‘Human germ-line engineering’ is an aboriginal subject in bioethics. It was there in the beginning. It remains primitive. It inspires anxiety among pioneers. But it has much to teach us, if we will go out and meet it. The subject of human genetic engineering, along with organ transplantation, psychosurgery and mechanical ventilation, served to establish ‘bioethics’ in the late 60s as a new inquiry into the moral boundaries of the life sciences’ power to modify human bodies, minds, and lives. It remains a staple of introductory undergraduate courses in the field, and a natural for novelists interested in exploring bioethical themes. However, while many of its peers have been assimilated quite productively into bioethics’ evolution towards clinical ethics and health policy, the subject of human germ-line engineering resists civilization.