By Dan Clendenin
Unnatural Selection (2019)
I watched this Netflix movie — a mini-series of four one-hour episodes, after a neurobiologist at Stanford told me that he thought it was a well done popularization of what is otherwise complicated science. The four episodes explore the promise and peril of gene-editing, and in particular the tool called CRISPR-Cas9. My wife and I found it to be equal parts informative, inspiring and terrifying. CRISPR is inspiring because it can be used to treat and even cure some horrible genetic diseases, as the film shows by following several personal stories. But it is also terrifying because it raises all sorts of ethical questions, like designer babies, unintended consequences, weaponization, exterminating rats in New Zealand and mice in Cape Cod, or the mosquitos in Africa that cause malaria. Making things even more complicated, the film does an excellent job of showing that gene editing, which today is very cheap, very powerful, and actually quite simple, is now done not just by large bio-tech companies and university labs, but also by “bio-hackers” working outside of the normal regulatory systems. There are no easy answers here, just many complicated questions. Like it or not, gene-editing is here to stay, and will only get more and more advanced.
Dan Clendenin: firstname.lastname@example.org
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