Scientists are Not Happy About Edited Chinese Babies

Dr. Baltimore added, “I don’t think it has been a transparent process. We only found out about it after it happened, and after the children were even born. I personally don’t think it was medically necessary.”

“Why so much secrecy around this, particularly when you know the general feeling around the scientific community is we shouldn’t go ahead yet?” Dr. Lovell-Badge asked. “You know the accusation now is that you’ve broken the law. If you had involved the Chinese authorities, they might have said you can’t do it.”

After Dr. He’s presentation, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis S. Collins, issued a scathing denunciation, calling it “a deeply disturbing willingness by Dr. He and his team to flaunt international ethical norms.”

“It is profoundly unfortunate that the first apparent application of this powerful technique to the human germline has been carried out so irresponsibly,” Dr. Collins said, calling for international consensus on setting limits for such research. “Without such limits, the world will face the serious risk of a deluge of similarly ill-considered and unethical projects. Should such epic scientific misadventures proceed, a technology with enormous promise for prevention and treatment of disease will be overshadowed by justifiable public outrage, fear, and disgust.”

This quote is interesting too:

“Science is open, science is collaborative and communicative,” Feng Zhang, one of the inventors of the Crispr-Cas9 system and a core member of the MIT Broad Institute, said after Dr. He’s presentation. “What he has done was not transparent. It was against the community’s consent and it does not represent science.”

@purposenation will want to see this article.


On the other hand, George Church:

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Yes, this is pretty disappointing from Dr. Church.

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This is perhaps the most damning statement in the interview:

If the major motivator was testing a new technology on babies, then the ethical problems are pretty obvious.

Church claims that there aren’t any major problems with off target edits in lab animals, but it isn’t up to Church or Dr. He to decided when the technique is safe enough. That decision belongs to the larger scientific and medical community, and they know it.


I think Church is probably right that the technique is safe enough, but I agree that this isn’t a decision for any lone researcher to make, the global scientific and medical community have to be the ones to come to that conclusion.

I know that “gene editing” is a term of art, in this arena, but it seems as though any time babies are “edited” there’s something inherently wrong.

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Actually it doesn’t. The decision belongs to Governments. This is true of any treatment.

If Dr He broke the law in China. He will have to answer to it.

I highly doubt China is going to do anything about it.

All we have to do is wait for China to create super soldiers.

Chinese government, encouragingly, seems fairly upset about this.

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Really? Who knew.

Although, I have to admit, we (Serbia) had a lot (a LOT) of business, military and scientific dealings with China over the past couple of years, and nothing unethical has ever come up.

At least in liberal governments in the West, no government can force a scientist to do a specific experiment nor can they force doctors to use treatments they disagree with. We are talking about ethics, not necessarily law. Laws describe what you can and can’t do. Ethics is what you should or shouldn’t do.

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It looks like the Chinese government is going to take action against the scientists who carried out these experiments.


Medicines and treatment methods need permissions before proceeding to human trial.
All countries regulate this.

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