Tuesday, December 11, 2007

god has been cloned

i read this in Harper's Magazine and it changed my life, giving me my new fascination with evolutionary extinction and cloning, and i further took it toward it's natural conclusion of robots, androids and nanotechnology.

(From a book of interviews between Jean Baudrillard and Enrique Valiente Noailles, Exiles from Dialogue, to be published next month by Polity. Baudrillard, who died in March, was the author of more than fifty works of philosophy and criticism, including
Simulacra and Simulation. Noailles is a philosopher and journalist. Translated from the French by Chris Turner.)
ENRIQUE VALIENTE NOAILLES: You say there's sometimes a simultaneous upsurge of good and evil – that combating evil leads to reactivating it.
JEAN BAUDRILLARD: You've only to take the "zero deaths" formula, a basic concept of the security order. It's clear that this equates mathematically to "zero lives." By warding off death at all costs (burdensome medical treatment, genetics, cloning), we're being turned, through security, into living dead. On the pretext of immortality, we're moving toward extermination. It's the destiny of maximum good, of absolute happiness, to lead to a zero sum. Illusion – that is, evil – is vital. When you exchange this vital illusion for the unconditional promotion of good, then you're heading for a blowback from the accursed share. This is how things are getting better and better yet, at the same time, worse and worse.
NOAILLES: History might be an attempt to annihilate one part of the duality.
BAUDRILLARD: Human beings can't bear this duality either in the world or in themselves. They can't bear failing the world by their very existence, nor the world failing them. They've sown disorder everywhere, and in wishing to perfect the world, they end up failing themselves. Self-hatred fuels the whole technological effort to make the world over anew. It's on this failing of existence that all religions thrive. You have to pay. In the past, it was God who took the reprisals; now we do it. We have undertaken to inflict the worst on ourselves, and to engineer our disappearance in an extremely complex and sophisticated way, in order to restore the world to the pure state it was in before we were in it.
NOAILLES: Perhaps the Last Judgment has taken place, and we're carrying out the punishment.
BAUDRILLARD: A fine metaphysical hypothesis, except that this self-hatred is a turn taken by Western subjectivity, and also one it's currently imposing on the rest of the world. This nihilism begins with Romanticism, but it has now become a major undertaking, an enterprise of self-immolation by technology against a background of obscure resentment at the evil spirit that's dragging us into it. So depending on how you see it, it can be taken as a challenge in suicidal form or as the enactment, as you said, of God's judgment.
NOAlLLES: What makes it look more like a punishment being carried out than a suicide is that it's taking place in slow motion.
BAUDRILLARD: And cloning can be said to be a slow-motion suicide – not a sudden disappearance but an innovative form of extinction of the species by doubling. The obliteration of something by that selfsame thing is the definition of suicide.
NOAILLES: This could also be a repetition of the original act: in the same way as we received it, giving the world over to another species, handing on the torch. We can't do any more with it, so over to you!
BAUDRILLARD: It's a way of being rid of the problem, of relieving ourselves of the responsibility by devolving it to another – artificial species; a way of telling God, "Sort it out with them!" But that's just a dream. One question remains: Isn't the process of artificial perpetuation of the species – which runs counter to evolution – part of evolution? "Natural" evolution wants species to disappear. It isn't just a biological fact that every species and every individual wishes both to survive and at the same time to disappear. It isn't just that it's destined to disappear but that it wants to, by another kind of will, and does all it can to do so. Human beings are opting to break that rule today by aiming for immortality, through cloning and many other things. But aren't they actually obeying the same rule or even bringing about an accelerated disappearance? It might be an opportunity for the human race, by putting a world of clones into orbit, to recover its original form, but God will be forced to clone himself too! It would take a clone-God to manage a world of clones.
NOAILLES: Nietzsche's madman, who went looking for God with a lantern in the daytime, would run off horrified, shouting, "God has been cloned!" And if we've materialized the kingdom of God in this world, we've created an immanence with all the tools of transcendence, including salvation and damnation. If what Saint Thomas Aquinas cruelly points out is true-"So that the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly, they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell"-it is perhaps this deep delight in the misfortune of others that's the engine of the duplication.
BAUDRILLARD: But we're already in this artificial world. We've already become clones here and now. We've already exchanged transcendence for the law of DNA. The moral law, Kant's law, the one that was written in the starry sky and in man's inner world, is now inscribed in the genetic code. There's no ideal site of consciousness any longer. And if in the past we could symbolically exchange this world with God under the sign of a moral law we'd invented, we can't exchange it for anything any longer, except the spectral universe that awaits us. Even in the economic field, the field of exchange par excellence and of value, we're beginning to realize, as generalized speculation takes over, that it's the nothing that circulates. And this is why things are going faster and faster, no longer being hampered by either the moral law or the law of value. There's obviously an extraordinary fragility in this, which shows up in the perpetual crisis of the economic and political spheres. But there's a complicity in this exchange of the nothing, a deep complicity that has a bright future because it's a collusion between criminals, between accomplices in the perfect crime. There will no longer be anyone to say the emperor has no clothes, no longer anyone to betray the fact that all this generalized exchange is based on nothing and that it can generalize itself only on the basis of the nothing. If this were revealed, it would be the apocalypse in the literal sense, and we would stand before the nothing as a fait accompli.

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