I have contended for years that technology is not neutral, that it carries within itself the ideology of the ruling forms of domination and exploitation for which it is created. If this has not been obvious in earlier technological developments, the growth of biotechnology makes this clear. Following the methodology of modern science, which strives to break everything down into its smallest components in a supposed attempt to "understand" it, biotechnology undermines the integrity of the individual and the possibility of free interaction, instead enforcing a mechanized view of life and a dependence on "experts" to keep the mechanisms functioning.

From its origin, modern science has viewed the universe as a vast machine. In such a mechanistic perspective, the method for achieving an understanding of how the universe functions is to break it down into its parts and study them in isolation. Thus, the scientific method has never been merely the empirical method--the method of observation. Empirical observation had to be confirmed in the isolation of the laboratory through controlled experimentation.

The mechanistic view of the universe met the needs of capitalist development quite well. As capitalism developed along with the technological means through which it controlled the exploited classes and the materials of the earth, the scientific understanding of the universal machine changed as well, providing an ideological justification for the developing methods of exploitation and domination. While some have tried to pass off the (now almost a century old) "new" scientific perspectives of relativity and quantum physics as an end to the mechanistic perspective and an opening to "mysticism" in science, it would be more accurate to say that Newtonian mechanicism has given way to a cybernetic mechanicism--the universe transformed into a mathematical construct made up of bits of information, of quanta. (It is worth noting that most, if not all, sub-atomic particles are, in fact, only mathematical equations that seem to solve a particular problem and may cause a blip on the screen of a machine that serves no other purpose than to make such blips in a gigantic laboratory.) Here science completely discounts observation to the point of equating the alleged results of "mental experiments" (and now computerized simulations as well) with those of material experiments. The concrete world we experience is nothing. The world of data, of bits of information, is everything--it is reality.


Biotechnology fits perfectly into this cybernetic view of the universe. The science of genetic has done to life what atomic and sub-atomic physics did to the universe--broken it down into data, bits of interchangeable information. And just as in the "new" physics, the material universe as we experience it ceases to be of importance except as a vehicle for the interaction of quanta, so in the genetic perspective, the individual living being and its relation to its environment are of no importance in themselves. They are merely vehicles for genetic information, which comes to be seen as the essence of life, undermining individuality, vitality, free relationship and holistic coherence.

In fact, what this perspective does is digitalize life. Our being is no longer thought of as consisting of our body, our mind, our passions, our desires, our actions our choices, our desires and our relations in a unique dance through the world, but rather as a series of interchangeable bio-bits with a potential for being adjusted through manipulation by experts.

The social framework for this perspective had already been set in motion long before the "discovery" of DNA gave it the defined material for the information bits. Capitalist development, particularly in the last half of the 20th century, turned the citizen (already a part of the apparatus of the nation-state) into a producer-consumer, basically interchangeable with all others form the point of view of the social order. The integrity of the individual had already been severely undermined to serve the needs of the social machine. Is it then such a great step to transforming the individual into nothing more than a sum of genetic parts that are interchangeable with the part of any other "living" tool?

The earliest modern scientists were mainly devout christians. When they imagined the machine of the universe, it was as a machine manufactured by god with a purpose beyond itself. Scientists have long since left the conception of higher purpose behind. The cybernetic universe serves no other purpose than that of maintaining itself in order to maintain the flow of bits of information. What this means on a practical social level is that each and every entity exists for the sole purpose of maintain the present social order. Each individual is a tool for this purpose, and these tools can be adjusted as necessary to maintain a flow of information--which is to say profits--that allows this society to continue.

Of course, however degraded, individuals still exist. The promoters of biotechnology are forced to convince us of its benefits. If the idea of biotechnology as a means for fighting world hunger has lost all credibility in the face of such horrors as the terminator technology and the patenting of genetic materials, in the realm of medicine, biotechnology has managed to present a much more benign face. Genetic hypotheses of the origins of cancer, alcoholism, schizophrenia, drug addiction and increasing numbers of other diseases, disorders and behaviors are now accepted as commonplaces in spite of the fact that real evidence for this nearly non-existence, most of it based on conjecture. Yet the media propaganda works, producing a willingness on the part of many to accept "good" medical use of biotechnology, that is, a willingness to be treated as a cybernetic machine that can be made to function more precisely through the manipulation of bits of information.

The potential horrors of biotechnology--genetic pollution, the escape of genetically engineered organisms into the environment, the totalitarian use of cloning--only call for regulation of this technological system, to prevent its "bad" use. But if it is the fundamental ideology behind this technology that we question, its degradation of individual living beings into mechanisms for the flow of bits of information, then reform becomes useless. If we are to save the dignity of the individual, the beauty of life, the wonder of the universe, then we must act to destroy this technology and the social system that produces it. And we cannot forget that biotechnology is simply the latest, most sophisticated version of this degrading ideology which has been inherent in industrial technological systems--and in domestication itself--from the beginning. For those of us for whom life is not mere survival, for whom wonder, beauty, passion and joy are the essence of existence, for whom the uniqueness of each living being is the basis for a world of free relating, the task is tremendous: the destruction of the digitalized existence that has been imposed upon us and the creation anew each day of ourselves as unique and amazing beings in relation with those we love.

Return to the Venomous Butterfly Page
Return to the Killing King Abacus Main Page

Hosted by