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造人那点事儿|《经济学人》:造人途径有N种,该选哪一种?

2017-02-23 从余启 我与我们的世界 我与我们的世界

欢迎打开“我与我们的世界”,从此,让我们一起“纵览世界之风云变幻、洞察社会之脉搏律动、感受个体之生活命运、挖掘自然之点滴奥妙”。

我与我们的世界,既是一个“奋斗”的世界,也是一个“思考”的世界。奋而不思则罔,思而不奋则殆。这个世界,你大,它就大;你小,它就小。

欢迎通过上方公众号名称打开公众号“查看历史信息”来挖掘往期文章,因为,每期都能让你“走近”不一样的世界、带给你不一样的精彩


本期导读:毫无疑问,“造人”,是件非常、非常、非常重要的事儿。因为,往小了说,它关乎家族命脉的香火传承,往大了说,它关乎民族群体的延绵乃至整个人类的繁衍。随着经济发展和社会进步,人们的价值观念也发生着变化,老龄化、少子化等问题随之变得越来越严重,在这样的背景下,“造人”这件事儿,其重要性也就更为凸显


令人感到伤悲的是,老龄化、少子化等关乎民族命运、人类前途的社会问题,在越来越多的国家开始出现,尽管目前全球人口在总体上依然处于上升趋势。不过,令人感到欣慰的是,科学技术的进步,或许能给人带来些许希望。随着试管婴儿、克隆技术、基因编辑等五花八门有关“生育”的新潮技术的出现,“造人”这件事儿,已然不再是件难事儿


人类福祉水平的提升,主要依赖于科学技术的进步。但诸如克隆、基因编辑等关乎“造人”这项人类重要活动的系列技术的出现,在某些人看来,却给人类的未来蒙上了浓重的阴影,更有甚者,会认为这将开启人类通向无底深渊的大门。系列问题中,最引人关注的是科学与伦理之间的争议


科学技术与社会伦理之间的矛盾,早已不是什么新鲜事儿。纵观人类社会的发展进程,特别是科学技术的进步历程,不难发现,科学技术一直是在争议中砥砺前行,并会以实实在在的成绩向人们展示,科技进步对人类所具有的积极意义,以及其所能给人类带来的福祉和价值。


Reproductive technologies

生育技术


Gene editing, clones and the science of making babies

基因编辑、克隆技术与造人科学


Ways of reproducing without sexual intercourse are multiplying. History suggests that they should be embraced

用不着进行房事就可绵延后代的解决方案是越来越多。历史经验表明,人们应热情迎接那些解决方案的到来。


IT USED to be so simple. Girl met boy. Gametes were transferred through plumbing optimised by millions of years of evolution. Then, nine months later, part of that plumbing presented the finished product to the world. Now things are becoming a lot more complicated. A report published on February 14th by America’s National Academy of Sciences gives qualified support to research into gene-editing techniques so precise that genetic diseases like haemophilia and sickle-cell anaemia can be fixed before an embryo even starts to develop. The idea of human cloning triggered a furore when, 20 years ago this week, Dolly the sheep was revealed to the world; much fuss about nothing, some would say, looking back. But other technological advances are making cloning humans steadily more feasible.


Some are horrified at the prospect of people “playing God” with reproduction. Others, whose lives are blighted by childlessness or genetic disease, argue passionately for the right to alleviate suffering. Either way, the science is coming and society will have to work out what it thinks


Where have you been, my blue-eyed son?

眼前的黑不是黑,你说的白是什么白?

(此句英文源自美国歌手Bob Dylan 20世纪60年代著名歌曲A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall,该歌曲的歌词充满形形色色的意象和隐喻,个人感觉,作者用此句歌词意在表达某些人对生育技术可能会威胁人类未来的担忧之感。)


The range of reproductive options has steadily widened. AID (artificial insemination by donor, which dates back to the 19th century) and IVF (in vitro fertilisation, first used in the 1970s) have become everyday techniques. So has ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, in which a sperm cell is physically inserted into an egg, bringing fatherhood to otherwise infertile men. Last year another practice was added—mitochondrial transplantation or, as the headlines would have it, three-parent children. The world may soon face the possibility of eggs and sperm made from putative parents’ body cells (probably their skin) rather than in their ovaries and testes.


