Human Nature (4 stars)

Human Nature

Gene editing is the subject of an accessible and engaging documentary from Adam Bolt

The far-reaching implications of gene editing tend to inspire more fear than hope. The ability to shape the very 'building blocks of life' instantly conjures up images of Frankenstein-style experiments, a master race and science-fiction nightmares.

Adam Bolt's accessible, engaging documentary – co-written with Regina Sobel – is almost an act of reassurance, as he brings a cool head to a hot topic. He explores the ethical dilemmas and moral concerns around gene editing, but also considers the vast potential for good in the discovery of the family of DNA sequences called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, since you ask).

The appliance of science promises a revolution in which scientists could eliminate disease and correct genetic disorders. It might one day be possible to engineer a perfect baby, but that could tip us towards making comic book fantasy into reality. Where do you draw the line? Eliminating disease might be a universally desirable goal, but would we want to resurrect the woolly mammoth? Would we sanction the creation of a genetically modified warrior who is taller and stronger than the average human and able to withstand any measure of pain?

Bolt is good at keeping the science at a level that is clear and concise. His subjects include a wide range of scientists and bio-engineers working on the front-line of what might be possible, and fully aware of the concerns they must address. The strongest element in Human Nature is Bolt's ability to match abstract theory with what it could mean for individual humans. This is especially compelling in the case of David Sanchez, a child whose sickle-cell anaemia could be eradicated with CRISPR-inspired treatments. This brave new world might seem frightening, yet when it comes to changing the life of someone you love who could possibly say no?

Selected release from Fri 6 Dec.

Human Nature

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • Directed by: Adam Bolt
  • UK release: 6 December 2019

Documentary about gene editing, exploring the ethical dilemmas and moral concerns and considering the potential for good in the discovery of DNA sequences that might enable certain genetic conditions to be eradicated. Clear, concise and cool-headed, and sensibly avoiding science-fiction nightmares.