Dangers of Gene Modification in the food chain and genetic engineering of other plant forms are illuminated by ancient myths seen as history
David Pinnegar studied genetic engineering, then called biophysics at Imperial College London in the early 1980s. He has since been working on the restoration and interpretation of a historic house where he was given a copy of the most important frieze of the ancient world.
One might hypothesise that the pig could have been genetically modified in a programme of genetic engineering in Atlantis.
Apparently pig tastes like human, according to aircrash survivors. In our turn, we find that pigs are close enough to us to be able to use pigs to grow human spare parts. Perhaps human genes were put into the pig - and for reasons connected with Plato's description of the reasons for the sinking of the lost continent. After the flood in which Atlantis sank, Noah's descendants remembered that the pig was a left over of a distasteful era and so was unclean.
We are left with a fuzzy thought that our current cycle of history might have happened before.
The human body digests food. Food is made up of living matter. Living matter
is chemical computer code. Computer code relies on subroutines. Our bodies
may depend on subroutines we don't know about yet but which get Genetically
Modifed - changed. We'll know about the subroutine when the body fails. OUCH!
Genetic modification of these subroutines is dangerous in two ways. They are pieces of software which are used as hardware building blocks. The hardware is the product of an infinite evolution of software.
On the micro scale, these function within us. On the macro scale, each organism has a function, is a subroutine, within the mechanics of the whole ecology.
So Wheat gets G.Med (genetically modified) now. In 100 years time that gets G.Med. - We'll have forgotten what the original code was by then and we won't be able to keep track of the upgrades. How often does your computer crash for no explicable reason? OUCH!
According to the myth of Hephaestus who sowed his seed on the ground, mixed it with the dust of this mother earth and from which he created life, us, the first human being made in his image - we were genetically modified products of evolutionary life on this planet.
The life which has evolved here is the unique set of DNA solutions to the equation of reproducing life. These DNA solutions are both the software and the soft-hardware - the set of subroutine building block programs. Only these may exist because all other solutions to the equation/problem fail. Changing the language of genetic subroutines therefore changes the evolved language into a wrong language, the solutions to which can only be wild disorders.
This complication applies not only to the vegetable and more complex lifeforms but also to the bacteria, fungi and viruses which are symbiotically related. Much Genetic Modification is in a vain attempt to make life resistant to diseases. These bacteria, fungi and bugs will react, adapt, evolve to the new forms and generate a secondary level of new disorders. We are only now discovering the folly of the same methodology applied to antibiotics where, in creating drugs to fight bugs, we have merely created superbugs.
Not only will we create disorder in the programming of our own food chain - which means that the food/our consumption cycle will falter - but we will release a new generation of all the ills of the world.
Pandora was given a box when she was wedded to Epimetheus. In this box were all of the ills of the world, safely contained and boxed up. She was told not to open it. She was curious and thirsted after knowledge of what what was within. She opened the box and shut it again quickly - but in doing so she had let out all the ills of the world, leaving behind in her box only hope.
Perhaps Genesis deals with the future rather than the past. We are in the Garden of Eden. We have climbed the tree of knowledge. We have tasted the fruit. Now we have climbed the Tree of Life and are about to taste the fruit. In that taste we will be thrown out of our Garden of Eden and will have to till the fields among the new thistles and new thorns and worse. No longer will our Mother Earth be the Eden of paradise . . .
