“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
A scene all too familiar to fans of science fiction movies is a mad scientist working on a project that society would see as unethical. He or she usually is successful, only to unleash a series of events that the symbolic hero of the film must counter or destroy. The lesson conveyed to an audience? Well, fear of taking curiosity and exploration too far.
There are many ethical questions we are going to face in the near future in regards to the science of genetic engineering. As we advance in our knowledge of how DNA operates, what genetic combinations give us specific personality traits, intelligence, aptitudes and physical abilities we will also be able to manipulate those blueprints. It is safe to say that we are nearing the end of regular man-meets-woman, they form a relationship, have sex and create a child based on a random pairing of a particular egg and sperm cell. In the future conception will be conducted in the laboratory, with nothing left to chance. Designing our children will be the next step of the industrial revolution in which we use tools to determine who our children will be and what traits they will possess.
I deal with this issue in my new book “Destiny of Our Past,” (follow link here: http://amzn.to/2jzfyNE) a science fiction detective thriller set in the age of Noah. And no, it is not a book in which Noah is an interacting character, rather he is a scientist who is known to people in the society for rejecting the extent people have used genetic engineering to create what some might consider a dystopian world, while others would see it as utopian. Longevity is measured in centuries, not decades, one can mix human and animal DNA to create hybrids or chimeras, agricultural production insures all people have ample food and nobody lives in poverty. However, due to these advances the ruling elite bloodlines have established a police state that has all the trappings of democracy…but is anything but.
So how far would we take genetic engineering, and what would be the impacts on society? Take for example two traits people admire, intelligence and beauty. If only 10% of couples chose to undertake designing their children with these attributes what would be the result? Well, those children as they grew up would be envied for their appearance as well as their success in academics and later in life. They would have incredible advantages, and others would decide that nature’s way of making babies was obsolete and decide designing their children was no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Then again, maybe we would see a eugenic division develop in society in which those who availed themselves of such technologies would become almost superhuman while those who either could not afford such technologies, or who had a philosophical objection to it, would be at a great disadvantage in the competition that is life.
And what of enhanced longevity? Eventually we will be able to identify which genes are responsible for aging as we know it. The next step will be to either alter the actions of those genes or compensate for aging of the human body. How would that change our entire social structure? Well, for one thing, and as envisioned in my book, the state might decide to regulate all reproduction so as not to create overpopulation. And if the government can decide when you can have a child, and how many, then they would likely control all other aspects of human life as well. Some would welcome this if prosperity were also and attribute of the society. Of course the elite would undoubtedly exempt themselves from the rules, as elite always do, but as long as the people enjoyed bread, circuses and seemingly endless youth I doubt many would object.
And lastly, what of crossing species? Some scientists have predicted that the future could see any of the mythical species of Greek or Sumerian lore actually be possible to create. Who would not be curious as to what it would be like to create a centaur or mermaid? Yeah, ethics…but wouldn’t our current views evolve over time as the possibilities of creation of new life could be endless? Scientists could make creation itself a new art form held back only by human ingenuity. Oh wait, now we get to those interesting references to this sort of thing, found in the Book of Jasher, claiming this was the reason for the flood. Maybe the idea of a science fiction novel set in those days is not so far-fetched after all?
The science of genetic engineering is advancing at a rapid rate and so the possibilities will indeed be limited only by what we know at different stages of the assentation to full mastery over the blueprints of life. What would humans do once they attained such abilities? Again, the possibilities will be infinite.