Thursday, December 27, 2001

Reflecting on the Year 2001 (1)

It's difficult to believe we've already reached the end of the year. I'd like to pause and reflect on the year 2001 and express my personal thoughts in a couple of installments of this site. Just a few days ago, my book entitled, Shokan Zakkan (Sekai Seiten Fukyu Kyokai), consisting of my journal entries for the past six months, was published. Much like a "diary", it records my personal observations. Each entry and picture posted here on this website has been designed to fit more or less within the dimensions of the computer screen. Since the book has 113 of these entries, it can be said that it's a heaven sent child of the internet age.

This year was the year in which I made my debut on the internet. The opening of my website made it in time for the beginning of the New Millennium, and this journal section began on January 13th with the entry referring to the birth of a monkey through genetic alteration. Continuing this type of daily entry, however, requires a lot of energy, and, if it weren't for the support of you, the readers, I don't think I could have written the 190 entries that I did. The Japanese title of the books means "Collection of Essays Written in My Spare Time." The truth is, however, this is not something that I can really write in "my spare time"--even more so, if I include a drawing with it. If I try too hard, it affects my other work, so, next year, I don't think I'll write at the same pace as I did this year.

At the beginning of 2001, I wrote and published a book entitled Before Playing God about the sorrowful, "wild and uncontrolled" advancements of modern technology. I used this book as a text at the Seicho-No-Ie Public Lectures in Japan for about a year. That being the case, I also wrote a lot in this journal about things related to genetic engineering and life ethics. I've touted my "opposition to human cloning", and during this time, Japan has passed a "Law Regulating Cloning" which prohibits the cloning of humans. In the U.S. government also, at least at the lower level, there is an agreement completed that states there will be no human cloning. This is definitely something that is needed. We still can't be sure, however--There are still concerns regarding those areas of science/technology in cloning and stem cell research that may take on "a life of its own" or run "out of control", and there are no ethical standard that is agreed upon, which control or govern technology in the field of reproductive medicine, either domestically or internationally. We found out this year that "surrogate mothers", formally prohibited by Japan's Association of Gynecologists, are, in actuality, being used here in Japan. This just goes to show that a voluntary agreement among physicians regarding this ethical issue is inadequate.

The basis of this problem lies in the theological, moral and religious thesis of just exactly how much society is willing to allow in man's search to satisfy his own desires. Saying that its one's "right to have children" may sound impressive, but it's not much different than "the mind that wants children." In the same way, within the "right to a healthy life" lies the desire to "escape from hereditary (genetic) disease" or "never to grow old." In time, this may lead to the "right to select gender" or the "right to select ethnicity." We must avoid the misconception that the "right" to do something is "right." Endlessly stretching a "right" makes it become a "wrong." We must find a happy medium between the two. I think the 21st Century is a time when mankind must work to come to grips with the root of these problems, and, together, find a solution to them all.

- MT

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