What is it about?

Will CRISPR usher in a new era of Promethean overreach? CRISPR makes gene editing widely available and cheap. Anti-play-god bioethicists fear that geneticists will play god and precipitate a backlash from nature that could be devastating. In contrast to the anti-play-god bioethicists, this article recommends that laboratory science invoke the Precautionary Principle: pause at the yellow caution light, but then with constant risk-assessment proceed ahead.

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Why is it important?

Fortunately, today's gene-editing scientists are deeply concerned about ethical matters and, almost universally, agree to ban germline engineering. The principal argument: safety. A mistake today in germline engineering could have repercussions for generations to come. Hence, the yellow traffic light: proceed but proceed with caution.


I have studied the slogan, "playing god," since the early Human Genome Project in the 1990s down to the present. The more prudential "safety argument" mentioned above provides a healthier approach to bioethics than does a proscription against playing god.

Prof Ted F Peters
Graduate Theological Union

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This page is a summary of: Should CRISPR Scientists Play God?, Religions, April 2017, MDPI AG, DOI: 10.3390/rel8040061.
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