Philip Bail at New Scientist grapples with what he calls the “Frankenstein Syndrome,” that is, why are we so afraid of making people?
Some versions of the Prometheus story of Greek mythology say that he not only gave technological knowledge to humankind but actually created human beings. And the legendary inventor Daedalus was said to have been able to animate statues. Ancient Jewish folklore tells of the golem, a being animated from clay by magical means, while medieval alchemists were said to be able to make homunculi, little human-like forms cooked up in a sealed vessel, as later portrayed in Goethe’s telling of the Faust legend.
Crucially, all these examples of people-making – what I call anthropoeia – ended badly. The message was that this sort of dabbling in the work of the divine was apt to bring down speedy retribution, whether it was Prometheus suffering perpetual torment in chains, the golem-makers crushed by their wayward creatures, or Faust dragged to hell. The “manufactured being” itself was either subhuman, like the golem, or superhuman, like Goethe’s homunculus – but could never be just like us. Most significantly, it lacked a soul, the watermark of true humanity that only God could instil.
Bioethics is controversial.
No one endorses the ideas or concepts explored here, not even me.
You will develop a strong opinion about something you find here. I want to hear it. Philosophy is a conversation.
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