Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ensoulment and Cloning Technology

In both Christian Ethics class (Hugo Magallanes) and Philosophy of Religion class (Joseph Okello), we've been studying what makes a soul and its relationship to both mind and body. What makes a person a person? Our discussion ran long today in Christian Ethics and we were not able to watch the Star Trek episode "The Measure of a Man", in which Lt. Com. Data is forced to defend himself as a sentient being in court. But it is a very good starting point for discussions about what makes a person a person.

Related is the Exosquad episode "Underneath the Skin". Exosquad was a short-lived but brilliantly written science fiction cartoon in the mid 1990s. It takes place in the 22nd Century. Humans used genetic engineering to build a race of slaves designed to work in terraformed Venus and Mars. The slaves, called 'NeoSapiens', rebelled. The rebellion failed, but they were manumitted and left to live as second-class citizens. Now, fifty years later, a charismatic and bloodthirsty leader named Phaeton has united their anger, formed a secret army, and attacked all three worlds at a moment of weakness.

In this episode, the humans have begun the long, slow reconquest of the homeworlds by recapturing Venus. Phaeton has created a clone from the body of a dead human soldier and programmed it to infiltrate the human forces and kill their leader, Admiral Winfield. The clone of Alice Noretti struggles between her programmed mission and her innate self passed on through the cloning process which would never consider doing such a thing.

The video, which is inexplicably refusing to embed for me, is here.

I say this only half in jest: science fiction has substantially helped prepare us for the ethical issues that surround human cloning and other human-duplicating and approximating technologies.


MethoDeist said...

I am a huge Star Trek geek and loved that episode. I have to admit that I usually watch it when it comes on because it was done so well. I have not seen the other show but it sounds interesting and shows a much darker future for we humans.

As an optimist I like what Star Trek has to say about future human development but the realist in me wonders if we would ever be able to make it to such an advanced level.

Kenny said...

Predating all of them, compare Isaac Asimov's 1976 short story "The Bicentennial Man."

John said...

The professor recommended that one, too.