Gattaca & Bioethics

I saw Gattaca for the first time during the late 90’s. The Human Genome Project was all over the news. Bitch & Tubthumping received–unfortunately–a lot of radio-play; social media did not exist; and the Internet was in its infancy (People had to wait over 30 minutes to download a song). I was in my senior year, and it was a great time for scifi–The Matrix was blowing people’s minds as well. Like a lot of good science fiction, Gattaca points its finger to the present; the film mirrors much of the current zeitgeist. A lot has happened since 1997, but Niccol’s vision still speaks volumes about current research and bioethics; it does so poetically and politically.
Classwork
An essay/review will be assigned–it will be submitted to a Turn it in assignment. Meanwhile, I want you to think about the film. I’ve listed quotes, statements, and ideas for that purpose. Your task will be to write a comment–of no more than 150 words–based on at least 3 elements from the list:
“A genetic quotient second to none”. 
“Genoism is called”. 
Research the concepts: Social DarwinismEugenics, and Dystopia.
“Borrowed ladder” and “de-gene-erate”. 
“This guy’s helix tucked under your arm” — aligned to Chapter 13: The Molecular Basis of Inheritance. 
“Are you color blind too, Vincent” — aligned to Chapter 12: The Chromosomal Basis of Inheritance. 
“You could conceive naturally 1,000 times and never get such a result” — aligned to Chapter 12: The Chromosomal Basis of Inheritance. 
The listed concepts, quotes, and ideas can serve as the basis for your work, but keep in mind that they are suggestions. Your post has to be written in the comment section of this blog, and it counts as a comment for your semester-long project. Clicking the hyperlinks is encouraged. The guidelines for this assignment are the same ones that we follow for all comments. You can re-visit the rubric at Edline. This is classwork; it must be done individually, and it has a value of 15 points. 
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30 thoughts on “Gattaca & Bioethics

  1. It is worrisome to see how this film seems to be set closer to our reality than it did when it was released. Terms used throughout the movie, such as “de-gene-erate”, show how in this dystopian society, people were discriminated against just for being born naturally (or without genetic modification). On the other hand, people whose genes were stated as to of “a genetic quotient second to none” received the opportunity to become whatever they wanted and received no discrimination from others. It was sad to see how one of our main characters, Vincent, was treated unequally to others and saw himself in a position where he had to live as another person just to be accepted. He even got called out for having “this guy’s helix tucked under your arm” which states the fact that Vincent had to pretend to live as a “valid” man named Jerome Marrow.

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  2. The dystopian society in the movie “Gattaca” is solely based on the principles of Eugenics, which means to control anything and everything that happens during the development of a fetus to create a perfect being. Of course, being able to prevent very dangerous and deadly diseases is a huge step forward scientifically, but everything has its limit. These scientists can even manipulate the fetus’s hair color and gender! They created a society where everyone should be perfect and should fit in a certain mold. If they do not meet their utterly high standards, they become a “de-gene-erate” and become excluded from their perfect society. This society is the ideal example of the results of not placing any limits in scientific manipulation, they play God with every new baby that comes into their world, and it will eventually lead them to their downfall.

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  3. “Gattaca” is set on the not too distant future due to the revolutionary discoveries in science. Human beings live in a dystopian society in which one was classified as valid or invalid based on their genetic formation. Scientist manipulated one’s imperfection to create ideal human being. The society is based on the principles of eugenics that was influenced by the theory of natural selection. Eugenics is the process of selecting the perfect heritable traits to make a flawless being. In the film, anyone who was born naturally, like Vincent, disrupted the perfect society and were called “de-gene-rates” and had limits to what they could do, such as jobs. This dystopian society is centered around the theory of social Darwinism, which states that “the strong survive and the weak were diminished”. Though risky and dangerous, It is quite interesting how the film shows what scientists could be capable of doing in the near future with human genetic formation.

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  4. The themes presented in the movie “Gattaca” show how strict the government is if you don’t inherit certain traits needed to survive in the dystopian society exhibited. This society is based on social Darwinism, which basically means survival of the fittest. If you didn’t have certain characteristics you would be considered as a degenerate and you wouldn’t be able to flourish in this society. Vincent, the main character, aimed to be a part of a mission to Titan. However, since he was a invalid and did not meet the required traits, he was unable to. We observe how this society is based on genoism, discriminated by their genetic makeup, and created a mass segregation among the people living in this society.

