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The Fringe: Friend or Foe?

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Have you watched this new show: The Fringe? No, I haven’t yet. I probably will watch at least an episode or two, just to make sure my knee-jerk reaction is either justified or not.

What is this knee-jerk reaction? Well, it comes about the premise of this show, primarily. These are X-File-like stories about federal agents policing “dangerous science” of some form or another. Stuff like re-animation of the dead (I wonder if they’ll be making references to any H.P. Lovecraft material?) or nanotechnology or whatever. I think the idea is that they ensure that such science doesn’t damage society and civilization as we know it, by any unethical or reckless experimentation and so forth. Fine. That seems reasonable enough. But does the popularity of the show bespeak of another, underlying current of sentiment in our society today? As always, I think I am reading into things a little too deeply.

What worries me is how this show can be seen as a manifestation of our latent fears toward anything we don’t understand. Instead of magic, warlocks, sorcerors, demons, and whatnot, we’ve replaced these fears with “science run amok” — these monsters and dark practitioners have been exchanged for scientists, mutations, aliens, etc. I suppose we’ve just switched one set of superstitions for another, continuing to fear and dig our heels in against evolution.

Am I saying that careful monitoring and the emplacement of ethics for proper research is a bad thing? No, of course not. I just think it’s a little bit of an over-reaction, perhaps like the whole hadron collider scare. Perhaps it’s a little arrogant to think we have the power, even accidently, to destroy our race or our planet. I don’t want to start getting religious or far-out-there, but I have to consider that other forces out there might not let us get that far. Sort of like how all the world’s banks are helping businesses out of the hole they dug themselves in, lately… Okay, maybe that’s a bad example. The connotations either way imply too many more connotations.

Anyway, before I bunny-trail any further, I guess I’m going to have to check the show out and see what’s up. I love horror and disaster films, if only because they are so outrageous and I enjoy seeing how the authors and creators believe mankind will get done in. The more fantastical the better, since I really don’t believe in it. It is more of an expose on our own basic human natures; the survival instinct, the … “noble-izing” of the human spirit against horrible odds, etc. Wonderful human drama of the most extreme possible type. Just how this show supposes to give a cultural critique will determine the worth of this show to me. Will they really play off science as the new evil to be kept in check, or will it be the evil in our own human nature, where science is the tool, that will need saving? Are they trying to open our eyes and teach us a lesson? Or are they going for the cheap thrill and prey on our human fears and prejudices?

Yeah, so that’s what I think, so far. I predict an avalanche of similar sorts of shows. We’ll see if “Heroes” will take a similar tactic, or veer off onto its own course. You can be sure I’ll be back with something to say about it, sometime.


Written by 2ndhandsoul

September 19, 2008 at 12:53 pm

2 Responses

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  1. “I think the idea is that they ensure that such science doesn’t damage society and civilization as we know it, by any unethical or reckless experimentation and so forth.” Herein lies the problem. No society is static, and all civilisations that rise must eventually fall. There are always people that resist any form of change, and there are those that willl pursue scientific attainment without concern for the human cost. In my mind, the distinction must be the remembering the instrinsic value of humanity – outside of the economy. The most dangerous scientific developments as I see them are the those which are geared toward making profit – be it weaponry for the military/industrail complex, becoming reliant on high yield gm crops(that must be used with the respective company’s fertilizer), testing for pedisposition to genetic diseases at birth(while helpful for diagnosis and treatment, it will most likely be used to determine that currently healthy people should pay more in health insurance on the likelihood of becoming ill – creating a genetic underclass with restricted rights and access to healthcare if they can’t afford the premiums). I’m sure you’ve heard all these arguments before but what I essentially think is that if we restrict the power of the free market over life and death matters we will have a lot less to fear from science. But you’re absolutely right, people fear what they don’t understand and as the world gets more technologically advanced and technical fields more specialised even educated people feel unqualified to comment on whether a certain scientific pursuit will be necessary, useful, or unnecessarily dangerous.
    I don’t think we are capable of making the planet completely uninhabitable, but I sincerely believe that we have the power to make it uninhabitable for humans. I have to say that I’m on the fence about whether there is a higher power that would stop us reaching the point of no return(agnostic) – a lot of christians believe that we need to hit that wall before Jesus returns, and I must say that makes me not a little bit uneasy – I’m not mad keen on hurrying along armageddon myself.
    Sorry about the essay – why use 20 words when 1000 will do? I promise to give an agree/disagree style comment next time.


    September 20, 2008 at 7:08 am

  2. Far be it for me to censor someone due to length or for just having an opinion. Don’t worry about it. Don’t let anything stop you from speaking your mind; I’m sure we can all handle it, right? 🙂

    As for your comment: I cannot find much to disagree with, at all. I think I was just struck by how the show itself manifested. Was it a product of these fears or was it as a platform to really put these fears into perspective? That’s what I am wondering. I know that our society and civilization in general is really advancing technologically — it’s hard to deny that. Along with that, our world is shrinking, in a way. I can’t wait to see the frontiers of space start to get explored more seriously.

    However, long-story-short, I agree that basic human nature is trustworthy…or at least predictable. Ultimately, you’d like to think most people would choose the right thing over the most profitable thing. However, what pays for the research in the first place? Money; that’s right. As crude as it is, most research has to prove to be profitable to someone. Many conspiracies out there about an AIDS cure that’s being supressed because it would hurt the drug industries. Yadda yadda.

    With some hope, maybe the advent of this show will be a little chip away at our cynical, capitalistic tendancies. Perhaps we will be a little more humanitarian and seek to find things for the benefit of mankind, not just a big paycheck.

    This topic might deserve more thought from different angles some time. *shrug*


    September 23, 2008 at 10:09 pm

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