line drawing of futuristic city

Why I love science fiction

“We upset the entire Darwinian framework of evolution by our introduction of drugs, or transplants, life-saving machines. We were perpetuating a planet of mental and physical degenerates, with each generation less prepared to live than the last. I know you think we’re murderers, but is it murder to fail to prescribe insulin and let a diabetic die rather than pass on the genes to yet another generation?…These have been hard decisions, there’ll be more even harder ones.”

April Fool’s Day Forever, Kate Wilhelm

Nothing real deep today, I’m working on my next post but I wanted to share this quote because it has reinvigorated me. I was listening to Kate Wilhelm short stories today and came across the above passage and it spoke so directly to why I love both science fiction and bioethics.

Science fiction is an incredibly effective device for exploring the ethical and moral decisions we face as our understanding of biology and technology expands. The characters in these stories can confront hard choices, talking out their reasoning while we empathize with their predicament and wonder to ourselves how we would handle similar problems. In April Fool’s Day Forever, Kate Wilhelm’s protagonists are facing a world where less than half the population has the chance to become immortal. What would you do if you were offered the chance to live forever but your spouse would not have the same opportunity? How would our health care priorities change; would it make sense to expend money and resources on people who are destined to die anyway? Should those with inheritable conditions be allowed to have children? While the chance for immortally seems likely to evade us, science fiction often does a very good job at predicting probable futures. For instance, restoring dinosaurs as seen in Jurassic Park, for example, may have seemed improbable when it was written but species revival has become a real option.

Wilhelm, Kate. (2015) April Fool’s Day Forever in Kate Wilhelm in Orbit, Vol 1. Portland, OR: InfinityBox Press. Kindle edition, location 3623.

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