The raging controversy about whether heritable genome editing should be permitted is shaped and structured by the prevailing and countervailing narratives in circulation. In recent years, considerable shortcomings have come to characterize this discourse; it is now time to identify and correct a number of serious misunderstandings and distortions that have taken hold. This essay begins by briefly evaluating reactions to the November 2018 announcement that gene-edited babies had been born; it asserts that widespread agreement about the researcher's recklessness and dire ethical violations concealed deep fault lines among participants in the heritable genome editing debate. It goes on to consider several key omissions and misrepresentations that distort public understanding and undermine genuine debate. It suggests that the conversation must be refocused away from technical, medical, and scientific considerations toward matters of societal meanings, values, context, and consequences. It concludes with criteria for a broadly inclusive and meaningful decision-making process about whether heritable genome editing has any place in the shared and just future to which we aspire.


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pp. 155-176
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