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  5. It is clearly visible that this sci-fi film, Gattaca, is based mainly on genetics, and how they measure ones fate with “accuracy”, determining if one would be an important person in life or not, or whether one would be miserable with their assigned jobs or not. Realizing how old this movie already is, yet so accurate, referring to the progress science has made on genetics (DNA) and how to analyze such complex molecule. What I found interesting about this is the title of the film, Gattaca, and since every title of every movie/book/article/website has a meaning, it being symbolic or literal, I wanted to find out what “Gattaca” meant. I searched the word Gattaca, and this website, The Straight Dope, explained a theory in which each letter of the word GATTACA represents the four nucleotides of DNA (cytosine, thymine, adenine, guanine). I find this very ironic yet precise, since the movie is about this exact same thing: how ones DNA may determine the rest of ones life and how one will be able to live it.

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  6. In the movie “Gattaca” we are presented a near future where genetic modification of children is the norm. Scientists encourage the modification of an offspring’s genes to make sure they can lead an almost perfect life. If you were born with modified genes you had a “genetic quotient second to none” and you were considered a valid human. Having a genetic quotient second to none meant that almost all your possible imperfections were removed at birth and you could strive to be anything in life. On the other hand, people who were naturally conceived were considered in-valids and would amount to nothing in their lives, they were tasked with the simple things because they were not capable of more. This shows how Social Darwinism is present in the movie, which means that only the fittest would survive. The engineered humans were so genetically superior that it was said that “you could conceive naturally 1,000 times and never get such a result”. Watching this movie in the 90’s you would think that a future like that would be thousands of years away but with all the scientific advancements recently accomplished it is possible that the next generations will live something similar to that seen in the movie.

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  7. Thanks to the advances in genetics, it may be possible in a near future to have a similar lifestyle like in “Gattaca”. We can see how they discriminate against naturally born babies instead of the things we discrminate in the present days. Genoism can be seen throughout the whole movie as a substitute for race, color, etc. in their society. Those who were genetically modified were treated as superiors, and those from natural birth as inferior. They say that 1,000 naturals won’t be as good as 1 genetically modified, showing their preference to those not naturally born. This discrimination leads to a “borrowed ladder” like Vincent. In the movie they exagerate this discrimination, making Vincent’s reason to “change” his identity a little more acceptable. It’s fascinating watching “Gattaca” amd wonder that 20 years ago (when it was filmed) they were not so far away from a possible future.

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  8. Gattaca is a society in which an entire population is discriminated against, making it dystopian. The reason why Gattaca is not a utopian society is Genoism, which describes genetic discrimination. While it is considered illegal in Gattaca, Genoism is widely practiced and people that were conceived naturally were considered invalids. On the other hand, the individuals that were conceived by genetic alteration of their genes with their parents’ best traits were considered to be born in the “valid” way. This belief is derived from the practice of Eugenics, which aims to improve the genetic quality of the human population. This also demonstrates how this society is influenced by certain elements that stem from the theory of Social Darwinism, which emerged during the second half of the 19th century and extended until the early 20th century. It is an application of the theory of natural selection to social, political, and economic issues. It follows the mantra of “survival of the fittest”, implying that those with strength flourish and those without are destined for extinction.

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  9. When you see and analize this facinating movie you notice that we are not behind in the science from today and in the film. You may think that we still cannot create perfect babies but with all the information that is now entering the scientific world we may be able to modify birth damages. So we could probably in a few years have someones helix tucked under our arms. Now, the problem with that is the discrimination. And this time it won’t be about black and white but about who is genetically “perfect” ans who is not. Obviously, do to this hard discrimination people like Vincent will become people who borrow ladders. The only sad part is that no matter how much they could calculate about his organs and life, nobody could imagine he would hold suck a position and even travel to space. So the discrimination would be a problem if we someday get to the extreme of controlling fetus but we just have to keep in mind how many people can surprisingle impress the world

