Gene editing for achieving designer babies and for the elimination of disabling hereditary conditions has been talked of for years, but has become more of a reality with the announcement of a successful scientific experiment in gene correction. The implications give much food for thought.
The idea of having a population of people free from the multitude of illnesses and diseases caused by faulty genes, inherited or not, is very attractive not only for the alleviation of suffering but also for the cost savings in care. There are downsides, however: more people would live longer in an already over-populated world, but more significantly, the introduction of selective breeding could have unintended consequences.
One example of a well-intentioned but unwise idea was the encouraged practice for children to have tonsils and adenoids removed because they were considered superfluous; now, many years later, it is accepted they serve an important purpose as part of the lymphatic system and in trapping germs. Similarly, pesticides used to encourage healthy crops in the latter part of the last century ended up killing the pollinators and doing great harm.
Almost all of the damage in our world is caused by a seemingly good idea that was not thought through, and so it could be with genetic manipulation. It would be easy for the boundaries that were set to be adjusted here and there to go beyond “serious” disease to include a family tendency to extreme height, or alcoholism, or depression, or even child abuse. In a nightmare scenario, all abnormalities, however major or minor, could be removed from babies, resulting in a generation and future generations of clones without originality.
For souls, all of which need to experience illness, disability and deformity as part of their learning about every aspect of being human, gene editing would have significant but nor insuperable consequences. If in the future everyone was born with perfect health, then there would be no need for the soul to experience something that no longer existed. If, however, it got to the point where we all were the same as each other, created to fulfill an expectation and a need, the soul would have no vehicle of expression and of learning: why, then, would a soul bother with life on earth if its opportunity for spiritual progression were denied?
Gene editing, like the development of artificial intelligence, will threaten our future unless great care is taken to honour human life and individuality. It is our uniqueness that has delivered extraordinary achievements in every aspect of life, and sometimes it is the challenge of disability that provokes the best and greatest in people. Perfection goes far beyond the body.
So, let science be in balance with humanity and with spirituality.
Without souls, human life on earth would end.