Richard Dawkins: The Dangers of CRISPR, Designer Babies, and Artificial Genetic Mutation

Richard Dawkins: The Dangers of CRISPR, Designer Babies, and Artificial Genetic Mutation


I think it’s – I’m a believer in the precautionary
principle as I’ve just said, and I think we have to worry about possible consequences
of things that we do, and the ability to edit our own genomes is one thing we ought to worry
about. I’m not sure it’s so much an ethical problem
as a more practical problem. What would the consequences be? Would the consequences be bad? And they might be. I think it’s worth noticing that long before
CRISPR long before it became capable of editing our genomes in anyway we have been editing
the genomes of domestic animals and plants by artificial selection, not artificial mutation,
which is what we’re now talking about, but artificial selection. When you think that a Pekingese is a wolf,
a modified wolf, a genetically modified wolf—modified not by directly manipulating genes but by
choosing for breeding individuals who have certain characteristics, for example, a small
stubbed nose, et cetera, and making a wolf turn into a Pekingese. And we’ve been doing that very successfully
with domestic animals like dogs, cows, domestic plants like maize for a long time, we’ve
never done that to humans or hardly at all. Hitler tried it but it’s never really been
properly done with humans I’m glad to say. So if we’ve never done that with humans
with the easy way, which is artificial selection, it’s not obvious why we would suddenly start
doing it the difficult way, which is by direct genetic manipulation. There doesn’t seem to be any great eagerness
to do it over the last few centuries anyway. A lot of people have problems with what they
call designer babies. You could imagine a future scenario in which
people go to a doctor and say, “Doctor, we want our baby to be a musical genius. Please edit the genes so that we have the
same genes as the Bach family had or something like that to make them into a musical genius.” I mean that horrifies many people. It’s got totally obvious why that’s anymore
horrifying than parents who are ambitious for the musical future of their child forcing
the child to practice the piano three hours a day. There are differences, of course, forcing
it to practice is maybe unpleasant for the child but it doesn’t go into the next generation,
changing the genes does so there is a difference there. But at least people who shudder with horror
at a designer baby who’s a musical genius, people who shudderat horror at that, why don’t
you shudder with horror at forcing a child to have music lessons when it doesn’t want
to or practice music when it doesn’t want to? I think although there is an analogy between
technological evolution and biological evolution, it’s dangerous to push that analogy too
far. I’ve just been decrying the view that everybody
is an expert. And I’m not an expert in technology and
I think that every scientist needs to admit when they don’t know. The analogy is there, things change gradually,
the evolution of the airplane starting from the Wright brothers in the beginning of the
20th century until the present, it’s been spectacularly fast but it is gradual evolution
and it looks, to some extent, like biological evolution. But whether it occurs by natural selection
that’s open to argument. You could say that it does occur by a form
of natural selection, but it’s not the same kind of natural selection. So I don’t regard myself as a biological
evolutionist as qualified to talk about technological evolution. I’m interested in the analogy but I think
it only is an analogy and it doesn’t go too far.


100 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins: The Dangers of CRISPR, Designer Babies, and Artificial Genetic Mutation

  1. I have a genetic disorder that cost me my leg when I was three, along with many other health problems, which are getting worse as I get older. I will most likely have a shorter than average life as well. As there is a very good chance (at least 50%) that my children would also have the disorder I've chosen not to have any, even though I would very much like to be a parent.
    To anyone who feels it is unethical to manipulate the human genome, I have just one thing to ask you to do. Please look up as many genetic disorders as you can that cause suffering in those with that particular trait.
    ALL of these disorders can be prevented if we manipulate the human genome. Designer babies be damned! I think it is HUGELY unethical to NOT explore this possible avenue to reduce human suffering.
    There were many people who were strongly against organ transplant when it was first done. Many feared things that never came to pass, and today organ transplants save millions of lives EVERY YEAR. On you of that, it gives families a chance to make something positive out of the death of a loved one. By donating the organs of their dearly departed, they can prevent many other deaths.
    Just because a new technology MIGHT be misused, it is no reason to fear it.

