The New Inquisition
In another class I am currently enrolled in (Philosophy 258 – Contemp. Political Philosophy), we are currently discussing liberty and the amount of freedom which people should be allowed to govern themselves with without coercion from the State. Certainly, in dealing with genetics, government intervention is among the most pressing of issues. Recently, the United States, in addition to many other countries, passed a moratorium on human cloning and certain types of stem cell research. These decisions of enforcing a policy upon the people—in essence, a denial of liberty—stem from reasons based on morality and the ways in which we view ourselves as human. Obviously, cloning a person, either currently alive or deceased, would turn the current conceptions and definitions of individuality, existence, behavior, and life upside-down, and no longer will we be able to think of human life as entirely natural. Policymakers believe that altering these conceptions quite rapidly would undoubtedly lead to widespread angst and trouble among the public and in the world, and thus cloning is viewed as an immoral action against humanity.
However, one must consider previous technological and social benchmarks which caused the former definitions and ideas of human existence to change dramatically. Gallileo was persecuted heavily in the 17th century for renouncing the fact that the Earth was the center of the universe. Of course, who could blame the tyrannical majority of the Inquisition for being outraged at his claims? I cannot imagine how upset I would have become if for my entire life I had known absolutely that mine and the world’s existence was one of central importance, and one day some “astronomer” decided to prove that this was not in fact the case, but the opposite. I would undoubtedly characterize his actions as immoral, as they seem to serve no purpose other than to further confuse humans about the nature of their existence in addition to failing to promote and sort of general happiness. Clearly, it is easy to see the rationale behind the Inquisitions’ actions which have since been considered stubborn, old-fashioned, and close-minded by our history texts. It is even easier to see that it did not take long for most of humanity to get over it and adopt Gallileo’s theory, in turn granting us the truth of our existence which is valued above nearly all other ideals.
But wait. There may be a revival of the Inquisition on the rise. In addition to cloning, scientists have also recently developed incredibly advanced genetic engineering techniques capable of manipulating “the human blueprint” as well as created the first synthetic genome of a living organism. For the first time, the term “playing God” can be taken literally. However, if the current society has a say in the argument of its existence, it shall choose to attempt to snub out the possibility of altering the ideas about our existence and human nature even further. After all, our existences must be meaningful, right? To propose the idea that life—of human intelligence or otherwise—does not have to come from some sort of mysterious ethereal realm in order to be meaningful, and instead life may be manufactured in the same way that action figures or computers are assembled would be an offense against humanity. Further, the conception of what it means to be an individual will be dramatically altered as individuality can be seen to stem from nothing more than genetic programming in many instances. These core aspects of the human condition are all at stake here, and as Congress has repeatedly acted in favor of prolonging our current ideas, we can see that freedom of discussion seems to be absent in the case of the meaning and nature of life.
It seems ironic that humans are so reluctant to uncover the truths behind the most important questions of all time. However, though we may see the Huxley’s hatcheries as bordering on the extreme, given the history of human behavior it may not be unreasonable to predict that humanity may accept its re-defined role in the universe as it did after stubbornly persecuting Gallileo, and the extreme behaviors of the World State may in fact be quite normal in the world of tomorrow which has moved on from denial to acceptance in the grieving process.
As for whether I believe that cloning or other forms of man-made life should be allowed, I can’t say for sure. However, I do feel that our own insecurities must not stand in the way of obtaining absolute truth, and if the creation of identity and existence is not limited to God and nature, so be it. Suppressing ideas of any kind only acts as a detriment to society and supports the manipulation of truth among all of human existence. Let’s get the facts straight, then decide which direction we should head.