CRISPR-Cas9, the new gene modification tool, which has been heralded as a means for inserting ourselves into evolution, is itself evolving as a technology…On the immediate horizon, we are starting to see the silhouette of what Marcy Darnovsky, director of the Center for Genetics and Society, calls “market-based eugenics.”
Whether I agree with them should be separated from the ambition to “industrialize the human genome”—and why the alteration of our biology evokes hubris, and our applications and intents can go wrong.[N]umerous studies of late have demonstrated that thousands of genetic variants straddled over the entire genome contribute to autism and psychiatric risk, as well as personality traits, and even intelligence.
…[M]any of these genetic variants may be pleiotropic, meaning they have different, often unrelated effects in different cells or tissues. The severity of their enhancing or diminishing effects may also vary, depending on their genetic background, the other genetic variants they’re inherited with.
There are no superior genes. Genes have a long and layered history, and they often have three or four unrelated functions, which balance against each other under selection. Those risky variants that can, in the right scenario, say, make us better at numbers are actually helpful to remain in the population in low frequencies.
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