Requiem of the Human Soul

The human race is on trial. At stake… Its continued existence

Re-engineering animals… at the expense of their soul.

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.

Eusebio visits a 22nd century re-engineered game reserve...

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.

... but he discovers it's really a 22nd century Disneyland

Here’s a link to a description of this episode on the book’s official website.

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.


February 19, 2010 Posted by | genetic engineering | , , , , | Leave a comment