Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 137-152

First online:

Dr. Daedalus and His Minotaur: Mythic Warnings about Genetic Engineering from J.B.S. Haldane, François Jacob, and Andrew Niccol's Gattaca

  • Mark JeffreysAffiliated withDepartment of English, University of Alabama at Birmingham

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We are entering an era in which “cultural construction of the body” refers to a literal technological enterprise. This era was anticipated in the 1920s by geneticist J. B. S. Haldane in a lecture which inspired Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. In that lecture, Haldane reinterpreted the Greek myth of Daedalus and the Minotaur as heroic fable. Seventy years later another geneticist, François Jacob, used the same myth as cautionary tale. Here I explain the Minotaur's “genetic” monstrosity in terms of disability and hybridity, using the movie Gattaca to argue that ancient fears of monstrously disabled bodies are being recycled as bioethics.

genetics monstrosity disability Haldane Jacob Niccol Gattaca