Tuesday, February 16, 2010

FEAR - Original Post April 26, 2006

In 1818 Mary Shelley unleashed FRANKENSTEIN, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS on the literary world. This Gothic cautionary tale warned of an Industrial Revolution spinning out of control. Man, mad with arrogance, dared to enter the realm of God - the creation of human life! Victor von Frankenstein cobbled together pieces and parts (now pieces is pieces, but parts is parts) of discarded human remains to construct his monster.

I've always thought he was particularly lucky to have found body parts of similarly sized men. Had he used Shaquille O'Neal's left leg and my right the poor monster would have just spun counter-clockwise when it tried to move forward.

But I digress, my point was that Ms. Shelley warned of the horror of patchwork living creatures at a time when harvesting the DEAD to save the LIVING was a dread thought. Today, we can participate in a process thought noble and compassionate by simply indicating our willingness to be "harvested" on the back of our Drivers' License.

In the last 60 years, medicine has saved countless lives by attaching pieces and parts from the dead (soooo pig! sometimes even from the dead of other species) to the sick and dying.

Medical ethicists, philosophers and theologians struggled with early transplants - thinking them "a step too far" and evidence of Man's arrogant attempt to usurp God's power. Luckily, those arguments abated and settled themselves as the lives saved bore evidence of God's will for Medicine.

They have resurfaced, however, as we have begun to master the Human Genome and all of the potential industries that might flow from the application of our new Knowledge.

Stem cells and genes are just smaller pieces and parts, really. We are only just glimpsing the "blueprint" of human life - yet already the ethicists, philosophers and theologians have begun their emotional moral hand-wringing.

Have we, at last, gone "too far?" Will God smite us for our prideful folly? Is there no end to Man's Curiosity and the lengths to which he will go to apply cutting-edge Knowledge to improve all of our lives?

I hope not.

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