Address correspondence to: Russell Powell, JD, PhD, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Oxford University, Suite 8 Littlegate House, 16-17 St. Ebbes Street, Oxford, OX1 1PT, UK. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A common worry about the genetic engineering of human beings is that it will reduce human genetic diversity, creating a biological monoculture that could not only increase our susceptibility to disease but also hasten the extinction of our species. Thus far, however, the evolutionary implications of human genetic modification remain largely unexplored. In this paper, I consider whether the widespread use of genetic engineering technology is likely to narrow the present range of genetic variation, and if so, whether this would in fact lead to the evolutionary harms that some authors envision. By examining the nature of biological variation and its relation to population immunity and evolvability, I show that not only will genetic engineering have a negligible impact on human genetic diversity, but also that it will be more likely to ensure rather than undermine the health and longevity of the human species.