The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

Engineering Eternity

I recently read an article reviewing a number of books about biotechnology. The range of views and possibilities is amazing! There are terms that were hitherto sci-fi: cyborg--the combination of mans and computer, chimera--animal-human hybrids.

The issue that is most disquieting to me is the transition from drug therapy to gene therapy. So, far we have used pharmaceutical drugs to help us contain or constrain various maladies we humans face. But, why not identify the genetic causes for problems like Alzheimer's or arthritis, Lou Gehrig's disease, Parkinson's, Crohn's, Hodgkin's, Down's (already known--23rd chromosome pair), or the latest digestive track problem advertised on television, and repair the genetic makeup of our children in order to prevent such debilitating diseases? Why not?

A somewhat dark, but good--and perhaps appropriately dark, movie that deals with these ideas is Gattaca. It raises issues to think about as we move toward genetic engineering--that's a more accurate term for genetic therapy. Since when do we 'engineer' humans? We have computer engineers, mechanical engineers, aeronautical engineers. Will we someday go to college and aspire to become human engineers?

The issues that human engineering raise are enormous. It is possible, so why not? Science believes that all possible endeavors should be pursued. But, the enormous power of a select few who have this engineering knowledge will corrupt them. Read Lewis' Abolition of Man if you disagree with me. This Oxford-educated don will outline the problems we face today in flawless logic. And he died in the the early 60's. The fact that he so accurately describes life today only attests to the prophetic voice his logic had.

Perhaps you see utopia on the horizon, within our grasp. Perhaps that is a tantalizing ideal--eternality of conciousness in some form--on computer, in another body: these things are being considered.

And perhaps we were made for an eternal existence. Maybe death isn't the way it's supposed to be. But is human engineering simply our new mirage of the fountain of youth?