A classic work of literature is one that applies to all generations at some level. While some works may only be relevant to a particular time in history, classic works offer lessons that apply to all periods of history and offer these lessons to new generations. However, the novel Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is a unique work in that is increasingly applies to the modern world. It was written in 1816 and published in 1818, at a time when no one could have predicted the future scientific progress that has occurred in the last two hundred years (Hitchcock, 15). The novel shows the ramifications of scientific advancement. It asks the most important question that all scientists should ask before engaging on a new research project: we can, but should we? Just because a scientist can clone a sheep or change the human genome does not mean he or she should do this. The novel warns of the ramifications of not taking responsibility for one’s scientific advancements. This paper will discuss how genetic mutation has the possibility for becoming the “Frankenstein” of the future due to its potential for creating a new species, like the creature was a new species. (This is a thesis.)
As stated, we should consider that genetic mutation can create a new species. One area that we should consider closely in the modern world is genetic mutation. Genetic mutation allows a scientist to change DNA which is the building block of all life forms. However, it is not known how these changes may impact the future. The philosopher and ethicist Francis Fukuyama has questioned how this will change the future. He believes that there are significant reasons to be concerned about the future. He points out that the ultimate outcome of genetic mutation is unknown. He also discusses how there are ethical issues associated with genetic mutation and experimentation on humans (Fukuyama 78).
Both of these issues occur in Shelley’s novel. The outcome of Victor’s experiments did impact the future, particularly the future of Victor and his family. However, Victor approached the project with the desire to outcome the future of all humanity. He truly desired to overcome death and create a new species that did not die. “I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted” (Shelley 51). He did not approach his experiment with the desire to create a monster. Rather, he had lofty ambitions when he began to create a human being. However, he was horrified by the results and rejected his creature. As a result, the creature unleashed a significant amount of death and heartbreak for other human beings. Victor’s refusal to accept responsibility for his scientific discover led to horrific outcomes. Mary Shelley wants scientists to recognize this lesson. Fukuyama also wants scientists to consider the potential outcomes of their genetic mutations. Furthermore, he warns them that there is no possible way to predict all outcomes of their scientific endeavors. Just as Victor could not predict the deaths of his beloved family members at the hands of his creation, scientists today cannot fully predict the full outcomes of their genetic mutations.
In the future, if individuals can alter the entire genome, will this lead to the development of a super race that does not resemble the current race of humans? Just as Victor feared that a female creature would give the creature the ability to reproduce, individuals with genetic mutations may reproduce. Furthermore, if only the wealthy can afford to alter their gene lines, how will this affect the poor and middle class? Will there be two races of humans: one super and the other average? The disparities between the wealthy and non-wealthy are already tremendous. The ability to alter gene lines will increase this to an insurmountable level. Scientists are considering ways to alter the genetics of humans. The real question to ask is have they realized that, like Victor Frankenstein, they cannot predict the eventual outcome of their work. The most important question then is whether or not they should engage in any activity that they cannot control.