The Witch Hunts of Salem

witch-hunt

Scientific experiments are supposed to be a vehicle of empiricism, a fact finding mission that will yield a ‘truth’ in biology or any of her allied fields. Although genetic truths are evident in sequences of DNA and protein crystals shed light on the structure of proteins, there are scientific experiments that are performed with a set of idealized conclusions in mind, which can be designated as ‘witch-hunts’ which cloud experiments, laden with bias and prejudice. In this case, the truth is not in the expert hand of the scientist, it lies in the intricacies of biology and what biology weaves from genetics and epigenetics, is a fine imprint that is both printed by nature and sculpted by nurture, in an interplay of nativity and experience, where the ultimate answer lies in letting nature take its course, and not on the sketch that lies in the mental faculties of an armchair scientist.

These days, scientific experiments are used for the benefit or detriment of mankind, by using technology to cater towards “social experiments”. In other words, we are in a world that frown upon eugenics but on the other hand try to maneuver the futuristic field of what I call “dystopian epi-eugenics”. What I mean here, by the word epi-eugenics, is that we can, by inflicting pressure and stress on an unknown individual in society, change his epigenome, or the ‘above genome’ effects of an individual genome, that has the potential to lead to stress related illnesses and even inter-generational effect such as fostering an imprint on the progeny of that individual. What if scientific technologies were used for “dystopian epi-eugenics” in the contemporary, would the scientists in hand cheer the above notion or look the other way in disgust at the level of “mishandling” of subjects ? What if an unknown person in public, was subjected 10 years of continuous stress, applied in assorted manners, does one honestly think there won’t be epigenomic effects on that individual’s genome? Well, to be frank, unless we perform bisulfite sequencing and identify the methylation sites on and around key genes, we will never be able to tell whether stress had undesirable effects on notable features of the individual’s life – lifespan, cancer susceptibility, diabetes propensity, mental health etc. So in this day and age – where eugenics programs are rare and perhaps only occurring in rogue states – are we going to say that “dystopian epi-eugenics” is fine? I hope not for the sake of bioethics, where even one individual subjected to public cruelty, is one social experiment too many……….

Social experiments – for example, what has been spoken about in books such as ‘1984’ and films such as ‘The Truman Show’ – deals with the erosion of privacy and the maneuver of an individual in hand, to cater towards the aspirations of the directors of such endeavors. In the Truman Show, the director – Ed Harris’s character – says once that “we abide by the reality that we are gifted with”, which says that artificially giving a person an altered sense of reality, is potentially applicable as a scientific experiment. The central character in the Truman Show, is a pawn for Big Brother, and is just used for the amusement of the broader audience that is at hand and this demonstrates that any scientific experiment is more or less ‘feasible’ in the ethics-deficient world we live in.

In a hypothetical sense, if a social experiment is conducted in bioethical manner – with informed consent, with negligible maleficence and with true benefits accrued to the individual, would that make the social experiment make it any better ? No, any enterprise that plans to expose an individual to an overwhelming sense of stress, is an act against humanity, and fosters an apathetical viewpoint towards the humanity and broader good. What if the world went back to sterilization of the mentally-ill or marginalized ethnicities with little economic wealth, even lobectomies to cure mental ailments, would this be an ideal world for those megalomaniacs with god complexities ?………..We live in a world where a few determine the needs of the many. We don’t live in utopian democracies but in a world drugged with false propaganda and a climate conducive to the running of social experiments. It is a sad world where sciences such as the so coined “dystopian epi-eugenics’” will thrive and no one, even the Nobel laureates, are raising their voices to object and counter the tyrannical terrorism of a human being’s privileges and rights. This is truly an apocalypse of ethics and time will tell whether this dystopian world where truth can be manipulated at the hands of scientists will bridge today’s gulags with tomorrow’s promise.

No man should encounter an overwhelming sense of stress for some witch-hunt on the hands of scientists. Maybe in Salem, witches shoot off in brooms but in this corner of the world, brooms are used to wipe away the filth and the dirt, perhaps even wipe clean the stains of lies, off the mental floors of biased scientists.

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Published by

meandererworld (Dilantha Gunawardana)

Dr Dilantha Gunawardana is a molecular biologist, who graduated from the University of Melbourne. He moonlights as a poet. Dilantha wrote his first poem at the ripe age of 32 and now has more than 1700 poems on his blog. His poems have been accepted/published in Forage, Kitaab, Eastlit, American Journal of Poetry and Ravens Perch, among others. He was also awarded the prize for "The emerging writer of the year - 2016" in the Godage National Literary Awards, Sri Lanka for his first collection of poems (Kite Dreams – A Sarasavi Publication), while being shortlisted for the poetry prize. Dilantha is a dual citizen of Sri Lanka and Australia, and shares his experiences from two different cultures. He blogs at - https://meandererworld. wordpress.com/

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