Drawing the Line: Sci-Fi VS Reality
Genetic engineering does not end well in movies, let’s not let it slip into reality.
Imagine a world that contains the genetic modification perfected to enable scientists to edit any trait desired within a human being. What would it be like? I recently read an article published online by National Catholic Register dealing with this issue. Scientist have never been closer to perfecting the basis of genetic modification within human embryos. What would the world look like when we have a human being designed to one’s personal preferences? How scary will the world be if this becomes an actual reality?
When reading this article, I took note of what Father Tadeusz Pacholzyck had to say. He is the director of education of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and thoroughly believes that genetic modification would require vitro fertilization, the fertilization of an egg outside of a mother’s protective womb. This violates an embryo’s human dignity and causes them to be objectified. (National Catholic Register) After reading Father Pacholzyck’s point, I started to shudder about the idea of designer babies. What would happen if scientists gained the ability to edit any natural trait within a person’s DNA? What is the end result of this? First , scientists would go about getting rid of “defects” that would lead to physical, mental, and developmental problems. For example, remove any genetic vulnerabilities such as the chance to contract cancer or developing Alzheimer’s disease. Next would be the physical appearance of a human body. They would be able to change a child’s eye colour, skin tone, hair colour, height, and gender. Finally, scientists will be able to give the child an elite athletic body, as well make the most attractive person imagined. How will one be able to distinguish the difference between an actual human being and a virtual avatar?
Once the race of perfect human beings is created, what will their arrival mean for society’s complex social structures? How will society treat this new kind of human being? Will the “designed-to-perfection” human beings be given equal rights like everyone else? Will they become slaves who have to do the society’s dirty work and intense labour? Or be treated like gods and goddess which everyone must bow down to or otherwise face strict consequences? Just wondering about how society could treat “enhanced” people reminds me of some popular science fiction movies. Movies like the Matrix and Blade Runner, tackle the idea of how society could push these individuals into slavery. In the Matrix, humans are born via artificial means for the AI overlord. They do not seem to be genetically enhanced within actual reality. Instead, humans only serve to be living “batteries” to power the AI in control of the human majority. Blade Runner, on the other hand, takes a look into enhanced human beings. In the movie, there are androids known as “replicants,” bioengineered beings created in a human appearance. Essentially, the replicants are similar to humans who have undergone modification and are enhanced with superior physical and mental abilities. Their sole purpose is to be society’s slaves and as a safety precaution, their life span was reduced to only four years. This ensures society that replicants could not develop any kind of attachment to this world. This kind of treatment is entirely wrong for any individual, enhanced or not, as one’s universal and basic human rights would be completely violated.
Looking at the other extreme thought of genetically-engineered beings becoming gods and goddess or the supreme rules of the new world order: The science fiction series, Star Trek, has dealt with this extreme. For example, both The Wrath of Khan or its rebooted predecessor Into Darkness feature the character, Khan, a superhuman being who will stop at nothing to control the world. He prizes himself with his superhuman abilities and uses them to control others that he considers to be “below him.”
Another example of genetically-modified beings trying to control the world is Marvel Comics’ X-MEN series. Within the comics and movies, the X-MEN are humans that have “evolved” or “mutated” via a hidden gene to have superhuman powers such as laser eyes, metallic and bullet proof skin, and even retractable adamantium claws. Some of the X-MEN use their powers to protect while others use them to dominate and attempt to control society. Either way, I believe it would be terrifying for humans who have not been genetically modified to be ruled by “superior” and “perfected” human beings. Could we witness a “purge” of naturally born human beings systematically eliminated through the means of euthanasia, abortion, or acts of violence? If this does become the case, how will everyone that live on this planet today survive the “removal” of the “obsolete” and “inferior” human being?
After examining all of these aspects of where genetic engineering could leads us, does it still sound like a good idea? Primarily, I believe that the usage of in vitro fertilization and the exportation of human beings, be it human embryos or fully-grown adults, will entirely remove any dignity to the individual human being within society. Furthermore, I personally believe that we have gone far enough with genetic editing. Scientists have already modified our food with genetic modification and still have not full understand the effects it has on our bodies. They continue to tinker with code we do not fully understand and the future is going to unfold like scenes from the science fiction movies we thought, “Right… That will never happen. It’s just fictional and a typical sci-fi movie from Hollywood.” The result is that all human beings will become objects waiting to be used or cast away. Now wouldn’t that be a scary future to live in?