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An underlying but yet still prominent debate in today’s society has to do with the act of genetic enhancements and genetic engineering. It is a topic of discussion concerning the morality behind changing a person’s physical traits in order to better fit an image versus helping a person with a disability, or in any number of other ways. While I was aware of genetic engineering on corn or other foods, I have never paid much attention to the developing technology that could genetically engineer humans, until recently. Reading Partials by Dan Wells has opened my eyes to more details in the debate of genetic engineering.

 

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It could be possible in the near future that humans can choose to genetically enhance themselves to have more favorable physical traits. The technology is in the works to manipulate the specific genes in a baby or person in general to prevent autism, or Alzheimer’s, or give them blue eyes, or make sure they are deaf like their parents. I am now fully invested in the morality and consequences of such genetic engineering. While this may sound appealing, Partials shows how this can go wrong. When the government created genetically enhanced war machines called Partials, their plan backfired and the Partials ended up being more valued and dangerous to the human race than non-genetically enhanced humans were. I would love to be super athletic or have the most desired traits a person can have, but it’s unnatural. Sure it would be great to have all the traits we’ve always dreamed of having, but Partials has shown me this will inevitably create an even larger divide in today’s society, which is the last thing we need. Our world is already divided in every topic you can think of, do we really want to add genetic enhancement to that list? I sure don’t. And I have Dan Wells to thank for that new perspective.

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Wells, Dan. Partials. New York, Balzer Bray, 2012.

Truly Human Enhancement: a Philosophical Defense of Limits by Nicholas Agar, is a book focusing not only on human enhancement in today’s society, but also on what should be the limits of enhancement.

A summary of the chapter I focused on can be given as a discussion of  how genetically enhancing people would result in an increased moral status that could cause negative consequences. Agar states that while the possibility of the consequences exists, they should be avoided. Raising a person’s moral status through genetic engineering can result in the destruction of non-enhanced humans, as they are now dispensable. Agar also believes this society of some enhanced humans and some non-enhanced humans will not work because there is no way to smoothly transition from our society now to one half full of unnatural creations that are still considered human and half full of the same humans that have always existed.

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Other chapters in Agar’s book focus on the interest behind genetic enhancement, as well as more details in enhancement itself. The chapter I focused on for my research was relating moral status to genetic engineering and the inequality that it creates.

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Key ideas overall in Agar’s book are the many ways that genetic engineering would change the world, and how that is a bad thing. This book is relevant to many topics not only from the conference presentations, but in general research, as genetic enhancement is becoming more and more likely. It is already happening on a lower scale in labs with foods, but there is also genetic engineering for humans at the theoretical level. It is very possible in the near future, that we could be trying out gene enhancement on humans.

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Whether you agree or not with genetic engineering in humans, it is an interesting topic to look into, and Agar’s provides his side as well as some counter points to the genetic engineering debate.

 

Works Cited:

Agar, Nicholas. Truly Human Enhancement: a Philosophical Defense of Limits, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2014, pp. 181-194. EBSCO, http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzY3NTc4NF9fQU41?sid=4f00f12e-ce1b-4ca1-aca3-2b288e94c1ce@sessionmgr120&vid=0&format=EB&rid=1

https://mitpress.mit.edu/authors/nicholas-agar

http://gmopeach.weebly.com/genetic-engineering.html

Being an aspiring chemical engineer at GT, I would say science is a huge part of my life. I love dystopian novels and I’m devoted to science, so I think the connection between science and dystopian life is extremely compelling. As today’s society becomes more technologically advanced, I am intrigued to know at what point is a society beginning to strive for genetic enhancement rather than focusing on improvements to quality of life. This is easily seen in my independent reading book, Partials by Dan Wells. Wells describes a society where genetically engineered “war machines” turned against the human race and took out the majority of the population, leaving few survivors. These enhanced creatures, called Partials, were created in order to help the humans win a war against other humans. I am enticed by the thought of whether creating these Partials was morally justified, or just an immoral attempt at perfection. The area between morally right and wrong is grey and shifts with the current social structure, but I am fascinated in what defines right versus wrong. Image result for partials dan wells

It’s very interesting to me that so many dystopian novels incorporate scientific mishaps in their novels/movies/TV series. I believe it’s such a common theme because it reflects the scientific advancements in our society today. In today’s world, we are capable of alternating DNA sequences and performing genetic modifications. Scientific professionals are discussing the manipulation of DNA in order to correct genes that may cause diseases. Others, however, are wanting to push the limits of science and splice genes in order to make sure that future offspring will have certain physical traits, possibly even higher levels of physical and intellectual performance.Image result for genetic modification

While all of this science seems inspiring and inventive, what stops us from creating creatures like the Partials and having a disaster ridden world on our hands? What crosses the line between helping society and genetic perfection? What is morally wrong in the spiritual, religious sense? Is it acceptable to proceed with these modifications if you don’t have spiritually restrictive beliefs? Where does the line lie between science and playing God? I don’t have answers to any of these questions, but I would love to discover different opinions on the topic after some research.

