X-Men: Science Can Build Them, But Is It Ethical?

Ever since Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created the very first installment of the The Uncanny X-Men for Marvel in 1963, the beloved team of mutant superheroes known as the X-Men have conquered almost every medium in popular culture from television to video games, to movies and of course comic books. Their enduring popularity isn’t hard to understand: What American teenager (redundant, we know, since all Americans are basically teenagers) could ever say no to an angsty band of telegenic outsiders who are perpetually reviled and persecuted for the very attributes that make them superior?

But there’s more than narcissism at play. The core of the X-Men myth — genetic mutation — is something scientists have been learning how to manipulate for decades, and now it’s just a matter of time before we know how to build X-Men of our own. But just as in the case of nuclear bombs, killer viruses and 3-D action movies, the fact that we can make them doesn’t mean we should. In the above video from Emory University, Bioethics professor Paul Root Wolpe explores this moral dilemma via the latest iteration of the beloved mutants’ saga: X-Men: First Class (In theaters June 3rd, and, praise be to Mendel, NOT in 3-D).

Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.


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