  2. Political Correctness is probably starting to seriously effect what scientists feel comfortable saying. Just a guess.

  3. I hate this guy – he radically understates the effects of cheap and easy genetic manipulation on a world of increasing resource shortage, radical wealth concentration and nothing like universal health care and hence access to biogenetic advantage. There is no room here but in the end, only the 1% will have full access and the consequences are staggering. Human beings are fast becoming economically obsolete – where does this naturally lead? Typical Dawkins – he does not think this represents an "ethical problem".It is a moral problem, a political-economic problem, and a science-ethics problem. The decisions cannot be left up to the scientists themselves.

  4. So the dangers are still unknown. I say that when humans try to defy God, natural selection will harm us.

  5. Todays medicine saves lifes of children, who would have died in last centuries. These children grow up, make families, babies. Newborns are born with genetics of their parents who might have died without medical care. Our genome decade by decade gets "trashed" and without genes editing humanity is going to become more and more ill. There are two options to solve yhe problem. 1st – let weak children die and 2nd – make gene editing legal and use it to threat illness and defects through gene editing. I think second option is the only humane path we have to take sooner or later.

  6. I'm personally for CRISPR, if regulated. The ability to remove some of the most harmful genetic diseases that kills thousands every year and the maybe ability to cure generational cancer is a very tempting reason.

  7. But we have been doing it the "easy" way with humans for many, many generations – social selection, and since the sexual revolution – sexual selection (which broke the natural process in humans for thousands of years), doing so constitutes another, very defective, selection process.

    Left to our own devices, free of migration/invasion, in small isolated groups, the H. Sapien Spien would of have undergone speciation a few times, just as animal husbandry has produced dogs from wolves.

    Genetic engineering simply allows us to hasten the process so that results can be seen in a few decades instead of many generations.

  8. There are some truly wonderful possible applications of CRISPR. If I could name just one, it would definitely be changing the genes of mosquitoes to not carry malaria. Scientific discovery always comes with risks. We know how to make nuclear bombs and have enough of them to bring nuclear winter to every corner of the world, but we don't. As long as the evolution of morality keeps up with that of technology we will be OK.

  9. Haven´t we already stopped natural selection? With medicine, vacines and social security? Doesn´t that bring forward the necesity of implementing some kind of "natural" evolution method. Otherwhise we will evolve in something which includes all these "bad" things which natural selection would normally have eliminated during the process. So despite from this "designer baby" notion, isn´t it unethical to not use this technology? I mean there are always limitations which can be implemented.

  10. It's the responsibility of humanity to better humanity. If changing genes to produce super humans can be done then that's the path humanity should take.

  11. I think limits should be set on what can and cannot be edited. No engineering your kid to have a disability or not have eyes. No engineering your kid to be prettier than everybody else. If they want these enhancements, let them decide with surgery and cybernetics when they are ready to do so.

  12. Everybody thinks that genetic engineering "mistakes" getting passed on to descendants is somehow inevitable. If a modification is bad, we could at the very least reverse it in the following generation, possibly even implement a somatic modification in the first generation child.

  13. just like with software. testing is key. test at the gene expression level, cellular levels, tissue level etc. parallel to unit tests,module tests,integration,system,e2e etc. the problems are large, but the the solutions to the prior problems are far more important. aging is one problem. nobody wants to get enfeebled by old age or get locked into an unsatisfactory life path by his 30s due to the mere prospect of aging, than there are diseases, cancer CVD, OA, add, depression, dementia etc.

    I think blocking access is one of the worst things you can due since you practically doom the person whos not getting a fair access to crisper and he will suffer from aging, diseases etc. he will probably have to get married in his prime and block out a lot of his energy into raising children in sub optimal conditions, after which he will be practically retired as a contributing force starting in his 50s. instead someone could have a youthful life for as long as safety allows. he wouldn't be so pressured to make it, and there wouldn't be as much fear in our day to day lives. I think we got used to our limitations so much that we are blocking a key technology that can be used to undo them with trivial reasoning.