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  10. The film portrays a particular vision of Social Darwinism, in which genetically imperfect humans are literally not fit to live in society due to their possibility of having a disability. Though de-gene-rates are a new social group to be discriminated, Gattaca shows us both the surviving in our society Social Darwinism talks about and the actual theory of survival of the fittest of the human race, genetically speaking. In the film, in-valids were excluded from society, which means they are not apt to succeed in their environment and will cease to try to do so.
    This goes hand-in-hand with eugenics, which is the idea of creating “the perfect race”. This was portrayed in the movie when parents genetically modified their offspring to be “perfect”, therefore decreasing the amount of naturally conceived offspring and creating a new race of genetically impecable humans. Going back to exclusion, naturally conceiving a child was a minority now, because parents knew the consequences of having a kid who is not able to survive and be successful in the world around them.

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  11. Gattaca is a society in which the entire population is discriminated and not considered as equals. A term that would perfectly describe the Gattacan society is Genoism. Genoism was a term used by the director and writer of the 1997 sci-fi film. It was used by him to emphasize on the unethical and illegal treatment that society was receiving. Back hen people where classified as valid or invalid regarding the way they were born. If a person was born by traditional means, they were called invalid. While, a person conceived by genetically altering their genes with their parents best traits was considered a valid. In our society this treatment is more common than it was before. For me it is sad to see how people are forced to meet the perfect ideals of society in order to be accepted by it. Unfair treatment is the basis of discrimination and our society is more exposed to it now than previous generations.

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  12. GATTACAs society can be described as a Genoism society because people were discriminated and classified into different social status depending on their genes. In the movie, children were conceived two ways, the traditional one in which children may have many dysfunctions, and the ones created in the laboratory which had a larger possibility of the child having a perfect set of gene. Those who were conceived the traditional way were more probable to be in-valid or De-gene-erate. These people are less accepted in societies and where sometimes not considered when it comes to job opportunities. Vincent was an In-valid and to make his dream come true he had to become Borrowed Ladder and use the DNA of a valid person and used his identity to make his dreams come true. Jerome, the person who allowed Vincent to use his identity, has a genetic quotient related to none. This means that he had a unique set of DNA and its impossible that another set like Jerome’s would be repeated. He had endless abilities and was considered a perfect human being. Now days, scientist have given yellow light to work with bioethics, its just a matter of time for the society to begin producing perfect human beings in labs.

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  13. When the physician on the film said “You could conceive naturally 1,000 times and never get such a result”, he revealed he is an advocate of eugenics. The society on the film believed on improving the human genome. What caught my attention is the fact that invalids (naturally conceived humans) are not accepted in society and can’t have the job they want just because there is a probability of having a health problem. It is not correct that to be accepted in society you have to be a valid or a de-gene-erate, hence, act and transform into another person who is a valid.
    https://galaxyandtheepicscienceblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/gattaca-questions/

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  14. The film “Gattaca” presents how our world could be in a near future. Where with all the advances of technology and science a machine could read one’s DNA sequence and tell to whom it belongs to. A theme presented in the film and one that could happen in real life is Genoism. According to the urban dictionary, Genoism is unethical and illegal genetic discrimination. In the film, if one had a gene mutation that caused or increased the probability of inheriting a disorder one was classified differently and that obviously limited one’s opportunities. That is why it happened what is known as “borrowed ladder”. “Borrowed ladder” is when someone borrowed or bought the DNA of another person to use it on his or her favor. A person bought another person’s DNA to have the opportunity and not be discriminated. The film also touches the term social Darwinism that is a society with the idea of survival of the fittest. Where the most prepared and adequate people are successful and the others are left behind. Something that should not occur and affects the main character Vincent in the film.

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  15. The movie “Gattaca” is based on a possibility of what might be the nearest future. In this movie, in order to be accepted by society and its regulations, you must have a perfect genetic composition. If not, you are considered a “de-gene-erate”. A degenerate is a person who has lost the physical, mental, or moral qualities considered normal and desirable. Of being this, they had difficulties and certain restrictions for jobs, conceiving, and even having different types of relationships. These people were discriminated just for not having what was said to be “perfect genes”, and were treated under the terms of Genoism. Genoism is the illegal practice of discrimination towards people not born with the perfect genetic composition and not being able to have the same opportunities as the people who do. Vincent, was a degenerate with the dream of going to space and was willing to do anything in order to accomplish it. He broke with the factor of this dystopian society and achieved what was said to be impossible.

