A Fist in the Eye of God

by Kirill Sakharov

An respond to the article against genetic engendering.

I, personally, would never trust a guy in a suit who’s never given away a nickel in his life, but I don’t know if the world would be a better place if nobody did. Whether I trust Kingsolver’s logic depends a great deal on what I myself believe on several issues. At the start of the essay I was not sure of my stances on genetic engineering and globalization, but after a few readings and ponderings, I might have come to a conclusion. What the conclusion is and how I got there I will see by the end of this essay.

In her essay “A Fist in the Eye of God,” Barbara Kingsolver takes a strong stance against genetic engineering. Kingsolver ties in many arguments against genetic engineering into her essay. She talks about the dangers of widespread manipulation of genes, including the rising death rate of monarch butterflies and the new allergies some humans develop due to new artificial strains of corn. (Kingsolver, 256) I saw how many of her examples made sense. If we were going to tamper with nature without knowing the full extent of the changes we are causing, then we are in a great heap of trouble. And the agribusiness is the most vital business in the world, so the end result would mean the greatest heap of trouble. There is no room for the butterfly effect to screw us over.

If the scientific arguments weren’t enough, Kingsolver manages to show political and social consequences of extensive genetic engineering. She brought up the strong possibility of forced globalization should genetic engineering reach today’s crops fully. “What will it mean for a handful of agribusinesses to control the world’s ever-narrowing seed banks? What about the chemical dependencies they’re creating for farmers in developing countries, where government deals with multinational corporations are inducing them to grow these engineered crops?...And Finally, would you trust a guy in a suit who’s never given away a nickel in his life, but who now tells you he’s made you some free Magic Wheat?”(257) Well, Kingsolver had me stumped for a while with these questions, since I knew the answer that she wanted to hear, but didn’t know about the answers that existed to nullify these questions. Thus, after reading the article I decided to plunge myself into the depths of logic to find the answers.

To answer the first question that was posed, a handful of agribusinesses controlling the world’s ever-narrowing seed banks would mean globalization and monopoly. The answer was not hard to determine. Kingsolver would say that monopoly and globalization is bad, then I would tell her that she is talking (and writing) out of only one perspective. She does not give contrasting beliefs a chance. Kingsolver wrote her essay assuming that most people would agree that all her assumptions are correct. Thus, anyone who might not agree is given no room to do so. In fact, right after asking the critical questions concerning genetic engineering that are quoted above, she shoves the answer down the reader’s throat. “Most people know by now that corporations can do only what’s best for their quarterly bottom line. And anyone who still believes governments ultimately do what’s best for their people should be advised that the great crop scientist Nikolai Vavilov died in a Soviet prison camp.”(257)

This is a poor way to answer a great deal of important questions she herself presented. If corporations were not looking out for their quarterly bottom line, then the consumer would not be getting the cheapest and best product available. If corporation were not to care about their monetary success then the whole theory of capitalism and survival of the fittest, a concept that the great evolutionary scientist Darwin helped shape, would not apply to modern society. Corporations need to care about money to be competitive, and corporations need to be competitive to be any good for society. These points are backed by the theory of social Darwinism. If Apple didn’t care about its profits, Kingsolver wouldn’t be bobbing her head to her newly Itunes downloaded copy of “Speed of Sound” on her Ipod, nor would she be able to enjoy that special Starbucks flavor in her morning coffee, nor would she have to buy three dollar can of Coke since Coca Cola and Pepsi drive each others’ prices down. Thus, getting back to the point, monopoly can also be useful to society, since Microsoft is inducing not only a centralization of software and computer technology, but also a few fierce rivals who need to reinvent the wheel in order to compete, and they are doing so successfully.

Kingsolver’s essay, just like Microsoft, tries to hold the monopoly on the views of the reader, and thus can spawn some fierce rivals of thought. It shoves the perspective down the reader’s throat, which may prompt some people to ask “Wait a second, that can’t be all? It’s just too obvious that way.” Thus, for me, it was a very thought provoking essay.

In terms of the actual idea, I would disagree with Kingsovler. Scientifically she advocated the “it is better to be safe than sorry” approach. We can’t make mistakes, or else the consequences might overwhelm us. Well, Kingsolver needs to revisit scientific history. No great scientist ever got anywhere with that approach. The goal is to push the barrier, to try something or think something that has been never thought of before. Nobody tried a social contract before the “Founding Fathers” wrote the Declaration of Independence. Nobody would dare think that a feather would take the same time to fall from a tower as a brick does, if air wasn’t there to slow it down, before Galileo’s experiments. Why can’t the modern scientist dare to try something that has extremely positive consequences? Trial and error is a good scientific approach on any scale. Besides, any consequences that may backfire from extensive engineering would go along with the evolutionary and survival of the fittest theories. If our world accepts extensive engineering then it would evolve with it. If the world rejects it, then there will be severe consequences and the population that will survive the consequences would be the fittest as well.

I, personally, would never limit human progress by taking such a stubborn and bold stance against genetic engineering. I’ll let the world evolve with the use of genetic engineering, while I personally will be sitting out in the Russian countryside and eating my delicious, unmodified, all natural, untampered with potatoes.

Initially submitted at Oct. 24, 2005; 19:02

Dec. 6, 2017; 11:15 EST


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