Genetic Engineering - an Asatru Perspective
The Genome - Another Odinist View, perhaps…
This is partially intended to offer a critique of the previously published article in Odinic Rite Briefing (ORB) by Bill Favill on the future of genetics, and of us all. I offer apologies in advance for any misinterpretation on my part of what was written previously, especially since I must condense what I take to be the main thrust of the argument. I am also going to omit discussion of the technical problems and dangers of altering the Human genome. I have no doubt that mistakes are going to be made and horrible misuses occur, but that does not alter my thesis. Such is common to all powerful technologies, and I should not need to point out that we sacrifice thousands of lives every year just for the convenience of avoiding public transport.
The major concern appears to centre on the use of the technology to create a new race suitable for a One World State in which freedom and diversity are extinguished. This would arise due to an elite who controls the expensive technology for their own exclusive use. Now, I feel very strongly that this is not only an overly pessimistic view, but that history has shown it to be a most unlikely outcome.
Basically, I have heard this argument before, previously concerning computer technology. The above fears were a staple of the Left during the 1960s and 1970s. Computers cost millions of dollars (back when that was a lot of money!) and only rich Capitalists could afford them in order to implement the perfect Fascist State and crush the Working Class under a perpetual tyranny. So, what went wrong with the evil plan?
The answer is the technology itself. I am writing on a machine that, twenty-five years ago would have cost some ten million dollars, the cost of the super computer the Cray 1, whose power is now under my personal control.
In order to produce a technology that could achieve the ends of the purported Capitalist conspiracy the technology had to be advanced to the point that at which it now exists. The problem is such technological research and development costs trillions and requires decades - how was it to be financed? The answer is simple. It was financed by selling it to anyone who wanted it, and competition ensured that prices fell to the point where we can all own a computer. Of course, by now such technology is no longer the monopoly of an evil elite bent on dominating the world (Bill Gates excluded!).
The objectives of Capitalism were better served by selling than by restricting the technology to the elite. It also had a strange side effect - it destroyed the Communist (and other) tyrannies that could not tolerate the freedom of information flow that was ultimately required by the computers for maximising their efficient use. The Internet is the most striking incarnation of that new freedom.
The same thing is going to happen with Human genetic engineering. Vast zombie armies are not going to spring into being tomorrow, or next year, or next decade. The fruits of genetic engineering are going to go the way of the computer industry. To give one example - There have recently been successful experiments to genetically re-engineer old muscle tissue in order to regenerate it. This means, I hope, that by the time old age starts to significantly affect my muscular strength in about ten to fifteen years time I will be able to use such a treatment to rejuvenate me. The question is, will the manufacturers be selling such technologies to the rich at one million dollars a shot, or all of us at (say) one hundred? I think that the size of the market indicates the latter. Naturally, the first in line are going to pay high prices, just like anyone who wants brand new technology, but within a few years I expect it to be a standard anti-ageing treatment on the NHS.
I don't see why genetic engineering is going to follow any different a model than computers or pharmaceuticals. The key concept is that the technology is going to evolve, and generally it is going to be a mass-market product.
Which brings us to 'real' Human engineering and the ultimate market force. When it is possible to introduce new or extreme abilities into our genome (read children) what parent is going to condemn their child to sub-normality in a population centred around excellence, health and longevity? Particularly once the 'biggies' are cracked - IQ and Ageing. Even now parents of naturally short children are willing to pay for growth hormone treatment, and that is purely cosmetic. That is in the West - in the Third World infanticide is often practiced because they do not get what they want.
What about when skin/eye/hair colour become available, or (probably sooner) athletic prowess whether it be extra strength, aerobic capacity, explosive strength, endurance, eyesight…? the list is endless. Consider the availability and commercial success of minority treatments such as IVF.
So, let us assume that in fifty years time all this and more will be available to anyone who can now afford a car or computer. What does this have to do with us? It is obvious… Faith, Folk, Family
Human genetic engineering is going to cut right to the heart of that which concerns us most. I predict that it is going to be the single most explosive and divisive force of this new century, both politically and from a religious point of view. [Closely followed, I suspect, by Artificial Intelligence.]
When the genome alters, and our children are no longer our direct genetic descendants, what is the meaning of Folk, and Family?
