When people think of the progress and advances in the field of science, they are usually under the preconception that most discoveries and advancements in technologies are advantageous. Are these advancements as beneficial to society as people think they are? Or do they just lay raise to confusion between what can be considered morally and ethically permissible? In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley illustrates the dangers of scientific progress and its effects on our society, particularly in the field of biology. According to Huxley, it is not the advancement in science and technology itself that can be problematic, but how we use it.
Huxley scrutinizes human cloning by portraying a dystopian society where the government mass produces and conditions human clones for specific niches. The mass production of humans is accomplished by the Bokanovsky process. It is a process that is applied to a fertilized egg in vitro, which causes them to split into identical genetic copies of the original. This process can be repeated several times, but the maximum number of viable embryos that can be produced is ninety-six. Although Brave New World is a novel set in a futuristic time period, its concepts of cloning are not too far-fetched. In 1995, James Robl and Jose Cibelli were able to create a human clone using the facilities of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. They took cells from Cibelli's leg and cheek, put them along a cow's ovum with the genetic material stripped, and added a jolt of electricity. One of Cibelli's cells successfully fused with the cow's ovum, and the cells began dividing. Although the scientists destroyed the zygote when it reached the 32-cell stage, they assumed that it would have developed as Cibelli's identical twin. This was also the same process that was used to create Dolly, the cloned sheep, which occurred after Cibelli's success (Humans Have Already Been Cloned). Before this, cloning was thought to be impossible, but with advent of scientific breakthrough, the cloning of human become virtually possible. Numerous medical benefits such as the possibility of renewed activity in dead or damaged cells, the capability of creating humans with identical genetic makeup for organ replacement, and allowing sterile couples to have offspring. Such benefits unfortunately do not come without risk; for example, complications such as the compromise of individualities, the low fertility rate, the potential development of a black market, clones being treated as second-class citizens, and lack of genetic variation.
After the birth of Dolly, the debate over this practice on humans became widely controversial. This is not a situation where one can simply consider the pros and cons in the hopes of a tipping scale, but one must also consider whether or not human cloning is ethically and morally permissible. First off, human rights are infringed if the clones were to be treated as simply commodities of research. For example, in the novel Never Let Me Go, human clones are aware of their fates as adult donors, and are devastated knowing that their fate was predetermined. Since they were clones, they were not given the same rights, and had to accept their fates. Considering this, would it be ethically and morally permissible to create human clones solely for the benefits of another human being, even though human clones are also entities with their own hearts and desires such as ourselves? Once human clones are created, they would have to be considered human beings because there is nothing the discerns them from us besides our birth. They should have the self-evident right to live their lives as they please (To Clone or Not to Clone). Thus, the usage or human clones as commodities or replacements infringes their innate human rights, making the idea of human cloning for harvesting impermissible. Not only does it violate our natural rights, but cloning also carries the risk of serious abnormalities and birth defects. Then, one would have to consider the life of those who were unfortunate; it would not be morally permissible to create life knowing that doing so carries such a large risk, with a low chance of a successful outcome for the clone.
Because of the genetic breeding, as shown in Brave New World, there is no family structure that exists in their society. Instead, babies are raised in conditioning centers. Studies show that children cannot be deprived of parents of parent-like figures without suffering from some type of psychological damage (What is Uninvolved Parenting). The simplicity of being able to create human beings so readily in Brave New World deteriorates the value of life because life can be easily “replaced.” In addition this, they are predestined to be placed in a caste in society; Alphas are the intellectuals, who are at the top, and the lower caste consists of Epsilons who are forced to do hard labor. Mental capabilities are determined by the amount of alcohol injected into their embryo during the decanting process. By creating a world where humans are mass produced and so easily controlled, Brave New World demonstrates that advances in science can be dangerous to society if used without carefully considering the outcome.
