The ethical debate concerning biotechnological exploration into genetic cloning has created a monster in itself. A multitude of ethical questions arises when considering the ramifications of creating a genetically engineered human being. Does man or science have the right to create life through unnatural means? Should morality dictate these technological advancements and their effects on society? The questions and concerns are infinite, but so to are the curiosities, which continue to perpetuate the advancement of biotechnological science.
In literature, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein serves as a bio-ethical exhortation for today’s technological advances in genetic cloning. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein provides a clear distinction between the theoretical grandeur of man’s ability to scientifically author life and the stark reality, which it encompasses. Mary prophetically illustrates some of the potential hazards of breaking through the barrier that separates man from God Her insight allows the reader to trace these repercussions through Victor Frankenstein, the monster, and eventually society. The character of Victor Frankenstein illustrates the path of destruction scientists can create when ignoring their moral community. Victor was so impassioned with his life’s work that he has lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit. Frankenstein’s blinding ambition prevented him from seeing the potential consequences of his actions until it was to late.
The first sign of Victor’s fatal flaw of egotism is that he forgets his bond to Nature and to the people he loves. “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me.” (933). His absence of moral judgement is the catalyst for what becomes the demise of the creature, society and ironically himself. It would be years before Victor fully realized that his neglect of moral obligation to the creature and society had unleashed a hideous monster that would eventually destroy his society as revenge for the monster’s sense of abandonment. “I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race.”(1000). Frankenstein led by the desire to widen human knowledge finds that the fulfillment of his lofty ambition has brought only a curse to mankind
The monster created by Frankenstein is also an illustration of the embodied consequences of our actions. Mary Shelley uses the monster to show that everything born pure in this world is susceptible to corruption and evil. The gigantic stature of this creature can also be viewed as a symbol of the enormous perils found in creating life outside of natural bounds. Although the creature received a moral and intellectual education, the lack of a nurturing, companionship, and acceptance from society led him to reject morality and replace it with evil. “I had cast off all feeling, subdued all anguish, to riot in the excess of my despair. Evil thenceforth became my good. Urged thus far, I had no choice but to adapt my nature to an element which I had willingly chosen. The completion of my demoniacal design became an insatiable passion.” (1032). This hideous monstrosity goes on to claim his murderous ways are justified because of his inability to find happiness in this human world. “Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend.” (960). The monster’s acts of revenge for his miserable existence displays a cold calculating presence of evil completely devoid of moral decency. Though the existence of the creature is unnatural and immoral, the behavior of this hideous monster further escalates the dangers of man playing god. The senseless murder of Victor Frankenstein’s friend and family was Mary Shelley’s way of suggesting to society that they could all become victims of scientists like Frankenstein, who unnaturally create potential monsters.
Until recently, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was viewed as a brilliant work of fiction, now the messages in her writings warrant substantial consideration from a bio-ethical standpoint. The act of scientists breaching the domain of human creation is no longer confined to fiction. The bio-ethical dilemma that haunted Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s work of fiction has ironically found it’s way into modern science. Geneticists are now on the verge of extracting the secret of creating life from human DNA specimens in hopes to artificially recreate human beings. This biotechnological advancement has come to be known as Cloning. Scientists should heed the words of Mary Shelley, because a cloned society could evolve into a race of evil and destruction. Geneticists must also exercise extreme caution in their advancement in genetic cloning because we cannot fully comprehend the detrimental effects it will have on society. The golden rule states that we should “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, which translates into treating each person as an individual rather than as a means to some end. Under this moral precept we should turn away from human cloning, because it inevitably entails using humans as means to other humans’ ends. A Utilitarian ethic must be adopted at the expense of individual freedoms when considering the Mary Shelley’s exhortations in Frankenstein