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The Gender of the Genes

Lecture by Gerburg Treusch-Dieter "On the Theology and Technology of Cloning," held during Wiretap 5.12.

The Gender of the Genes

from the lecture; photo: Jan Sprij

Genes have no gender, but the 'Christian occident' knows a genealogical formula, which has, since generations, determined the gene ratios of the male and the female within the symbolical order of gender difference. It allocates the ratios of the male and the female by generating what is then applied as 'gender' to the genes which are themselves an effect of this socio-cultural genesis. The crucial genealogical formula can, in the 'Christian occident', brought down to the ABC of a theology which prepares the ground for the technology of rationalisation of the genes. Put in general terms, this formula is: A brings forth B, by means of C.

Translated into words, this formula implies that the spirit A produces a logos B which it conceptualises as incorporeal on the one hand, and as corporeal on the other. This is because the spirit acts simultaneously as a father who generates a son, so that this son may represent the heavenly father here on Earth. In this formula the real generation of the son is conditional on the existence of a symbolical father, for whom the mother C is dispensable (dt. verzichtbar) on the one hand, and necessary on the other. She is dispensable, in so far as the father produces the son metaphysically, and she is necessary, in so far as he conceives him physically, because unlike in heaven, here on Earth his body is indispensable.

By means of the mother, the need for a body is satisfied. She is used as the means of his physical conception in the incorporeal generation of the son. So, if A, the father, brings forth B, the son, by means of C, the mother, then she gives birth under the condition that she is both excluded from, and included in this formula. On the one hand, the birth from the mother is dispensable, it is negated in the incorporeal generation of the son with respect to the aspect of exclusion, on the other hand it is, with respect to the aspect of inclusion, the necessary means of his corporeal conception. Really giving birth, she does not bring forth anything symbolical, because she is metaphysically dispensable from the genealogical ABC-formula, while being physically necessary. She is coded as an empty vessel for a spirit 'in the name of the father', a spirit who produces what she reproduces. She must 'clothe' the incorporeal with a body whose theological generation anticipates today's conceiving technology.

Although this theologically generated, technological conception, which meanwhile works here on Earth in the form of in-vitro fertilisation, may initially still be conceptualised in heaven. Although the mother may be a means which, as a vessel, is not yet a test tube used in this in-vitro fertilisation. But the metaphysical sperm sender of theology already implements a physical sperm donor, just like in in-vitro fertilisation. Moreover, God's word which fertilises Mary's ear according to that genealogical ABC-formula, God's word contains an information of life which is linguistically analogous to the information of life of the genetic code on whose ACGT today's in-vitro fertilisation is based. Similarly, in both cases, the sperm donor is absent from the female conception in the name of a sperm sender. And birth, which has to happen in pain, in labour, is - in God's perspective - a work, that is: labour, which is put under the doctor's supervision in the laboratory.

In so far as this supervision results in an insight about an information of life that is no longer enunciated by god but by the code, it is conditional on the metaphysical negation of the physical birth, which culminates in the virgin mother. She is the theological condition for the technological positivisation of the birth in which the mother does not really have a part, because she is a virgin. She is a woman appearing as a boy, a manikin that is similar to the man by whom it is produced. The rest is crossed out to the degree that it is appropriated by the insight into, and the supervision of, the evolution of life. The birth is spatialised into the laboratory where the accumulation of knowledge passes as the acceleration increases.

Today, this rest has been used up. The evolution of life is available outside of the female body. It can pass incorporeally, just as is predicated in the genealogical formula, A brings forth B by means of C. Obviously, this formula thus loses out against that which it created. On the level of the Real, it has come to an end. However, this does not exclude the possibility that the imaginary effects connected to the symbolical ABC, continue. Their stories remain fixated on that which is negated in this formula by the spirit. His knowledge therefore refers to fictions. A virgin mother is such a fiction which is not only based on the negation of birth, but also on the fiction of the absence of the - indispensable - fucking.

