Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's Alive! It's Alive! It's Alive!

Frankenstein looks at his creation, seeing its hands move on their own, its eyelids fluttering open. He looks toward the sky and maniacally proclaims: "It's alive!!!"

I've always loved the Frankenstein legend and its many incarnations. I've loved the original Karloff version, the latter Hammer films, and even Peter Boyle as the misunderstood lug in "Young Frankenstein".

Mary Shelly's horror story, a gothic morality tale, was at once horror and science fiction.

Now, according to an article recently published in the "Guardian", a Nobel laureate named Hamilton Smith has already constructed a synthetic chromosome. Or another way to put it, scientists are now claiming to have achieved Frankenstein's illusory dream, the creation of life. Well, sort of.

According to the article:

"The new life form will depend for its ability to replicate itself and metabolise on the molecular machinery of the cell into which it has been injected, and in that sense it will not be a wholly synthetic life form. However, its DNA will be artificial, and it is the DNA that controls the cell and is credited with being the building block of life."

If you would like to read the whole article, here is the link for the Guardian.

Frankenstein created one monster, and never had to deal with issues regarding bioterrorism, or the political horrors of eugenics. Instead the theme was easily boiled down to the oft repeated line:

"He dabbled in things that were best left alone."

Why is it that when science fiction starts approaching the realm of science fact, it becomes more terrifying than anything presented in fiction. Don't get me wrong. I am all for advances in science. I don't harbor concerns about playing god. Instead, my night terrors involve what should happen when this technology is driven by corporate profit and not by any degree of moral or ethical responsibility.

I'm not stating that the people working on this project aren't ethical, but let's look at contemporary history.


Charles Gramlich said...

It's a pretty amazing achievement I'm reminded of a famous quote, although I can't remember who said it: "let dem make one pea dat grows and I bend down and worship them." I can't imagine that it will fail to be misused.

Vwriter said...

Although I fear corrupt Democrats and Republicans, corrupt management personnel and corrupt union officials, mad scientists and the masses who rush to video games before math and science books, they are in reality no more than the body parts of today's Frankenstein monster. In today's creature, its hideous and defective brain is always taken from the ideologues.

One of the gang members in my neighborhood illustrated this by explaining to me, "Only people scares me is ones thinks they knows whose guilty."

Kate S said...

Scary stuff.

Sidney said...

It is scary what can happen in a test tube.

I love the Frankenstein story too. Pseudopod has kind of a cool story called "Among Their Bright Eyes" by Alaya Dawn Johnson that finds the monster and his bride living in South America. Interesting take.

William Jones said...

One might say that history repeats itself, as modern "genetic engineering" has a legacy in the late 1800s and early 1900s with the American Eugenics program. Here is a useful link for past ventures into DNA before science new what DNA was: