Wednesday, July 22, 2009

CSFF Tour - Bioethics and The Enclave

There's a lot of buzz going on about this month's book, The Enclave. Make sure to check out Becky Miller's blog, as she tracks all of the confirmed posts for the tour at this page.

I really enjoy the CSFF tour because we get some intelligent, creative people who care about faith discussing the books and issues brought up. We often have interesting discussions going on via various blogs that are quite entertaining.

The nature of The Enclave, dealing with scientists at a secretive genetic research complex, lends itself to some serious discussion of issues that are facing us today.

Regarding cloning a child who died prematurely:

"Actually, I consider the whole idea of trying to replace lost loved ones to be futile and misplaced. It might be the same body, but whatever soul God imputes to the child, should she be born, it would not be the same as your [dead] daughter's." (p170).
Another quote on cloning:

"Twenty-five years ago [head of the complex] Parker Swain was obsessed with human cloning, which he saw as a means of attaining eternal life." (p299).

This book may be considered science fiction, but we are not talking about far-future events here. There will soon be many issues confronting humanity regarding cloning, genetic or biologic enhancement, and the ethical dilemmas raised by these issues. Already we are seeing more and more widespread genetic screening of embryos, genetic manipulation of food sources (both plant and animal), and debates related to assisted reproductive technologies (IVF, surrogacy, PGD, etc).

Christians need to be aware of these issues and should have a basic ability to speak into the public square about them, because even if they're not already here, they will be soon. Not all of us can be geneticists or experts on bioethics, but we need awareness.

Literature can be a great vehicle for opening our eyes to such concepts. The Enclave does a good job dealing with the issue of cloning, although it loses some fizzle in the end with the introduction of the laser-beam wielding Nephilim (if that's not a teaser for the book, I don't know what is!). My favorite philosopher to quote regarding these issues is none other than Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park: "Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

Another book that hits this broad range of topics is My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, where a sibling is conceived as a "savior sibling," selected by preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) with the right match to be a donor. Eventually the sibling has to donate more to the older, sick sibling, but declines being used as a utilitarian tool any more.

The movie The Island was widely panned, but I really enjoyed it, not only for the action, but the intelligence behind the movie. People think they are the last remnants of society being protected underground, and the lucky ones win a lotto sending them to "the island", the last unspoiled place on Earth-when in reality they are clones being held as insurance for the rich in case they get liver failure from alcohol or are critically injured or ill.

Storytelling has power, as books from Pilgrim's Progress to Uncle Tom's Cabin to 1984 show. I applaud Karen Hancock for shining a light on issues that are looming in our future. There's a lot that can be said about this book, but this is the aspect that really caught my eye.

For more information on Bioethics and these issues, check out these links I've found in a little internet digging:

Breakpoint: The New Eugenics.

The Human Future.

The Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies. I liked this statement on "Enhancements".

The Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Your homework? Check out at least one of these links, and get a little more educated today!

1 comment:

  1. Jason, I'm so glad you posted on this. I think the inclusion of this near-future science makes this book so important. We Christians tend to be reactive, but here's an instance where we could actually go before and help shape the ethics of what science will some day be able to do.