Sunday, November 21, 2010

323 / Prometheus

The image is a painting by Heinrich Füger, entitled Prometheus Brings Fire to Mankind.

As the son of a Titan and a powerful goddess, Prometheus held an intermediate status between god and humankind. According to the myth, Prometheus secretly lit his torch on the sun chariot and endowed human beings with the spark of life. That had some bad consequences for Prometheus, since Zeus then punished him for his crime by having him bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day, only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day.

Edward O. Wilson, at the conclusion of his book On Human Nature, speculates that humans will soon use genetic engineering techniques to change the nature of the human species, through direct genetic intervention, thus putting biology under the dominion of human choice.

For Wilson, the symbol of this concept of human possibility is Prometheus, whom Wilson says has "gone somewhat out of fashion in recent years as a concession to resource limitation and managerial prudence." In a dialogue with the Chorus, quoted by Wilson on the last page of his book, Prometheus admits to having "caused mortals to cease foreseeing doom." When the Chorus asks "what cure did you provide them with against that sickness?" Prometheus answers: "I placed in them blind hopes."

It's blind hopes versus managerial prudence: you choose!

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