The primary type of conditioning used in Brave New World is Hypnopaedia. In the novel, sleep-learning was discovered on accident when a Polish boy was able to recite an entire radio broadcast in English after he left it on during his sleep. Although the boy couldn't understand what he was saying, they soon came to the realization that it would be effective for the conditioning of human clones. These hypnotism techniques in Brave New World are widely used to promote economic stability and control the emotions of the society. The economy-oriented society in Brave New World relies on this Hypnopaedia to keep consumers eager to spend. For example, a popular slogan tells people that they “do love flying”(Huxley 33). Many people enjoy the adrenaline rush that flying a helicopter gives, but it is not the reason that it is used as a slogan, however. These helicopters require enormous amounts of money to keep fueled. As a result, the gasoline market goes up and drives the circulation of money. Another popular slogan is “ending is better than mending”(Huxley 35). The society encourages them to continually purchase new items to boost the economy, and that they should not have to worry about fixing anything . Hypnopaedic conditioning is supposed to be moderately effective at making people remembering direct passages or facts. Unlike human cloning, however, previous studies by Charles W. Simon and William H. Emmons in 1956 have shown that this technique was impractical and probably impossible. They reported that the material that was presented during the sleep was seldom recalled when the subject woke up (Encyclopedia of Educational Technologies). Future studies could show more insight, but as of now, there is no strong evidence stating otherwise. If this were possible, however, I feel as though it would be useful for us to take advantage of this, especially when it comes to education. It could be used as a tool to help those who have a hard time learning. Although such technologies can be abused, the overall outcome would prove to be most beneficial to society as it could help those who are struggling in school.
When people indulge themselves with Soma instead of dealing with their problems, it helps maintain emotional stability throughout the World State. Soma is a type of drug that is readily available and they can use it to distract their minds from other, more important matters. Instability in the workplace occurs when one's has emotional stress take away from the quality of their life. People often repeat the saying “was and will make me ill. I take a gram and only am”(Huxley 29). They are raised on the basis that the past and future do not matter, and that they should focus only on what is now. Worrying about the past or what is to come just creates emotions. Soma is the key to their stability because it allows them to simply ignore their troubles. A drug such as Soma does not currently exist, however, similar drugs such as anti-depressants do exist, but are often regulated. It terms of ethics, I wouldn't see many problems this drug could cause if it was regulated and were given out to those who truly needed it. If people were to become dependent on it, however, it would be a slow but probable process to eliminate their dependency.
Oxygen deprivation of the brain, or cerebral hypoxia, is a technique used by the state to suppress the cognitive function of the human clones during the cloning process in Brave New World. Depriving the clones of oxygen and treating them with alcohol lowers their intelligence and stunts the growth of the three lower castes. Brain injury can result of oxygen deprivation, and prolonged hypoxia can induce neuronal cell death via apoptosis (Long Term Consequence of Mild Oxygen Loss During Delivery ). These injuries lead to life long problems. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy has been shown to cause harm to a baby inside the womb and possibly long-term medical problems after childbirth such as fetal alcohol syndrome (Staff, Mayo Clinic). Fetal alcohol syndrome is usually just the beginning; other behavioral and educational deficits could also detriment the life of the baby. Both of these factors are prevalent in our society today, but unlike in their society, it's not ethically permissible to do so in our society, even with any type of consent. In our society, it is ethically wrong for physicians to impose treatments without the proper consent. But considering the fact that in Brave New World there was no family structure, this law wouldn't directly apply because they are still babies and don't have the decision-making ability to choose for themselves. However, just because they do not have the capacity to act of their own behalf, it does not mean that it is morally permissible for the embryos to have a predestined fate to a specific niche. This violates human autonomy, which is an innate human right.
The medical interventions in Brave New World are used to create superficial world where people seem to be happy. Science is used by the State with an intention of bettering technology without actually increasing scientific exploration and experimentation to create utopia. They use science as a means to build technology to control the populace. Because the State limits discovery in science, which is the fundamental idea of science itself, they dedicate their advancements in technology in the field of science to control the people in order to create stability in the society. As a result, because of their advanced technology, they are able to abuse it, and infringe on humanities' natural born rights as autonomous.
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