Silver’s Remaking Eden And The Silver Screen

1114 words - 4 pages

Silver’s Remaking Eden and the Silver Screen

In Remaking Eden, Lee M. Silver asks three central questions: Who controls life? What
counts as life? And what will human life look like in the future? The question Silver does not ask is
whether or not human life as we now know and define it will change. Silver sees the advance of
genetic engineering as inevitable, due to consumer demand for it as a technology and the unrelenting
curiosity of scientists. Power resides in science, according to Silver, and that power is “enormous.”
In the closing chapter to Remaking Eden, entitled “Tomorrow’s Children,” he recounts how “a single
eccentric scientist named Kary Mullis” obliterated all “preconceived notions of scientific
limitations” with his invention of the Polymerase Chain Reaction or “PCR” (240). As Silver describes
More than any other technique invented during the twentieth century, PCR has changed
the course of the biological and medical sciences. In addition to the enormous power
that it added to gene discovery and analysis . . . PCR has made it possible to obtain rapid
genetic profiles not only on humans but other animals and plants as well, with an
enormous impact on both agriculture and environmental science. PCR has also had an
enormous impact on forensics with its power to provide genetic profiles on even single
hairs left behind at the scene of a crime. And PCR has provided us with the ability to
look back into the past, to demonstrate that skeletons found buried in an isolated
Siberian town really did belong to the last Russian Czar and his family, and much further
back to derive genetic profiles on insects and plants that have been extinct for millions
of years [emphases added]. (241)
For all his scientific objectivity, there is a sense of reverence in the enormity Silver attributes to
Mullis’s discovery that lends a divine inevitability to technology’s advance. But then, before telling
us that Mullis received the 1993 Nobel Prize for chemistry “in recognition of the enormous impact”
of his discovery, Silver tosses out, almost casually, a reference that caught my attention. He
writes: “The real-world recovery and analysis of DNA from Jurassic-age bugs trapped in amber was
the premise on which Jurassic Park is based” (241).
If scientific advancement depends upon both consumer demand and scientific curiosity,
then the attitude consumers have toward genetic engineering and cloning must be weighed and
examined. Therefore, the question arises, “How do consumers form their opinions about cloning?”
As a Communications major, I am aware that popular culture is one powerful way that ideas about
controversial topics are communicated. Therefore this question becomes more specifically: What
can popular movies (like Jurassic Park) tell us about people’s attitudes toward cloning and the forces
shaping those attitudes? Once this question is answered, we may be able to judge more accurately
Silver’s claim that...

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