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Unnatural selection

CRISPR on Netflix


by and

Published: 29 October 2019 (GMT+10)

The possibility of altering human genetics to create designer babies or to improve the human species has been in the realm of science fiction for decades. Well, the ‘future is here’.

In October of 2019, Netflix released the first season of a new miniseries called Unnatural Selection. It focuses on recent advances in genome editing and the many moral and ethical dilemmas associated with it. As Christians, we need to be aware of this new and growing field, for it is no longer ‘science fiction’. Instead, human cloning, designer babies, and the potential for the genetic enhancement of humans is staring us in the face. We cannot simply claim a few scientists are ‘playing God’, because the ability to do such things is more widespread than most are aware and because the field is advancing quickly. We need to develop an informed view that is based on what is possible and what is actually being done today.

Sadly, we cannot recommend this series to our supporters due to the subject matter and the rough language (including several speakers repeatedly breaking the 3rd Commandment). However, a mature person who wants to gain a better understanding of what is going on in this arena might want to expose themselves to the material. Please use discretion. This series is definitely not for children.

Throughout the series, many of the players anthropomorphize evolution, claiming evolution ‘did’ this or that. But evolution is not a conscious entity. Even if it were real, it could not do anything. One person in the documentary even calls himself an ‘evolutionary engineer’, somehow missing the fact that he mixed a theoretical and random process that has no purpose or design with a decidedly human process of intelligent design and creative thinking. But there is one thing each viewer must remember: the feats of genetic engineering displayed in this series are clearly operational science. The procedures displayed do not directly rely on an evolutionary history or belief, no matter how often they refer to evolution. A quote from Charles Darwin might start each episode, but one of the authors of this article (RC) is part-owner of one of the tools being used by some genetic engineers today.1 In order to have a better idea of the true nature of science in this context, we strongly recommend, before watching this series, everyone first read the article It’s Not Science.

The first season includes four episodes that track several different people: three patients, a biohacker set up to look like a college professor, a laboratory scientist, a dog breeder, a businessman, and two couples. Two of the patients were born with genetic defects. One is slowly going blind. The other is slowly becoming paralyzed. The third patient carries HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). All three are treated with DNA-altering technologies over the course of the show. The ‘professor’ is known for openly advocating biohacking and for experimenting on himself, in public. The dog breeder is an untrained layman who is trying to learn new things. The businessman is trying to sell an antibody to the AIDS patient, using the dog breeder as a manufacturing intermediary. The scientist is trying to convince different communities to release genetically modified species into the local environment. One of the couples is having problems with infertility, so they turn to “three-parent embryo” technology. The other couple wants a blue-eyed boy, so they go to a reproductive clinic.

Although much of the production style gives a notion of ‘reality TV’, as far as we can tell, these are real people and the show is dealing with real situations. This does not mean none of the scenarios were set up on purpose or that the producers did not engineer certain scenes for dramatic effect. But what was being discussed, shocking as it may seem, is certainly in the realm of today’s technology.


At the center of all this activity is a new technology called CRISPR-Cas9. This enzyme system serves as sort of an immune system for some bacterial species. They can take foreign DNA and stick a copy of it into their genome. This requires the ability to find a specific location in the genome, cut the DNA, insert the new DNA, and repair the cut. In the end, they accumulate short sections of viral DNA that together are referred to as ‘clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats’ (CRISPR). These were first discovered in the 1980s. Associated with CRISPRs are a set of genes called CRISPR associated systems (Cas). The proteins produced by these genes have helicase and nuclease motifs, meaning they appeared to have something to do with the DNA structure. They were first reported in 2003.

But in 2012 the world changed.

This was the year several researchers figured out how to use Cas9 as a way to manipulate any DNA they choose. Cas9 uses a guide RNA to ‘find’ a target location in the bacterial genome. The guide section literally sticks to complementary DNA. By changing this RNA, they were able to change the target. Then by changing the other end of the RNA, they were able to change what sequence would be inserted. This has given us an unbelievably powerful and accurate tool for genetic manipulation.

