genetic engineering

This tag is associated with 3 posts

“Zeroboxer” by Fonda Lee- Bioethics in the Future, oh, and boxing

zeroboxerFonda Lee’s Zeroboxer is a science fiction work about the sport of zero-gravity boxing. See my review for more details on the work. Here, I’ll be highlighting aspects of the book that deal with bioethics, and offering some philosophical and theological comments on them.

The basics of the book are that Carr “The Raptor” Luka has been rising in the ranks as a great zeroboxer (one who boxes in zero-gravity). As his star rises, so does his fame, and possibly his infamy. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Genetic Therapy vs. Enhancement

The first question is simple: What is the difference between genetic therapy or genetic enhancement? I wrote about this distinction elsewhere:

Gene therapy is the use of genetic research and information to cure illness. Speaking very hypothetically, suppose that we were able to discover the exact genetic code for illnesses like sickle cell anemia, isolate it, and replace it with a non-anemic code before a person was even born; that would be gene therapy. Genetic enhancement takes this a step further. It allows for modifying people genetically to enhance certain features such as physical strength, endurance, mental aptitude, and the like. It would, in a sense, create “super humans.”

In the world of Zeroboxer, genetic therapy is standard, and enhancement is regulated, but normalized.

The main character, Luka Carr, unbeknownst to himself, has “illegal” levels of enhancement. His mother allowed a criminal to modify him and make him some kind of superhuman. But it is hard to see why he should be faulted for it–after all, as he says, he’s still himself. It isn’t his fault that others made such choices around his life.

Enhancement is more common on Mars than on Earth. The latter, so-called “Terrans,” stage protests on Mars and about Martians as they seek to go against their “freakish” ways of enhancing. It’s not hard to imagine just this would happen. Who are we to play God, after all? But that kind of argument leads to questions about what it means to play God. Is it playing God to prevent illnesses through modern medicine? How far a step is it from surgery to correct vision to enhancing vision genetically? These questions defy easy answers.

Poverty and Enhancement/Therapy

Lee also raised the issue of poverty and the enormous inequalities that could be created by furthering genetic enhancement. Luka remarks on the state of a friend, Enzo, who’s just shown up wearing glasses:

“Why don’t you get your eyes fixed, then?”
[Luka] guessed the answer before Enzo lowered his face in embarassment. “My mom doesn’t have the money right now. She said maybe in a few months…”
A surge of anger brought heat to Carr[ Luka]’s scalp. It was bad enough that the kid had an asthmatic wheeze and carried around an inhaler. Now he was half-blind too? What next, a peg leg? Didn’t Enzo’s mother care that her son walked around with genetic poverty written all over him? (117)

The phrase “genetic poverty” is forward-thinking and possibly prophetic on the part of Lee. What happens if and when genetic therapy and enhancement become norms? It seems to me that therapy is potentially very valuable and a great good. But what kind of greater inequalities would come to be from it? We must try to anticipate these and work to prevent further inequalities. As Christians, we need to care for the impoverished, and that includes what might be considered “genetic poverty.”

Supposing diseases begin to be cured on a broader scale through genetic therapy, it seems that Christians ought to support these changes with every effort. After all, curing illness and helping those in need is what we are called to do. But what does this mean for enhancement?

That question is much more complex. Enhancement, it seems to me, would necessarily increase the inequity between the haves and have-nots. After all, those who have the money to get super-sight or super-strength or predispositions to being great musicians could simply cash in to do so. Those who don’t, cannot. But does this mean it is wrong? It’s a very difficult question, and one that I don’t have a firm answer on. I lean towards saying that such things are permissible, but regulation seems a wise choice given we have little idea what impact modifying genes might have on the broader person. Again, I’ve written more on these questions here. What are your thoughts on answers to these questions?

Conclusion

Zeroboxer is an unexpectedly thoughtful book. Though it has some flaws, it is a worthy read. Just be aware of the violent and explicit content. See my review for more details on that. Exploring these issues related to genetics is very important. I see this as a field that will be expanding rapidly over the next decades. Christians need to engage with it and think about it ahead of time.

Links

Genetics and Bioethics: Enhancement or Therapy?– I delve into deeper questions about genetic enhancement vs. therapy. I also provide some further reading on the topic.

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Popular Books– Read through my other posts on popular books–science fiction, fantasy, and more! (Scroll down for more.)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Jurassic World”- A Christian Perspective: Gender, Dinosaurs, and Genetic Engineering

See this? This is what would have happened if we'd lived with dinosaurs.

See this? This is what would have happened if we’d lived with dinosaurs.

I had the chance to watch “Jurassic World” this weekend. It was pretty cool to see the dinosaurs back in action on the big screen. I enjoyed the tie-ins to the previous movies as well. Here, I will reflect on some of the worldview issues the movie raised. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Genetic Engineering

I’ve reflected on genetic engineering of humans in the past, but Jurassic World brings up some other difficulties that would perhaps be brought about by such a practice. Unintended side-effects were part of what created the Indominus Rex, a truly terrifying beast that had aspects of all kinds of different dinosaurs mixed into it to make it scarier.

