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Understanding opposition to human gene editing

A role for pathogen disgust sensitivity?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2020

Isaac Halstead
Royal Holloway University of London
Gary J. Lewis
Royal Holloway University of London
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Recent advances in gene editing technology promise much for medical advances and human well-being. However, in parallel domains, there have been objections to the use of such biotechnologies. Moreover, the psychological factors that govern the willingness to use gene editing technology have been underexplored to date. In this registered report, we sought to test whether pathogen disgust sensitivity is linked with opposition to gene editing. U.K.-based adult participants (N = 347) were recruited to this study. Gene editing attitudes reflected two largely distinct latent factors concerning enhancing human traits and treating medical disorders. In contrast to prediction, pathogen disgust sensitivity was related to greater support for gene editing in both of these domains. This result suggests that gene editing, at least in the current study, is not viewed as pathogenic, or that the perceived benefits of gene editing outweigh any perceived pathogen risk.

© Association for Politics and the Life Sciences 2020

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