In 2015, the first reports of changing human DNA in cultured human cells were published. Then, to worldwide shock and almost universal condemnation, the birth of several CRISPR-edited babies was reported in China in 2018. The Chinese government rightly shut down the laboratory and the work they were performing. But two girls had already been born (and a third child was already on the way).

Thus, no longer is this a pipedream or the subject of sci-fi. The genetic manipulation of human DNA is a real thing, and the implications are huge. In a few short years, your doctor might sit you down to talk about a new treatment for some ailment you are experiencing. This treatment might just involve the use of CRISPR-Cas9, or something similar. But there is a moral hazard here. Will you remember to ask the doctor how many embryos were destroyed or how many babies were selectively aborted in order to develop this new procedure?

The dog breeder

Dog fanciers are a picky lot. They will pay top-dollar for a unique-looking animal, and they like their pets to not suffer from debilitating problems. Yet, centuries of selective breeding have created many genetic issues in multiple breeds. Thus, the lure of genetic engineering in dogs is strong. Not only can we possibly shorten the amount of time it takes to generate a new breed, but we might be able to fix the problems within existing breeds.

Enter one main character in the series. He is tinkering with dog DNA, with the help of the biohacker. Yet, his words clearly indicate he knows little about what he is doing. He might be a good technician, but he completely misunderstands the technology he is using. In order to perfect his techniques, instead of starting with the gene he wants to insert, he is using a green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene. Full disclosure: this was the subject of my (RC) doctoral dissertation.2 In fact, he might even be using the gene my team patented. He works on his technique until a significant number of cells are ‘glowing’ green under the microscope. In this way, he can be confident that a similar number of cells will receive his DNA of choice when he switches away from GFP. Note: they did not specify what he was trying to add to the dog genome.

But when discussing his green cells, he says, “This is bioluminescence. They produce their own light chemically.” But this is completely false. These cells are not producing their own light (bioluminescence). Instead they are fluorescing. They are taking the UV light and shifting the color to the visible spectrum. We use fluorescent products all the time. You may even be wearing something made with a fluorescent dye. Nobody would say their clothes “glow” in the dark. In fact, “GFP” is clearly marked on the bottom of his petri dish and a black light is clearly visible in the shot. We are not trying to nitpick here. This is basic science. Yet, the dog breeder is able to do his work without truly understanding the basic scientific principles behind what he is working on.

Honestly, this is terrifying. The ‘democratization’ of the human genome was celebrated when it was publicly released in 2001. Today, the genomes of many species can be considered as ‘open source’ code. In some ways, there is a very low cost of entry into genetic engineering. The information is readily available, and the laboratory costs are not astronomical. Anyone with a decent grasp of technique can do all sorts of genetic manipulations with little capital outlay, literally in their garage.

Now consider how much it would cost to clone a human. Or think about what changes could be made to the DNA of living humans by people who only somewhat understand what they are doing. The genetic genie is out of the bottle. Just about anyone, with but a little money and training, can do things with DNA that were unimaginable to Nobel laureates just a few years ago.

The biohacker

Josiah Zayner is known for his advocacy of biohacking and for injecting himself, in public, with CRISPR-Cas9. He claims this was carrying a gene that would enhance muscle growth. But he also says that only a few cells would be transformed and that multiple injections would be required to have any noticeable effect. Many believe his advocacy is reckless. Appealing to “personal choice” and “informed decisions” sound good on the surface, but we are talking about people’s health and minds. Sure, he can do whatever he wants with his body. But who will pay the healthcare costs for him, or others who follow his example, if he messes up? This is not a simple issue.

The blind boy

(Spoiler alert) One of the success stories in this series is that of a boy who is slowly going blind. He was born with a defective gene and the prognosis is total loss of vision. His parents take him to a hospital where they cut open each eye, lift the retina, and add a few drops of a liquid containing a CRISPR-Cas9 system that has been modified to locate the mutation and replace it with a correct version, thus restoring gene function. When we are first introduced to the boy, he is having trouble finding the toys on the floor right next to him. When we last see him, he is racing around a go-cart track and his mother is crying in both fear and delight.

