Science, I believe, is a blessing more than it is a curse. Knowledge, and the desire to find out about the world around us as well as within us, is truly an admirable thing. Technological advancement has served only to cement this belief.
But is science close to creating the perfect human?
I think not.
Although any real speculation on this started with Mendel’s research on genetics, people have long been fascinated by the notion of ‘perfection’. Myths have been concocted, folktales told, about seemingly perfect people…and yet, even the ancients understood and acknowledged one fundamental thing: the concept of perfection changes. It is not the same for everyone, or even every century. So much of our understanding of it is based upon the arbitrary: beauty, success, intelligence, and the like. How can science possibly create a human who is a universally acceptable expression of these ideals?
Beauty, for example, is particularly hard to define. That old adage, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” has more wisdom to it than we realize. Near the end of the 1990s, scientists announced they had mathematically discovered the common characteristics of beautiful people. More recently, they have made similar discoveries about successful people.
They still aren’t any closer to using this information in the creation of a human.
Our knowledge of genetic engineering is rudimentary at best. True, it has improved vastly in the last few decades but it still more akin to groping in the dark for a light switch than declaring, “Let there be light…” Just last year, the Korean scientists who claimed to have cloned a dog were discredited when their data was found to have been fabricated. Like the French emperor who failed in his attempt to have the tallest army by forcing tall people to marry each other, selective propagation of characteristics in humans is little more than a hit-or-miss operation.
Nonetheless, there are people who are lured by promises of ‘designer babies’. Usually, such claims turn out to be fake but the people’s choices hint towards bigger problems—gender discrimination one of them.
We must ask ourselves: even if we could, should we?
In our desire for perfection, would we simply be providing a cover for intolerance?
Seen this way, perhaps such perfection would be more destructive than enriching.
Some say a human being free of all faults would improve the entire species’ gene pool. But even biological perfection is not always the best idea. Sickle-cell anemia is a genetic diseases that causes the production of malformed red blood cells; yet, in Malaria-hit regions of Africa, it is sufferers of this condition who survive. Their imperfect cells protect them from malaria, and thus, from death.
So much for biological perfection.
Galileo once said, “How can I believe a God who gifted man with intellect would forbid the use of such a gift?”
Science is a miracle. It has improved the lives of people all around the world, with even the simplest of medicines saving countless lives.
But it would be misleading to say it has—or will—improve the people themselves. Those (myself included) who support genetic engineering, stem cell research, or any other technology that some tout as the key to a being with flaws, should also support an individual’s right to being accepted as he or she is. All human beings are equal, and equally imperfect. Therein lies our humanity.
I do not doubt science will one day create a human, but in no way shall that human be “perfect”.
N.B. The prompt was “Science will soon create the perfect human being. Discuss.”