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A glimpse into the future of Gattaca

Views 31 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 12 - 6 - 2016 | By: Tyler Bradford


Extending from the Reel Talk put on by the Gaede Institute, the 1997 film Gattaca, written and directed by Andrew Nicol, was screened this past Thursday. The event was hosted by Aaron Sizer and, following the film, was closed with a discussion between Professor McQuade, Professor Vander Laan, and Professor Van Haitsma, as well as the audience. Sizer introduced the audience to the film, prefacing its screening by suggesting that they pay attention to what the film might say about potential biological and scientific realities, and how it warns against the dangers of cultural uniformity. Gattaca, a sci-fi drama that examines the human condition in a world where parents can alter and predetermine their children’s genes to ensure certain aesthetic and physical characteristics, provided a wealth of topics for discussion for the professors in attendance.
The discussion itself spanned topics from the moral obligation to one’s own child and the imminence of realistic and greater control over certain genetic conditions. All involved in the discussion were quick to recognize that the science fiction reality imagined in Gattaca, where selective manipulation of genetics can be used to create a child in one’s own vision, was not as distant a future as one might expect. The panel of professors all agreed that it is very likely that any one presently under thirty might have to confront some of the issues presented in Gattaca in real life if they have children. They all offered insights into whether or not it was necessarily right to do something like this: on one hand, you could potentially eliminate debilitating diseases and conditions that your child might have to live with but, conversely, is it right to do something like this? Professor Van Haitsma offered that, as someone soon to become a father, knowing that much about who your child might be gets rid of some of the fun of having a child.
The discussion panel also took time to talk about how far might become too far in terms of genetic editing and wondered whether or not the common user of genetic editing could be trusted to use such a tool responsibly. That particular segment also offered up the question of who was to determine what is or isn’t something that needs to be edited or fixed. It is easy to justify removing a susceptibility to a disease or illness, but could we justify removing something from someone’s genetic code simply because it might be aesthetically undesirable? Professor McQuade made a closing remark that offered a nice summation of the night’s discussion, “I don’t think God is grabbing [chromosomes] and cramming them together, but there is a sense that children are a gift from God and there’s something beautiful in every single person, so I just don’t want to trivialize them and say that we could pluck out each one of your genes and replace it with another.”


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