Though vitriol and outrage are common in western culture in 2018, when it comes to claims that a researcher in China used CRISPR technology to edit a human embryo, bloggers, journalists and scientists on social media have taken it to another level.

Without even reading the paper. Because there isn't one. Nor is there any data.

It's just some guy claiming he did it, not once but twice. And based on that people are going on tirades about how it violates ethics - well, their subjective notion of ethics, none of which have anything to do with the culture of China. 

The United States is exceptional when it comes to voluntary agreements. As I detail in my upcoming book on mitochondria, when cytoplasmic transfer was first becoming popular in 2001 as a new way to do in vitro fertilization, our Food and Drug Administration asked clinics to refrain from doing it while they made a determination about its safety and efficacy. All did. And still do, even though 12 families had babies just fine with and the first child created using oocyte donation (in 1997) is now an adult and doing fine. Does that mean no one in China did it? Or that it should be outrageous if they did?

Ethicists will be no help on this matter, since they want to debate dumb stuff like abortion after birth, it is up to the public to decide, so there is no point in rending of garments and gnashing of teeth in America over it. China may look at hysteria in America about gene editing the way we do European panic attacks about GMOs; as intellectual immaturity. In China, 70 percent support gene editing to prevent HIV, so that is "medical necessity."

Professor Jennifer Doudna, who is credited with co-inventing the CRISPR/Cas-9 technology He Jiankui claims he used, is a little more practical on the matter, noting that until there is evidence this was even done, it is just a researcher claiming he can prevent HIV by disabling the CCR5 gene that encodes a protein which allows HIV to enter a cell. And if the babies never get HIV, he can claim it worked. 

Oddly, many of the same scientists who insisted that human embryonic stem cell research (hESC) should be unlimited, despite identical concerns about human experimentation in the early 2000s, are suddenly all for limits when it comes to Chinese science. When a Republican president agreed about ethical concerns but allowed federal funding for existing lines that had already been created, they still shrieked he was holding science back, more hyperbolic bloggers even claimed that he was banning it.

Before we go crazy, let's see some real evidence of what happened and if it was a meaningful change or just tinkering. Then we can continue to have a real dialogue about when and how CRISPR should be used rather than demand blanket bans. But a bunch of American on Twitter are not going to be able to bully China into submission, it will just remove the United States from a place of leadership in the ethical discussion.