Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Splice - A cautionary tale (tail?)

Splice is a newly released horror film starring Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody. In its most basic form Splice is a retelling of the Frankenstein story except these scientists create the monster with gene splicing rather than resurrecting the dead. The resulting creation is part human, part... well, lots of other creatures. Of course, Clive and Elsa (Brody and Polley, the scientists that create Dren, the monster) are ultimately unable to hide or contain their creation. And while Dren never goes on a rampage like Frankenstein's monster, she does become more and more uncontrollable until she must be destroyed. I could say more but would reveal elements of the story that are better discovered by one's initial viewing of the film.

I've subtitled this blog "A cautionary tale" because Splice has many elements in common with similar monster/horror movies. It poses questions like "what are the boundaries of scientific discovery?" "If we are able to do something that would be a scientific breakthrough, do we have a moral imperative to do said thing?" And, "When does tampering with genetic makeup become playing God?" Of course, this angle of playing God is a major theme for me as a pastor, but I'll get to that in the next paragraph. I should caution potential viewers that Splice is rated "R" and for good reason. There are several scenes that include nudity, graphic violence, foul language, and sexually suggestive situations. There are also at least two scenes that I found deeply disturbing and would caution anyone about.

Even with all the troubling elements in this film, there are still solid themes related to Christian faith and life to be found here. When Clive and Elsa have come to the realization that Dren must be destroyed they discuss what they did wrong to begin with. Clive says. "Wrong? We blurred the lines between right and wrong. How do we know right from wrong anymore?" Undoubtedly, many of us have been in a similar situation. When we chose to do something that is unethical or even despicable, where is our moral compass? We may try to rationalize what we do (in the name of science/progress/etc.) but are there no solid standards of right and wrong anymore? Are there not things in this life that are wrong simply because they are wrong? When we begin to blur the lines between right and wrong by offering rationalizations, where do we stand?

And of course there is the very idea of playing God that piques the interest of this pastor. I posed the question earlier but it bears repeating, "If we can do something, regardless of the reason for doing it, are we obligated to do said thing in the name of science or human progress?" Human cloning is one concept that has come under this scrutiny in recent years. As of right now we are scientifically unable to clone a human being, but it appears that we will be able to do it sooner rather than later. If we develop this technology, and if it could potentially save human lives from any number of wretched diseases, should we clone people? Is it ethical to create humans in a laboratory as opposed to naturally? Would said human clones have souls? I am a firm believer that it is unwise for humans to play at being God. I know that there are many scientific advances that are common practice today that would have been considered "playing God" as little as ten years ago. But I still must wonder where we are willing to draw the line. I heard today on the radio that a prominent ethics professor at Princeton University has suggested that birth parents ought to have the right to retroactively abort (kill) their child up to 30 days after birth due to chronic disease, poor quality of life, or simply because the child is unwanted. If this kind of utilitarian, secular humanist thinking is what passes for scholarship in our universities today, we are in a world of trouble friends. Maybe it's better to leave playing god to the one true God.

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