will never be able to be put into any truly moral framework; it will always be intrinsically immoral.]”

  28. But all things must end, eventually, and while most of us would like to live longer, healthier lives, perhaps immortality would rob life of its spice and vigor? No one knows.

    This is an utterly stupid argument against life extension.

    I have yet to encounter a legitimate argument against life extension. The reason is because no such thing exists.

    One more thing. Ethics are entirely subjective. There is no such thing as an objective standard of ethics (it is delusional to believe such). This is why such arguments are not useful for the discussion of bio-engineering in general.

  29. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The author and readers of this article might enjoy my new book GMO Sapiens on human genetic modification, CRISPR, and designer babies.

    I’m a scientist who works with CRISPR, but I also care about the bigger picture on genetically modifying people so I’ve written this book for a lay audience.
    Paul Knoepfler
    Associate Professor
    UC Davis School of Medicine

  30. Jorge says:

    “may we also splice in synthetic genes for the sake of enhancement, perhaps granting our children telepathy or the ability to fly?”

    Telepathy has no scientific ground. Flying is also restricted to the physical limitations of flight. 75kg beings flying pose a physical limitation of current biology.

    When splicing happens, I don’t think it will be so clear-cut as many genes are interdependent on each other. Beings made through genetic engineering might be more fragile than what is generally assumed.

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