The tissue culture king_by Julian Huxley

7 10 2007

Thanks to the answer I got from Oron Catts of SymbiotycA, I knew this science fiction work by Julian Huxley, actually the sister of the famous Aldous Huxley.

It talks about one scientist, Hascombe, who became a prisoner of an African tribe and turned his role as a religious adviser of the kindom thanks to conducting experiments of biotechnology deeply linked with the collective religious rituality of the tribe.

The scientist got to know the religion and superstitions of the population and tried to exalt the details of these rites and of the whole physical side of its religiosity in lab experiments with living organisms. To the tribe, everything he made was perceived as a miracle from God and he eventually introduced a kind of reformation in the national religion.

That is actually my first intuition about religious faith as a biotechnic process, but I still need to formulate the right question to make my concept clear. I need both to research biotechnology and religion and also elaborate why I have this intuition, its relevance.

The read of Huxley text rose some personal reflections and questions. You will find them below:

# turning from the role of doctor/scientist to the one of religious adviser is very closed if science rapresents the physical side of spirituality;

# the ones who do not share the collective values of the tribe, like the writer who tells to meet Hascombe in the tribe, find all the rituality as a “circus business and menagerie of monstrosities”;

# when religion permeates the social life, every act of the population is made like an elaboration of cerimony;

# thanks to the microscope, Hascombe was able to reveal the hidden nature of blood, widely used in tribe rituals. He explained that blood was composed of little peoplea and to spy upon them gave us new powers over them;

# the tribe starts to look at the “white man” as somebody holding magic powers  and wants him to be a special servant for the village;

# the elder statesmen of the tribe, Bugala, was a kind of Prince-Bishop, for his combination of the qualities of the stateman and the ecclesiastic and he is interested to amplify his influence thanks to the white man powers;

# a radical change in the national religion, a sort of reformation based on Hascombe lab experiments could be involved. Could it rapresent Comte third stage of evolution, in which he says that society develops in a scientific/positivistic way and evolves as a living organism trough the biologic, metaphisic and scientific stage? In Comte opinion, religion as a cohesive strenght also follows these stages, so we would end up with the transfiguration of traditional religion into a positive theology, science like religion;

# the tissue culture of the King connective tissue, established by Hascombe, is a way to preserve and even increase the divine principle of royalty and so the welfare ot the whole tribe;

# Hascombe introduces the mass production of the King tissue: eveybody in the tribe could have his own culture at home, like a dometic ritual. Does everybody start to have his own part of Royal Majesty? Could everybody hold a power over the State? Is this a democratic sharing of power by owing the scientific process of tissue culture?

# if biotechnology is a kind of industry that involves great power over society, could the mass production among common people mean a way of using it in a democratic way? 

# the ancestry worship is also experienced by the tissue culture of defunts: not a cementary, but a place of ethernal growth in your own house;

# artificial parthenogenesis  (for self reproducing organism) is one of the main field of research by Hascombe regarding the role of cult initiated women of the tribe;

# the scientist always affirms that his work must match the benefit of the national religion and he believes that this point is the same you meet in each state aided research in whatever democratic state;

# Hascombe emphasizes the animal cult developing double headed snakes or toads through experimental embriology;

# how powerful could biotechnology be if its outcomes are sublimed at the stage of miracles? which involvment in society?

# could biotechnology risk to be seen as a act of faith? are we risking of believing in it without questioning its progress?

# how is biotechnology development/ outcome communicated to the “illeterate people”? Is it like a prophetic speech or a kind of Apocalypse announcement?

# what could our society look like if biotechnology mass production was justified by a collective sense of spirituality?

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