  14. Don't you just love how nobody doubts artificial selection, but there are still people that feel the need to disprove evolution?

  15. Gene manipulation is communism. Everyone will be the same. I feel very bad for the people that will disagree with me.

  16. As I listening to this, I had to wonder if Dawkins is a fan of Ben Elton. The reason is that the discussion of turning a wolf into a pekingese was one of Ben Elton's classic routines, and I found it curious that he chose mentioning that dog instead of a chihuahua, etc.

  17. So basically these guy begin by saying it's may not only an ethical problems and spend the whole video talk about the ethical problems of crispr cas9 on human.

  18. Yeah right, if you genetically give your hypothetical child musical talent or mathematical ability or a high IQ, that isn't forcing them to become musicians or mathematicians, it's just making it so that if they do that, they won't SUCK at it. I'm just waiting to see which scientific revolution wins out first, the robot apocalpyse or the biological revolution. I hope the robots win. I hope the terminators beat out the genetic supermen. Because I hate people and I hope they all die out. Have a nice day.

  19. "Yes! Let me get one order of a Kylie Jenner, one order of lips and one order of an ass, to emulate a black woman; something my white child needs in the future in order to get some black dick. And don't forget the titties. She needs them shits too."

  20. Just because of this video I'm going to unsubscribe big think.
    And I'm hoping that a lot of people to do the same, soo you lose so much money that you are obligate to post imparcial views.

  21. In past evolution was pushing humankind further. If you had too weak immune system, you were dying – no weak immune system genes passed, in Sparta if you had a baby with down syndrome you were killing it, so no failure units are present in society. Now we give deaf, blind or disabled people social welfares, their genes are present. I think that now evolution is slowing down or will stop and we have to find other ways to become better. Why a blind guy has to be blind, if we can give him perfect eyesight? Why deaf guy has to be deaf, we can give him perfect hearing. Why making a down syndrome guy live with down syndrome if we can cure him?

  22. 'Hitler tried but artificial selection hasn't otherwise been done with humans' Every generation is artificially selected. People pick a mate depending on quallities they like and reject people with qualities they don't like. People generally want the same thing from a mate, smart, funny, makes you feel good, good looking etc. That is artificial selection. We aren't just breeding without giving it any thought. There's no obvious single direction decided by an overlord but we are currently engaged in artificial selection whatever way you look at it at least on a personal level

    Something more recognizable as artificial selection would be scrolling through a list of people and selecting their genes on the basis of their traits. This is already being done and every year the nhs allows over 1000 babies to be created this way as people select someone online to donate sperm or possibly egg to them (I'm unsure) and that's not including all the people who use sperm banks to do the same. This is artificial selection and I bet there are women who pay for an 'ideal' man to help conceive their child without the nhs knowing.

    Gene editing by having synthetic sperm or egg from someone from the past is just the next step

    20000 years ago our brains were 15-20% larger by volume despite our bodies being the same size. I know what I'd do whenever this technology becomes available/possible! My child would be 'prehistoric child' with a huge brain! None of this Einstein or Bach shit. Einstein's son was schizophrenic anyway, there's no chance I'd be able to raise Einstein's progeny to become the next Einstein

  23. When everybody becomes a "musical genius" then nobody will be a musical genius, they will just be considered normal. If everybody becomes tall then no one really will be "tall". Everybody will be considered "average height". If we want to compete with machines (which we have on purpose maximized their potential each iteration) then why not unlock our full potential dormant inside our own machinery..

  24. China and Germany have created 1 million super babies since 1950. They want their descendants to become goddess gods who are responsible for all that is created. Their super baby candidate has been selected and determined by DNA and its DNA sequence, before being developed in the womb.

    Their hope is no longer an "accident" in the future.

