The Ethics of Genetic Cognitive Enhancement: Gene Editing or Embryo Selection?

Philosophies 5 (20):20 (2020)
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Abstract

Recent research with human embryos, in different parts of the world, has sparked a new debate on the ethics of genetic human enhancement. This debate, however, has mainly focused on gene-editing technologies, especially CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). Less attention has been given to the prospect of pursuing genetic human enhancement by means of IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) in conjunction with in vitro gametogenesis, genome-wide association studies, and embryo selection. This article examines the different ethical implications of the quest for cognitive enhancement by means of gene-editing on the one hand, and embryo selection on the other. The article focuses on the ethics of cognitive enhancement by means of embryo selection, as this technology is more likely to become commercially available before cognitive enhancement by means of gene-editing. This article argues that the philosophical debate on the ethics of enhancement should take into consideration public attitudes to research on human genomics and human enhancement technologies. The article discusses, then, some of the recent findings of the SIENNA Project, which in 2019 conducted a survey on public attitudes to human genomics and human enhancement technologies in 11 countries (France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, and United States).

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