Imagine a world free of genetic diseases, where parents control their offspring's height, eye color and intelligence. The science may be closer than you think. Genes interact in ways that we don't fully understand and there could be unintended consequences, new diseases that result from our tinkering. But even if the science could be perfected, is it morally wrong? Would it lead to eugenics and a stratified society where only the rich enjoy the benefits of genetic enhancement? Or would the real injustice be depriving our children of every scientifically possible opportunity?
John Donvan is a correspondent for ABC News Nightline. He has served as ABC White House Correspondent, along with postings in Moscow, London, Jerusalem and Amman.
Nita A. Farahany is a leading scholar on the ethical, legal, and social implications of biosciences and emerging technologies, particularly those related to neuroscience and behavioral genetics. She holds a joint appointment as Professor of Law at Duke Law and research professor at Duke University's Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy. In 2010, she was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, and continues to serve as a member.
Farahany's recent scholarship includes "Searching Secrets," University of Pennsylvania Law Review (2012), which explores the descriptive potential of intellectual property law as a metaphor to describe current Fourth Amendment search and seizure law and to predict how the Fourth Amendment will apply to emerging technology. She also is the editor of The Impact of Behavioral Sciences on Criminal Law (2011), a book of essays from experts in science, law, philosophy, and policy. Farahany clerked for Judge Judith W. Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In 2011, Farahany served as a visiting associate professor of law and the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Stanford Law School. She teaches courses related to criminal law and criminal procedure, along with courses at the intersection of law, science, and philosophy
Sheldon Krimsky is the Lenore Stern Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Department of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning in the School of Arts & Sciences at Tufts University. He is also an Adjunct Professor in Public Health and Family Medicine in the School of Medicine at Tufts University. Krimsky's research has focused on the linkages between science/technology, ethics/values and public policy. He is the author of over 180 papers and 11 books, including Genetic Justice: DNA Databanking, Criminal Investigations and Civil Liberties (2010) and co-editor of Race and the Genetic Revolution (2011) and Genetic Explanations: Sense and Nonsense (2013). Krimsky has been elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for "seminal scholarship exploring the normative dimensions and moral implications of science in its social context."
Lee M. Silver is a professor at Princeton University in the Department of Molecular Biology and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He also has joint appointments in the Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, the Center for Health and Wellbeing, the Office of Population Research, and the Princeton Environmental Institute, all at Princeton University. Silver's latest book is Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life (2006). Silver's previous book, Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family (1998) is published in 16 languages. He has published over 180 scientific articles in the fields of genetics, evolution, reproduction, embryology, computer modeling, and behavioral science, and other scholarly papers on topics at the interface between biotechnology, law, ethics, and religion. He was a member of the New Jersey Bioethics Commission Task Force formed to recommend reproductive policy for the New Jersey State Legislature, and has testified on reproductive and genetic technologies before U.S. Congressional and New York State Senate committees.
Robert Winston, Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London, runs a research program in the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology on transgenic technology in animal models, with a long-term aim of improving human transplantation. His research led to the development of gynecological microsurgery in the 1970s and various improvements in reproductive medicine, subsequently adopted internationally, particularly in the field of endocrinology and IVF. His work on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis enabled families carrying gene defects to have children free of fatal illnesses. He has been a visiting professor at a number of American, Australian and European universities and was President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 2005. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of Queen Mary College, and holds honorary Fellowships with the Royal Academy of Engineering, Institute of Biology, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
Lord Robert Winston, Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College, argues genetic engineering is a slippery slope that will lead to the return of the evil eugenics practices by the Nazis.
Nita Farahany, Professor of Law and Genome Sciences and Policy at Duke University, argues that genetically engineering babies is a necessity because it has the possibility curbing the onset of certain diseases.