Such methods separate sexual intercourse from reproduction. Most of them bring the possibility of choosing which embryo will live, and which will die. At first they can seem bewildering—disgusting, even. But one thing experience has shown is that, in this area, disgust is not a good guide to policy. AID was treated by at least one American court as a species of adultery and its progeny deemed illegitimate in the eyes of the law. IVF led to anguish among some theologians about whether “test-tube” babies would have souls.


Disgust often goes along with dystopian alarm. Science-fiction versions of gene editing imagine, say, the creation of supermen and superwomen of great intelligence or physical prowess. When Dolly was announced the press was full of headlines about clone armies. In truth no one has the slightest clue how to create Übermenschen even if they wanted to. Yet the record shows how fast reproductive science can progress. So it makes sense to think about the ethics of reproductive science even for outcomes that are not yet available.


It helps to start with IVF and AID, which have made the journey from freakishness to familiarity. Both give healthy children to happy parents, who would otherwise have been alone. The same will no doubt prove true for mitochondrial transplants, which are intended to avoid rare but dangerous diseases that affect cellular energy production.


Happy parents and healthy children make a pretty good rule for thinking about any reproductive technology. A procedure’s safety is the central concern. Proving this is a high hurdle. Researchers are, wrongly in the eyes of some, allowed to experiment on human embryos when they consist of just a few cells. They cannot, though, experiment on human fetuses. Nor can they experiment easily on fetuses from humanity’s closest relatives, the great apes, since these animals are rare and often legally protected, too. So far, therefore, there has had to be a “leap of faith” when a technique that has been tested as far as is possible within the law’s bounds is used for real. That should continue, in order to avoid “freelance” operations outside reliable jurisdictions. This is not a theoretical concern. Although Britain developed mitochondrial transplants and was the first country to license them, the first couple known to have had such a transplant travelled from Jordan to Mexico to do so.


Defining the limits of what should be allowed is more slippery. But again, the test of happy parents and healthy children is the right one. Growing sperm and eggs from body cells is surely the least problematic new technique soon to be on offer. One advantage of this approach is that gay couples could have children related to both parents. But the law should insist that two people be involved. If one person tried to be both father and mother to a child, the resulting eggs and sperm would, without recourse to wholesale gene editing, combine to concentrate harmful mutations in what would amount to the ultimate form of inbreeding.


Gene editing and cloning involve more than parents’ happiness and children’s health. The first gene editing will eliminate genetic diseases in a way that now requires embryo selection—an advance many would applaud. Adults should be able to clone perfect copies of themselves, as an aspect of self-determination. But breeding babies with new traits and cloning other people raises questions of equality and of whether it is ever right to use other people’s tissues without their consent.


A sense of identity

问题在于认同感,关键在于同理心


The questions will be legion. Should bereaved parents be able to clone a lost child? Or a widow her departed husband? Should the wealthy be able to pay for their children to be intelligent and diligent, if nobody else can afford to do so?


Commissions of experts will need to search for answers; and courts will need to apply the rules—to protect the interests of the unborn. They will be able to draw on precedents, such as identical twins, where society copes with clones perfectly well, or “saviour siblings”, selected using IVF to provide stem cells that can cure a critically ill older brother or sister. Any regime must be adaptable, because opinions change as people get used to new techniques. Going by the past, though, the risk is not of people rushing headlong to the reproductive extremes, but of holding back, and leaving people to suffer out of a misplaced sense of what feels right.



往期精彩:


生命之谜|施一公:生命之源或缘于35亿年前的一团量子纠缠,人类认知或囿于自身生命的物质形式局限

大英帝国|《经济学人》:失去欧洲的英国,是没有方向的英国

中国式神话|《儒家神话》:神话,在传说中,在古籍里,也在你我身边

诗图一家|《命运遐想》:命里有时终须有,命里无时莫强求

哈佛教授谈“伟大”|《全球脑库》:美国曾经因何而伟大,将来又会因何而伟大?


注:

1:公众号后台回复“20170218”,可获取本期《经济学人》下载方式。

2:本文为原创,若发现不错,欢迎转发共享,转载请注明出处。

3:英文转自《经济学人》,非商业用途,仅限个人学习之目的。

4:可将本公众号设为“置顶公众号”,第一时间收到最新消息。

5:若有任何方面的问题,可随时联系进行沟通

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