Bioethics News

Frankenstein was right

With the bicentenary of the publication of Mary Bysshe Shelley’s book on human enhancement approaching in 2018, it may be worth reviewing the dramatic bioethical challenge faced by Dr Frankenstein.

You may recall that Dr Victor Frankenstein assembled an eight-foot, highly intelligent, powerful male humanoid. His creation escaped but returned to plead for a female companion. With her he would emigrate to “the vast wilds of South America”. However, the good doctor fears that their progeny would compete with humankind. “A race of devils would be propagated upon earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror.”

So he destroys his female project. Did he make the right decision? Would these creatures really have destroyed the human race?

An article in the journal BioScience has crunched the numbers for us using “competitive exclusion” theory. It turns out that had the couple escaped to South America, they would have multiplied and spread, and eliminated us within 4000 years – 4,188 years to be exact. So, at least within a framework of utilitarian ethics, Frankenstein was right. He deserves the gratitude of BioEdge readers. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.