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Volume 68, Issue 82, January 27, 2003


Consider nature in all things

Jonathan Bruder
opinion columnist

For the sake of discussion, letis take a moment to think about nature.

There is a park in Seabrook that is married to the ocean. Hidden back in the deep trails, one finds a bridge that gaps a briny mixture of fresh and salty water. From that spot, I sometimes sit and watch the sun rise over the inlet. What is nature? What is natural? Everything. Clouds, viruses, bridges and childbirth.

I would not be the first to call the sea "mother." It is a deep womb, teeming with life, capable of both creation and destruction. It is no wonder so many find it spiritually significant.

Just as we sanctify the mother, we sanctify the ability to have children. With that ability comes the responsibility of helping those children become productive, social individuals.

Unfortunately, the weight of this responsibility has often been cause for argument. Over the course of the last century, changes in reproductive technologies have provided children for the sterile. The act of sex is no longer required for reproduction. Reproduction is rarely the reason for having sex. It is no wonder the world is in upheaval over the ethics of reproduction, often to the detriment of our children.

I donit really care if it is ethical to clone. I have my own perspectives, and it would muddy the water to present them. Abortion raises many questions. I canit answer them. Even artificial intelligence spawns intense ethical debate. In considering these hot-button issues, let us stay focused on nature.

Parenthood is a two-fold task. The first task is the creation and protection of the child. The second is the installation of the cultural values necessary for the participation in contemporary social structures. These two tasks embody the balance between nature and nurture -- hardware and software, if you will. Radiation destroys the healthiest gene stock and mental illness strikes in healthy families. It is the responsibility of the parents to provide, to the best of their ability, for these two tasks.

Even parents with the best intentions are not always capable of this. Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances can undo the best of luck. Whatever oneis ethical code commands, this unpleasant truth needs to be reinforced. It should be a guide to those making reproductive decisions.

So should the converse. There are a lot of different ways to raise a child. No matter what happens, the childis well-being must be considered. It is the well-being of children that dictates the well-being of society, and not just your children. If you are selfish in your provision for the future, your children will feel the jagged knife of jealousy.

If there is one social issue that has me burning now, this is it. Ethical or not, humans will clone. If we fail to see our responsibility as creators, we will imprint the minds of our newest offspring with the image of humanity at its most vile -- cold, judgmental and wanton. We protect the well-being of our mistakes, or we become beasts.

Many fear the possibility of artificial intelligence because they envision a future run by cruel machines. But again, ethical or not, people will continue to strive toward reproducible consciousnesses. If we approach these machines with fear and hate, or we are selfish, we will ensure that grim tomorrow that fuels the science fiction industry.

Itis no surprise that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein after a discussion about the scientific installation of life. It would do us well to make it required reading. The popular impression of the novel fails to address the issue around which it is centered: parenthood. It is Victor Frankensteinis selfishness that makes his creation a monster. Moreover, he is not a murderer-at-large, but a vengeful child. Ultimately, Victor himself becomes a hateful beast. I guess we need to take nature at face value: You reap what you sow.

Bruder, a junior graphic communication and physics major, can be reached at


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