The fact that one of the scientists responsible for the CRISPR breakthrough was an author of the plea that we stop to think about “a prudent path” for responsible uses of it was a newsworthy event.
The New York Times reported that this call “for a worldwide moratorium” on use of a new method of genetic engineering was not without precedent, since the essay was similar to a call made by scientists in the 1970s for a moratorium on recombinant DNA research (Wade 2015).
A rhetorical analysis of the metaphors in these two documents, and in the summary statements that came out of the respective National Academy of Sciences conferences they instigated, shows that while they have a lot in common, they are different in at least one important way.
The more recent texts deploy conceptual metaphors that portray the biotechnology in question as an autonomous agent, subtly suggesting an inevitability to its development, in contrast to the earlier texts, which portray the scientists who are using the technology as the primary agents who take action.
The earlier call for a moratorium to discuss options for promoting responsible research with a new technology for genetic manipulation was published as a letter in Science in 1974, signed by 11 scientists.
The first author, Berg, was one of the inventors of recombinant DNA technology.Other science journalists made the same comparison, calling forth the memory of that earlier text that had made a similar entreaty (Duncan 2015; Vogel 2015).The analogy was facilitated by the fact that two scientists, Paul Berg and David Baltimore, were the first two authors on both texts.In 1974, it is the scientists’ world, and whether or not genetic engineering technologies are used is a decision that they make.In that earlier rhetorical analysis, I also looked briefly at the summary statement that came out of the 2015 International Summit on Human Gene Editing, and I found the same thing that I had found in the Doudna essay that called it forth.In its synthetic biology "cheat-sheet,” Slate identifies CRISPR as part of the lingo that one must know, right along with the term “synthetic biology” itself and “Bio Bricks” (Brogan 2017).The New Yorker proclaims in breathless prose that we might soon transcend Darwinian evolution as we are “propelled by CRISPR and other tools of synthetic biology” to “alter the genetic destiny" of our species (Specter 2017).Meanwhile, Wired worries about the “synthetic bioweapons” that state enemies could create “with new gene editing tools like Crispr-Cas9” (Niler 2017).Rightly or wrongly, and for good or ill, CRISPR is coming to be seen as a technology closely associated with synthetic biology.General Editors: David Bourget (Western Ontario) David Chalmers (ANU, NYU) Area Editors: David Bourget Gwen Bradford Berit Brogaard Margaret Cameron David Chalmers James Chase Rafael De Clercq Ezio Di Nucci Barry Hallen Hans Halvorson Jonathan Ichikawa Michelle KoschØystein Linnebo Jee Loo Liu Paul Livingston Brandon Look Manolo Martínez Matthew Mc Grath Michiru Nagatsu Susana Nuccetelli Giuseppe Primiero Jack Alan Reynolds Darrell P.Rowbottom Aleksandra Samonek Constantine Sandis Howard Sankey Jonathan Schaffer Thomas Senor Robin Smith Daniel Star Jussi Suikkanen Lynne Tirrell Aness Webster Other editors Contact us Learn more about Phil Papers General Editors: David Bourget (Western Ontario) David Chalmers (ANU, NYU) Area Editors: David Bourget Gwen Bradford Berit Brogaard Margaret Cameron David Chalmers James Chase Rafael De Clercq Ezio Di Nucci Barry Hallen Hans Halvorson Jonathan Ichikawa Michelle KoschØystein Linnebo Jee Loo Liu Paul Livingston Brandon Look Manolo Martínez Matthew Mc Grath Michiru Nagatsu Susana Nuccetelli Giuseppe Primiero Jack Alan Reynolds Darrell P.