Gattaca – the greatest scientific film of all time

Gattaca snapshot. Source: Google creative commons.

In the not too distant future, a society exists in which advanced genetic engineering determines the social status of a human being.

Or thats what director Andrew Niccol portrayed 15 years ago in his blockbuster movie Gattaca. A play on the letters that represent the four DNA bases (G A T C), Gattaca depicts a world obsessed with genetic perfection. The key theme of this scientifically driven film is the dominance of nature over nurture.

One of the very first scenes displays the birth of Vincent, a boy that was naturally conceived, not genetically engineered like the rest of his generation. Vincent’s chances of future health problems were determined at birth. Things such as percentage chance of obesity, manic depression, attention deficit disorder, heart disorder and life expectancy were defined by a simple prick of his foot.

Gattaca snapshot. Source: Google creative commons.

It did not matter how much I lied on my resume. My real resume was in my cells.

In my previous post on super-fertility, I mentioned a technique called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. This is the tool applied to embryos in Gattaca to create the most genetically dominant child. Although an important advancement in science, this near future brings up major ethical concerns.

Keep in mind, this child is still you. Simply, the best, of you. You could conceive naturally a thousand times and never get such a result.

Currently only genetic defects such as Down syndrome and cystic fibrosis can be diagnosed with PGD. An article posted in natural news earlier this year suggests that with healthcare costs on the rise, governments may approve more conditions to be genetically tested for at the embryonic stage. By bringing in these new policies, this genetic testing could lead to greater abortion rates, and hence decrease healthcare costs associated with genetic diseases. Do we want a future like this? Where a naturally conceived child is prevented from fulfilling their dreams due to statistically determined health problems? In all our efforts to rid our societies of discrimination, there is a chance discrimination of future generations could be put down to a science.

I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the color of your skin. No, we now have discrimination down to a science.

This film is extremely moving as it brings to light the ethical concerns associated with human rights and how these rights can be abused by science. By referring back to this film created before many scientific technologies existed, the goals of scientists can be put into perspective. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching Gattaca, I would highly recommend it.

Hopefully I, or future generations to come, will never have to see anything like this.

Gattaca snapshot. Source: Google creative commons.

4 Responses to “Gattaca – the greatest scientific film of all time”

  1. Sila says:

    Hey Peter, thanks for the positive feedback!

    With regards to your research, termination for such a horrid condition can sometimes be justified. I just hope it doesn’t progress towards designer babies, because lets face it – no human is perfect!

    In answer to your question, I studied biomedical engineering in my undergrad and I am now doing research in neuroimaging. I didn’t know my posts gave me away so easily!

  2. Peter says:

    I’ve been wanting to comment for a couple weeks now – great post Sila!
    The day you posted this I was like ‘Holy crap, my brain’s been violated’ – I was just about to post something really similar on the ethics behind genetic testing.
    You’ve done a top job with referencing my second favorite sci-fi movie ever – E.T. ftw btw 😉

    The way things are going, I can see a future where genetic testing for Mendelian diseases is normal – currently I’m involved in researching a rare one, where the child unfortunately doesn’t make it past the 3 day mark due to heart complications… A pregnant woman that was scanned for the genetic mutation that causes this disease – genito palato cardiac syndrome fyi – decided to terminate her pregnancy than put her child through that torture.. It’s a really tough, sad and delicate topic, but hopefully we won’t have a Gattaca future.

    Out of curiosity: are you studying biotech or something? I’ve found all your posts extremely interesting! Good job 🙂

  3. Sila says:

    Thanks Aziz – I was lucky enough to analyze it as a text for my high school studies. It’s an extremely smart movie!

  4. Aziz says:

    One of my best movies ever. I recommend any SciFi lover to watch this, albeit it is old but worth the watch indeed.