Discussion of the Presidential Biomedical Committee

On January 17th, 2002, a group of scientists from the Presidential Biomedical Committee carried out a session entitled “Science and the Pursuit of Perfection”, based on studying of a short story of Nathaniel Hawthorne “The Birth-Mark”. This discussion proved to be very interesting and professional. An ensemble of experts has been analyzing the story not from only medical or biomedical points of view, but also from the positions of psychiatry, psychology, etc. They even addressed to historical outlines when talking about science of ancient Greeks. There are almost no points throughout the discussion, which I would disagree with. Especially, I liked the line in these debates, initiated by Prof. Meilaender. The participants have been discussing the contrasts between scientist Aylmer and his “earthly” assistant Aminadab, and the conclusion was: even “animal nature” has better intuition and can understand danger and worthlessness of human involving into “God’s business”.

Besides, I totally agree with the experts, that Aylmer’s perfectionism in the story is extremely aggressive, and his attempt to remove the birthmark is a very repulsive act. It is really unbelievable, how can a birthmark of his loving and caring young wife, who is loyal and devoted to her husband, become such an annoying element? There are thousands of people among us, who live with much more ugly defects of skin or body, but it does not change attitude and care of their loving relatives and true friends.

Only I do not quite share the position of Prof. Mary Ann Glendon and some other experts, who hesitated in Aylmer’s being “a man of science”. They called him “magician” or “narcissist”. I suppose, he was a good and very experienced scientist and alchemist, because there were few opportunities for studying “real science” in those times.

To my mind, Aylmer got into a psychological trap and started hating his wife for her birthmark not because only of his scientific aspirations for perfection, but because of his subconscious motif. And, I guess, in the end of the story Aylmer realized that he took too big risk of his wife’s health, having her involved with his scientific and psychological experiments. That is why he may seem to be “illogical” and “non-scientific” in his movements. But, in my opinion, it is impossible to underestimate his scientific knowledge, experience, approach in his work and achievements (fail experiments and bad outcomes are also results).

I think that the main purpose of such a discussion could be attracting attention of the society on problems of science, and especially dangerous consequences of pursuing “perfectionism” in science. This story shows that scientific experiments, especially on people, must be objective, secure and harmless; they must be directed only on improving of life standards and better satisfying all the vital needs of human being, not on pleasing psychological tricks of a particular scientist.

Besides, I would like to underline that importance of this problem increases every day in our times. Recently it became possible to correct human body and face in special beauty saloons, and contemporary surgeons carry out extremely difficult and risky operations on correcting natural imperfections. Before making such decisions, every participant must understand the risk and danger of it, because there is nothing more priceless and valuable than a human life.

Nowadays problems of genetic manipulations and cloning (especially issues of human cloning) receive huge resonance in public opinion. Of course, such scientific experiments have a lot of positive practice, because cloning opened a new horizon in medicine of artificial organs and allowed reproducing new healthy human organs for replacement. But in case if cloning technology will be used with bad anti-humanistic intentions (like making profit, etc.), a terrible disaster may happen. That is why such questions require very thorough regulations and tough control.

Bibliography:

·         Hawthrone, Nathan. “The Birth Mark.” The Literature Network. 10 Sept. 2005 <http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/125/>.·         “Science and the Pursuit of Perfection.” Discussion of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Short Story, “The Birth-Mark” by the Presidential Bioethics Committee The President’s Council on Bioethics. 17 Jan. 2002 10 Sept. 2005 <http://www.bioethics.gov/transcripts/jan02/jan17session2.html>.

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