 

Works Cited

“Goodreads.” Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/book/show/12476820-partials. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

“Science Clarified.” Science Clarified, www.scienceclarified.com/Ga-He/Genetic-Engineering.html.                      Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

Wells, Dan. Partials. New York, Balzer Bray, 2012.

Propaganda is the key behind most issues in dystopian societies, novels and movies alike. Propaganda is a fantastic way for the government, or other groups, to use ethos, pathos, and logos to create visuals for their cause/beliefs.Image result for ethos pathos logos

A very specific instant of propaganda being used to influence a dystopian society can be found in the Hunger Games series. From the very beginning of the first book, Collins shows the Capitol’s propaganda with the description of the speech given before the reaping ceremony. Image result for hunger games reapingThe speech describes Panem’s past and how the Capitol has supposedly saved them all and made the world a better and more peaceful place. Later on in the series, it is mentioned that clips are shown from District 13, the District the Capitol bombed and supposedly wiped out years ago. But it is later revealed that District 13 is alive and well and the video clip is the same one from when they were first bombed, as seen from the same tiny bird flying in the corner of the screen. An instance as simple as a video clip of District 13 has helped the Capitol hold control of the Districts as a whole. The Capitol uses the images and words in their propaganda videos and speeches to strike fear in the hearts of the Districts, which allows the Capitol to remain in control. The Capitol uses pathos when they create fear in the citizens of Panem by constantly reminding them who is in charge through the use of the speech before the reaping (or the video in the movie adaptation). They use logos by showing District 13, creating a message of “hey, you don’t want to mess with us or we’ll bomb and kill your District, think about that first”. The Capitol also uses ethos by describing how horrible life was before they took control, giving the impression that the Capitol knows what they are doing and can be trusted to take care of the citizens because they know the past and don’t want to return to it.

Another form of propaganda can be found in District 13. Once District 13 is up and running, they get ahold of Katniss in Mockingjay and use her to get their message out. At this point in the series, Katniss has inspired rebellion in the hearts of the Districts simply by her rebellious nature and refusal to quit. District 13 acts on this and begins to make promo videos to get the hesitant Districts to stand up and fight against the Capitol. While District 13’s propaganda may seem to be more for a better cause than the Capitol’s, they are still using ethos, pathos, and logos to attempt to convince the citizens of Panem to join their cause. They show Katniss in action to use ethos by showing that they have “the Mockingjay” on their side. They use devastating images of bombed Districts to inspire pathos, and have Katniss make calls of action to use logos.

 

 

Works Cited

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/386042999289333253/

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. NY, NY, Scholastic Press, 2008.

Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay. NY, NY, Scholastic Press, 2010.

 

Dystopia is a form of literature that has a definition that’s often confused with that of utopia, science fiction, post-apocalyptic, etc. Dystopia is different than all of these listed, kind of. If you google the definition of dystopia, it says dystopia is a noun: “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.” This definition is entirely negative, and has nothing that could be considered optimistic. Dystopias are not happy places. That is a fact. But, from different points of view, what some consider a dystopia might actually be a utopia to others. A utopia is “an ideal place or state.” While dystopias and utopias are virtually opposites of one another, the people in power would view a world where they hold totalitarian control as a utopia, while the poor, starving, and miserable citizens of this very same world view their nation as a dystopia. Point of view matters.

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The genres of post-apocalyptic, science fiction, horror, etc. are easily confused with dystopias because they are all sub-genres of dystopian literature. The difference is in the details with these genres, as post-apocalyptic comes after a world ending event, science fiction is more unreal situations, etc. Dystopian literature implies problems with our world today because of how realistic the dystopian society is portrayed. The characters have normal problems that we have today, and the literature is attempting to warn us of what could happen in the future. While these genres are different from dystopias, they are often combined in YA literature. I read a lot of post-apocalyptic, science fiction, and dystopian literature and it all blends together in my head because of how similar the genres are to one another. The difference is in how realistic dystopian societies are to our present one and how sometimes they even parallel one another in environmental, social, or political conflicts. Including all these other genres in the general definition of dystopia changes it a little bit.

Dystopian literature includes stories that are almost completely controlled by one government-like power that took control after a disastrous event and has attempted to rid the world of previous problems. When put into YA literature, the dystopias try to capture the problems of young adults and how they overcome what the higher powers have been forcing upon them. Most dystopias I think of are YA literature, I’m sure you can name a few.

 

 

Works Cited:

  1. “dystopia”. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 23 Jan. 2017. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/dystopia>
  2. “utopia”. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 23 Jan. 2017. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/utopia>
  3. “Utopia Vs. Dystopia – Lessons .” TES Teach with Blendspace, TES Teach, 21 Jan. 2015, www.tes.com/lessons/IqvoCi7f3FbUWg/21jan2015-utopia-vs-dystopia.
  4. “Young Adult Dystopian Novels……..How Do I Analyze Them??” Let’Slearnwithfun, WordPress, 3 July 2015, letslearnwithfun.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/young-adult-dystopian-novels-how-do-i-analyze-them/.