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
The following sites may be useful in exploring these issues further:
An Ethical Stand Against Genetic Engineering Powerful international economic and political forces are driving the widespread implementation of genetic technologies throughout the environment and into ... http://www.netlink.de/gen/ethical.html
SRT GENETIC ENGINEERING WORKING GROUP Society, Religion and Technology Project . Church of Scotland. ENGINEERING GENESIS. The SRT Study on the Ethics of Genetic Engineering in Animals, Plants and Micro-organisms. ...http://webzone1.co.uk/www/srtproject/genengwg.htm
Jurassic Park: The Science and Ethics of Genetic Engineering Susan Terry 1994 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute Jurassic Park, the unit, is an extensive use of a cross-curricular teaching event. Planned for AP Biology, English and Calculus ...http://www.gene.com/ae/AE/AEPC/WWC/1994/jurassic.html
Exploring the Ethics of Genetic Engineering Topic(s): Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering Curricular Area(s): Science, Social Studies Subject(s): Biology, Social Problems, Current Events, Government Goal/Objective: ... http://www.newsbank.com/schools/tcr/samples/hpscita.html
Natural Life Magazine #58 - Genetic Engineering Mistakes November 1997 Genetic Engineering Mistakes & Miseries Genetic engineering of plants is not proving to be as simple or safe as its proponents http://www.life.ca/nl/58/mistakes.html
SEE: Objectives Science and Engineering Ethics. Science and Engineering Ethics is a multi-disciplinary quarterly journal launched in January 1995 which is dedicated to exploring ethical issues of ...http://www.cableol.net/opragen/objectiv.htm
In the legend of Atlantis, Plato talks of a civilization which was destroyed by the Gods on account of being intoxicated by luxury and the possession of gold and other property. Zeus, "who had an eye to see" obeserved that the Atlanteans had become visibly debased: to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power.
It seems that Genetic Engineering has enormous benefits when referred to as The Tree of Life - if used in the right way.
But used in the worship of Mammon, money and greed, the present direction of genetic modification of the food chain is capable of leading us in the direction of which we are warned in the legendary (or historical?) destruction of Atlantis.
Accordingly, guidance comes from the nature of the politics of the ancient Council who were legendarily responsible for our Genetic Modification, producing us as life in their image. Whether the story is history or allegory, the wisdom of their politics bears scrutiny . . .
In the complete display of the sculpture at Hammerwood Park is the frieze to be seen, more than merely of outstanding artistic merit: it is actually one of the primary documents surviving from ancient times.
Historians make the mistake that history is not history if it is not written. Accordingly, ancient items become "pre-historic" and stories handed down to us are dismissed as myths. However, as in this case, we find that information from a multiplicity of sources builds to confirm certain stories as true history. Central to the understanding of this is the concept that history repeats itself and is cyclical. It is, of course the logic that justifies the teaching of history: history teaches us either safe paths to follow in certain circumstances or enables us to break the cycle where mistakes have been made. History gives us an eye to the future. Rarely do historians look at the future, by the same logic in reverse, as a research tool to the past. This approach confirms the interpretation of the frieze briefly outlined below from existing aural/documentary sources.
The reason for the lack of appreciation of the importance frieze is that extant copies of slabs missing or in Athens have not been allowed to be displayed adjacent the originals in the British Museum. Appreciation has also been hampered by deliberate defacement by Muslims and Christians alike who considered it Pagan, with the associated taboo of viewing idols of God made in our image. As I was to discover, nothing could be farther from the truth: it is compatible with monotheism and gives clues to wider multifaith understanding.
Looking at the far right of the illustration above, next to Eros leftwards is Aphrodite. Casts of her head and right shoulder (left of head on frieze) are in the Louvre. To the left of her is a slab (at Hammerwood) with Aphrodite's right elbow, Artemis, Apollo and Poseidon. This slab is in Athens.
Accordingly only the section on the left is visible to the Scholars on a daily basis in the British Museum . In this section, temple servants lift down stools from the attendants heads as invitations for the Gods on the frieze. The Gods are depicted at twice the size of the mortals. The position of the Gods is well analysed and documented.
Having been given a copy of the frieze complete in this section, one begins to appreciate the majesty of the Gods sitting there together on the wall and for the past 14 years I have been pondering and researching.
Whilst the position of each of the deities is well researched and documented, it appeared useful to research from first principles. Accordingly, I used a computer to search all of the ancient texts for the word "Gods" in the plural. It was of no surprise that the texts of both Homer and Plato featured the word most frequently.
