Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hope and Fear

A little over a year ago CRISPR ("clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats") came to our attention. Now it merits the cover of Time:
Just four years old, this discovery is transforming research into how to treat disease, what we eat and how we’ll generate electricity, fuel our cars and even save endangered species. Experts believe that CRISPR can be used to reprogram the cells not just in humans but also in plants, insects–practically any piece of DNA on the planet. [snip]

Talk to any biologist, geneticist or botanist right now and you will hear a level of excitement that comes only from the emergence of something truly groundbreaking. If the evolution from giant mainframes to personal computers forever changed technology, CRISPR promises to do something similar for genetics–democratizing the power to improve on nature for scientists at nearly all levels of expertise in practically every field.
While human beings don't have the power to control the sun, moon, and stars, we now have at our fingertips the ability to redesign not only ourselves but every living thing. Enormous benefits are on the horizon (rejection-proof organ transplants, resurrection of extinct species, crops immune to disease), but there are also enormous risks:
CRISPR means that most microbes driving infectious diseases are just a few DNA edits away from becoming superstrains that could wipe out unprepared populations....With the tools easily bought online, it would be theoretically possible to engineer a killer mosquito that transmits a deadly disease, or a DNA-damaging virus, that could infect human cells and decimate the population.
As mankind races to acquire God's powers, pray that it falls no farther behind in acquiring His wisdom.

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