Modern Eugenics?

CRISPR technology gives scientists the ability to “…quickly and precisely alter, delete, and re-arrange the DNA of nearly any living organism…” (Specter, pg. 36). CRISPR opens seemingly endless opportunities for scientists. It is exhilarating because scientific advancements can be made like no other. CRISPR technology can allow scientists to try and eliminate diseases, such as HIV (Specter, pg. 40). However, it is also terrifying because it can provide scientists with the power “…to correct a genetic flaw or to enhance a desired trait…” within people (Specter, pg. 40). These are just some examples of how the power of CRISPR technology is both exhilarating and terrifying. 

CRISPR most certainly holds the potential to be developed into a second, market-based eugenics movement. By enabling people to pick and choose ‘desired’ traits, we place tremendous power in people who could easily abuse that power. I use ‘desired’ in quotations because everyone’s perception of a ‘desired’ trait is subject to their views. There is no set standard of ‘desired’ traits outside of the traits that people think are superior to others based on societal standards. CRISPR would open the door for the beliefs and practices of eugenicists to rise to prominence again. If abused, CRISPR could wipe out any trait that is seen as ‘undesirable’ by people in power. There are plenty of dystopian films and books out there about societies that think, act, and look alike. CRISPR would allow for people in power to create this dystopian world. Yes, it is possible that individual people could simply select the traits they view as ‘desired’ for their child and it doesn’t have to become as extreme as a dystopian, fictional world. However, eugenics began as a small group and it found its way into our governments and laws. CRISPR poses the same threat. Its existence, while having many exciting possibilities, is ultimately terrifying because of the abuse of power and the threatening second wave of eugenics that could ensue.

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