In a New York Times op-ed piece today, Adam Shriver proposed a whole new way to mitigate the suffering experienced by farm animals – breed them through genetic engineering so they won’t suffer any more.
In my blog, Tyranny of the Prefrontal Cortex, I’ve written a rebuttal of this idea, called “Animals Suffer? Lobotomize Them!”, where I argue that to do what Shriver proposes would be to destroy the animal’s soul before they’re even born.
This issue is strikingly similar to one of the major themes of Requiem of the Human Soul – do we risk destroying the soul through genetic engineering? I’m not talking about the Judeo/Christian/Muslim eternal soul here. Rather, it’s the essence of a creature that I’m talking about, the soul that arises from the complex dynamic interactions of all aspects of a creature’s existence.
In the book, there’s a scene where the hero, Eusebio, is taken on a visit of a 22nd century game reserve. The reserve was created using genetically engineered versions of creatures that had, for the most part, become extinct as a result of our 21st century devastation of the natural world. The d-humans of the late 22nd century are extremely proud of their creation. At first, Eusebio’s thrilled to experience what he thinks is the natural world. Then, back at Reserve Central, he discovers that every creature in the reserve is being micro-managed using transmitters and responders genetically engineered into them. As this sinks in, he begins to realize that he’s been hoodwinked, that in fact he’s just taken part in a 22nd century version of Disneyland.
What do you think of the issue? If we can use genetic enhancement to make up for some of the devastation we’ve caused – whether it’s the suffering of farm animals today or the extinction of wildlife next century – should we do so? If we have the technology to “play God” and fix our own screw-ups, is that the right thing to do? Or are we just on a ever-accelerating joyride on the human spaceship leaving Planet Earth behind?
Please let me know your thoughts.
I was happy to hear today that Requiem of the Human Soul was named one of the finalists in the Science Fiction category of the 2009 Reader Views Awards.
Here’s the review of the book by Reader Views from August 2009 by Paige Lovitt:
In the late 22nd century, earth is ruled by d-humans. These are people who have been genetically designed. Seen as superior beings, they view the primals, people who have been unaltered, as genetically inferior and frail. Primals are susceptible to getting diseases and genetic disorders. While d-humans might seem superior, somewhere along the way, they seem to have lost their soul.
When the UN proposes PEPS (Proposed Extinction of the Primal Species), primal Eusebio Franklin is chosen to defend the primals to allow their existence to continue. Having to review the often times violent history of primals, Eusebio gets questioned about their responsibility in the massacre of indigenous people and the forced extinction of species of animals. While history doesn’t look good for the primals a renegade group called the Rejectionists help Eusebio to see what the d-humans are up to. As with incidents that have taken place throughout our history that have murdered and wronged many, the d-humans don’t seem to be much different. They just seem to have better control over enforcing their goals. The Rejectionists offer Eusebio an opportunity to help save the future of the primals, but in taking action, Eusebio will be responsible for killing millions – including himself.
Eusebio has much to decide. Relying mainly on his heart and his love for his people, he tries to do what is right. He is an extremely spiritual soul who values the wisdom passed down from his ancestors. This makes Eusebio seem much more evolved than the d-humans.
“Requiem of the Human Soul” is incredibly deep and thought-provoking. The story is so much more than a fictional novel. Being that the book is set in the future, Eusebio would actually be representing me because I am a primal. Looking at the plot from this perspective really added to how I viewed the story and our violent history. It seems silly that Eusebio is on trial for atrocities committed by his ancestors, yet this attitude is pervasive today with many cultures and there are many people killing others in the name of their gods. Also, even though Eusebio was not physically genetically superior to the others, his soul made him so. Even though they might try, the soul is something that cannot be created by science. I highly recommend this novel, “Requiem of the Human Soul” by Jeremy R. Lent. I think that people who have interests in bio-ethics will really enjoy it.
“Achieves a near flawless rhythm as the narrative builds. His prose… is as gifted as it is fearless”
By Norm Goldman of The American Chronicle
On first glimpse, you might very well have considered Requiem of the Human Soul strictly a work of science fiction, however, Jeremy R. Lent has gone much further. He has constructed complex characters while probing the deepest reaches of their minds. To boot, Lent´s technical brilliance is awesome yet jarring as he permits each of his characters fashion a distinct radically different resolution while the reader is left to become the ultimate judge.
The setting is the late twenty-second century and Eusebio Franklin, a high school history teacher from the small community of Tuckers Corner is abducted by two d-humans, Harry Shields and Naomi Aramovich. Eusebio is a Primal or someone whose human DNA has not been tinkered or enhanced, unlike that of Shields and Aramovich´s DNA. The d-humans blame the Primals for genocides, devastation of indigenous cultures and the utter destruction of earth´s environment, as well as the mass extinction of many species of animals.
