Sunday, September 7, 2008

Meaningful Sci-fi - Gattaca and Genetic Engineering

I recently caught the end of a show on the History Channel called Evolve. The episode that was on was talking about the evolution of sex through the ages. The part I saw was discussing how humans are now to a point where we are taking our evolution into our own hands. We no longer require sex to procreate. We can start life in a lab. On top of that, we are getting close to a time where we could even engineer the genes of our children so as to have them exemplify only the traits we want.

In 1997 a movie was made called Gattaca. The movie is a very fitting analysis of this very scenario. It follows the story of a man, Vincent Freeman, who was born by normal means. Following his birth his parents caved to the ways of the time and had a second child, Anton, genetically engineered to be as "perfect" as their genes could make him.

A doctor on the show Evolve said how important this is because who would want to have a child that was created through such a random occurrence as sperm and egg fusing in the natural process. A random occurrence? He seems to be missing out on a huge part of what it is to be human. We just don't go out and have kids with random people (when that happens it is usually accidental, and a child was not the intended purpose of the activity).

People typically spend quite a fair amount of time finding the person they want to settle down with to have family. When they do find this person it is because they have found someone they are attracted to. They like the character, looks, and various other traits that make up that other person. On a very basic level the whole concept of attraction is seeing traits in another person we want to pass on to our children. So having kids is not just a random occurrence. It is usually a pretty well thought activity. We shouldn't have to engineer our children to be happy with them.

The movie Gattaca tries to demonstrate that people should not be valued for how genetically perfect or imperfect they are. Vincent, who was born by normal means was genetically diagnosed that he was going to die before he was thirty due to a heart condition. He was looked down on in society because of how he was born. Vincent from the time he was young wanted to be able to travel into space. His only chance to do that was to work for Gattaca, a future aerospace company. However, this was a job limited to only the genetic elite. Since he was unhealthy he was allowed to take part.

However, he presses on. With the aid of one of the genetic elite, Jerome Eugene Morrow who was crippled in an accident, he strives towards his goal anyway. He takes over Jeromes identity, and uses it in an attempt to fulfill his dreams. 

This movie gives a pretty clear example of how unfair and unjust this kind of society would be. This will just create a new level of prejudice in a world that has far to much already. We should already preaching that the worth a person is not in their gender, the color of their skin, or where they are from and how they were raised. But now there are people out there preaching its important that we be able design our children to look the way we want?

I believe we already had one leader in this world who wanted to make a genetically perfect society. Did the Holocaust not make it clear how big a mistake this is?

People are different.  We have a mixture of qualities and characteristics that make up society.  That is what it is to be human.  That is not something we should try to control or mandate. 

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