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City Club of Eugene: Designer Babies: Prospects and Problems

Program date: Feb. 26, 2021

Air date: March 1, 2021


From the City Club of Eugene:                 

Designer babies, once found only in science fiction, have become a reality. We are entering a new era of human evolution with the advent of a technology called CRISPR, which allows scientists to modify our genes. Although CRISPR shows great promise for therapeutic use, it raises thorny ethical, legal, political, and societal concerns, because it can be used to make permanent changes to future generations. What if changes intended for the good turn out to have unforeseen negative effects? What if the divide between the haves and have-nots widens as a result? Who decides whether we genetically modify human beings and, if so, how? Dr. Françoise Baylis, the author of Altered Inheritance (2019) and the 2020-21 Wayne Morse Chair, will discuss the ethical questions presented by this new technology.

The Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics at the University of Oregon brings students, scholars, activists, policymakers, and communities together to discuss issues affecting Oregon, our nation, and the world. The Center trains future public leaders to reach beyond partisan labels and conflicts to encourage fresh thinking and effective solutions to public problems. It carries on the fighting spirit and political independence of Oregon’s Senator Wayne Morse by promoting education and research to advance justice and democracy. Morse, U.S. Senator from 1944 to 1968, is best known for being one of only two Senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, which authorized the Vietnam War. Each year, the Center brings a prominent public intellectual, activist, artist, scholar, or policymaker to Oregon to occupy the Wayne Morse Chair for approximately one month in connection with its theme of inquiry. The current theme is “Science, Policy, and the Public.”



Françoise Baylis is a Canadian bioethicist who works at the intersection of applied ethics, health policy, and practice. When she got her start in academia, genome editing was still in the future. Today, Dr. Baylis is a leading scholar in the ethics of the biotech revolution. After nearly three decades of working with academics, medical professionals, and policy-makers, she has turned her attention to explaining the genome-editing revolution to a general audience. Dr. Baylis’ education includes a BA in Political Science from McGill University and an MA and PhD in Philosophy from the University of Western Ontario (currently known as Western University).