Orphan Black and Philosophy: Grand Theft DNA

Yesterday I decided to finally have the slow leak in my back tire fixed, so I grabbed Orphan Black and Philosophy on my way out the door, expecting to spend some time waiting at the tire store.

As it turns out, someone must have it out for me, as the guys ended up pulling five nails and screws out of three of my tires, rather than the two out of the one tire I already knew about. So I was there for a while. Sitting on the display floor rather than the tiny, coffin-like waiting room with its blaring TV, because that’s how I roll. (Actually, the guys were freaked out that I was sitting on the floor and brought me a chair after a few minutes. But still.)

Now Orphan Black and its hard science fiction based squarely in genetics, epigenetics, and nurture v. nature, is so obviously up my alley that the only question I have is how I managed to not watch it until this year? Despite my obsession, my discovery of this book was a happy accident: it was facing me on the shelf next to the Minecraft books at the library. With two kids, aged seven and eleven, I spend a lot of time in the Minecraft section(s) of the library.

The Pop Culture and Philosophy series is such a fantastic idea that I’ve spent a lot of time looking at their available titles¬†and considering how many will have to be added to my to-read list. (The books on Buffy, Justified, Philip K. Dick, and Sherlock Holmes are on my short list. The long list is… long.) It’s a collection of essays on the show by different philosophers (all clearly fans) examining the show while discussing everything from the purpose of life to the ethics and legality of patenting genetic information.

Now, I may have had two hours to read it, but I’m only about a third of the way in. (Reading in the tire store lobby has its pluses and minuses.) So far, my favorite essay is still the first, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” which examines the “non-identity problem.” This issue is complicated and has many potential implications, but what it basically boils down to is this: Do future individuals have moral case for injury if the act that caused them harm also resulted in their very existence? As in the case of the show: Could Kira say that she was wronged by Sarah’s decision to have her at such a young age, in such unstable conditions, since without that decision, Kira would not exist? Or can the clones say that they were wronged by being engineered with genes designed to make them sterile that also caused respiratory disease in the Leda clones and cognitive disease in the Castor clones, since without those genes they would not be them, or might never have existed at all? It’s an intriguing essay which ends with the beautiful line: “Our lives are fearfully and wonderfully made, by our own two hands, one day at a time.”

If I were ever to get a text tattoo, that quote would be high in the ranks of contenders.

What about you? What’s your favorite mix of philosophy and science fiction? And, more importantly, who’s your favorite clone?

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