This raises a question: All they did was modify the genes in the cells at the back of his eyes. In the future, it might be possible to do a full-body gene modification so that this boy’s children would not carry the gene. This is referred to as ‘germ cell modification’ and it is almost universally frowned upon by the scientific establishment. The reason for this is that the technology is new, and we cannot be certain that a future human might not be harmed in an as-yet unknown way by changing a gene. Yet, the ability to do exactly that is out in public.

The paralyzed man

Sadly, the young man who was slowly being paralyzed was not helped by an injection of a modified CRISPR-Cas9 into his spinal cord. In fact, after an incident of brain swelling, he is worse off at the end.

The AIDS patient

This is a sad story. He appears to be manipulated by the businessman (who, we learn at the end, died in a hotel room of an apparent suicide). After injecting himself with low doses of an antibody that is reported to stop HIV in its tracks, he obtains a negative result on his next blood test. After consultation, he is pushed into upping his dose while at the same time appearing to get cold feet. The dog breeder and the biohacker are telling him to be careful. In the end, he still carries HIV.

The scientist

Once people realized that you could add CRISPR-Cas9 to the genome of any organism, the concept of a ‘gene drive’ was born. Once in place, the normal process of genetic recombination, where a child has a 50% chance of inheriting a gene carried by a parent, is broken. Instead, once in place the system will copy itself to the other chromosome. When children are conceived, they will inherit one copy from the infected parent, and that will quickly copy itself over to the other chromosome. In the end, the insert will relentlessly spread to all descendants of the original person or animal and could quickly replace all other versions of that gene.

The scientist is shown discussing this with the residents of Martha’s Vineyard (an island off the US East Coast where former president Obama maintains a home). This island is a hotspot for Lyme disease, and the main carrier of the Lyme-carrying ticks is the white footed deer mouse. What if, the scientist argued, they engineered a mouse so that when a tick bit it the tick would die? What if this were put into a gene drive so that it could spread to all mice on the island?

The scary part about gene drives is that there is no way to stop them. The documentary also visited New Zealand, where they are having a tremendous problem with introduced rats. If the rats could be engineered with a gene drive that caused all rats to be male, the species would be wiped out in only a few generations. This is not a fairy tale. We could do this. But what would happen if a male rat with this modification stowed away on a ship and was brought to an Asian port? Rats across Asia, Europe, and Africa would be eradicated, all because the New Zealanders wanted to be rodent free.

The end credits stated that permission had been granted to release tick-killing gene drive mice on Nantucket Island. This is farther offshore than Martha’s Vineyard, but it would not be impossible for an engineered mouse to escape to the mainland. One might even be intentionally brought to shore. “Rats!”

Couple #1

At a medical facility in the Ukraine, couples with infertility problems can have a three-parent baby created. This is done by first removing the nucleus from an unfertilized egg that was obtained from a donor. They then create a fertilized egg from the egg and sperm of the couple, remove the nucleus and insert it into the donor egg. In the end, the child inherits DNA from three people: the parents contribute the nuclear genome and the donor contributes the mitochondrial genome. The documentary shows the process happening under a microscope.

Theoretically, this is inconsequential because it is entirely feasible that this mitochondrial strain could be associated with this new genome at random. It’s not like there is anything ‘new’ being created and all these genetic elements are floating around in the population already. It is also possible that the donor egg has the same mitochondrial DNA as the mother, in which case it would not even be possible to detect the extra ‘mother’.

However, from a biblical perspective the experimentation required to do this leads to the death of human beings (embryos). Also, what would happen if the baby failed to develop properly? We strongly suspect that such a child would be subjected to selective abortion. It grieves us to even think about it.

The US banned this procedure several years ago. What most people don’t know is that about a dozen children came into the world through this procedure before it was banned. They are teenagers now. The UK famously legalized the procedure more recently, and we see in this documentary that people can go to the Ukraine to have it done today. This illustrates a tremendous problem: variability in international law. What might be illegal in one place is not in another. And some places in the world have trouble prosecuting the laws that are on the books.

Couple #2

In another medical facility, two good-looking people come in for a consultation. They want a baby. But they want a blue-eyed baby. The mother has dark hair and striking blue eyes and they want their child to have the same. They also want the child to be a boy.

