Because of CRISPR gene editing, modern science seems to be on the cusp of a revolution. This capacity to precisely edit DNA may completely change the ways in which relate to the natural world. Its proponents note CRISPR’s potential to eliminate malaria and make cattle farming more profitable. However, while saving lives and increasing the efficiency of livestock farming are undeniably good, CRISPR also poses ethical dilemmas. Many worry that CRISPR will someday allow parents to alter cosmetic features of their children without consent, like eye color and height. If CRISPR can enhance intelligence, those who can afford the technology would be given an invaluable advantage over those who cannot.
Our discussion at Middlebury will focus on the ways in which the technology might benefit as well as prove problematic to our culture. The panel will examine CRISPR’s capacity to cure disease as well as how it may alter how conception of disability, race, gender and physical attributes generally. We hope students will leave not only understanding more about the emerging CRISPR technology, but also better informed of the ethical debate surrounding its application.