Biology & Philosophy

, 34:15 | Cite as

CRISPR-Cas changing biology?

  • Janella BaxterEmail author


Eugene V. Koonin argues that fundamental research of CRISPR-Cas mechanisms has (among other things) illuminated “fundamental principles of genome manipulation.” Koonin's discussion provides important philosophical insights for how we should understand the significance of CRISPR-Cas systems. Yet the analysis he provides is only part of a larger story. There is also a human element to the CRISPR-Cas story that concerns its development as a technology. Accounting for this part of CRISPR's history reveals that the story Koonin provides requires greater nuance. I'll show how CRISPR-Cas technologies are not “natural” genome editing systems, but (in part) artifacts of human ingenuity. Furthermore, I'll argue that the story of CRISPR-Cas is not “primarily about research into fundamental biological mechanisms”, but is instead about the intertwining of applied and fundamental research programs.


CRISPR-Cas systems Genome editing Biological technology Applied research 



John Templeton Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Philosophy of Science, University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Minnesota Center for Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of Minnesota, Twin CitiesMinneapolisUSA

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