Genetic engineering and ethics
The process of genetic engineering can be considered as the apogee of unprecedented technological innovations that have engulfed biological sciences. With the use and application of this technology the creation and production of transgenic organisms can be made possible. These organisms are such that include foreign genes incorporated in their DNA so that they are made more suitable and compatible with the different types of environmental and social hazards that organisms are confronted with.
The process of genetic engineering has widely been applied in the field of preparing artificial genes which are then incorporated in the genetic structure of people suffering from diseases like diabetes and hemophilia. Even though it is worth mentioning here that the entire process has proved very beneficial for people suffering from these diseases all over the world, but at the same time there are a number of reasons due to which the ethical debate and implications of this entire process has served as a barrier for the expansion of its operations.
Some of the prominent reasons due to which the proliferation of this process is not encouraged include first and foremost pressures and objections from the religious wing. The process is often objected by religious cleric simply because it is a man made and artificially orchestrated fabrication that is intentionally performed in the human body to meet certain set of agendas and objectives. It is often claimed that the process is founded on the basis of tampering with the natural system of rules and regulations by altering them for the acquisition of some material gains.
Another reason due to which the process of genetic engineering has become a topic of heated debate in the scientific debate is because of its anecdotal and highly capricious nature. Some of the bacteria or harmful microorganism strains that are treated and dealt in the genetic laboratory are very harmful and hence as a result of this process once they escape from the set of conditions that have been established for their analysis, these microorganisms can then undergo rapid mutation in their structure and genetic makeover which makes them completely uncontrollable. (James, 2004)
Much of the new diseases that we see emerging around us are in one way or the other an attribute of this process. Hence from an ethical as well as social perspective the exercise of this system on a large scale is restricted.
Genetic engineering and society
In the movie Gattaca director Niccol tries to explain and analyze the position of the protagonist Vincent who has been conceived and born without the use of this technology. Hence he does not possess the potentials that are important to make him genetic superior.
The kind of perception that the director intends to provide us during the course of the film is that in the not so distant future when the birth of progeny will purely be dictated by the way they are delivered, the process and phenomenon of genetic engineering will become a sign of social stature and position. People who have not been an outcome of this technology are considered as inferior primarily because they do not possess the qualities in their genetic makeover and structure which can easily be found in the ones that have been genetically modified and transgencially created.
The inferior perspective allied with the natural ones can be manifested at one point of the film when Vincent played by Ethan Hawke in the film when his parents express the despondency, regret and inferiority that they have to face in the society when people note the visible physical and mental differences in the capacity of him and his brother Anton who has been produced after genetic modifications, hence the stance taken by the director on this contentious issue is that people who are not an outcome of this process have to encounter the social complications and taunting that is present to exasperate them.
On the other hand it is also important to mention the relationship that the two brothers share with each other despite of their genotypic differences. Both of the brothers are regularly showed playing a game which they refer to as ‘chicken’ in which Vincent is usually the one who loses. Similarly the film provides symbolic importance to the swimming competitions that the two brothers have and in which Anton is the usual winner because of his enhanced physical capabilities.
However despite of the genetic inferior trauma that continuously haunts and tantalizes Vincent he is determined as ever to break all the mechanistic barriers that stop him from defeating his very own brother. This humanistic spirit is demonstrated in the film when Vincent challenges his brother for the swimming competition and finally defeats him.
The victory of Vincent is a concrete proof of the fact that despite of all the modifications that can artificially or mechanically be made in the human body it is the spirit of perseverance, determination and commitment present in the human soul that ultimately defeats and leaves behind all kinds of machines beyond. Another interesting turn that the film takes is with the inclusion of the prominent female actress Uma Thurman who plays Irene Cassini.
Even though she is perfectly normal and highly intelligent she has been refused to take part in the Gattaca space venture because of her high probability of experiencing a cardiac arrest. I think in this context the reason that have been put forward in the form of Irene’s sidelining is valid enough as people who suffer from any kind of heart disease or are susceptible to developing one are abstained from going onto space flights and missions.
Another reason which can be presented in the advocacy of this view is that a space mission is planned after extensive pumping of finance as well as expertise of people who have been working on it for many years. The entire responsibility of the mission cannot be handed to a person who suffers from such a fatal disease. Sidelining the participation of such a person the success of the mission as well as the longevity of the person’s life is ensured concurrently. (James, 2004)
Conclusion, Jerome and morality of genetic engineering
One of the interesting characters of the film without which the scientific analysis of Gattaca cannot be completed without the mention of Jerome played by Jude Law, because of the strict security measures coupled with the genetic prejudice that Vincent is confronted with he decides to impersonate the genetic profile of Jerome who was an outstanding swimmer.
A major reason behind this was Vincent’s dream of becoming an astronaut. Even though in contemporary times this kind of exchange in genetic profiles and subsequent impersonation of people is viewed as a crime, I believe that the director provided it a much fantasized look and tried to provide it an effective cover with the application of different situations.
One of the reason I feel that Jerome did not sensationalize his issue of impersonation was that he believed that a person like Vincent who has always been a victim of genetic prejudices and biases, something over which he had no control must be provided a fair chance to achieve his desperate dreams. On the other hand if the conclusion of the film is considered I feel that it complies with the kind of thesis that the plot of the film intends to convey and constructs over the entire duration of 106 minutes.
The conclusion reinforces the fact that even though man can supposedly assume to reach and explore unprecedented frontiers of innovation and advancement, he can still not defeat or change the rules that nature has made for him and to which nature it has adhered since the inception of this universe.
The concluding dialogue of Vincent is also very enticing when he says ‘they say every atom in our bodies was once a part of a star, and wonders, Maybe I'm not leaving, maybe I'm going home.’ As far as the question regarding the morality of genetic engineering is concerned I think the issue despite of the innumerable advancements and technologies that we have today is still open to debate.
With technologies like CVS or Chorionic Villus Sampling and Amniocentesis which are conducted in different phases of the gestation period parents are provided completely chromosomal and genetic structure of their child even before he is born.
In addition to this with the help of genetic counseling parents are also provided every kind of medical assistance which helps them in reaching to a conclusion whether they intend to have a child that suffers from any genetic defect or would rather go for abortion.
This type of attitude has actually along with social implications have coerced parents to have perfect children as they promise a better future in terms of extending their generations. I personally think that it is the right of every parent to have a perfect child, but endeavoring to acquire perfection on the basis of violating the natural laws and rules that are governed by divine authority is not at all legitimized.
No one is aware that even the so called perfect child might develop properties or characteristics that may pose a threat to the laws of society and science, and then in that case what choice or alternative would parents have? Hence if I would be provided with an opportunity to undergoing retrofication I would definitely stick to the way I am.