The easy one first - family and the notion of kin in a world of genetic engineering. The engineering of a child will begin with the fertilised egg, the heritage of the mother and father. At that point, there will be additions and subtractions, some cosmetic and some deeper. I may decide I should not burden a son with that bald spot I currently sport, or an excessively white skin that means I sunburn within minutes in summer. I would like him to be smarter than I am, and free of any hereditary defects. Personality? Maybe more able to relate to others perhaps, but the genes for this tendency are unlikely to be well defined to make it a certainty.
Is he still my son? Undoubtedly, even if the bulk of his genome is not related to mine. At the least he would be as much a son as if he were adopted. However he would be far more kin to me than that, being the child of my mind, rather than my body. It is not something I consider being an inferior familial heritage.
Folk and Faith
In order to try and answer the question as related to the Folk I need to step back and explain my understanding of the Gods. Briefly, on one hand I view them as dynamic Archetypes somewhat akin to the entities one encounters when 'playing' Ouija. That is, they are the blending of the facets of the many psyches involved. In our case, the Gods are a distillation of the psyche of the North European peoples over several millennia. This is by no means meant to imply that they do not exist, or are some kind of fairy story. They have a life of their own, they interact with us both collectively and individually, and have a hand in shaping us as we shape them. They are our kin on a different and wider plane of being, an analogy being that we are the cells in their body. Additionally, they are the context through which that we as a culture encounter and interpret transcendent spiritual reality - that which cannot be put into words, but which can only be experienced. On the other hand, they also represent the forces of the Natural World - Nature, most explicitly in our recognition of entities such as Wights, and the presence in the mythology of the Ice Giants, Serpent, Wolf, World Tree etc. So, to put it crudely, I consider the Folk simply to be those who manifest the Gods in conjunction with Nature. As we all know, however, some manifest more strongly than others within our Folk, and in general other Peoples manifest different entities entirely, though they tend in many ways to be similar. We are, after all, Human.
The relationship with genetics is subtle. Unlike many less complex or less self-aware animals, genetics does not dominate our behaviour. Rather, in individuals it manifests as tendencies towards certain types of behaviour or characteristics. The exact outcome is dependent on many environmental factors and only shows en-masse statistically. There is a fine interplay between genetics, culture, Nature and the Gods…
I think it very likely that different cultures and different Pantheons are manifestations of different gene distributions in populations coupling with the natural environment. One does not even have to look at the 'big picture' - race, to see how this might arise. Every group of interacting people creates a 'tribal culture', and the more detailed that culture is, the more selective it tends to become. The selectivity operates on personality types, and to a lesser extent on physical appearance - both of which are related to genetics, although the latter more so. It is quite apparent in the business world that certain companies and occupations attract certain types of people and that there must be a gene selectivity going on, albeit on a small scale. The 'culture' is selecting genes and the genes are reinforcing culture. Ditto with larger tribes and natural nations.
In Bill Favill's article there was an air of spiritual conspiracy. I do not consider this paranoid or out of place. We name the entities with which we interact, and know their personalities. We also know of others that are indifferent, friendly or inimical to us and the Aesir and Vanir (YHWH for example). However, other such forces in the world have no 'spiritual' names, yet are equally as powerful or more so. 'We' are in the process of setting up a global money machine whose Archetype appears to be anti-Life, and it is this that I think Bill fears. As do I. However, that is another topic for another day.
Now, cultures are creatures of the mind - they change generation by generation whilst the gene distribution usually does not. In that sense, although the cultures that now exists in our native Homelands are very different to those that exists two thousand years ago, they are still essentially constrained within the same continuum of personalities and personality types. They evolve within the genetic parameters of the Folk (and immigrants over that time). So too, the Gods must evolve in the same way, within the same framework.
Our conception of the Gods is far more sophisticated than it was in (say) Viking times. When we hear thunder and look skywards, we may think of Thor, but we do not literally believe that the noise is due to chariot wheels. We know it is electrical - we talk of metaphors where our ancestors would not. We have a greater knowledge of the way the physical world works and this forces us look deeper into the Gods than our antecedents did, or could. This in turn literally gives our Gods the new depths we see in them. And it is a mutual undertaking - we co-evolve.
