Sunday, July 9, 2017

Transhumanism And The Christian

Fr. Dale Matson

"Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology."

“Guilty! Guilty! My evil self is at that door, and I have no power to stop it!” Dr. Edward Morbius “The Forbidden Planet” 1956.

Seven months ago my wife and I sat in the cardiologist’s office. He informed me after placing two stents in a coronary artery that I would not be a candidate for bypass surgery because the arteries to my heart were too small anyway. He said a transplant would help. We all knew that at age 72, my three score and ten years warranty had expired. I thought to myself, “I think I will ride it out with the original equipment.”

As stated in the series The Six Million Dollar Man, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster”. I use hearing aids; have stents in my arteries and an intraocular lens following cataract surgery. I have no problem whatsoever with aftermarket parts.

Science Fiction is becoming science fact. On the surface it seems like advocates for Transhumanism want the same thing Christians want. We hope for eternal life with glorified bodies. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, ESV)

Transhumanists believe technology and science will help humans evolve into a new species. St. Paul said Christians were a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

One transhumanist example would be the desire to couple computer technology with human biology to vastly increase human intellect and intercommunication. This is probably best demonstrated by the “Borg” in the Star Trek series. This would be “group think” at its worst. You don’t enlist. You are shanghaied.

In a sense, we are already wed to technology but have this technology outside of us with smart phones and less portable computers. I don’t think this has raised our intellectual capacity but it has allowed us more and fasters access to information and communication.

Can science and technology enhance our lives? Of course they can. Both the current Archbishop of Canterbury and former presiding bishop (a scientist) of TEC have stated that “human flourishing” should be a big part of church missiology. Human flourishing is a new gospel. My guess would be that both would advocate for most of the transhuman agenda.

The transhumanist agenda is not monolithic and in the extreme some hope to upload their consciousness to a mainframe computer, some hope to be cryogenically frozen at the moment of death in the hopes a cure will be available in the future. Others hope for genetic manipulation of a fetus to enhance inherent attributes before birth. I guess delaying for a year; your son’s kindergarten enrollment so he will be better in sports isn’t quite good enough.

Of course there are ethical concerns about whether we should use the technology once it is developed. More recently we have seen comic book heroes come to life who are genetically modified like Captain America. Will transhumans consider themselves super humans and the rest of us lesser humans? Will we become obsolete and therefore dispensable?

Whenever humans are considered subhuman, there will be those who will justify inhumane treatment even in the name of science. In addition to mass extermination, the experimentation with prisoners in the Nazi death camps is a prime example. Dr. Mengele, Dr. Morbius and the Krell had enormous intellects. However, no matter how much the intellect evolved, there remained a primitive evil that destroyed them and those around them.

What is the Christian position in all of this? We are to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, especially the unborn. “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (I Corinthians 1:26-29)

Maybe the antichrist is currently cryogenically frozen. Something to think about.


underground pewster said...

Or maybe the antichrist is being designed in an A.I. lab.

Dale Matson said...

I'd check the numbers on the cryogenic tubes.

Katherine said...

Fr. Dale, I agree with you that aftermarket parts to extend and improve our lives are fine. I'm only four year behind you and am beginning to seriously think about my mortality. But as you say, the desire to overcome death by becoming something other than human is the devil's work.