In its place moves the production which, however, can only replace the conception in one respect. At the same time, the fucking remains a factor in the theo-technological game, a game which is fixated on fucking and whose spirit of knowledge is, in the last instance, Science Fiction. As a film genre, Science Fiction today is the theo-technological copulation movie which is imaginarily connected to the symbolical ABC of that formula. It mixes the Fiction of conception myths with the Science of real, generated facts, based on the double condition that the formula has, on the one hand, come to an end, and on the other, that it hasn't. The copulation film of its father-son-genealogy tears precisely at that point where cloning, where the splitting and the multiplication of the genetic code appears. The copulation movie is no longer tied to an order of gender difference which is, at the same time, a pre-condition of its knowledge production.

In Alien Four, the fourth return of an imaginary horror that is, in the first instance, indebted to the symbolical negation of birth, the conception myths come back with a vengeance to the degree that the logos descends into the chaos of a decoded information of life whose reference is the Mother: What the hell is inside of me, tell me what is inside of me!? - that's what the man with the priest's face is screaming. Ripley steps in front of him and, sniffing inquisitively, she says: a monster, even a particularly dangerous one. How does she know this? Ripley answers: Because I am the mother. - What the hell is inside of me, tell me what is inside of me?! - this is also what Mary could have screamed after Gabriel had stepped in front of her and announced that she was receiving a little child through the word of God, even a particularly harmless one. How does he know this? Gabriel, sniffing at the white chalice of the lily, would have answered: Because I am God's representative.

Two identical, yet opposite stories. Both refer to the ABC of that genealogical formula, in which the mother is excluded as well as included. In the former, the man gives birth to a monster that derives from the mother. In the latter, the woman delivers a child who has been promised by the father. In both stories something alien penetrates the body which has horrible effects in one case, and pleasurable effects in the other. There it derives from chaos, here from logos, as though one was separable from the other. Both stories show that this is not the case, they stage the image-less quality of chaos and logos as an 'image', there in the movie Alien Four, and here in the text of the Bible which is a pre-condition for the movie. Its script reels off the symbolical order of gender difference which is sung of every year when the Christ Child descends. Here, every year is this year in which the birth of the Christ Child coincides with that of an alien who, however, is not identical with the Christ Child but with his mother.

This mother may be a virgin, but only in so far as she is enclosed in this order; in so far as she is excluded from it, she is Alien. His birth is an imaginary effect of the genealogical formula of this order which negates the reality of the birth, without being able to ban its revolting return, because she is the most secret as the most eerie, to which Freud refers with regard to the 'age-old home of humankind' - that is, with regard to the cunt. Alien Four shows which chaos wells from this secret and eerie cunt when it is not subordinate to the prick of the logos. Because at the intersection where logos is submerged by an information of life that splits and multiplies in chaos, this copulation movie presents a de-copulation which culminates when Ripley's uterus mutates into the alien of the 'queen' which was born from it.

Slimy and black and guilty is she, whose monsters proliferate everywhere, and especially in the body of the man with the priest's face. Lily-white and innocent the counter-image, Mary, who is also a 'queen'. But her body conceals neither the most secret nor the most eerie, because there God's word materialises as the Christ Child. The dramaturgy of the script maintains that the virgin birth determines the Alien pregnancy. Mary's ear, which receives the logos, cannot be separated from Ripley's uterus which gives birth to chaos. Firstly, because this ear replaces the cunt, and secondly, because the horror of this 'age-old home of humankind' returns with a vengeance in the splitting and multiplying information of life.

Mary and Ripley are one construction of femaleness. Their vessel is empty, yet simultaneously 'full of evil'. This fiction is particularly unpleasant when it comes to fucking, because the sperm neither wants to be poured into the void, nor does it want to fill the evil even more; therefore the script for Alien Four does not take male sperm into account. As a virgin-alien, Mary-Ripley gives birth unfertilised. This means that it is not the cunt which is the most secret and eerie in the father-son-genealogy, but the male sperm. It is the best-kept secret of the theology from which the technology of its replacement derives. Whether God's representative is called Gabriel, or Gabriel's representative Joseph, and so on, the metaphysical sperm sender always substitutes a physical sperm donor who, in the last instance, neutralises himself by substituting the sperm by a spermless substitute.

