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GENETIC ENGINEERING AND THE SACRED

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Abstract:

Abstract.

Genetic engineering of life forms could well have a profound effect upon our sense of the sacred. Integrating the experience of the sacred as George Bataille does, we can characterize it as a phenomenological encounter with prelinguistic, noncategoreal experience. This view of the sacred is similar to Friedrich Nietzsche's Dionysian experience or Rudolf Otto's mysterium tremendum and diminishes one's sense of self. It seems similar to the eighteenth-century aesthetic categorization of “the sublime.” Despite the dominant rational approach to religiosity in the United States, intimations of this experience persist in popular culture. What possible relationship does genetic engineering have to this allegedly inevitable and profound experience? If certain modifications of life occur, they are likely to create such an experience of the sacred in us. In principle, we can now resurrect the mammoth or even create beings designed to directly potentiate our experience of the numinous such as satyrs or centaurs. The creation of such beings could become an art form associated with awaking the sacred, in turn appropriated by religion, as art has always been. Such experimentation, though morally questionable, is probably inevitable.

Keywords: biotechnology; genetic engineering; mysterium tremendum; numinous; the sacred; the sublime

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2005.00718.x

Affiliations: University Distinguished Professor, Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Professor of Animal Sciences, and University Bioethicist at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1781;, Email: Bernard.Rollin@ColoState.edu.

Publication date: 2005-12-01

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