So the doctor creates eight embryos, allows them to grow to a certain stage, then removes some cells for genetic testing. They find one blue-eyed boy embryo and make the announcement to the now-happy couple. We are told at the end that this resulted in the birth of a healthy baby. What we are not told is the fate of the other seven embryos. They could have been saved for the couple for later use. Or they could have been destroyed. Or they could have been used for experimentation, depending on national laws.

We also wonder how the parent-child relationship might be affected if the resulting child is less than perfect, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. The intentional genetic manipulation of embryos is not a zero-sum game. There are real implications of this, on many different levels.

The moral hazard

Embryologists have decided that it is OK to experiment on embryos less than 14 days old. This is the limit of natural “twinning”, where the embryo can split into two children with no ill effects. It is also the stage at which the neural crest starts to develop. This is the beginning of the nervous system and the ability to move and the ability to detect environmental stimuli rapidly develops from this point. Thus, embryologists generally feel little moral hazard in experimenting on embryos this young. The incipient human cannot feel or think and cannot protest whatever might be happening to it or around it.

From a biblical and scientific perspective, however, life clearly begins at conception. The Bible talks about unborn children as if they were alive. Scientifically, you don’t have human life until you have fertilization of an egg. The egg and the sperm do not even carry a full human genome. When combined, however, nothing will stop the development of that little human short of trauma. Barring a developmental defect, failure to implant in the womb, or, God forbid, an abortion, that fertilized egg will develop into a member of society. The only place to draw the line between life and non-life is at conception. Yet, much of this new knowledge is being generated using human embryos within this 14-day window.


The ability to change human DNA is a serious issue that is not going to go away. We now have the technology to clone humans. We can now select embryos with whatever characteristics we desire. We can now modify defective genes. This is not science fiction any longer. And it is coming to a doctor’s office near you. We need to be informed on these issues, and Christians need to develop an educated opinion on these topics sooner rather than later. Please stay informed, please pray, and please get engaged in these issues at a societal level.

