Biden Science Director Wants to Allow the Creation of Genetically Enhanced Children

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 // Research

President Biden has nominated Eric Lander, geneticist, molecular biologist, and mathematician, to serve as the President’s science advisor.  Unfortunately Lander has some radical views on genetic enhancements of embryos, and supports policies that could create children that fundamentally depart from the conception of humanity that most Americans are familiar with. 

Lander laid out his views on genetic enhancement of children in an article he authored in the publication Nature, entitled, “Adopt a moratorium on heritable genome editing.”  The use of the word “moratorium” in the title is instructive because it explicitly leaves open the door to genetic enhancement of embryos after Lander’s ill-defined moratorium expires.   Specifically Lander states: 

“We call for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing — that is, changing heritable DNA (in sperm, eggs or embryos) to make genetically modified children.”

This first sentence of Lander’s commentary should stop most people in their tracks.  The fact that Lander cannot call for an enforceable BAN on genetically modified children is shocking and should be deeply troubling.  The simple textbook definition of a moratorium is clear, it is: “a temporary prohibition of an activity.”  Had Lander wanted to foreclose the possibility of genetic modification of children, he could have easily called for an enforceable ban on the activity. 

Lest there were any doubt about what Lander means when it comes to creating genetically modified children the next sentence states: 

“By ‘global moratorium’, we do not mean a permanent ban.” 

Lander envisions a path to genetically modifying children.  Specifically he outlines the process by appealing to a previous study from a group of unelected bureaucrats at the National Academy of Sciences: 

“At the first International Summit on Human Gene Editing in December 2015, the organizing committee issued a statement about appropriate uses of the technology (see About the issue of making genetically modified children, it concluded that “it would be irresponsible to proceed with any clinical use … unless and until (i) the relevant safety and efficacy issues have been resolved … and (ii) there is broad societal consensus about the appropriateness of the proposed application”.”

Consider this same statement in other contexts … countries should not forcibly displace and relocate indigenous people unless it is safe and there’s broad societal agreement!?!  nations should not experiment on minority groups unless they can do it without hurting minorities and the broader community agrees that the experiments are worthwhile!?!  

These are of course absurd ideas because they fundamentally ignore the fact that the actions contemplated are wrong and violate the fundamental humanity of another individual, yet Lander has no problem genetically modifying children if their national governments think it is worth-while. 

This is important because later in the article, Lander gets to the details of what he is talking about when he discusses genetic enhancement. What Lander is outlining is a regime where he and his friends in the scientific community get to play God and “improve” upon creation. Again he shares the details of what he has in mind. 

“Genetic enhancement, by contrast, encompasses much broader efforts to ‘improve’ individuals and the species. Possibilities range from attempting to modify the risk of a common disease by replacing particular genetic variants with alternative ones that occur in the human population, to incorporating new instructions into a person’s genome to enhance, say, their memory or muscles, or even to confer entirely new biological functions, such as the ability to see infrared light or break down certain toxins.”

If it wasn’t so frightening or arrogant, one might think Lander has been watching a few too many Marvel Comics movies.   Regrettably though he’s 100% serious and America seems to be faced with a Dr. Frankenstein in the White House Science Office who will want to use the levers of government to encourage and incubate experiments designed at “improving” the species.  

The Senate should reject this dangerous nominee and ensure that the White House is not used as a tool to promote in-humane scientific experimentation.