|Australian artist Patricia Piccinini's concept of what human-animal hybrids |
might look like, are provocative creatures which are part of a sculpture entitled
The Young Family.
"What the public has not yet grasped is that the new genetic technologies allow us to combine genetic material across natural boundaries, turning all of life into manipulable chemical materials. This radical new form of biological manipulation changes both our concept of nature and our relationship to it. We begin to view life from the perspective of a chemist. The species or the organism no longer commands our respect or attention. Our interest now focuses increasingly on the thousands of strands of genetic information that establish blueprints for living things.
With this new found ability to manipulate the very blueprint of living organisms, we assume a new role in the natural scheme of things. For the first time in history we become the architects of life itself. We become the creator and designer. We begin to reprogram the genetic codes of living things to suit our own cultural and economic needs. We take on the task of creating a second genesis, this time a synthetic one geared to the requisites of efficiency and productivity...
With our new power to manipulate the genetic code of life, we open up a new vista of virtually unlimited possibilities. We are in the early dawn hours of a new epoch in history, one in which we become the sovereigns over our own biological destiny. Though reluctant to predict a timetable for the conversion of our species from alchemist to algenist, those involved in the biological sciences are confident that they have at last opened the door onto a new horizon, one in which the biology of the planet will be remodeled, this time in our own image. Our generation, they say, stands at the crossroads of this new journey, one whose final consequences won't be fully grasped for centuries to come." Jeremy Rifkin, Declaration of a Heretic, 1985
Although futurist Jeremy Rifkin is a radical environmentalist, he opposes genetic engineering. He argues that the technology represents a grave danger, both environmentally and philosophically. He fears that society, inspired by science, will take a diminished view of human life as no more than a few strands of DNA. "This is a new technology that goes to the heart of our values," he says. "The end result could very well be a brave new world, very damaging to our human spirit." Says Andrew Kimbrell, an attorney for Rifkin's foundation: "Everything that's living has a meaning and is owed reverence and care. There must be a balance between efficiency and empathy. We see ourselves as helping to provide that balance."