References and notes

  1. Gibbs, P.D.L., Carter, R.W., and Schmale, M.C., Fluorescent Proteins from Aquatic Species. US Patent #7,291,711, 2007. Return to text.
  2. Carter, R.W., Cnidarian Fluorescent Proteins, PhD Dissertation, University of Miami, 2003. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Abe M.
I'm sorry for the off-topic inquiry. I don't know how long it was going to take for CMI to publish another article on biological information (DNA information, etc). I'm sure this information exists on your site, so, just pointing me to some lengthy articles will suffice for my answer. I'm wanting to understand where/how/when the information is observed in DNA. I've read the various articles on information being a pre-requisite for all life, etc., and as a Bible-believing/applying Christian I know all of this is true. This must be what is first being observed then, right? I'm engaging Atheists/evolutionists on the information subject and I'm basically returning to the 'beginning' with them, pressing them for their empirical evidence for where/how/when blind, unintelligent chemical reactions from chemistry and matter alone produce the information sequences in DNA. Any and all help is appreciated! Thank you! =).
Robert Carter
You might want to consider Can mutations create new information? and Mutations Questions and Answers. That will get you started. The atheists you are dealing with will strongly resist this turn of the conversation, so watch out for red herrings.
Ian M.
My second comment will be much shorter than my first. Mankind is in rebellion against his Maker, Jesus Christ, whether he sees it or not. No matter what so called improvements he tries to make through genetic engineering of the human condition, no matter what so called wisdom he spouts forth in defense of his actions, and I am not judging the heart of any genuine Christians in this field, man is on a collision course with His Maker and Judge. Man was given dominion over the living creatures of earth and air, and sea, NOT their genetic coding. He was never granted permission to alter the code of temporal life.
Robert Carter
Except that we can and are doing so. And, some of this will be beneficial to both man and beast. Thus, I must disagree with your conclusion. I believe DNA is under the Dominion Mandate, yet I also believe that man, being in continual rebellion against the Creator, will sometimes use DNA technology to nefarious ends.
Courtney K.
I have no doubt God exists. I've seen plenty of evidence. I'm well past that. But what about Jesus creating a new world where there's no more suffering and disease? We might as well have gotten rid of the diseases on our own with this new prime editing CRISPR. Why would God create the potential to heal? For us to fix ourselves? We're only doing it now. How is that fair to the people of the past? That only we have access to this kind of healing... I don't understand. I thought Jesus was the healer... Not us. I don't want to become a Deist. I want to understand... Free will? I mean, God knew about CRISPR... And prime editing... I hope that gene editing ourselves won't cause people to say that "We don't need God because we can heal our diseases on our own; we don't have to wait until the afterlife. We don't have to pray. We don't have to hope." But that's an argument millions are going to use. What do you think? I mean, unless there's something like this in history... This kind of question is unprecedented and it needs to be answered for believers and unbelievers alike. Could you please send me a copy of what I said when you email because sometimes it only shows your response.
Robert Carter
Using this technology to ease people's suffering is nothing more than an extension of modern medicine. If you think about it, everything in the medical field is designed to counteract the effects of the Curse. And we thank doctors for their work. We have already seen a dramatic increase in lifespan due to the discovery of antibiotics, open heart surgery, etc., etc., so adding this additional weapon to the healing arsenal is really nothing new. Will we forget God? I believe we already have, for the most part. Genetic engineering technology might contribute to this, but we are already far along that path.
Alex W.
Excellent article on a scary subject, but it is good to know that CMI has someone who knows how to read and interpret the science so that the public can understand the implications.
To illustrate how rapidly this field is expanding the journal Nature has released a pre-print article on a newer technique called 'Prime editing' in which the authors say: "Most genetic variants that contribute to disease are challenging to correct efficiently and without excess byproducts. Here we describe prime editing, a versatile and precise genome editing method that directly writes new genetic information into a specified DNA site ... [it] both specifies the target site and encodes the desired edit. ... Prime editing offers efficiency and product purity advantages over homology-directed repair, complementary strengths and weaknesses compared to base editing, and much lower off-target editing than Cas9 nuclease at known Cas9 off-target sites. Prime editing substantially expands the scope and capabilities of genome editing, and in principle could correct about 89% of known pathogenic human genetic variants."
J. R.
I disagree that it is "a step in the right direction" to use a non-viable embryo ... that could never develop properly". That is like saying an embryo with a serious birth defect could never develop properly, so it's O.K. to use it. If it is an embryo it is a person and should be protected.
Robert Carter
Point taken, but let me explain. The "non-viable" embryos were created deliberately. They are not 'defective' embryos but embryos specifically created to be triploid (three copies of each chromosome instead of the normal two copies). Thus, there is no way for them to ever, ever, develop into a human. The papers that describe them say they have gotten around every moral question, but I do not agree. This is 'better' only in the sense that they are not using viable embryos that could turn into adults under the right conditions.