So, what happens when we start meddling with our gene pool? The short answer is that the whole nature of the Folk could change. The Gods could die, could be strengthened, or could evolve once again. Ragnarok. It depends entirely on our genetic contribution to the manifestation of the Gods. This is not likely to be a large portion of the genome, since the overwhelmingly vast portion of it is common throughout Humanity.
If you ask me what genes are likely to be involved I have to say that I do not know, but that I know how we can find out. One of the major research efforts over the next couple of decades will commence when individuals can be fully sequenced cheaply. All those psychology PhD wannabes are going to start cross-referencing personality types with gene sequences. And we must do the same. Is there a statistically significant correlation between people with a religious/spiritual outlook? Between people drawn to specific codes of conduct? Between members of specific religions…? At the same time we should be collecting genome mappings of individuals of the Folk to use as an engineering base and for research purposes. In fact, this has already started in Iceland. There is also a proposal to do the same for all the extreme examples of racial and tribal genetic diversity on the planet, before it disappears.
Then, when we know what effect this will have on the Gods, we make our choices. We choose our Children to manifest the Gods, to love, respect and protect Nature, and to exemplify the characteristics we most admire in our Folk.
Bill Favill lamented a quotation that enthused how we would be unrecognisable to this New Race. I think this too is overly pessimistic - they will still be our Children and while we now may not recognise them, they will know us. If we do our part we will not be ashamed of each other.
"Now to our Children's children and their children, we send our words as messengers, the way we shall not pass along: Kinsfolk! Unseen, unborn, unknown! Since we cannot see your face or clasp your hand, we send our spirits through time and space in Odin's name to greet you."
"Self Determination - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for or spoken for, by others. If we defend our Right to self-determination in this; then we defend the Right of others also, to their own self-determination. -" Quoted from Bill's article.
Another thread running through Bill's article was an assumed loss of diversity in Humanity and an expansion of the contempt for Nature we see about us now, largely as a result of our succumbing as a people to malignant spiritual forces.
Nothing could be further from the truth if we use the new tools in all their power. Genetic engineering is the only thing that is going to maintain diversity in Humanity and Nature given the mass population mixing coupled with the mass extinctions taking place at present. In the beginning it may start to look that way if the options on offer are restricted by the technology. No doubt there will be trends and fashions as in everything, but eventually we can expect to see what amounts to a speciation within Humanity. People adapted for living in space, who do not experience calcium loss in zero G or are low pressure tolerant. People optimised for aquatic environments (with or without gills).
In the shorter term 'Race' will become a designer choice.
The general principle we should strive to see enforced is a ban on any engineering that is of detriment to bio-diversity either directly or indirectly.
The current faltering first steps of genetic engineering on plants are as nothing compared to what we might accomplish. For example, photosynthesis is already more efficient at converting sunlight to energy than any commercial solar cell. Maybe one day our power stations will be forests and we will grow our homes with integrated energy generation, waste disposal and subsistence food production.
The general principle that we should strive to see enforced is a ban on any engineering that is of detriment to the animal or species concerned.
In the Animal Kingdom many creatures could returned from extinction, or near extinction and new creatures emerge. By this, I do not mean the abominations that are currently being produced such as hairless, cancer-ridden mice; or pigs whose genome has been debased so their organs can be transplanted into people too frightened to face their own mortality. I mean that I expect to live to see the first of the once-mythical animals walk the Earth - the Unicorn, followed by who-knows-what.
Perhaps Tolkeins Middle Earth, with its Hobbits, Giants, Elvenfolk and Men is not so much a mythical past as a real future with such a transcendence that it has sent echoes back thousands of years. That such a blossoming will not be smooth sailing might also be deduced, given the darker side of those tales, including our own Ragnarok. The technology of genetic engineering is powerful beyond our imagination - a power for good and a power for evil. It is coming, and it is unstoppable, but we can hopefully influence the direction of the wave.
The world is alive with Entities that lust after the power for their own ends, and seek control. We need the technology to be largely 'out of control'. This point in history is mathematically chaotic. The tiniest influence will be magnified over the decades to come. Ten years ago we were locked into the seeming unbreakable half-century stasis of the Cold War. Now the world is fluid, and anything can happen. One question that has been asked concerns the future of our Faith - I suggest that the future of our Faith literally lies in the Future. Let us look seriously where few now do, to a tomorrow that can still be changed by those with a coherent vision that can illuminate a Way.