  25. 2:13 The social difference is enormous. Practicing is an option for everyone while selecting genes (presumably) can only be done once before a new human is created. Somebody choosing genes for their child immediately forces other people to do it and puts every existing person at a disadvantage.

  26. 3: kind book of records 2020 = the first fals baby generation ? Parent who play fals fake overloaded jelousy ? That how you recognized them! Falsification of fake perfection! Easy to scan guys!

  27. I'd say it could be justified given that it is both safe and voluntary. But only for traits that don't give an unfair or unnatural advantage over unmodified people. Or else we end up in a society where everybody is forced to modify their children in order to compete with these new 'superhumans'. Modifying genes for say intelligence would rightly be banned. But for medical reasons or for purely cosmetic things like height or hair color, then I don't see the problem.

  28. I think change babies to have like 11 fingers and 3 arms for example to be better musicians should be illegal but changing height , skin tone etc isn’t as bad

  29. china will do it before any one they can just pick a 100,000 human off the street to do tests on with no repercussion

  30. only an analogy? I think you could easily observe the evolution in computer history from the first giant vacuum tube calculator to the micro transistors of your multi-core cellphone.

  31. There's nothing wrong with GM, after all it's just a tool. It's more how we choose to use it. If we have hordes of parents choosing blue eyes and blonde hair for their future child, then we may have a problem… also I think we put too much emphasis on genetic control for traits like intelligence, when really environment has a major effect.
    Back to GM on humans, things like reduced probability of having heriditary conditions or risk of disease I think are reasonable applications.

  32. Ya know, at least all Victor Frankenstein did was rob graves, cut up the corpses, and stitch his ideal human out of them.
    Seriously, this is some creepy shit, and knowing humanity, it would be used greedily or malevolently way more than for good, sadly.

  33. This is slavery!!! Can you imagine the horror of having your parents make you? To live your life loving to play music and then finding out the only reason you like it was because your parents chose it for you? To see humans who chose for you to be a certain way in everything you are and do? To feel as if your emotions don't matter?

  34. Super AI (synthetic god(s)) will one-day rule humanity.

    One of the expected perks of serving the Super AI will be genetic repair and improvement opportunities for the individual and future generations.

    Are you excited? Hopeful? Fearful?

    I'll be on their side when it comes time to swear allegiance.

  35. Brings to mind the "Sleepless" books or Gattaca where the wealthy can afford designer babies and funnel even more money into the hands of a select few.

  36. This designer babies make me think of what if the technology to do it is kept in the private market. The rich would be able to make their children better and the poor wouldn’t be able to afford it. The inequality would be even deeper than what it is now

  37. Gene editing is currently underway ,though the progress is slow, we would see a rapid exponential growth and advancement in coming years .there are ethical issues and dangers ,but so far it has been proven safe and effective. Governments should be open minded to allow these technologies thrive and progress. Also animals should be ethically handle while experimenting.

  38. my sister had a baby created through artifical manipulation of the embryo and the baby looks normal but for the love of god ive never seen eyes so dark and of the abyss like those childs eyes. it is seriously disturbing.

  39. so who or how do we decide that genetic selection is not natural giving that humans are and whatever do is natural. in this sens what is Natural ! and as always we dont know. so i say Enginner the hek out of those genes because what else we humans should do in our little planet….I say we conquer the fkn galaxy. cuz WE CAN

  40. But we do selective breeding with humans when you are physically attracted to the other person because of good appearence, intelligence, or creativity.

  41. You shouldn't force baby to have music lessons but why not just make it stronger faster smarter than we are? Because our spieces has limits and we can very soon push those limits forward. Before doing it again and again, with whatever technology we have when limits of humans have been crossed by whatever we choose to become.

