I finished reading Michael Crichton’s latest novel, NEXT, about a week ago (thanks Ms. O’Dwyer for the recommendation) and it was an eye-opening, page turner about the emerging and clandestine world of genetics and bio-engineering. It’s not his best work (IMHO), but it poses some fascinating questions about who “owns” what parts of the human genome, and what should and shouldn’t be done in the name of scientific progress. Like many of Crichton’s other novels (The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Jurassic Park, Prey) NEXT mixes science fact with the fictitious world created. It also obviously makes some assumptions about what can and might happen if those steps are taken without really understanding the consequences – that’s what makes it so entertaining.
The book is a little unorthodox in that it is interspersed with clippings of articles from magazines and science journals (some real, some not) reporting on the “breakthroughs” made by scientists working on bio-engineering projects. With the novel marinating in the back of my mind, two recent news stories caught my attention because they seem to be evidence of the kind of questions that NEXT raises.
The first story is about the recent discovery in northern Congo of some 100,000 more gorillas than were expected. I found it amazing that with all of our technology and with our knowledge of where these very large primates live, that so many could have been “hiding”. The second story is about a company in South Korea who has supposedly cloned a pet dog for an American family. The company plans on cloning about 300 pets a year for $50,000 each. The fact that both these stories broke in the same week only makes their juxtaposition that much more relevant and eerie. It seems obvious that we have not yet collectively mastered the role of good stewards of the creatures that nature has put here; yet we are ready to pretend we are masters of the world because we have glimpsed some of nature’s secrets.
Thanks for stopping by and see you all soon.
© 2008 henry toromoreno