A few days ago I went to see the new Bourne movie and found myself completely caught up with the science behind the film. For years now this concept of genetic engineering has both fascinated and terrified me. As the daughter of a brittle Type 1 diabetic, I’m torn on the subject of scientific tampering. On the one hand, I pray for the day when we’ve progressed far enough to eradicate hereditary diseases and rid human evolution of this kind of genetic weakness. On the other hand, where is the line? How do we know when we’ve venture too far from our benevolent aims and begun tampering not only with DNA, but with human nature itself?
This is a common theme in the science fiction genre, and in nearly every literary and cinematic example, we see the terrible effects of cellular tampering. Like the Larx-03 agent from The Bourne Legacy. Spoilers: While physically he proved very advanced, ultimately he seemed to be little more than a human robot, completely devoid of emotional responses. They achieved their goal of creating an agent – or assassin – capable of immeasurable violence and destruction, but they sacrificed his moral understanding of the world in the process. Larx-03 seemed closer to a robotic Terminator than a human being.
This concept of creating a ‘supersoldier’ isn’t a new one. In fact, it’s pretty common these days with the popularity of comic book films like Captain America, and war-related video games such as Halo and Resident Evil. But what keeps me up at night is the very real possibility that governments are already developing scientific projects to create genuine ‘supersoldiers’. The truth is, having never underestimated the lengths to which political powers will go, I have no doubt that this is already under way. Government agencies like DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) devote their energies to the pursuit of any and all scientific and technological advancements that might give us a military advantage. They’ve delved into behavioral sciences already – why not genetic engineering?
Whether it’s for medical or military purposes, I fear that this concept of improving humanity could potentially lead us down a dark road. When does eradicating diseases or creating better soldiers transcend into something else – something more extreme?
When does it cross over into eugenics?
Historically we’ve seen the terrible repercussions eugenics can have. Segregation, marginalization – even sterilization, infanticide and genocide. This quest for enhancing human genetics is dangerously flawed. And while I approve of attempts to lesson mankind’s suffering via genetic exploration, I’m apprehensive about any scientific endeavors which could lead to such deadly consequences.
I’ll leave off here with one last thought. The human race is an imperfect one – to try to make us perfect is going against our very nature. I just hope we never lose sight of that as our scientific exploration of the human mind and body continues on its amazing path forward.