What was startling was the most common context: "Council of Gods". Upon looking at the frieze again, one finds that all but one of the Gods sit on stools, whilst Zeus sits on a chair - a Chairman . . . the Council!
The concept that the frieze depicts the Council has the consequences of a presumed motion, a debate, some politics, some voting and a decision. The position of the Gods yields to analysis which accords with the implied question at the end of Plato's Critias: "Was it a good idea to make the men of Atlantis in our image"?
"Is it a good idea to make mankind in our image" is the concept throughout Genesis and Job where the "Sons of God" come down "with Satan" to torment Job to prove that mankind is not worthy of the Father's support. Eden, Sodom and Gomorra, Noah's Flood, Babel - the heavenly decision depends on the same debate. Genesis 6 makes the connection between the biblical "Sons of God" and the Greek Gods and heroes, the "men of renown". There is confusion as to the exact correspondence between these and the biblical Nephilim, giants and fallen angels but the ambiguities are of no consequence.
The myth of Hephaestus is that he was an engineer who was known to have fallen out of heaven and bumped his foot. According to Plato, he spilled his seed on the dust of the earth, mixed it with the dust and from this mixture sprang mankind - life in made in his image. On the frieze he is depicted with a club foot for this reason. We are not far off doing exactly this again: our genetic engineers will take their own DNA and get it - akin to a computer program - to run on a different hardware - a different chemistry - whether for mere academic purposes here or a different dust of a different earth to inhabit another planet. To the life that we create there, that genetic engineer will have fallen out of heaven.
On the frieze, Hephaestus and Athena - Goddess of Science, Wisdom and Knowledge - who made the first woman, Pandora sit centrally
Only Apollo looks towards them and they form a group of five.
All of the others look away.
The two on the left here are in senses ambiguous - by the attitude of the legs, Dionysus, left, God of mind altering substances, appears to be facing away from us with a somewhat independent air. Demeter, mother Earth, has her hand on her chin looking sad. Both give the impression of not having a direct say in the Council's deliberations. Both are Titans. the rest are Olympians. One might conjecture that these two either have some reason to abstain or are co-opted members and have no vote in an Olympian Council.
Nearly all the others, want to put obstacles in our path which they wish to see us overcome.Hermes, left, deceit, lying and thieving; Ares, next, hate and war; Poseidon, left on right-hand group, sea, storms, moves mountains - earthquakes - responds to mother Demeter whispering in his ear to give mankind a jolt; Artemis (centre of missing section), huntress, desire, greed, money and power (manifested in the temple of Artemis at Theseus); and Aphrodite, lustful desires, sexual intrigue and jealousy. Other than Poseidon, who we see to be the political fruit of Demeter, this group represents the "satan" forces of society and cynically don't believe that we can overcome their temptations. These elements are identified as having to be excluded in the Buddhist aspiration to Nirvana.
Upon counting the voting, we have five for the motion and five against: it is only the Chairman's vote that counts.
Whilst rabid Christian fundamentalists maintain that the word for God in the first chapter of Genesis, Elohim instead of Yahweh, is plural on account of the concept of the holy trinity, the trinity concept is entirely lacking for some thousands of years before the writings of the New Testament.
Through the Parthenon Frieze, it is much easier to see the unity between religions, the Hindu, Jain, Zoroastrian, Mithraic, Buddhist, Judaic, Christian, Muslim as a function of the process of Babel. Through the frieze, the plurality of the Hindu and of the Genesis Elohim become singular: it is only the Chairman's vote that we have to attain.
When our Genetic Engineer flies off to another planet to populate it with genetically engineered life in his image, will he fly off alone or with colleagues?
What would you vote on the Council of life creators, the genetic engineering ethics committee?
The new Hephaestus will stand there before you having created life in his image of a different chemistry. He will have done it contrary to the general injunction not to experiment with human life. What would you say? To which political party will you give your allegiance?
