Two developments in the news this week that advance the privatization of life and portend the bifurcation of humanity into sub-humans and uber-humans. First, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in a case brought by the ACLU and others that the company Myriad Genetics is entitled to patents it has claimed for two natural human gene mutations, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. (PHG Foundation, Aug. 5; GEN, July 29) The idea is ostensibly finding ways to fight cancer, but it beats us why a private company should have the right to patent something created by nature—much less a part of the human genetic code! Days earlier, the Daily Mail revealed that scientists in the UK “have created more than 150 human-animal hybrid embryos,” which has left critics “warning of a ‘Planet of the Apes’ scenario.”
Figures seen by the Daily Mail show that 155 ‘admixed’ embryos, containing both human and animal genetic material, have been created since the introduction of the 2008 Human Fertilisation Embryology Act.
This legalised the creation of a variety of hybrids, including an animal egg fertilised by a human sperm; ‘cybrids’, in which a human nucleus is implanted into an animal cell; and ‘chimeras’, in which human cells are mixed with animal embryos.
Scientists say the techniques can be used to develop embryonic stem cells which can be used to treat a range of incurable illnesses.
Three labs in the UK—at King’s College London, Newcastle University and Warwick University—were granted licences to carry out the research after the Act came into force.
Right, always in the name of bettering humanity and curing disease, so anyone who dissents can be dismissed as a misanthropic reactionary. Meanwhile, the advance of this technology spells the practically inevitable doom of the human race, or its eventual transformation into a degraded post-humanity, or (at least) the emergence of a caste of corporate-controlled sub-humans. HG Wells warned of this in The Time Machine (1898) and The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896). So did Francis Fukuyama in the nonfiction Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution (2003). And now we get to anxiously gnaw our popcorn as genetically engineered simians take over the world in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Again, Hollywood plays on extremely real fears, even if they are only held by the masses on a subconscious level—but their very exploitation by the entertainment industry is a part of the propaganda process by which they are delegitimized, allowing the headlong lurch into dystopia to continue without protest. As we have had occasion to say before, inevitably a part of the message is, “Relax, it’s only a movie.”
See our last post on the battle for human evolution.