Scientific Advancement Does Not Always Mean Progress

by Christopher White, CBC Director of Research and Education on December 14, 2015

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It’s that time of year when newspapers and magazines are running year end pieces highlighting notable happenings from the past 365 days. I always enjoy reading these—some reminders are sentimental, others jar your memory as you recall an event you’d forgotten, and others are just absurd. Yesterday, when the New York Times included the creation of three parent embryos on a list of 20 things that happened for the first time in 2015, I couldn’t help but to reflect on the fact that what many choose to hail as progress, should instead serve as a warning sign for our future.

In February of 2015 when Britain’s House of Lords passed a bill allowing for the creation of three parent embryos—ostensibly this allows for the possibility of creating children that would not inherit certain genetic diseases—many saw this as a breakthrough for a healthier and happier future. Yet for those of us who are concerned about human experimentation, we see this as an ethical line that has been crossed—and one that will be hard to walk back.

In addition to the children that will be created via this new form of experimentation, women will be harmed and exploited as researchers seek to harvest their eggs to make this procedure more readily available. As we’ve continually tried to show, egg selling is risky business and those involved often don’t discover this until it’s too late.

So, no—not all forms of scientific advancement yield human progress. In trying to perfect humanity, we’re now calling into question, and in the case of three parent embryos, altering what it even means to be human. As we reflect on this, and similar questions at this time of year, it’s time to once more consider what type of future we want to build. Too much is at stake for us to risk allowing the headlines to simply speak for us.

Image by kirinqueen via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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