Cloning In Light Of Frankenstein Essay, Research Paper
As scientists continue to piece together nature’s mysteries of science, and as technology is becoming the dominating force in numerous areas worldwide, there is often a crucial piece of the puzzle that goes missing: responsibility. Though many people praise the abundant benefits of modern technology, few actually understand the principles that are being dealt with, and in many cases this leads to disrespect of technology and its place in the world. In order to make best use of technology, it should not be exploited nor applied to every situation depending on the immediate whim of humans. Rather, it should be measured, controlled and eyed carefully as a delicate gift containing many positive aspects, but also a gift which conceals an immense potential hazard if not used correctly.
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Humans have within their grasp the ability and technology to create life. Many believe that this knowledge will lead to further degradation of the human spirit. But others, like Prometheus and his gift of fire, believe that new technology is the key to a new, and better, reality. Genetic engineering and, specifically, cloning, of human life has become an issue of extreme gravity in the age of technology where anything may be dreamed and many things are possible. Cloning is a reality in today’s world: Not long ago, Gearhart and Thomson announced that they had each isolated embryonic stem cells and induced them to begin copying themselves without turning into anything else. In so doing, they apparently discovered a way to make stem cells by the billions, creating a biological feedstock that might, in turn, be employed to produce brand-new, healthy human tissue. That is, they discovered how to fabricate the stuff of which humanity is made (Easterbrook 20) .
Leon R. Kass proposed three perspectives that serve to classify the ways people think of cloning as beneficial: The technological perspective will be seen as an extension of existing techniques for assisting reproduction and determining the genetic makeup of children. Like them, cloning is to be regarded as a neutral technique, with no inherent meaning or goodness, but subject to multiple uses, some good, some bad. The morality of cloning thus depends absolutely on the goodness or badness of the motives and intentions of the cloners . . . by the way the parents nurture and rear their resulting child and whether they bestow the same love and affection on a child brought into existence by a technique of assisted reproduction as they would on a child born in the usual way. The liberal perspective sets cloning in the context of rights, freedoms and personal empowerment. Cloning is just a new option for exercising an individual’s right to reproduce or to have the kind of child that he or she wants . For those who hold this outlook, the only moral restraints on cloning are adequately informed consent and the avoidance of bodily harm. The meliorist see in cloning a new prospect for improving human beings minimally, by ensuring the perpetuation of healthy individuals by avoiding the risks of genetic disease inherent in the lottery of sex, and maximally, by producing optimum babies, preserving outstanding genetic material, and with the help of techniques for precise genetic engineering enhancing inborn human capacities. Here the morality of cloning as a means is justified solely by the end, that is, by the outstanding traits or individuals cloned beauty, or brawn, or brains (Kass 22).
The detractors of cloning cite the loss of human dignity as the primary adverse effect. The process of cloning includes extraction of human cells from early life – the use of aborted fetuses. Many people find this repugnant and recoil from the potential uses such knowledge could be put to – like Frankenstein and his creation, is Man playing God? and what are the unforeseen consequences? God created life from the firmament. Dr. Frankenstein created life from what was once living matter. The scientists of today propose to create life from life. Frankenstein harvested his components from the charnel houses of Ingolstadt, whereas the seeds of life are now reaped from the unborn dead. Perhaps the hope of cloning is like the wish of Dr. Frankenstein that he could return to life those nearest and dearest when they are killed by his creation in revenge for mankind’s rejection of him and Frankenstein’s destruction of the half-finished female. Perhaps the proponents, like Frankenstein, will run in fear from the room after they have found they are successful in creating a new Being. The revulsion seen in the acts of the Doctor are mirrored in the response of modern Man to the concept of cloning. The Being, once brought to life, is grotesque, unacceptable to others of humankind. Is this what we fear in the future of genetic engineering? Has modern science, like Prometheus and Pandora, unlocked a secret for which the control does not yet exist? Frankenstein admits that the different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. . . . “now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart”(56) and is subsequently struck down with physical illness brought on by the confusion of moral decision making. Once Frankenstein is immobilized by his own moral dilemma, his creation escapes and in the act of being unbound, brings about the destruction of Frankenstein, all that he loves and the world as he knows it. Is there a lesson in this for modern Man? If we, in our moral confusion are powerless and the creation takes on a life of it’s own – will we inevitably be destroyed? Is this the inherent disgust that is felt but not able to be explained in the matter of cloning? Is the fear of a loss of dignity the same as the creature’s irresponsible rejection by society? These questions serve as catalyst for comparison between the creation of life that was Frankenstein’s fall and today’s scenario of technological advancements that allow the creation of life through cloning.
In the book, the creation knows his origins and places the blame for his differences and isolation on the moral irresponsibility of Dr. Frankenstein. Like a child, he wishes to have the Doctor’s life mirror his own and begins to murder the people for whom the Doctor cares. The answer seems to be to create a companion for the creature. A being that shares his differences from the rest of society. In the process of creating the companion the Doctor realizes that such a species could evolve beyond the ability of the current society to control it and decides to destroy the female. This action brings about more destruction and pain by the creation and the Doctor has to find a way to destroy the creature. The creation is also aware that it is not time for him to be accepted, that he will not find companionship among these people who are so different from him and yet, made from the same material. The story ends with the creation destroying the creator and then himself.
The subtitle to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is The Modern Prometheus. In one version of the myth, Prometheus defends the human race against Zeus and, as a consequence, suffers greatly for a long period of time. Prometheus somehow feels responsible for the beings for whom he has defied the Gods to bring new knowledge and new tools. Looking at Frankenstein as Prometheus the natural comparison is the knowledge of life from death and the knowledge of Fire. Like Pandora’s box, once opened, unleashed or unbound, the creator loses control of it’s creation. Like Frankenstein, the scientists of today must confront the reality of success in an endeavor that may well unleash knowledge the consequences of which are unknown. The feeling of disgust that has been described as a result of contemplating the cloning of humans may well be prophetic information gathered from the stories and beliefs of the past. There is generally some truth to the myths and stories that are perpetuated through time. The same arguments that are used by proponents of genetic engineering and cloning techniques could have been raised in defense of the experiments of Dr. Frankenstein. Learning the secrets to creating life inevitably provides lessons to extending and improving life. The problem becomes the ethical or moral considerations of creation. There is a point where the creator must take responsibility and where the created gains independence. Like a parent with a problem child, the decisions are generally made with the best intent but may not meet the needs or satisfy the urges of the new individual. The stories of the past, such as Frankenstein and Prometheus, are the precursors to the future. The central theme and incidence were plausible and are now on the verge of reality.
At the end of the novel Victor relates his story to Walton to prevent him from making the same devastating mistakes that he made. Close to death, Victor sends a final warning to Robert, saying, “Farewell, Walton! Seek happiness and tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries!” (Shelley 200).
This, in turn, is the message that must be spread to all who are currently developing new technologies or those who aspire to do so in the future. To erase foolish ambition and its uncontrolled experimental technology is to destroy the “Frankenstein” that corrupts the earth’s natural order and begin back on the road to a new world, filled with hope, happiness and tranquility.