Biotechnology by Jessica Young

This weekend while I was watching the 1970s blockbuster hit The Boys From Brazil, I was struck by the parallel between the concepts of cloning presented in the movie, and the study of biotechnology which was examined during lecture this week. Although the movie was released three decades ago, its message is resounding and transcends the passage of time. The movie shows that although we may have the capability to create genetic duplicates, we are unable to create a duplicate person in the sense of experience and exposure. In The Boys From Brazil, Dr. Josef Mengele (played by Gregory Peck) is a former Nazi living in Brazil who’s life work has been to preserve Adolf Hitler’s dream of creating the Aryan Race. At the culmination of his years of experimenting with genetics, he feels confident that he has succeeded in attaining this impossible dream, now all that’s left is the dirty work of recreating the conditions of Hitler’s childhood. He places the 94 successfully cloned babies up for adoption in various countries around the world. The babies are given to couples where the husband is a significantly older, domineering, blue collar worker and the mother is a simple, meek, country girl who dotes on her son and is completely submissive to her husband. After the boys have matured for fourteen years, Mengele hires former Nazis to recreate Hitler’s adolescence by killing off the boys’ fathers in a manner that is seemingly accidental, as according to Hitler’s experience. However, all does not go according to plan when Ezra, a Jew who has devoted his life to hunting the Nazis that once hunted him, catches on to what Mengele has planned. At the very end of the movie, a fight ensues in which the truth of what the doctor has created becomes glaringly evident. These boys are completely uncontrollable and unpredictable. They may all possess mannerisms similar to those that Hitler possessed, but they are by no means the same as their father of sorts.

In Skye Hawthorne’s (BioArts’ founder Lou Hawthorne’s son) science project entitled “Cloning Grandma’s Dog,” Hawthorne examines the similarities and differences between dogs and their cloned counterparts. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/01/garden/01clones.html?_r=1  The results of this experiment were unprecedented, proving that the cloned animals shared only 77% of the characteristics associated with the original animal. Specific results included that that Mira (the cloned dog) shared Missy’s fondness for broccoli, lots of snuggles and long walks. However, they varied in that Missy used to jump into cars, whereas the clone was still having trouble just distinguishing the family car, and the original animal hated camera flashes, whilst the clone did not respond to standard flash at all.

cloned-dogs

Although the idea of cloning has become more and more popular in recent years, both scientists and political leaders need to think seriously before sanctioning further research. As more and more individuals gain access to the technology responsible for cloning, the chance of having an individual cloned behind the back of the government becomes a greater reality. If we are not willing to deal with all the complications and repercussions of such experimentation, then why are we still pushing the boundaries of genetic experimentation? If we do not intend to use such technology, then why do we insist on developing it further and further?

the-boys-from-brazil

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