Ron B.
Thanks very much for this article. I greatly appreciate all of your insights and moral cautions. With that said, did you purposely keep this article on the conservative side by describing, mostly, the realms of behavior of 'relatively' moral people. The one mention you made of 'intentional' transfer of an animal to another geographic area seems more than conjecture to me. If the science is so easily accessible to the public, that means that every politician, dictator, criminal and terrorist in the world have this at their disposal. They don't have to wait for the Nantucket project to produce several offspring before they take action. Doesn't it seem highly likely multiple attempts with disastrous intentions are already in process to engineer all sorts of scenarios among wildlife? I don't want to sound like a doomsday prophet. I'm saying that it sounds as though the threat to national and international security has become a lot more complicated than I realized.
Robert Carter
We definitely moderated both our wording and our examples. We do not wish to put ideas in people's minds about what nefarious deeds might be possible. One of the purposes of the article, however, was to open up people's eyes to what can be done, only we chose not to spell things out directly.
Elliot T.
Thanks guys for the excellent article, as usual. My wife and I had just finished the series. I went online and started looking into any reported problems with this technology. It appears there are issues with so called “off target “ effects which means that not just the selected genes are effected but many other genes are as well. These they refer to as benign mutations. Neither the series or your article mentioned this. However in one paper I read, this technology had produced rabbits with seriously enlarged tongues as well as a livestock that grew extra vertebra. In one example they cited over 1500 such benign mutations in one animal experiment. At this stage this technology may seem promising to a small lovable carefully selected little boy, but this is potentially very dangerous business with serious ramifications.
Robert Carter
Correct, there are problems with accuracy of CRISPR-Cas9. Also correct, we did not mention it directly. But there are newer gene editing systems being written about that are much more specific. These will be a big improvement. Also, it should be possible to better fine-tune what we already have. The question is, will we as a society be willing to wait until these techniques are perfected before we start asking if we should be changing people's DNA. Sadly, it looks like the answer is, "No".
Roger R.
Looking at dinosaur fossils, some look very like genetically modified organisms for use in warfare. We are told the earth was "filled with violence" and a Stegosaurus was be a good, self replicating tank. The result was God could no longer tolerate them living as they were. Are we coming to the same point? Is this yet another of the multitudinous signs that the time is ripe for Jesus to return and finish sin for ever?
Robert Carter
Do not forget that all of the giant animals of the past are now extinct, including giant armadillos, giant wombats, giant platypuses, and giant penguins. See the excellent book Monumental Monsters by Vance Nelson. Also, there are many small dinosaurs. Thus, just because some dinosaurs were large does not make a good case for them being genetically engineered.
Ian M.
Why should we be surprised with this information? Man is a fool. He is puffed up in his knowledge, thinking that he can do what he likes with the very building blocks of life. There are some areas of operation that man has to leave alone for his own good. But no, he just has to interfere with everything that God has set in order. Man cannot fix man's problems, without God's Wisdom, and he is too proud to ask for that so he continues in his folly and he will be judged by his Maker one day. very soon. The crow, that cunning black bird the cousin of the raven, says every day "arrrrk" - "arrrrrrrk" ("remember the Ark".) I once heard a few decades ago, a scientist being interviewed on National Radio (Australia) saying that for every 'successful' invention we make, we create 15 other problems. (NOT A QUOTE). If this is true, or anywhere near true, and judging from hindsight, one might suppose so, then "we have a problem Houston". In the days of Noah "Jehovah saw that the evil of man was great on the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart (see Matthew 12:34,35; Luke 6:45) was only evil all the day long". Jesus said as it was in the days of Noah SO SHALL IT BE IN THE DAYS OF THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN (Matt 24:37). Couple the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and this "Unnatural Selection" with robotic engineering...and what do we have? Rebellion against the Almighty like earth has never known before. Acts 2:38
Pete B.
One wanders how these arguments will look when science determines how to establish dominant edits within an unfertilised egg or sperm. The idea that this is impossible (don't know if it is or not) is simply stating that science does not yet have that level of understanding. What is clear is that research in this area will continue. What is not clear is how God believing peoples will respond to it, and indeed, what nature of response is biblical.
Kevan Q.
Genetic engineering is not actually new: The enemy used it in Genesis 6, attempting to pollute the human genome to avoid the birth of the messiah. Angels who 'left their first estate' took them wives of the daughters of men, which was likely the reason for the global flood that left only Noah (perfect in his generations) and his family. Satan hates mankind because God loves us, but God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. I'm thinking the current splicing with non-human genes works along the same lines: It produces artificial non-humans (and their offspring) who look like humans, but who cannot be saved.
Robert Carter