As a result, the United Nations has constituted a special hearing called The Proposed Extinction of the Primal Species (PEPS) that has been in existence for several years debating whether the Primals should be eliminated from the earth due to the past atrocious behavior of their ancestors.
At the time of the hearings there were seven billion d-humans in the world and three billion Primals. Aramovich and her fellow Primal Rights activists have chosen Eusebio to defend his race. Aramovich assumes the role of Eusebio´s defence attorney wile Shields is acting as the prosecuting attorney.
Shields divulges to Eusebio that the PEPS´s proposal is quite human, honest and legitimate. They are following due process and furthermore they are not acting like the Primals of the twenty-first century, saying one thing in the UN while permitting the exact opposite to happen in the real world. Basically, the plan involves changing the world by doing away with some of its innocent inhabitants. To accomplish this feat, a compound called Isotope 909 will be released and there will be a partial sterilization of the ovaries of all Primal women around the world. However, this will in no way affect d-human women. Furthermore, as it will only be partial sterilization, Primals, who have not had a child, will still be able to give birth once. The Primal species will eventually fade away, and this will be the final solution to the “Primal Question.” As soon as the Primal population reaches about twenty-five thousand, they will be safely placed in enclosed reservations. They won´t entirely disappear, as cloning techniques will be used to keep the Primal population stable.
While the hearing is unfolding, Eusebio receives a visit from the mysterious Yusef who calls himself a freedom fighter of the human race and who warns him that the hearing is a farce and he shouldn´t take part in it. He also reveals to Eusebio that he is a Rejectionist or d-humans who have refused to go along with the treaty known as the Global Aggression Limitation Treaty (GALT). This treaty, signed after the Great Global Wars, gave the UN global policing power with a full-time army. However, according to Yusef, GALT was in fact the struggle for the human race.
Eusebio wrestles with many challenging questions and soon realizes that there are no simplistic solutions. Is possible to defend the past actions of the Primals from a moral or ethical perspective? What does it mean to be human? Should humanity be given a second chance? Does anyone have the right to play God and alter DNA even if it means improving ourselves? What about our souls? If we do in fact believe in the human soul, would it survive if the DNA is modified? And above all, if Eusebio were asked to commit murder on a massive scale, would he agree to it if it meant saving the human race?
This is a cleverly crafted debut novel that achieves a near flawless rhythm as the narrative builds. There is a great deal of confusion and complexity here as Lent refrains from making his characters conduits for right and wrong. His prose mixed in with a healthy dose of science fiction is as gifted as it is fearless leaving readers in a state of exhaustion but surprisingly exhilarated to have the opportunity to partake in this most unusual hearing. Perhaps this was Lent’s objective? If so, he has succeeded admirably.
Review by Holly Chase Williams from Foreword Clarion Reviews
It is one of the great travesties of the human experience that violence is often perpetrated by those claiming to follow Jesus, Mohammed, and other spiritual leaders who advocated peace. Therefore, the premise of this novel, a genetic manipulation that deselects the twin capacities for spiritual belief and fanatical intolerance (aggression) in new humans, might seem like a wonderful idea. Except that in the process, these designer Humans may be losing their souls.
In the d-Human world of genetic pre-selection, the wealthy also have the most happiness, good looks, height, compassion, or whatever characteristic their parents paid for.
Eusebio Franklin, a history teacher in remote Tucker’s Corners who specializes in Native Americana, is forced to make an impassioned defense for the importance of spiritual belief and the future of the remaining three billion of “his” race—a definition that includes any non-genetically altered human. In actual human history, Eusebius was a historian and chronicler of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christ was allegedly buried.
Counsel Naomi Aramovich tells Eusebio that the unaltered “Primals,” “are the global underclass…who could never come close to affording even the most basic genetic enhancement. For the most part, they’re illiterate, starving, and diseased.”
As a member of a tech-avoidant, traditional Humanist community, Eusebio would seem to oppose everything the d-Humans stand for. But should he? What if every d-Human you saw seemed happy, healthy, engaged and purposeful? What if the d-Humans showed you that the vast majority of your fellow “Primals” lived in dire conditions?
Author Jeremy Lent holds a master’s degree in English literature from Emmanuel College in Cambridge, England. His first novel flows quickly but smoothly, pulling the reader into Eusebio’s ethical struggles and his arguments about our direct ancestors’ destruction of cultures, indigenous animals, and entire environments.
While Eusebio grapples with questions about the motives of the lawyers trying his case at the United Nations hearing and the trustworthiness of the mysterious Yusef, who claims to be a freedom fighter for the unaltered minority, readers will pause to consider an even larger question: How responsible are we for the actions of our ancestors? For Eusebio, the ultimate question is: Does humanity deserve another chance?
Requiem of the Human Soul is a gripping read that will keep readers up at night, slurping up the last few pages like a specialty juice from the future world’s neighborhood Betelbar.