Tag Archives: science

Frankenstein Exhibit and Science

  One of the most interesting parts of the traveling Frankenstein exhibit was on the last partition. That side was all about modern advances in medicine and genetics. Today, genetics, cloning, artificial organs, genetically enhancing organisms and stem cell research not only can be connected to the story of Frankenstein but have raised great concern for the scientific community as well as the general public and it got me thinking…

These issues raise a lot of questions such as, what it means to be human? What is morally and ethically right or wrong with these issues? What limits  should be placed on scientific discovery in general? What restrictions, if any, should be placed on these new advancements? And who gets to answer these questions and make the choices?

These advancements have even  drawn the attention of Hollywood. Movies are being made to make people aware of these issues as well as the problems that may stem from them and the questions they raise. A few such movies are, Gattaca (genetics), The Island (cloning) and Repo-Men (artificial organs).

These movie plots and the problems they raise may seem a bit extreme but wasn’t Frankenstein’s plot a bit extreme for the time period in which it was written? That is part of what made it such a great scary story. However, with all our bio-medical advancements the idea of the monster it not too far off. We are able to save lives with modern medicine and technology including organ donations, surgery and jump starting a heart with electricity by using a defibrillator.

If history and such movies as stated above have taught us anything, it is to be cautious when it comes to advancements. People like to take advantage of situations and technologies if no restrictions are in place. Whether it is to clone loved ones in case an organ fails, genetically enhance certain abilities,  create artificial organs to defy death or the create a companion from dead matter because of loneliness there need to be restrictions so things do not get out of control.

 

 

 

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What’s scarier that monsters?

More so than any one individual section of the Frankenstein exhibit, what caught my interest most was that I saw a continuous message from multiple different sections. I noticed a great deal of emphasis on science and ethics. The exhibit featured information about subjects from cloning, creating life,and re-animating dead beings, to genetically modified food. Each these are scientific developments that are exciting for the future of the world, but are greatly opposed by some because of the fear of not knowing what impacts and long term effects they may have. The debate we face in science is the same issue Victor faced. The ethical decision is either to continue to work towards advancement at the cost of potentially catastrophic results, or remaining where we are in the world of discovery an allowing our fears to hinder out development.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court gives us what I believe is the best evidence that we should continue to research the endless possibilities. In the book, Hank’s perspective on the time period allows him to show readers that as time goes on, and our understanding increases, we fear things much less. For instance, when Hank uses a pistol to shoot the knights in the contest, the people are terrified and think it is magic. Hank, having known the technology long enough to understand it, is able to control it and use it to serve a purpose. If we do not allow for experimentation, we will never be able to understand the unknowns we have and the potential of the science we may discover.

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Baby Fae

The Frankenstein Exhibit that we visited in class presented several very interesting comparisons between Frankenstein and technological advancements made in modern medicine. I thought the portion about Baby Fae was most interesting. Baby Fae was born in 1984 with an abnormal heart. After being given a terminal sentence by the doctors her parents turned to experimental procedures. She became the first infant to receive a xenotransplant (animal to human transplant). Doctor Leonard L. Bailey operated on Baby Fae replacing the infant’s heart with the heart of a Baboon. Baby Fae survived 21 days before dying of a kidney infection.

This case brings up several ethical issues. Does a human having animal organs make them any less human? Is it right for animals to be killed if it means saving the life of a human being? Is it ok for doctors to perform untested medical procedures on infants if they have been diagnosed as terminal?

In my own opinion it does not make the person any less human to have the body parts of another mammal operating within them. I do however take issue with the potential slaughter of animals for human benefit. I also think, however, that it is sometimes necessary for doctors to take ethical risks to make advancements in the medical field.

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