I am by no means an expert on genetic engineering, but I do wonder whether tampering with the human genetic code could lead to some unintended side effects as well. Is it possible that our messing around with certain factors could deeply impact others? If so, what might that suggest about the moral status of genetic engineering?

Dinosaurs Would Kill People!

Jurassic World is not a friendly place for humans. Carnivorous dinosaurs–and even herbivorous dinosaurs–would be extremely dangerous to humans to say the least. Sure, the Velociraptors would have been smaller, and there is no Indominus Rex, but there were Ultraraptors and Giganotosaurous and the like. Why care about this from a worldview perspective? Well, most simply, because it seems that any worldview which would suggest that humans and dinosaurs managed to survive alongside each other has some serious difficulties with which to deal if it is to be believed. The young earth creationist position does hold to this exact view: that humans and dinosaurs at one point lived alongside each other.

Perhaps the young earth creationist would simply argue that the really powerful and dangerous dinosaurs did not exist alongside humans. The Earth is indeed a massive place–perhaps God simply ordered things such that the T-Rex and the human were not living in the same area. This counter-argument has some power to it, but then we must consider the very foundation of the young earth perspective: that this view is allegedly based on the Bible. Yet the authors of the Bible are allegedly aware of dinosaurs, according to some young earth creationists, and used words like behemoth to describe them [I do not think this is a legitimate interpretation; the behemoth is not a dinosaur]. In that case, it seems that such dinosaurs did indeed live alongside humans.

Moreover, the question would have to be asked of what biblical evidence there is for such convenient ecological sorting that would keep dinosaurs from utterly obliterating humanity.

Men and Women

There are a number of issues with statements or assumptions about gender that come up in the movie without being addressed. Why does Claire keep her high-heels on the whole time and how do they not break? Is it for the sake of the viewer? What about Zach’s continual lusting after the young women his age when he has a seemingly loyal girlfriend back home?

Interestingly, it is Claire who ultimately saves the day, despite Owen seeming to be the hero throughout. Her quick action to grab T-Rex to fight Indominus was a good turnabout on the expectations the movie built up regarding men and women.

Are You Not Entertained?

The investors in Jurassic World were worried that the profit margins weren’t as high as they had hoped. The answer was, as argued by Claire, was to genetically modify the dinosaurs to make them more fearsome and interesting. There was something deeply ironic about this because the movie almost seemed to be referencing itself: perhaps people have gotten bored by seeing T-Rex doing stuff: they need INDOMINUS!

I was thinking about how this might reflect on our culture and our insatiable need for newer, bigger, and better. But is this a true need or is it something that we are using to fill the voids in our world? I think too often we try to fill the holes in our view of reality with the wrong things, and the ironic commentary here–intended or not–was well-taken.

Conclusion

Jurassic World is not a movie made for deep reflection on the various issues it raises. But the fact that it does raise this issues is, in itself, interesting and worth thinking about. What are your thoughts on the movie? What of genetic engineering, gender issues, or humans living with dinosaurs?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Movies– Read other posts on this site about movies written from a worldview perspective. (Scroll down for more.)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 6/26/15- Genetic engineering, parenting, evolution, and more!

postI hope you will enjoy the latest round of the Really Recommended Posts, dear readers! I have taken some time out of a super busy schedule this week–preparing to move to a different state!–to scour the net for great reads to pass on to you. The topics we have include evolution, genetic engineering, parenting, historical apologetics, and racism. Let me know what you think, and, as always, be sure to let the authors know you enjoyed their posts as well!

Learning to Co-Parent– What does it mean to believe in the equality of the genders when it comes to parenting? How do we submit to each other out of love for the Lord through parenting? Here’s a great post on the topic with some practical insights.

Tears, Change, and Trust– A sermon on the Charleston shootings from a friend, Timothy Siburg. There are some good challenges against racism brought up in this post, and I urge you to check it out.

4 Key Points Christian Kids Need to Understand About Evolution– How should we be critical thinkers when it comes to evolution? Here’s a pretty even-keeled post on teaching kids about evolution. The post doesn’t fall into the pitfalls of assuming the absolute validity of any specific viewpoint or oversimplifying the topic. I enjoyed it.

Why You Should Genetically Engineer Your Children– Here’s an interesting argument from a Christian perspective for genetic engineering. I have reflected on the topic in the past and come down on a somewhat more negative perspective, though this post has challenged some of my positions. Check out my own post on genetic therapy and engineering, which I recently revised and updated.

Conrad Emil Lindberg on God and Revelation– Doug Geivett shares some insights on apologetics from the Lutheran theologian Conrad Emil Lindberg in his continuing series on historical apologetics. Be sure to read teh whole series, because it is excellent.

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