Will you ask for the experiment to be terminated and the new being made in your image killed? Or will you say "Yes - he and his Pandoras and Eves and children can be quite as good as us?" Or will you say that our technology in the hands of a technologically young people (India and Pakistan for instance in the past months) can be too dangerous for themselves and us.
What will the Chairman say? He won't want to annoy anyone and will want to find a solution. "Heffy . . . just go and do it somewhere else . . ."
And so Hephaestus will be required to go away and find another place in the heavens to find another mother Earth, another Demeter, to bear the new creation. He will be banished there to go and look after the new colony. He will be accompanied by colleagues and observers who are representatives of both political parties.
So much of the Greek mythology now comes to life. In telling the story I feel like the receipt of Apollo's gift of prophecy to Cassandra who no-one would believe.
But ponder it if you will and the whole history falls into place.
Of course, banished to a distant land, we cannot support the new colony at such distance for the project to succeed. Nor should we, from our experience that teaching underdeveloped countries agriculture is more effective than merely shipping them food.
So Hephaestus will have to make ploughs when he gets there and will have to teach agriculture. The "Satan" party are very concerned by the use of technology as it can be so dangerous that the new beings will have to be taught obedience and generosity.
The story of Babel is worth a second look - the consequence of man getting too close to heaven was that we were to have our communications disrupted - Hermes, responsible for communications identified by the frieze to be in the "satan" party.
How do the colony leaders teach obedience? Every month the new beings are required to bring 10 % of the food which they have grown to share with their creators.
There are stories of such feasts in the mythology. Prometheus was a Titan, who is also credited with a creation story (there may have been different generations of creators), and he was responsible for carving the meat at just such a ceremony where the mortals and the immortals shared food. (The punishments resulting from the Prometheus legend are of themselves of no consequence in this regard.) When the immortals departed, the feasts continued in sacrificial ceremonies at which meat and drink were ceremoniously cooked and consumed, the spirit of the Gods having entered the offerings and by the eating of which communicated that spirit into the communicants. Today within a "New Covenant" we continue to eat the body and drink the blood.
I was prompted to look for textual references to such ceremonies which were attended by mortals and immortals by the figures on the Borgehese vase, reproduced in the 18th Century as plaques at Hammerwood Park.
Are these legends of immortals to be discounted? By 2020 it is predicted that, having now identified the sequence of DNA program which counts the number of times cells replicate, we will have mastered the code and be able to give ourselves unlimited lifetimes. Before Noah's flood, lifetimes approached those of the immortals, 600 - 900 years. It seems that one of the conditions imposed by the Council's planning committee for the continuation of the mankind experiment through the saving of Noah was that the lifetime be reduced to 70 years.
Plato recalls a set of circumstances similar to the Noah story in the legendary destruction of Atlantis:
Critias (extract) For many generations, as long as the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws, and well-affectioned towards the god, whose seed they were; for they possessed true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness with wisdom in the various chances of life, and in their intercourse with one another. They despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and other property, which seemed only a burden to them; neither were they intoxicated by luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their self-control; but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship with them. By such reflections and by the continuance in them of a divine nature, the qualities which we have described grew and increased among them; but when the divine portion began to fade away, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture, and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious gifts; but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power.
Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according to law, and is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable race was in a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on them, that they might be chastened and improve, collected all the gods into their most holy habitation, which, being placed in the centre of the world, beholds all created things.
And when he had called them together, he spake as follows-*
* The rest of the Dialogue of Critias is missing.Back to the rational consideration of Genetic Engineering
All we know is that they decided to sink Atlantis into the sea. The decision making context coincides with that of Noah's flood and, to the residents of Atlantis, the effect was the same.
Here is the whole story of the Parthenon and its links with the commemoration of the Atlantis story. In order to start to comprehend our future path, the temple frieze opens up new understanding of the nature of ancient stories and religions.