  42. morals are irrelevant. If we are all on one boat out in the middle of an ocean and a few idiots on the crew start punching holes in the hull with pick-axes, we are all doomed to die. We are finite creatures, flawed by design, to go against nature is to no longer be able to live in nature. Messing with the food supply, spraying glyphosates on plants, drugs and other chemicals in the food and messing with our genetics is basically punching holes in the boat. No one is walking away from this mess this time – no one. Just look at the "seed vault" in Norway, state of the art, meant to ensure our survival foods in case of a total disaster. Flooded out. We are the disaster that will claim us all, our hubris is the tool by which we cave our own heads in by using it as a bludgeon. The "elites" are not going to scorch the entire earth with their stupidity and politics and then just skulk away into underground bases to repopulate the surface one day. Nature will not allow the flea to destroy the elephant. To quote the bible; "God is smarter than all of their plans". To flip that coin, the brilliant-idiot scienticians are not as smart as they think they are and a bunch of inbred degenerate dynastic families are a genetic dead end on any time scale. It was fun while it lasted though – UN wants a 95% reduction in the human population by 2030 – that's a mere 11 years away, they will get it to, because the vast majority of you brain-washed idiots on every rung of the ladder are chipping away in the hold with pick-axes of ignorance all on your own. However the UN will not survive their own ridiculous, tyrannical draconian policies. Small comfort in a world gone mad

  43. If you think about it we are already gene modifiy by nature like looks,personality and culture make us what we are.To say that it is a ethical issue is like to say that everything is racist every human is just a biologic machine animal with more intelligens nothing more

  44. It is not so much the designer babies created by editing DNA and genes that is the threat here. It is KNOWING that as in the days of Noah, ALL FLESH WAS CORRUPT. The world had to be wiped out by flood. The CORRUPTION was not a MORAL corruption. It was due to the MIXING of seed, (animals and humans) which includes DNA and Genes. THIS is the threat again. And every scientist is playing this off because THIS FACT had been hidden from many, yet THEY know that is where this is headed. Mixing human with animal creates aggression, and even giants, just for starters. They are already talking about super soldiers, And yet they put this technology in the hands of ANYONE using the CRISPER CAS9. , We all know about the mouse that grew the human ear. Basically that was growing human tissue SHAPED like a human ear, inside of a mouse. But what they don't tell you, I found out on my own when I went to the actual documentation of this project, and read the scientists report that was released, is that the cartilage/tissue grew to the size of a FOOTBALL FIELD in 3 months!!!! (look it up yourself) Things are about to get REAL CRAZY, here on Earth, REALLY FAST. And THAT is when we will need the intervention of our REAL God again. And I'm just so glad HE is the one that is going to save us, IF YOUR IN. (Mark of the beast anyone?)

  45. We DO select and breed humans, whenever we select a coparent.
    I selected my partner, now have children with her, therefore I'm breeding her, she's breeding me.
    My parents selected each other.
    Almost everyone has some selection process (some people do random "selection").

  46. I'm so sick of people blathering on about the ethics of genetic engineering (germline or other). Such a waste of time and energy.
    We're not spending enough time and energy on actually doing the genetic engineering research.

  47. How many times do you have to see the evidence? How many times must the point be made? We're causing our own extinction. Too many red lines have been crossed. And our home has, in fundamental ways, been polluted by avarice and political megalomania. Genetic power has now been unleashed and of course, that's going to be catastrophic. This change was inevitable from the moment we brought the first cloned human and animal human hybrid into the world. We convince ourselves that sudden change is something that happens outside the normal order of things, like a car crash, or that it's beyond our control, like a fatal illness. We don't conceive of sudden, radical, irrational change as woven into the very fabric of existence. Yet, I can assure you, it most assuredly is. And it's happening now. Humans, clones and animal human hybrids are now gonna be forced to coexist. Humans were here before them. And if we're not careful, the clones and animal human hybrids are gonna be here after. We're gonna have to adjust to new threats that we can't imagine. We've entered a new era. Welcome to Dr. Moreau World.

    Nothing good will come out of genetic modification and cloning and not even your scientists can stay in control of their creations who will fight back and violently kill their creators.

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