Three Man-Made Freaks
& One Beauty All Her Own
To be riveting, a view of the future has to be unsettling, unfamiliar, disturbing even. The whole sci-fi genre is built upon fears of the unexpected, the threat of chaos taking over natural order. In fact, it should first get rid of concepts such as natural and order altogether.
It’s a completely different animal when that extends to our world, and it affects, well, animals. Uneasy when it’s warm in winter? check. Nervous with melting glaciers? check. But have you seen a two-headed snake lately? An odd butterfly? What about a human-milk producing goat?
And the worst part of it all is, we did that. Our so proud species, capable of writing symphonies or reaching for the moon, can also act ever so casually towards that same natural world that was around billions of years before us. And treat Earth as our landfill.
It gets personal when we’re talking about living, breathing, beautiful beings, of course. For the record, though, we’re no prudes; nature has been creating oddities since forever, and to consider it ‘gentle’ is a fatal, wishy-washy mistake, often deservedly punishable by death.
But exactly because we claim to be a step higher of the brutal and uncontrollable forces of the wild, it’s also our responsibility to own up our flaws. For every once in a while, the unpredictable tops itself and produces a creature of rare beauty, even if it may frighten us a bit.
NATURE’S SCARY MONSTERS
You may say that all animals are routinely harmed in ways our civilization considers acceptable: though the condition that produces a two-face specimen has been around since ancient times, but it seems to be increasingly linked to chemical pollution. The odd butterflies were found around Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plants. And genetic engineering is behind the goats with human milk.
Scary, isn’t it? What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder, wrote Aldous Huxley in his 1931 nightmarish, but no longer that far from the present, view of the future. Brave New World may have anticipated out thirst for cellphones, and social media, and gadgets to tell us what to do next, even without mentioning it. Our very best wishes usually lead us to committed misguided deeds.
TRANSGENIC SEEDS & GOATS
Surviving on this planet have been always complex, but for as long as natural resources seemed unlimited, we’ve managed it. We’re too many now, though, and such a demographics explosion is virtually intractable. Thus at times, we cheat a bit, just to catch our breath.
Consider hunger: we produce more food than ever before, and yet, many still go to sleep hungry or die of starvation. Science does its part the only way it knows: by trial and painstakingly error, experimenting with this and attempting to use that. But since food is also a big, multi-billion business, so not every side is playing by the rules.
It’s in this vacuum that corporations seize research, and rush to market unproven technologies. After all, there are profits to be made. Genetic manipulation may hold the key to create super crops, able (more)
* Finger Picking
* Nuking the Future
* X-Rated Fruit
to better ward off plagues. It can also create strains of seeds that may prove uncontrollable, and pose irreversible damage to flora, fauna, the environment, and everything else in its wake.
This reality also reintroduces the concept of ownership of living matter, in a scale never possible before. Trade of genetically-manipulated seeds has existed long before any ethical or moral concerns were raised, and that’s why ‘unsettling’ was invoked in the first graph of this post.
Demand, scientists at the UC Davis say, has directed research for breeding transgenic goats. Human genes were transferred to animal embryos, to boost production of breast milk enzymes and proteins.
We all know the immunological benefits of human breast milk for human babies. But rather than prioritizing worldwide awareness to that, scientists are paid to go the other way, supposedly, in case mothers are not available or can’t nurse their babies. Fine, but one wonders whether keeping it simpler wouldn’t have been more cost-effective.
FUKUSHIMA’S MUTANT BUTTERFLIES
There’s probably only a handful of people on Earth, that didn’t see this one coming. After the 2011 devastating earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima Nuclear Complex, in Japan, few doubted that flora and fauna would be severely affected by radiation. The first results are in and may confirm our worse fears.
The same had happened in the areas surrounding the former Soviet Union’s Chernobyl nuclear plant, which went into complete meltdown 33 years ago this Friday. It didn’t take long for researchers to start collecting odd abnormalities and genetic malformations in a variety of species, caused by contamination. And surprisingly healthy animals too.
That scientists chosen to collect butterflies, arguably one of the most stunning creatures in nature, to gauge the effects of radiation, is no small irony: part of their allure is the fact that they lead two separate lives, and go through a mutation on their own. The crucial difference, obviously, is that they improve, a lot, in such metamorphosis.
We’re not sure what smaller wings and irregular eyes can possibly ‘improve’ the lives of these gracious beings. We can always say that we didn’t mean for that to happen, which sounds a lot like the lame excuse a six-year-old would offer, when caught trying to fit the poodle in the microwave. Lack of parenting would better contextualize such ruse.
TWO MOUTHS TO FEED MICE TO
The case of Hydra, a two-headed boa at the zoo of Szczecin, Poland, is maybe too common to register in our oh so busy Internet viewership schedule. After all, polycephalia and its variations is known since pre-historical times. It’s also affects us and is associated with Siamese and other co-joined body conditions.
What’s disturbing, though, is its elusive cause. As with the multicolored lobsters, theories abound but none is conclusive. And when it happens to humans, and the twins can’t be separated, the consequences, physical, emotional, or both, can be devastating.
Many specimens, animal or human, don’t survive. But Hydra is that rare case that it’s not just survived, but its apparently independent heads have each their own ideas of what to eat and when. As it is, it may be closer to a sideshow attraction than to justify serious research. But that’s the kind of research worth pursuing.
While what generates co-joining births is a body malformation disorder specific to twins, it’s of note that, at least in modern times, the condition is more prevalent in impoverished Asian and African countries, than in rich societies. That may indicate a nutritional factor, but there are not many studies asserting the connection around.
In Greek mythology, the self-regenerating heads of Lernaean Hydra were powerful and malignant forces to be reckoned with, until the creature was killed by Heracles. We’re sure the boa of Poland is a nice chap, and won’t even approach the size of that ancient myth. We wouldn’t want to have them slithering around, though, without being assured that none of their heads is after ours.
THE TWO-FACE CALICO GODDESS
Venus, named after yet another deity, is one of those cats that the Web fell in love with, and can’t have enough of. Somehow though, we doubt that any genetic engineering or even artistic rendition would come up with the astounding beauty and perfect symmetry of the face of this cat. In her case, the word unfamiliar has for once reached friendly territory.
But despite her half black, half yellow face, split exactly in the middle, and eyes, each of a different color, Venus is unfazed, as cats, well, usually are. We can be all fussy and statistical about what odds led nature to produce such a unique set of features, but nothing will mean a thing to her. And that’s just fine.
For felines, calicos, as if you don’t already know it, can only be female. So, even if we don’t particularly went along with the nickname the media gave her, the Chimera Cat, we’re still entitled to imagine how her litter would look like. We could, in fact, imagine all sorts of things. Then again, it wouldn’t mean a thing to her.
One of the reasons that responsibility must be always ours as humans, is because cats and boas, and lobsters and goats are, blissfully, devoid of any malice or poisoned self-awareness. So while Venus couldn’t care less for being the center of world’s attention, we’re glad that she came along with her beauty, just in time to tie up this post on an upbeat note.