A Harvard academic says the app he designed can prevent rare, hereditary diseases – and sinister interpretations are ‘ridiculous’
A Harvard academic who designed a dating app based on gene-matching has said it was “ridiculous” to compare it to eugenics.
George Church’s dating app proposes to match users based on their DNA in an attempt to eliminate genetic diseases. In a 60 Minutes episode from 9 December, Church confirmed that the app would screen out potential partners who are considered to have the “wrong” DNA.
The app, which has not yet been developed, would in theory prevent two people from matching if they had similar genetic mutations that could result in rare, hereditary diseases like Tay-Sachs. The service would probably be on offer to premium subscribers. Church said that his idea offers users choice, whereas eugenics is “coercive”. He said: “Rather than restricting people’s options for their health and their families, we’re expanding them.”
Critics have said that the idea amounts to casually discussing eugenics. But Church disagrees: “We are not going to be forcibly sterilising people, if that’s the business model they think we’re up to. That’s as far from what we intend to do as can be.”
When asked whether his app would encourage more stigma against disabled and chronically sick people, trans people or certain races, Church emphasised that the app would only restrict matches that would result in “illnesses that cause very premature deaths, often with pain and a lot of medical costs”.
He said it would probably rule out only 5% of a person’s potential matches, but he also added that there was no line: “There is no line … but you have to draw one, and medical doctors are very good at drawing practical lines,” he said.
Church had previously been part of Jeffrey Epstein’s circle of scientists friends. In the interview, Church distanced himself from Epstein, saying “just because [he] hung out with me briefly, doesn’t mean I bought into [his] malarkey.”
Church also spoke about photos of him with Epstein on his private beach in the Caribbean in 2007, at a property later nicknamed “paedophile island” because of alleged sexual abuse that went on there. “We just came there for a meeting and then came back. We looked around the beach a bit. There wasn’t much there, frankly,” he said.
Church put an FAQ on his website on Wednesday for anyone with questions about the proposed app.
Source: the guardian
Author: Poppy Noor