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  16. In the film “Gattaca” being conceived naturally was considered one of the worst things possible, if a person didn’t have a one hundred percent perfect genome he or she was considered a “de-gene-erate” meaning that they couldn’t function well in society or in professional jobs. The discrimination we see in this movie is called Genoism, where people get segregated in they have gene mutations or other inheritable diseases from being conceived naturally. The film in the end teaches us the lesson that we should not discriminate in this way, thinking one person can be more perfect than another, because as we were able to see through the character of Vincent, a person’s “disabilities” won’t get in the way of the extent that that person’s skills can go as long as they have the determination to do what they want.

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  17. Social Darwinism is a way of thinking that emerged in the 19th century that applies the theory of natural selections and lives by: “The strongest survive.” This mantra and way of thinking was used as a sort of justification for the Holocaust. In the movie, the dystopian society lived by the point of view of life that the strongest genetically are the ones that survive. But as the movie progressed we see how this not necessarily true, in this case, we can see that between Vincent, who was not genetically modified, a de-gene-erate, and his brother, Anton, who was genetically modified, the one who survived and never gave up was Vincent. This society was ruled by the improving of the genome and the creation of the “perfect baby” itself (Eugenics). I believe that a unique, imperfectly perfect baby is one in a million. But if we genetically make every baby to be perfect, they will not have flaws or downfalls and that is what makes us diverse and intricate beings. All the babies and people will be perfectly the same. For more information about Social Darwinism: http://www.allaboutscience.org/what-is-social-darwinism-faq.htm

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  18. In the movie “Gattaca”, scientific manipulation has become a big part of a dystopian society which lives by the principles of Eugenics that mean to improve or even perfect the genetic quality of the human population. This society also believes in social Darwinism or “survival of the fittest”. They prevent diseases and create beings with a perfect genetic makeup by using genetic modification. These are described as “a genetic quotient second to none”. On the other hand, those born naturally are called “de-gene-erates” and are rejected because of their imperfect genetic makeup. Nowadays we are beginning to see scientific advances similar to those of the movie, which can both be exciting and scary for future generations.

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  19. The idea of “fitting in” has a whole different meaning in this film. We see how people are discriminated not by skin color or gender, like how our history books tell us it was back then, but by the way you were born. If you have a normal natural birth, you are considered as in-valid, on the other hand, if you have a scientifically gene modified birth, you are considered valid. People in the movie Gattaca chose to have modified kids or “designer babies” to try and achieve genetic perfection. Having a natural birth had its consequences, good jobs were impossible to find, openly discriminated by society and usually had horrible health conditions. Being genetically perfect obviously had its benefits. What better than having perfect genes? Being socially accepted meant having a successful career, excellent living conditions, and most important of all, having perfect health. It’s hard to see how this type of discrimination might be seen in a possible near future because of designer babies, but let’s see how humans take on that.

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  20. The main theme in the movie of Gattaca is eugenics and the problem with trying to create a perfect society by creating perfect humans. The problem with this is that there will never be such a thing as a perfect society. In a good society, those problems ( bad genetics in this case) are embraced and worked on until removed or worked for a better condition if its incurable. That is where the study of eugenics comes to play, sadly there are some groups of people that have tarnished the image like the nazi party. In the movie the “borrowed ladder” symbolizes that your parents give you your special genes (the ladder) but its not yours, it was designed so it is like borrowed super strength or borrowed good eyesight unlike Vincent. Society loves the idea of perfecting the gene that in the movie they say “You could conceive 1,000 times and never get such a result” because in the movie, gene modifying has been almost perfected. That seems like an amazing life, nothing wrong with your body, but what of those that can’t be “perfect”? Problems will surge and there could be mass exterminations like sadly Nazis did. History can not repeat itself…

