The Human Genome

Today’s genre of sci-fi films are avant-garde. Those scientific films could be considered as social commentaries about what the not-so-far future will become, well before the human population becomes fully aware of the endless possibilities. What is hovering over our subconscious minds is that the future is unknown and a frightening place. Even science fiction literature from the likes of Mary Shelly, Robert Heinlien, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, George Orwell, and Ayn Rand, poses moralistic and ethical questions about our post-modern technological realism.

Human Genome
The United States House of Congress passed the Anti-Genetic Discrimination law in 2008 that will replace the American with Disabilities Act. Obama administration passed the HIPAA medical records privacy act in 2009. The Brownback/Weldon’s legislation ban on therapeutic human cloning revised in the US Senate on 4/01/2009 has not passed. [Image Source: Scientific American]

The technology already exists.

The breaking of the genetic code happened in 1961 by the Geneticists Marshal Nirenberg and Heinrich Matthaei by decoding the relationship of mRNA to amino acids. The unimaginable happened with the last coding of the human genome published in 2003 by Genome. Of course, recent breakthroughs in genetic sequencing were never possible without the help from discoveries made by Oswald Avery and his colleagues that suggested DNA was responsible for transferring of genetic material in 1944.

It was in 1948 that the Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Wilhelm Kaurin Tiselius prophetically asserted, “the knowledge of the genetic code could lead to methods of tampering with life, creating new diseases, controlling minds, influencing heredity in certain desired directions.” Over the past decade, current events stirred up controversies surrounding the Human Genome Project on embryonic stem cells, human cloning, In-vitro fertilization, test-tube babies, and creating environments where the genetic research already takes place.

Gattaca Quote

Human beings are motivated by endless pursuit for self-knowledge.

Sir Francis Bacon said, “knowledge itself is power.” In the Book of Genesis, the Tree of Knowledge (good and evil) was in the middle of the Garden of Eden from which God directly forbade Adam to eat (Genesis 2:17). Eve, after being tempted and Adam, thus being tempted ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Since the fall of Adam from the Garden of Eden, men merely attempt to become like their Creator.

Centuries later, the Romans and Greeks credited the mythology of Prometheus, who challenged Zeus by stealing from Mount Olympus the sacred fire as a source of divine wisdom and inspiration having fashioned human beings. This endless thirst for knowledge of ‘understanding our creation’ (intelligent design) buried deep in our subconscious mind. Our thought comes into existence. What we’ve imagined becomes a reality. René Descartes once said, “I think, therefore I am.” Whom is man to play God? Whom is man to play with the sacred fire, the act of creation itself that birthed man and the universe into existence? There are unforeseen consequences in striving for perfection. The natural history of humanity progress stems from their holistic environment, and there-in lies human evolution.

“I think that’s always a risk in science that we seek improvement and to make our lives better in some way, but that’s not always what we get. It might be years, and many unplanned mutations, before we realize what damage we did in the name of science.”

– Name withheld

Human cloning is not necessarily a moral issue, but it is an ethical issue based on the practice of regulation and oversight or lack thereof. Morality is based on religious beliefs or values. Ethical principles are based on how we conduct our behavior. If humanity wants to reproduce to bear children, build a Noah’s Ark to save endangered species from global disaster, collapse, or extinction, and harvest organs through embryonic stem cells, so be it. According to Human Genome, there are two types of techniques used for cloning: somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning a human being to create a genetic copy through in vitro fertilization) and embryonic stem cells (extracted in research to treat a variety of diseases).

There are ethical implications of using cloned human beings for organ harvesting as alluded to in the film The Island that is basically in no way ethically or morally different from the black markets in the Asia-Pacific collecting organs from human bodies, dead or alive. There are exceptions to the given rule, whether it is for the survival of one person from a chronic illness or reproduction for preventing the extinction of the human race.

“A 2010 study showed that about 18 people die every day while waiting for an organ transplant. And, “that is 6,570 people” every year.  If we had the ability to clone organs, how many of those people would live? And, if we had the ability to clone organs to be better genetic matches to the recipients, how many people would live longer with transplanted organs because the risk of rejection would be smaller? Even if we could only save half of these people, aren’t 3,285 lives worth it?”

– Name withheld

“Cloning organs for future transplantation is still far from a reality – but the thought of the lives that could be saved makes this an important process to discuss now – because it is thought that this technology will definitely become a reality.”

  – Name withheld

This is our future, the future is now.

Proverbs (30:15:16) – “There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say enough: the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire that never says enough.”

Genetic cloning is 60 years in existence through scientific research and mapping of the genetic code well underway for over a century since the eugenics movement from the late 18th Century. Nadya Denise Doud-Suleman, the Octomom from IVF treatments, is not worth discussing… But, Dr. Harry Griffin who first cloned Dolly the sheep once said, “I think it is entirely unacceptable for groups like Clonad gambling with the health of children.” He was referring to a girl named Eve, the exact genetic copy of her 31 year old mother. This woman lived outside the United States when she used her wealth to bioengineer the first “test-tube baby”–a reproduced genetic copy of herself through cloning. In the not-so-far future, it might just become another accepted means of reproduction shaped by nurture to have his/her own identity.

“At some point I believe society will come to feel about cloning (as a way to have children) the same way we now feel about IVF.”

– Name withheld

Human beings are one-step closer to reenacting the creation of life. One thing is for certain is man ability to evolve into higher level of intelligence and physical ability. Alphonse de Candolle who published works on the effect of social factors of scientific studies concluded, “intellectual ability is heritable and that an individual with high inherited ability could progress when nurtured by societal forces.” The hereditary biologist Sir Francis Galton written a letter to M. de Cadolle titled “English Man of Science: Their Nature and Nurture” defines the distinctions between the overly debated “nature and nurture” argument. He said, “Nature is all that a man brings into the world and nurture is every influence from without that affects him after his birth….”

Gattaca Quote

In the not-so-far future, genetics not race is the greatest determinant for discrimination.

The United States House of Congress passed the Anti-Genetic Discrimination law in 2008 that will replace the American with Disabilities Act. Obama administration passed the HIPAA medical records privacy act in 2009. The Brownback/Weldon’s legislation ban on therapeutic human cloning revised in the US Senate on 4/01/2009 has not passed. A decade earlier in 1997, the film Gattaca, a social commentary on genoism poses questions about genetic discrimination. For example, should a man be judged against for having a genetic disability or in favor for his potential to achieve his dream?

“For someone who was never meant for this world, I must confess I’m suddenly having a hard time leaving it. Of course, they say every atom in our bodies was once part of a star. Maybe I’m not leaving… maybe I’m going home.” – Gattaca