Seems no matter where you turn to get your news these days everyone's talking about the brave new world of health science. Indeed it is a brave new world out there, everything from bionic body parts, to stem cell research that may end paralysis and wheel chairs for millions, to genetic research. Seems if you can get the bucks to research and test your theories that just about anything is possible!
I can remember watching Buck Rogers as a child where he crashes into the moon, then ''Star Trek,'' ''Star Wars,'' ''ET'' and others in my twenties. As much as I liked science fiction, well who would have ''thunk it?'' Is a cell phone or a wireless head set so much different than a ''communicator?'' Are our finger cuff blood pressure devices, or a hand held BMI (body fat mass indicator) that much different than the scanner that Dr. Crusher used to determine the status of her patients?
I never missed an episode of ''Star Trek the Next Generation.'' Most everyone is familiar at least with the series name, the idea of space travel, the special effects etc., but for those of you who didn't watch the series, writer/creator Gene Rodenberry was promoting a lot more than just science fiction. He created a futuristic world where famine, disease and the use of money had pretty much ended. This is not to say they didn't have their problems or their differences -- they did. But the idea of family, community and a sense of a higher power were all alive and well.
Central to the Trekkies space exploration and encounters with other beings was the ''prime directive.'' This directive always needed some interpretation, but essentially they were not to interfere in the development of other species or cultures. Seems we could use a prime directive, unfortunately the talk shows, the journalists and the attorneys would argue it to death and give it an unfit burial!
The new Stanley Kubrick flick ''A.I''. was particularly disturbing for me. I was hoping for some new sci-fi stuff that would scoop me up and whisk me away for a couple of hours. I didn't particularly like the story and I thought they would never let it end! If that wasn't enough, much to my dismay it left me with several thought provoking uncomfortable ideas about just how cruel and stupid we humans can be. The worst of it, some of it may not be that far from true!
I don't want to spoil it for those of you who may want to see it, but as the previews eluded they've succeeded in making a very human-like robot boy. They've made him so real, even he can't comprehend why he isn't loved. At the end of the story, a couple of thousand years later, the robot boy encounters another intelligent life form that digs him out of ice and awakens him. They speak reverently to one another saying ''this machine knew the humans.'' We're obviously not around and haven't been for some time.
In our quest to have the perfect body, the mind of a genus, the face of a goddess and a life as long as Methuselah what course will we take? What part of our humanness will we be willing to sacrifice along the way?
I believe we're going to need a prime directive as we face this brave new world of health and healing, but even more I believe we're going to have to remember our roots, the evolutionary process that led us to become who we are. And, we must remember the fragile ecosystem that so many millennia ago gave us birth in its ''primordial soup.''
Next week in part two I'd like to take a look at what's happening right now in our brave new world of medicine. Don't touch that dial!
Till next time, Rebecca.
Last week in part one, I talked about the reality of science fiction becoming science and posed some questions about how this new science may effect us. This week let's take a look at what's going on right now, look back at the human evolutionary process and pose some questions that may begin to shed some light on the underlying issues.
A few million years ago human life as we know it rose up out of the earth's primordial soup. Whether you are a creationist or an evolutionist our bodies are comprised of a vast array of chemical elements and compounds that come from the earth. The four most common elements found on the earth are nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen and carbon. These same four elements are the most common in our bodies, in the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink.
In less than 50 years, a mere blink of an eye in terms of evolution, medicine is rewriting, redefining and refining the quality and quantity of our lives. No doubt much of what technology has brought us is nothing short of marvelous but where are going to draw the line? How much tampering will the human body accept and be able to survive?
Despite a human cell's complexity, they are formed out of mostly simple elements put together to form millions of more complex compounds. The mapping of the human genome will further help us understand the complexities of our cells and hopefully fix what we determine to be broken. We already do this with plants. But do we really understand what we are doing?
Example: What if we decide to manipulate the genes of a plant to make it more pest resistant but later find out that the chemical compound that made that plant tasty to the pest was integrally linked to the formation of another chemical that made the plant produce its flower. No flower, no seed, no reproduction, oops we just lost a species! Or worse yet what if we find that the very chemical that made that plant edible to the pests was a phytochemical that would heal some form of cancer or other disease. Or what of the Purple Martin or the Flicker or the Barn Swallow who has nothing to eat when that particular bug disappears. Why do we think that nature is ours to manipulate to our own best interest when it appears through past blunders that we don't even know what that is!
My associate Sharon prepares wonderful potions made from the petals of flowers soaked in spring water. Our clients, including me, swear by them. This art known as flower essence has been around for at least a hundred years. It took the lifetime of one man and several assistants to study, classify, document and test just 38 flowers. The healing they provide is subtle yet powerful. I shutter to think what would happen to the healing ability of those potions made from the petals of genetically altered flowers.
And what of the herbal kingdom? Will we alter those plants as well thinking we're smarter than mother nature in her ability to fix, cure or soothe? Who will guard the wild the natural and prevent it from being altered? I don't know if this is brave or just plain scary.
Too many times we push the envelope of technology looking for a magical drug to cure when all the time it's been right in front of us. Our prime directive for health and wholeness should read ''remember to simplify.'' Simple diet, simple life styles, less is more, especially less food and consumer goods. Remember your roots, your evolutionary ties to this planet -- then simplify, simplify simplify!
Till next time, Rebecca.