Thus, the sperm is the Alien, the essentially alienated. It is equated by the Alien as the counter-image of the virgin, just like the woman as the boy, who - as a mother - is a manikin. The nothingness of the sperm is projected onto her, who as Mary brings forth nothing, and as Ripley, nothingness. Both parts of this construction of femaleness are ascribed the imaginary effects of a secret and eerie fertilisation by the male sperm that is negated in the virginity of the mother, and that is absolutely concealed by the claim that she is giving birth out of herself. She may not bring forth anything but nothingness, but that is her own fault - not despite, but because the male sperm is involved. This chaos, produced by the logos, is imposed on the fertilised, non-virginal mother. It's supposed to be she who gives birth to the monsters of its reason, and to her herself as a monster - just like Eve, the 'mother of all evil'.

In the Bible, Eve is created by God, from Adam, as a theological monster of the man under the condition of an absolutely concealed fertilisation, because neither Adam's sperm, in so far as God is his representative, enters into Eve, nor vice versa, in so far as Adam is God's representative. For Eve, on the other hand, it means that she does not only fertilise herself with her fruit, but that Adam is also strangely fertilised, to whom she passes on her fruit. She creates herself as a monster and as the one who will proliferate in Adam. Ripley is a replica of the 'mother of all evil', whose counter-image is Mary. Like Eve, Ripley creates herself and others as monsters, like Eve she is created under absolutely concealed conditions: in the high-security section of the space ship in whose laboratory a team of scientists operates as the latest representative of God.

To the degree, however, that Ripley replicates Eve's theological monster-birth as a technological monster, to that degree the absolutely concealed aspect of her creation is not her fertilisation, but Ripley is cloned on the premise of her genetically manipulated information of life. This is the final consequence of the substitutive fertilisation of the father-son-genealogy. Cloning substitutes for the sperm a spermless substitute. Yet despite this de-copulation, the copulation movie continues. Ripley seems to give birth to herself out of herself as the Alien who releases others from itself, in particular the one in the body of the man with the priest's face who screams: What is inside of me?! This man could also be Adam, infected by Eve's fruit. Or Gabriel who, despite sniffing at the chalice of the lily, does not ejaculate. Or Joseph who does not masturbate while Mary is giving birth to his sperm, the Child Christ, whose nappied prick is also hidden away.

At the same time, the aspect of cloning in the script of Alien Four introduces a certain reversal. This reversal not only consists in the termination of the theology of sperm-replacement through the technology of cloning, to the extent that it realises the substitution of this fertilisation through the abolition of the sperm whose absolute concealment has thus been accomplished. The reversal also implies that in this interface the sperm comes into force as the essential Alien. This because Ripley's clone, who is on the one hand Mary's counter-image, this clone is, on the other hand, the sperm to which Mary gives birth. But it is alienised, because it has never been spilled, something that is extensively made up for in Alien Four in the shape of ejaculated, pus-covered manure which infests everything and everybody. When Ripley finally confronts herself with herself as a clone from which a malformed creator's hand springs up, while this clone is in labour, like Mary, in order to give birth to itself and to other aliens as monsters of reason, at that moment Ripley takes her gun - and shoots.

This gun was not at the disposal of the sheep whose clone is the lamb Dolly. That's why the story of that copulation and de-copulation movie continues, just like Christmas is followed by Easter - yet, outside of the movie. At Easter, the Christ Child turns into the Lamb of God, so that Mary would correspond to that sheep that does not shoot. Moreover, there is no real difference between the clone of that sheep, the lamb Dolly, and the child of Mary, the Lamb of God. From one may flow symbolical blood, while from the other one flows real milk with human proteins, both are determined by salvation and healing, even if the one sheep is occupied by the pharmaceutical industries of the Church, and the other one by PPL-Therapeutics.

But should the Church claim that its male lamb overcame death and was resurrected after two days, the female lamb Dolly can still compete. Because the sheep which was the medium for Dolly's genetic replication, as though in a virgin birth out of itself, this sheep had already passed away two years earlier. The cell nuclei of its udder came from the cold of an aluminium container, a conservation beyond death, which is doubtlessly more effective than the cold of a burial chamber among the rocks, for two days, Good Friday and Saturday.

But why did the bishops condemn Dolly, rather than, like good shepherds, penning this cloned sheep in once again in the Kingdom of God? Initially there is only this answer: The bishops condemned themselves as they saw that with this cloned sheep, the formula, A brings forth B by means of C, had reached its genealogical end. The broken shepherd's staff signifies the phallus of patriarchy, from which the 'black sheep' Dolly could escape, white as a lily.

