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July 22, 2004

The Seeds of Star Trek in German Politics

Here's what comes up from a quick news search on genetic engineering.

- Star Trek Enterprise revisits the Eugenics War with a 3 episode story arc guest starring Brent (Data) Spiner.

"Well, it's a very exciting arc. Brent is going to play an ancestor of Dr. Soong, the creator of Data. However, this character is more of a Dr. Frankenstein. He is not a benign individual. He has brought to life 20 embryos from the Eugenics era. So you have Soong who's leading a band of Khan Noonien Singh's, so to speak. He believes that genetic engineering was on the right track! He wants to improve humanity, and he believes that the Eugenics Wars were an aberration, that these individuals are the future of humanity. Of course he's wrong — they get away from him. They get out of control, and it becomes this three-episode saga that's kind of like 'Apocalypse Now' — Enterprise becomes kind of like a ship going up river, trying to find these individuals, with Soong on board."

I can already see how they're going to botch this up. Frankenstein, villains, genetic engineering can never be on the right track, megolomania and rampaging Nietzschean Ubermensch all nicely mixed into cliche-ridden hodgepodge. Arghh.

- Thwarting the public will in Germany.

PGD has been illegal in Germany since 1990, when the German parliament passed the Embryo Protection Law.

"There was a feeling that such new technologies required a strong national law because of fears of eugenics," says Heribert Kentenich, a member of Germany's national Board of Physicians.

Any manipulation of human embryos in Germany must pass a formidable legal gantlet, he says, "because a human embryo is considered a human being, and so it has human dignity."

[ . . . . ]

Even if the survey is accurate, Röspel says it does not sway him.

"I understand the desire of parents to prevent horrible diseases in their children," he says, but when it comes to deciding when PGD is permissible, "I do not believe it is possible to decide which diseases are horrible enough."

If PGD is allowed for one disease, "parents will say, 'But what about this disease?' And that's where the slippery slope begins."

While the Germans, who have valid historical concerns about genetic engieering, are debating on how to proceed they could take notice of, and avoid, the sinister regulations found in in Canada where children born of IVF must be registered with the government. Bill C-13. p17 reads, "The Agency shall maintain a personal health information registry containing health reporting information about donors of human reproductive material and in vitro embryos, persons who undergo assisted reproduction procedures and persons conceived by means of those procedures." Imagine the uproar of only registering the handicapped or children of designated ethnicity, or for that matter children with red hair.

- The Brits just this week decided to loosen up on their reproductive laws to allow parents to design their babies. They slowly retreating from the same cautious position found in Germany and are now letting couples make the choice of whether to create children who can act as genetically-matched donors for their sick siblings. They're still not at the point of granting people complete reproductive rights though.

Announcing the policy change Suzi Leather, the HFEA chairwoman, said: "Faced with potential requests from parents who want to save a sick child, the emotional focus is understandably on the child who is ill. Our job is to consider the welfare of the tissue-matched child which will be born.

"Our review of the evidence does not indicate that the procedure disadvantages resulting babies compared to other IVF babies. It also shows that the risks associated with sibling-to-sibling stem cell donation are low and that this treatment can benefit the whole family."

Clearly in the Star Trek future genetic engineering will be considered horrific and our descendents won't have full reproductive rights to help their children. That future seems to be at odds with the developing trends we're currently seeing with respect to IVF and PGD, so do you think that it is safe to infer, despite the many prognostications about Europe's waning power, that the visionaries of the Star Trek future are basing their predictions on the resurgence of the German cultural/politcal elite who will soon become the arbiters on matters genetic and act to reverse the current trends?

Godless comments:

While we're talking about German ubermensch, be sure to check out this post on the muscular mutant kid..

Posted by TangoMan at 09:19 PM