Critics have called a genetic dating app under development by Harvard Medical School's George Church a form of eugenics, the Washington Post reports.
While on CBS News' 60 Minutes last week, Church described a number of projects going on in his lab and startups that he is involved with, including a dating app that would screen potential couples based on whether both members are carriers of the same rare inherited diseases, such as Tay-Sachs. That way, people meeting through the app — dubbed digiD8 — know that if they do hit it off and have kids, those children won't inherit certain genetic conditions, the Post adds.
But this has led to a backlash. Fordham University adjunct professor and journalist Elizabeth Yuko told the Daily Beast that the idea "sounds like eugenics," while Gizmodo wrote that it is eugenics and Vice called it "horrifying."
Church has defended his dating app, telling the Post that his idea is more akin to genetic counseling and preconception or prenatal genetic testing. "Eugenics is coercive. Rather than restricting people's options for their health and their families, we're expanding them," he further tells the Daily Beast in a separate article.
Bioethicists tell the Post they don't think such an app has risen to the level of eugenics. Stanford University's Mildred Cho notes, though, that she understands why people have reacted negatively to the idea. "I don't think those fears are completely unfounded," she says. "I think what people are reacting to is this sense of kind of genetic determinism, and this idea that somebody's DNA can somehow make them 'incompatible,' as if all their other personality traits and behavior really isn't as important as their DNA."