The Splice of Life

Splice Although not really scary, and although almost attainable with current technology, Dren is a curious monster. Many movies of the horror genre have explicit religious elements, but Splice may be a little too much science fiction for that. Or is it? The story is simple enough: a couple of geneticists have gene-spliced a couple of viable creatures that can be farmed for important chemicals and enzymes to solve diseases. So far, so good. But then the idea occurs to them: if the chemicals that can be used to help cure animal diseases had a human element, couldn’t they be used to cure our own diseases? And here is where the ethical quandaries begin. Adding human DNA to the mix, even when in small portions, suddenly throws open the moral dilemmas. Dren is the somewhat human result of these experiments, but the movie ends with the haunting, unanswered question—what is it to be human?

Although today the field of ethics is largely claimed by philosophers, morality is a measure of beliefs about right and wrong. In many cultures, including our own, religion has quite a lot to say about the issue. Once human DNA is mixed in the creature morphs from a bumpy slug into a creature that looks mostly human. The ethical dilemmas that surround human potential—abortion, stem cell research, cloning, and in past ages eugenics—all focus on the rights of the human person. Once a person is born, however, we almost immediately begin to curtail those rights until most of us become cogs in an unfeeling corporate machine. We are valuable, but for whose purpose? Who, sitting in their cubicle, or on their assembly line, or behind the wheel, says, “For this they defended my right to be born”?

Oddly, we privilege the potential of life without tirelessly working to improve the lot of those who’ve already been born. Perhaps, indeed, this is some form of evolutionary advantage—protect the future of the species at all costs. This idea becomes religious when it is deemed God’s will. In the movie, Dren’s creators ultimately deem her unhuman, a monster who must be destroyed. They, however, nurtured her humanness all along. While not the most profound movie ever filmed, Splice highlights the fact that ethics reflect the values of society. And society sometimes withdraws even humanity from those who’ve lost its favor.

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