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  21. The movie, Gattaca, focuses on one thing throughout most of the movie, and that is the idea of perfection. In the world of Gattaca, everyone strives to make themselves, and their children, genetically perfect, and those who are considered imperfect, such as Vincent, are treated unfairly. But what the people don’t understand is that perfection doesn’t exist, only the idea of it does. It has also become increasingly obvious that the world of Gattaca could very well become our world in a couple of decades. Genetic engineering has taken the science world by storm, and many countries, especially China, have invested a lot of time and money in order to further our understanding of genetics. But the idea of genetic perfection isn’t new to us. Back in WWII, Hitler tried to create what he called “the perfect race,” and killed millions of Jews, which he deemed inferior. Throughout our history, perfection, although it has now mostly shifted to genetic perfection, has been at the forefront of the minds of many past leaders from many different countries, and, it is now seen today in many books and movies, which leads us to believe that, maybe, one day, all of the science fiction movies we’ve seen will become a reality, it’s just a matter of time.

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  22. In the movie Gattaca, many interesting concepts are presented regarding genetics. It is interesting to see that people regard genetics with such high regard up to the point that they would rather design their children instead of letting nature do its thing. The people also discriminate because of your genetic qualities instead of by the individual’s qualities. No one should be considered a “de-gene-erate” because of what your parents chose to do; it is not your fault that your DNA is the way it is. All in all, Gattaca presents some of the fears people have with the continuous advances in the field of genetics and how they can affect everyday life.

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  23. After seeing the movie Gattaca, it is amazing too see how it is connected with things in the biological field, especially today. Also, the movie presents a search for a superior race, just like the one Hitler dreamed of in World War II. Scientists in the movie apply the principles of Eugenics in order to create perfect human beings and those that are born with disabilities, they are excluded from the dystopian society and deprived from the opportunities that the others have. In order to achieve his dream, he has to pretend someone he is not and get used to “having this guy’s helix tucked under his arm” and avoid revealing that he is an invalid. If someone tries to tamper with nature in order to create a perfect race with similar traits, there will be few diversity among our species, making it more vulnerable to mass extinction.

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  24. For many, the word “eugenics” means nothing, simply some concept or idea of how the human race can be “perfected” by eliminating, or sterilizing those that don’t fall into the norm. This can either be race, color, sexual preference, etc. But imagine a world where one human can be inferior to the next only because his/her genes say so, not color, not class, not even race, just one “bad” gene and you’re ousted from society and treated like a lower, primitive life form. Creepy right? Well Gattaca (1997) for example, set on a not-too-distant future, shows a dystopian image of how eugenics, or genoism” as Andrew niccol appropriately called it, could affect society. One might think this concept was only thought of recently because of recent genetic discoveries and such, but eugenics has seemingly been a recurring idea even before it was believed to be possible. Movies like Eugenics at the Bar “U” Ranch from 1914 show that this concept has been troubling us for longer than we think. And this is only one of many other movies that delve into this topic. It’s easy to believe that eugenics is just some concept that has no importance because it’s never happened before but truth is it’s happened many times before. The Nazis did it, they wiped out 6 million people in the name of their “Aryan race” and even today it is still being used. China for example is trying to create a generation of genius babies meant to aid it in becoming the controlling global super power during the next decades. Although the idea of some “perfect human race” is rather intriguing I believe that nature should be allowed to run its course and that farther tampering with the course of natural selection will essentially “break” our species as a whole.

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  25. The film “Gattaca” presents various topics involving genetics as well as bioethics. In this film we see the genetic engineering of humans and the manipulation of DNA as a common thing. It is quite alarming the fact that this could be our near future because it can cause multiple things like for example, Eugenics, which refers to a set of beliefs and practices that aim at improving the genetic quality of the human population. In Gattaca the DNA of a person takes a big part in his or hers social standing and how far they can reach in life. We can witness all of these things through the character of Vincent, who since birth knew his life expectancy in mere minutes thanks to a machine. Although it is interesting knowing how it is possible to make life longer and the elimination of some diseases and all the measures that must be taken the bad thing is that people could take things to a whole other level and cause a dystopian society like in the film “Gattaca.”

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