Saturday, January 29, 2011

'Frankenstein plays God' shock horror

When I wrote recently in New Humanist, apropos of my new book Unnatural, that “It is all too easy for self-appointed moralists who warn that reproductive technologies will lead to Frankenstein monsters and Brave New Worlds – whether they are the Daily Mail, the religiously motivated bioethicists who determined George W Bush’s biomedical policies, or anti-biotechnology crusaders – to tap into familiar, legendary nightmares that foreclose a grown-up debate about how, why and when to regulate the technical possibilities” (the piece was accompanied by the wonderful image above by Martin Rowson), I have to admit that I wasn’t thinking very much about the possibility that the Daily Mail would review Unnatural. But if I had been, I needn’t have worried, for it seems that folks at the Mail have ruthless mental filters that transform words into precisely what they want to hear. And so it is that Christopher Hudson’s extensive review in yesterday’s Mail is amazingly favourable, calling Unnatural a “fascinating and disturbing book”. Never mind that I pick apart the idle journalese of “playing God” – Unnatural is apparently “the story of all the Frankensteins who wanted to play God by creating mankind.” Never mind that my point about Brave New World is that it is not “eerily prophetic” at all. Never mind that the central point of the book (there’s a clue in the title) is to challenge accepted notions of “unnaturalness” – one of the key problems for human cloning is apparently “How can its unnaturalness be overcome?” Hudson says that my book “demonstrates [that cloning] could eventually destroy what it means to us to be a human being.” Well, no; I set out to demonstrate that, whatever cloning might do, it will not in fact be that. I would like to imagine that a lot of Mail readers will be in for a surprise if they buy the book on the back of this review (and please don’t let me stop you); but who knows, maybe they’ll convince themselves into drawing the same conclusions.

“From Frankenstein to clones, how our hunger to play God could be the death of us”, says the standfirst to the review. Now if only they had run it a bit earlier, that would have supplied the perfect headline for the tabloid that Martin’s Creature grasps. 

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