Brave New World

I may have mentioned this before, but one of my favorite novels is C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. It was the final part of what is known as Lewis’s Space Trilogy. A brief summary of the book is available at this link. The villain in this book is an entity called the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments - N.I.C.E. – which seeks to build a Utopian society based on science. Of course they are basically nothing more than totalitarian, atheistic thugs.

My admiration for the book is based on the fact that Lewis was a prophet. At least, that’s what struck me when I read this headline and accompanying story:

Britain on course for ‘three parent babies’

Britain is on course to become the first country in the world to legalise the creation of IVF babies with three biological “parents” after the fertility watchdog announced that the public is in favour of the controversial technology.

And then Bob Grant’s voice entered my head: They’re sick and they’re getting sicker.

But hey, evidently a majority of people would be down with completely re-working the laws of nature.

A major consultation found that a majority of people would back the therapy, under which a small part of a mother’s genetic material is swapped with that of a healthy donor to eliminate the risk of passing on a host of hereditary diseases to her child.

By removing faulty DNA from the mitochondria, which is always inherited from the mother, experts believe the child and future generations could be spared from a collection of devastating conditions affecting the heart, muscles and brain.

And this is how we’ll convince people that we aren’t entering Frankenstein-levels of biological tinkering. You see these great minds are merely making sure that no one should endure the burden of an imperfect child. Don’t you feel so much better about this project now?

And then on top of the ethical and moral concerns, there’s this:

The HFEA, which carried out the consultation, advised ministers that if they do legalise the therapy, donors and patients should remain anonymous and have no right to contact one another.

Yeah, that always works out well.

And if you’re concerned that we’re at risk of making Gattaca a reality, don’t you worry your little heads off.

Dismissing fears that allowing the treatment could be the start of a “slippery slope”, she emphasised that the therapy – which could become the first treatment to alter the human germ line – would only be available for people at risk of passing on mitochondrial disease.

For now. Oh, she didn’t actually add those words, but I’m sure that’s what she meant, at least if she had a moment of honest self-reflection.

Fortunately, despite the repeated insistence – based on absolutely no data presented in the article – that this procedure has broad public support, clearly not everyone in jolly old England has lost their ever-loving minds.

But opponents of the technique have questioned the moral justification of engineering embryos, and questioned how the resulting child’s sense of identity might be affected by the knowledge that they have three biological parents.

Dr David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert, said: “Historians of the future will point to this as the moment when technocrats crossed the crucial line, the decision that led inexorably to the disaster of genetically engineered babies and consumer eugenics.”

Now, now, Doctor, our best and brightest have assured us that we have nothing to worry about. That should make us all feel much better.

11 Responses to Brave New World

  • Manipulating the destiny of a man’s soul through genetic engineering is pretty awesome. Even God leaves the destiny of the man’s soul to the free will of the man. Frankenstein did not appreciate being messed with so he (Frankenstein) killed the guy who messed him up. The altered individuals will be searching for the people who altered them without respect for their human souls, their free will and their consent. And If the altered human beings are going to hell, because their consent was eliminated and ignored, you better believe that they will be taking their inventors with them. Hell hath no fury as that of a woman scorned and altered.

  • Paul.
    Thank you for this.
    C.S. Lewis was a visionary…unfortunately.
    Now we witness the fiction turning fact. Nice.
    On Monday a story from a science blog touted the progress of reviving an extinct frog species. When will this all backfire?

  • G. K. Chesterton spoke of this phenomenon in the Shadow and the Wells. The classic idea is that there’s nothing knew. After a brief experiment with freedom, we’ll return to the beehive scenario that assumes a hundred names. We’ve been returning to it since the progressive era, roughly coinciding with the onset of the twentieth century.

  • Jon-
    Is it Shallow and the Wells?
    Excellent find. Thanks.
    “Those who leave the tradition of Truth do not escape into something which we call freedom; they only escape into something elese, which we call fashion.”
    How fitting.

    One more that rings clear; “We have come out of the shallows and the dry places to the one deep well, and Truth is at the bottom of it.”

    Appreciate your insight.

  • So in the U.K., per European Union regulations, it is illegal to grow, import, or sell genetically modified food; but it is perfectly acceptable to produce genetically modified human beings. Tomatoes must be protected against genetic tinkering, but men must not be.

  • Tom-
    GMO tinkering have produced tomatoes that look like gems, however its fails horribly in flavor.
    Makes one wonder how successful the tinkering of humans will go. Possibly a human that looks like a strong specimen, but laking in soul?
    Pray onward throughout the darkness until the dawn dissolves the night.

  • Tom Sharp

    Alas, you are quite right about the UK

    On the other hand, some EU countries, notably France, have very strict laws on assisted reproduction and ban surrogacy entirely

    Consider the following excerpts from the Code Civil:-

    “Art. 16
    Legislation ensures the primacy of the person, prohibits any infringement of the latter’s dignity and safeguards the respect of the human being from the outset of life.
    Art. 16-1
    Everyone has the right to respect for his body.
    The human body is inviolable.
    The human body, its elements and its products may not form the subject of a patrimonial right…

    Art. 16-5
    Agreements that have the effect of bestowing a patrimonial value to the human body, its elements or products are void.
    Art. 16-6
    No remuneration may be granted to a person who consents to an experimentation on himself, to the taking of elements from his body or to the collection of products thereof.
    Art. 16-7
    All agreements relating to procreation or gestation on account of a third party are void.

    Besides these specific laws, one has the catch-all provision of Art 1128, ““Only things in trade can be the subject of an agreement” Thus, the ethical principles enshrined in the laws of France do not allow a child to form the subject of a contract.

  • Phillip, thanks for hte correction. Yes, its Shallow and the Wells. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis saw through the political trends of their day, and they knew it represented retrogression, not progress.

  • Christianity brought progress in every arena. We are living off this religious capital in the West and when it is spent, we find that we revert to paganism, to barbarism, to the conditions that plagued the dying ancient Roman world. A generation has now arisen that is clearly post-Christian. Unlike C. S. Lewis’ generation which conciously tossed Christian verities to the wind, this generation has been reared without them.

  • Catacombs in our future?
    Fr. John Hardon warned us of the days to come. The rapid rate of decent is sobering.
    Bless you folks for inspiring me with your treasury of literary genius.
    Peace.

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