Explaining CRISPR

First, let’s get an understanding of what CRISPR is. In an extremely oversimplification, CRISPR is an editing tool where a genetic engineer can cut and edit out parts of DNA—usually unhealthy bits—and replace them with benign parts. It has the promise of curing hereditary diseases, cancer, and other genetic defects. For a better visualization, see this:

Now, check out how a biologist explains CRISPR to people of five different levels of knowledge: a seven-year old, a high-schooler, a college student, a grad student, and a post-doc expert on CRISPR:

What I find really interesting is that with the seven-year old, the biologist basically has to start with the basics of biology and already the kid’s mind is blown. But as we advance to higher levels of knowledge, the conversation slowly leaves biology and into philosophy, specifically the ethics behind CRISPR. With the high school student and the college student, the biology is briefly explained, and then they get into the ethics. With the grad student, they hardly discussed any biology and just went straight into the ethics. With the post-doc, they discussed a little biology and ethics, but I think they were discussing the philosophy of biology and science. I have to admit, I was a little lost with the post-doc, but the point is is that it’s remarkable that with this idea, they immediately went to the philosophical implications.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
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