21 February 2017

Humans: Playing God Since God Knows When

The process of making beef jerky is a long one, as you might have guessed. More tedious than labor-intensive. Still, it eats up a good amount of time with waiting... and I figured that would be a good excuse to write something.

We have a lot of dumb phrases wedged into our lexicon, boys and girls. I could go on at frustrated length about my disdain for recent clichéd phrases that the majority of fuck-wits thankfully don't utter anymore, but there's one that always stuck in my head as confusing. Not only that, but just plain dumb.

“Playing God.”

It seems pretty self-explanatory, doesn't it? I mean, what other images can that phrase invoke other than partaking in an action that only a divine creator would do? Some use it as an ethics argument to discourage others from taking controversial action, others as a means to state that one human shouldn't take the life of another, and then a few who use it to refer to an apotheosis. Either way, it's a ridiculous phrase, potentially dangerous, and Philip Ball (a British science writer with a degree in Chemistry and a doctorate in Physics) wrote a good article for Prospect Magazine about the meaninglessness of the phrase.

Personally, I would argue that we have been “playing God” a lot longer than would have thought. Long before that phrase was ever uttered by someone trying to stop another from committing an action they thought questionable. What's the basis of my argument? Animal breeding; dogs, in particular.

The breeds of dogs we have today would not exist were it not for humans playing a hand in their breeding. Humanity selected the traits that were the most useful to us and made it so it would appear in future generations. We didn't even need a laboratory, and we were modifying life to service us.

...or just for shits and giggles. I mean, look at the pug; nothing about that breed says “natural selection.” Hell, we practically bred those poor things to have health problems.

I don't care what anyone says... pugs should not be!
Source: Wikimedia via "Pleple2000"
We haven't just done it with dogs. Horses, cows, chickens, pigs, any and all types of work- and food-animal, we have made it so that the critters are either born with exceptional strength or abundance of flesh for their specific purpose.

We've done it with plants, too. Corn from the way old days was only a fraction of the size and nowhere near as tender as what you see in the farmer's market. Grains, fruits, vegetables, motherfucking flowers, all of it. For the amount of mouths we need to feed on this planet, we damn well better “play God” to ensure we survive! And don't get me started on all that crap GMO fear-mongering right now. I promise you, that day's coming.

It's a corn family photo!
Source: Donald E. Hurlbert, Smithsonian Institution (Rest in Peace, sir, and thank you.)
Let's take it away from agriculture for right now and move into something more modern, yeah? How about this. There are 118 elements listed on the Periodic Table of the Elements as of the time of posting. One hundred and eighteen total elements... and we made twenty-four of them. Twenty per cent of the contents of the Periodic Table, we created. Not God, not the cosmos, but us.

Is that still “playing God?” Since we're not creating a thing that could be categorized as living, does it make the perceived sin smaller? I mean, we're still creating something that did not exist within nature before, so it's technically the same thing.

Hell, we've done this with ourselves in our own breeding. It hasn't gone that far, because certain people lose their shit over it, but don't stand there and tell me that things like in vitro fertilization and fertility medications and gods-be-damned Viagra aren't us playing against how we were created.

Look, I can get some of the religious rhetoric behind the phrase. God is supposed to be a omnipotent being of infallible wisdom and we, its flawed creation, could not even begin to postulate its motives to try to emulate its actions. It is meant to be a warning against hubris, but can't we think of a different way to say it? Seriously, I'm taking suggestions.

As I alluded above, the aspect of God represents, to me, a creator. To play God is to create. It could, for many, simply be a matter of scale. Nobody blinks an eye when someone creates an artistic masterpiece or a song never before heard, but once it traverses into the realm of humanity, people freak as if it will lead to our extinction or something. We like to fear things that aren't natural, but if the parts of the new whole were provided by nature itself, who is to say what we made isn't natural?

We were meant to create, and we can't progress further as a species if we allow ourselves to be stymied by the specter of a creation myth.

So let's just create!

No cupcakes today. I told you; no more cupcakes until you read up on VHEMT!

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