Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Brave new world

We will no doubt tire of hearing the expression "brave new world" today.
The expression is a quotation from "The Tempest"---Oh brave new world that has such people in it! says the heroine Miranda as she is both fulfilled through the mystery of magical encounters, and freed from its bonds.
The title was picked up by Aldous Huxley in his prophetic novel which has many interesting reflections on what future life might be like...drugs to ease the pain of mental torment, designer babies conceived in test tubes, and a state which has uncertainty and excitment about its future which is both live giving and fear creating.
So it has been interesting to see some of Huxley's thinking coming into reality.
Is the "brave new world" of stem cell research really as foreboding as some commentators would have us believe? As you listen to some of the arguments in the Senate last night some of it is terrifying...harvesting ova from corpses etc...the slippery slope and so it goes on.
It is often easier to retreat to absolute certainty. To make authoritatrian statements like "fertilised ova are human beings" that slams the book closed on debate. And I have been inclined to do that in the past.
But I rather think we have to do better than that.
If we take the example of the other end of life---death--- we realise that what were once certainties say 50, 100, 200 years ago are not "certainties" any more.
Once death could be the heart stopping.
Now we can stop hearts in order to undertake surgery.
Once we never considered "brain death" and so some people lingered on with no consciousness even though their hearts continued to pump.
We are in a different place today.
We need to think a little harder about all this, and keep the debate going. Not simply assume that dogmatic assertion is the answer


Mary J said...

Yes, I can't help but think that times are changing. But it's quite exciting and all that

stephen clark said...

You just hope that half of what is promised may be true