The meaning of the brief passage in Genesis 6 is debatable. See Who were the sons of God in Genesis 6? and The return of the Nephilim? by Gary Bates and my review of the genetics of the situation in The watchers and genetic diversity. I must take exception to the idea that we might be able to produce humans that cannot be saved. There are alien enthusiasts who have said similar things about supposed alien-human hybrids. This pernicious idea touches a raw nerve around here. Yet, human technology has advanced to the point where we can grow miniature human brains in a petri dish. It might be possible in the future to do much more, which will help to blur the line between human and 'other', which should trouble us all greatly.
Col M.
If a defect in the DNA can be detected, isolated, and repaired that sounds great. But in Genetic Entropy, a book I understood about one tenth of, I got the impression that DNA is not just read "across the page". It can be read backwards, sideways and up and down. "Fixing" a problem in one direction could create a far worse one in one of the other directions. Its a bit like selecting properties in dog breeds can result in exactly the shape and size dog we want, but with arthritis, bladder control, or breathing issues. Am I wrong? Is the science so precise now that we aren't going to be given a worse problem after "fixing" a lesser one? And by the sounds of it, giving that worse problem to all our subsequent descendants?
Robert Carter
Yes, most people are worried about the 'downstream' ramifications because we understand how complex the genome is. However, in something like sickle cell anemia, we know what letter was changed. Changing it back to the original should not have unexpected effects. Yet, 'off-target' changes are a real problem with CRISPR-Cas9, so even if we know what we want to change there is no guarantee that we will do it successfully, completely, or solely. But newer gene editing technologies are being developed that will reduce the off-target threat significantly.
Martyn M.
Great article. What puzzles me is I thought the DNA was discovered to be multidimensional, so if you change one section of it, say making brown eyes blue, that section of the DNA may also be used for other purposes thus causing problems elsewhere?
Robert Carter
Yes, this is a real problem. We are going to have to do a lot of experimenting and destroy a lot of embryos to perfect these techniques, and even then we we will not know the long-term effects until the children grow up, or maybe even until they have children of their own. Hence, this is a very difficult issue with multiple moral entanglements.
Ed R.
I keep thinking about the paralyzed young man and his family hoping to . . . what? . . . gain some minor relief from the continual degradation of his physical body until he dies? How blessed they would be to know that redemption and resurrection are available so that they can live each day in the hope of eternity. If he can find a legitimate means now to gain some relief, so much the better. But what a blessing it would be for them to know that "the sufferings of this present life cannot compare with the glory to be revealed" (Romans 8:18) in those who trust the Resurrection One.
Simply amazing. Thanks so much for this article.
Howard K.
I have to wonder if these experiments won't come back to bite them. I know something about coding, and you can't make changes in the program without knowing how the whole program works. The best you can do is to test it extensively with all kinds of data until you are reasonably sure that nothing bad will happen when someone else runs it. Even if your changes don't seem to have any ill effects for the part of the program whose function you want to change; that doesn't mean that they will not mess up something else. And the only way to test DNA modification is to see what happens to the children and grandchildren, etc. over a long period of time. You can't test it in a lab. Besides all this, Mr. Carter claims that there are "multiple overlapping" codes (I believe that is what he calls it). How does that factor in? No, at best, these guys are poking around in something that they know virtually nothing about; and the results are sure to be disastrous in the long run. Finally, when the bad results start showing themselves, this technology may become unprofitable, and be abandoned.
Steve M.
Hey guys, thanks for the article. I had to stop halfway though because I've only seen Ep 1 and I sensed spoilers ahead! :-) However, there's no mention in Josiah Zayner's wiki bio, that he is (or was) a "College Professor", nor did I pick that up from watching the first episode. Although he certainly has scientific credentials. Worth a re-check perhaps? As one who has more than a passing interest in the craft of documentary making, I found this a fascinating, compelling (and vaguely terrifying) watch. It certainly paints a clear picture of the very real possibilities now available in the realm of genetic engineering. From a Biblical perspective, the eschatological implications of this branch of science could be profound indeed. Are we on the cusp of a new scientific 'babel' that will warrant divine intervention? Time will tell...
Robert Carter
Thanks, Steve. I cleaned up the language to better reflect the real situation. Being that they set him up in front of what looks like a college class, most viewers will assume that he is a professor. The word is now in scare quotes and he is now referred to as a 'biohacker' in most instances.
Rodney A.
Can any of this be done using adult stem cells please. Abortion is wrong so is adult stem cell DNA manipulation biblically ok perhaps?
Robert Carter
Essentially all of this could be done with adult stem cells. Problem is, scientists have figured out how to reprogram adult stem cells to trick them into thinking they are embryonic stem cells, so the line has become very, very blurry. The first CRISPR-Cas9 editing in human cells was done on "non-viable embryos" (eggs fertilized in such a way that could never develop properly). This is one step in the right direction from experimenting on pluripotent fetal stem cells, but this same laboratory immediately made the jump to creating gene-edited human babies (which were born several years ago).

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