The Benefits of CRISPR Technology: Enhancement of the Human Body

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Technology has advanced so far in today’s world that scientists have developed a technique known as Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats or CRISPR. CRISPR has been around since 1987 when it was discovered by a Japanese scientist named Yoshizumi Ishino at Osaka University. It wasn’t until 2007 when it became popular within the scientific community that people started to pay attention to what was being discussed concerning this new breakthrough in science. In the article “Gene Hackers” that was posted in the New Yorker, by Michael Spector, CRISPR is shown to be “a strange cluster of DNA sequences that could recognize invading viruses, deploy a special enzyme to chop them into pieces, and use the viral shards that remained to form a rudimentary immune system”.

This fascinating form of technology can completely alter a gene pool, meaning that future generations wouldn’t have to live with the same diseases or flaws that we do now. It is simply the most precise method of genetic manipulation and is causing a major buzz in the scientific community. I worry about this. Is altering a person’s genetic makeup worth the risk that could occur such as; if this technology gets out into the wrong hands, super humans could become a possibility? Think Adolf Hitler. CRISPR is here to stay but it isn’t something that should be toyed with lightly. I don’t believe that mankind should alter or even toy with the idea of changing our DNA. Natural Selection has always been the main process of evolution for mankind, plants and animals and it should remain that way.

Natural selection is the Darwinian evolutionary theory of survival of the fittest. It is a natural process where organisms who are better adapted to their environments tend to survive and produce more offspring. This has been the way since the beginning of time and before Charles Darwin caught onto it. CRISPR threatens this way of life. In the article “Gene Hackers”, Michael Spector states;

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The technology will also permit scientist to correct genetic flaws in human embryos. Any such change though, would infiltrate the entire genome and eventually be passed down to children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and every subsequent generation. That raises the possibility, more realistically than ever before, that scientist will be able to rewrite the fundamental code of life, with consequences for the future, generations that we may never be able to anticipate.

The consequences that may arise from this CRISPR technology are the unknown. Who knows what we may do to our future children and their environment? We are messing with nature and the natural order of things. Humans have a right to understand things, but we shouldn’t mess with our genetic makeup nor the genetic makeup of the animals and plants that we eat. I get that this could cure diseases, help solve the issue of children being disabled and even help with world hunger, but like Spector said, “Today, that trade off may seem worth the risk, but there’s no way of knowing whether it would be true seven or ten generations from now”. We could completely ruin earth by creating genetically advanced humans who live longer and reproduce more, eventually creating a population issue. This will put a serious drain on our already depleting resources.

We could also ruin our chances of survival making us susceptible to many things in the environment that we no longer have an immunity against because we messed with our body’s ability to adapt to the changes in the environment. According to an article I read on about CRISPR. “We’re talking about a powerful new tool to control which genes get expressed in plants, animals and even humans; the ability to delete undesirable traits and potentially add desirable traits with more precision than ever before.” All this genetic modification is dangerous. What if something that works now doesn’t work later because the environment itself changes as it tends to do because earth is a living breathing entity. We are basically talking about playing creator and who are we to do so.

According to the article “A Simple Guide to CRISPR”, in November 2018, “a scientist in China, He Jiankui, reported that he had created the world’s first human babies with CRISPR- edited genes: a pair of twin girls resistant to HIV.” This is highly unethical and scary. While this may appear to seem like a wonderful thing, this scientist doesn’t know what he could have done to these children’s future and the future of their potential offspring. We are taking human lives into our hands like they are a new toy to play with and alter to our liking. We are also messing with the food that our bodies so desperately need to sustain life and “making it better” or so we think. What I really think we are doing is creating a future disaster for our children and our children’s children. We really should just let nature continue to run the way it always has.

As a teenager I fell in love with the idea of “Bicentennial Man”. The “Bicentennial Man” is a novel written by Isaac Asimov and later turned into a film starring Robin Williams. When I saw the movie. I became fixated with the idea of living forever. Scientist had advanced so far in the movie that they could fix anything wrong in the human body which in turn caused humans to live longer lives. The robot or “Bicentennial Man” in the movie fell in love with the granddaughter, a woman who was a complete genetic copy of the woman he formally loved and left because as robot he couldn’t have her. As the granddaughter grew older the robot decided he would to because he didn’t want to “live” without her.

Science had kept her alive many years pass a normal human’s life by replacing her dying or failing organs with computer generated parts, but it couldn’t keep her forever. This is because the human body isn’t a machine and shouldn’t be tampered with like it is one. Growing up and going to school, learning about the world and the way life adapts to the things around it, has allowed me to see past my fixation with the “Bicentennial Man” and see that natural selection is the best. While CRISPR may be around to stay, natural selection is a tried and true form and will continue to outwit the machine. CRISPR may alter things now but the future is full of what ifs that we won’t be around to see.

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