Frankenstein’s Monster - and the “monsters” of the future
About 200 years ago, a cautionary novel, Frankenstein, was written by philosopher’s daughter Mary Shelley. It warned the reader to consider if just because something can be done means it should be done, and treated the subject of what could possibly happen when you take science too far - if you could take science too far. Shelley put forth questions that have been repeated for many years and by many people. Do people have the right to create artificial life and play God? Can any good come from it? Can man come to terms with the consequences of playing God?
Genetic engineering, as the direct transfer of DNA from one organism to another, started 44 years ago with Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen. Only 2 years later, the first genetically modified organism - or GMO - animal was created by German Rudolf Jaenisch. Since then, numerous modern day scientific breakthroughs have happened and allowed genetic engineering to become more advanced. This subject, like many other scientific subjects, has made many people upset. Is it ethically right? Morally right? What if we create monsters?
Mary Shelley addressed this sort of dilemma in her book, where a monstrous and hideous creature was created by infusing life into an inanimate body made from numerous limbs from different corpses. Dr. Frankenstein became so obsessed with creating his monster to the point that he had deprived himself of rest and health just for the sole purpose of creating life. He had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation, and upon completing his creation he realised not only the beauty of creating life, but the ugliness of death that lingered on the body parts as he realised had not created life, but twisted death. The creature, often referred to as “the miserable monster”, was gruesome enough to be shunned by everyone, including its own creator Dr. Frankenstein who simply could not come to terms with the consequences of playing God. Of course, Frankenstein’s monster was not evil or bad originally - in fact, its first action was to grin - but the circumstances surrounding its early life made it into the murderer it later on became. Thus, Shelley claims that good actually can come from man's obsession with playing God, but everything depends on what man does with the life created.
Although genetic engineering serves a countless amount of purposes, such as tackling and defeating diseases and getting rid of illness in young and unborn children, there could definitely be a dark side to it. What if we start using it on humans, maybe even frequently? There is a chance our future society might turn into a dystopia of “super-people” and designer babies. These people might get shunned the same way Frankenstein’s monster did simply because they are different, and there is a possibility they turn against their creators like Frankenstein’s monster did as well. This would certainly become an issue, and if all of the “super people” gathered together to turn against the creators it would be even worse. On the other hand, being a designed “super human” could become the new kind of normal. It could be considered unusual not to be designed and customized, and the ordinary non-altered people could get shunned instead. Another possibility - or risk - is that the designer babies, when grown up, realise they were created a way they never wanted. They might consider themselves unnatural or unwanted, just like Frankenstein’s monster did, since they were altered and changed before they were even born. Therefore, tampering with the gene pool would be a crime against human dignity. I believe this is what Shelley wanted to tell with her book, that we might be creating our own perfect monsters.
However, with our “perfect monsters” come consequences. If genetic engineering becomes part of medical practice, it could very well lead to drastic changes in human well-being - which is great - but it would affect people’s life span and identity to mention a few things. This would create ethical dilemmas and social challenges as well. What if the improvements were available to rich people only? Or, on the other hand, were available to anyone and everyone? It would lead to Earth eventually getting overpopulated as people live longer and healthier than ever.
In conclusion, it seems to me that Shelley was not way off with her hypothesis about humanity creating perfect monsters. “The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine”, Frankenstein said during one part of the book. The curiosity shown by him is what drives him to try to discover the meaning of life by creating life from draft. In this case I believe he uses the word “divine” instead of “to figure out”, but as he searches for the way in which one can create life, he is searching for a way to be divine and create life just like God does too. He wasn’t content with only appreciating the beauty of nature, he felt like he needed to figure it out too. I think, in some ways, he desired the power of knowing this said “secret of life” - almost becoming God.
Regarding the sources, all of the sources I used have plain information as their main purpose. I do not think there are many ways to angle the information the sources provide, as the only purpose is to teach about facts. There are not many opinions showing, although some parts of sparknotes.com, for example, are based on interpretations. Since none of the sources necessarily want to change the reader’s opinion on - or view of - something, they are quite trustable and reliable.
wikipedia.org is a website with countless articles about everything from different species of fish to information about tiny villages in Chihuahua, Mexico. Needless to say, it is quite diffuse. Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia, which means the articles on this site are customizable (to a certain point) by the members. This makes the site slightly unreliable, but since I did not rely on the site completely for this assignment it does not matter a lot.
sparknotes.com is a resource to turn to when books confuse you. The editors of this site are graduates of top schools with advanced degrees, and they have taught undergraduate and graduate classes among many other benefits. That, along with the fact that the site has got a whole page dedicated to contact information, makes me think it serves a serious purpose.
technologyreview.com is a site with a main purpose to report on important new technologies. With serious journalism written in clear, simple language by a knowledgeable editorial staff, it makes a perfectly reliable source. It has also been reporting on important technologies since 1899 with the backing of the world’s number one technology institute, according to it’s “about” page.
goodreads.com is, according to the site itself, “the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations”, with a mission to help people find and share books they love. The site was launched quite a while back in January 2007, which means that it has been around for a couple of years. This makes me think that it is reliable for some reason, strangely much alike what I feel about elders. They have been around for quite some years, which makes me think that they know things generally. Anyway, the site has got 55 million members and over 50 million reviews along with many nice comments on their press page. The fact that the site has got a CEO and Co-founder - with his name published - makes me think it is quite a serious site - not just some website launched the other day with no sign of its responsible.
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sparknotes.com wikipedia.org technologyreview.com goodreads.com
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KällhänvisningJulia Holm [2017-05-28] In-Depth Analytic Writing: Frankenstein
Mimers Brunn [Online]. https://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=60136 [2021-01-18]
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