A Chinese scientist's stunning claim he has pioneered the world's first genetically modified baby has suddenly made the eternal debate over ethics and emerging scientific capabilities pressing and real. Should everything that becomes technically possible be carried out? For most ethicists the answer is no — but the tricky part is whether it can be prevented. "It's obvious that everything that is technically feasible is not ethically desirable," said Cynthia Fleury, a member of the French Ethics Committee. "But to resist that, in a context of deregulated scientific competition, is structurally destined for failure." It's a question as old as science: Are ethics condemned to constantly nip at the heels of advances that burst forth and take a head start? Certainly the case in China has brought the debate to the fore. That country's National Health Commission has ordered a probe into the baby gene-editing announced by scientist He Jiankui, in which he claimed to have tinkered with the D...

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