What is bioethics, and what do you think of the bioethics represented in Brave New World? Discuss for an essay topic the desirable bioethics that we need today, considering that which is...

What is bioethics, and what do you think of the bioethics represented in Brave New World?

Discuss for an essay topic the desirable bioethics that we need today, considering that which is represented in Brave New World.

Asked on by shinsuna

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When I think of the system of bioethics in this great novel I am struck by how trying to prevent discord and unhappiness in one way has only created equal discord and unhappiness in another fashion. We are presented with a world that is so technologically advanced that a new genetic caste system has been created. Yet defining people's lives in such a way before they are even born limits freedom to put it mildly, which is why we see some of the characters resisting the imposition that this society has placed on their lives.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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I like mwestwood's observation that "when the balance of the natural world is altered, there is a price that must be paid."  Almost everything we do disrupts the "balance" of nature --- if you believe such a thing exists.  I imagine there is a kind of balance, but it's one based on cruelty since most of the things that are alive live off other things.  It made me think of the History channel series that I think is called "after people."  Somehow the earth "heals" itself after we are gone and all that we have developed deteriorates, which seems to imply that we are the "blight" on nature. 

All this to say that I think many of our decisions are "bioethical" --- although not on the scale of cloning, euthanasia and similar difficult issues.  And I don't know how we make them.  I tend to fear that we will do what we can do and that all the talk about bioethics is just that.  I guess we'll have to wait and see.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Huxley's greatest warning in Brave New World is the advancement of science over that of humanity. In the domination of science, all religions and history have been erased. With the elimination of religion, the New World has done away with any moral direction to the society, and, instead left it in the hands of the ten Controllers. 

Without the history of being human that religion and history provide, the dehumanizing biogenics has not been entirely effective as the inhabitants of the New World are not always contented.  For instance, an ersatz religious ceremony that is really a parody, the Solidarity Service must try to replace the emotional and spiritual needs of people.  And, without emotional and true physical experiences, women feel a sense of emptiness by not being mothers or by belonging to everyone else sexually; the intelligent Alphas such as Bernard and Helmholtz experience an intellectual and emotional need for more than their society offers. 

In her short story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," Ursula LeGuin also examines the dilemma of utopias:  when the balance of the natural world is altered, there is a price that must be paid.  In Omelas the people are "happy" only because one miserable creature suffers all their sorrows.

Biogenics presents a terrible potential as science replaces the balance of human life in a natural universe that has a history and a belief in a supernatural power.

mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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There are two commonly used definitions of bioethics:

1.  bioethics are rules, standards, or guidelines that govern the conduct of scientists.

2.  bioethics are the moral choices made by the individual in his relationship with others.

The problems in Brave New World are such:

1.  There are no governing bodies of scientists who control their own practices.  Scientists are subjects of the World State and the whims and fancies of Mustapha Mond and the other Controllers.  Scientists have no power or recourse in such a totalitarian state.

2.  There are no individuals in the Brave New World.  Since everyone is genetically engineered, only a select few (the World Controllers, the DHC, and the Savages) are not programmed and even fewer (the Controllers) are capable of making choices.  So individual scientists are bred out of this society.  Instead, the science itself is used to control and build identity, stability, and community.

In short, there are no explicit bioethics in the dystopia since there are no scientists.  Huxley, then, is warning the scientific community to beware of government control and abuse through the satire, which serves an implicit call for reform.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Bioethics is the study of the moral and ethical issues that arise when we learn new things about science.  So a bioethical issue might be whether we should keep people alive indefinitely just because we can (even if they are in a vegetative state).

In this book, the major bioethical issue is that of bioengineering.  The government has devised ways to create people who will be perfectly suited for their jobs and lifestyles.  That way, you do not have people who are unhappy with their jobs and lives.

To me, this is iffy, but perhaps not completely unthinkable.  It would be nice if there was no chance of people being unhappy in their lives.  However, this really takes away their humanity and is probably not acceptable because of that.

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