As a fatherless lamb it can not only refer to one, but to three mothers who have been used for its cloning, and to its godmother, Dolly Parton, the Country singer, with her tits like udders, who gave it its 'name of the mother'. Through their condemnation, the bishops thus agreed with the end of an 'order of creation', an end which had always been implicit in that order. Because this order had always aimed at the sperm-less reproduction of the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who discarded with the fertilised matter, matrix or mother.

But this answer brings other questions with it. Firstly, has this patriarchal trinity been reversed by the lamb Dolly into a maternal trinity? Secondly, would this trinity which, independent from everything male, delivered the cell nucleus of the udder, the cover of the egg and the uterus for Dolly's cloning, would this trinity also have been possible as the trinity of a single sheep? Thirdly, would this trinity-sheep be able to carry itself through over and over again, so that it would be immortal? Fourthly, are women finally allowed to rejoice whole-heartedly and sing country songs, like that Country singer and name-giving godmother of the lamb Dolly?

The answers have to be negative. The sheep-motherly trinity is lacking the egg which every year has to be hidden at Easter, even though this would no longer be necessary. Because "with a capillary tube thinner than a hair, he" - Ian Wilmut in the laboratory of Roslin's 'Science City' - "sucked the genetic material from the egg" in order to 'make room', by means of this 'enucleation' for a nuclear transplantation, which in Dolly's case may have originated from the cell of an udder, which however could also have been taken from any other cell of the body, because unlike the germ nucleus these always have the advantage of a complete genome.

Enucleation and nuclear transplantation are the 'scientific quantum leap' of the spermless Dolly-reproduction which brings nothing new on the one hand, yet, something absolutely new on the other, as the techno-logics of cloning is both the execution and the abolition of its theo-logics which has never favoured the 'sex roulette' of sexual intercourse - not even between rabbit and egg at Easter. What is new is not that the egg becomes obsolete together with the always already hidden sperm that was the absolutely hidden aspect of the theo-logics which the US-based bio-ethics theorist Shapiro continues under the condition of techno-logics of cloning, when he says with reference to the obsolescence of the germ cells, "that in principle there is nothing to say against a-sexual procreation."

If, however, the techno-logics of cloning deploys body cells each with a complete genome, rather than germ cells each with half a genome, this is absolutely new, because the question of the forbidden or permitted intervention into the 'path of germination' can be skipped. It is obvious that this technological perspective is announced as a theological salvation which leads to healing. For, as Shapiro states: "The non-sexual reproduction in the laboratory is more radically human than that through sexual intercourse", because it is "a desired, planned and controlled reproduction" through the dispensation of the germ cells.

These questions circumscribe today's technological rationalisations of the genes, whose gender is predetermined theologically by the genealogical formula ABC. Yet, to the degree that this formula has reached its end, the fear emerges which, in Alien Four, is presented as the horror of Christian conception myths, based on really generated facts. Ian Wilmut leaves no doubt: "The fear is completely legitimate. We have said from the beginning: With our method it is also possible to make genetic copies of humans." It is his aim that this method may, "completely shed its egg-shells. The cover of the egg and the uterus would be dispensable if it became possible to cultivate foetuses from the genome of body cells directly in the laboratory, which would be far more efficient." These egg-shells are still sticking to the lamb Dolly, even though it is already father- and mother-less, like the Lamb of God has always been, in so far as it is the fiction of a Spirit that does not negate the egg-shells, but the egg which he wants to lay himself, without fucking. Therefore Dolly, not slaughtered at the cross, but cloned at it, asks, quietly, like that sheep whose copy it is: "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Easter is followed by Christmas, the Dolly-clone is followed by the Alien-clone, we can be sure of that. The shot at the malformed creator's hand that springs up from one or the other clone is indispensable, but where is the sheep that not only has a gun at its disposal, but that can also - cloven-hoofed - shoot with it? I finish with this question which is passed back to the possibilities of cloning.

by Gerburg Treusch-Dieter, 1999
(concept translation: Andreas Broeckmann)

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