What’s so bad about making humans better? (Part 1)

In the previous two blogs, I’ve made transhumanism my focal point.  I concluded that transhumanism correctly highlights human imperfections, but incorrectly assumes that the essence of human nature is information.

Still, it may be fitting to question why it should be considered necessarily wrong to improve the human condition.  It is a fair question to raise; after all, Christians should not naïvely presume that all human enhancements are inherently evil.  Moreover, Christians must admit that Scripture does not specifically address the issues of human enhancement or transhumanism.   Thus, even if altering human nature is against God’s intentions for humans, it may not be possible to make a conclusive case from Scripture against it.  Furthermore, even if one could present a biblical case against transhumanism, transhumanists generally do not accept Scripture as an authority.

I continue my critical response with what I believe to be some of the negative consequences of transhumanism. Transhumanism, the philosophy that drives it, and its actual fulfillment, will negatively impact humanity in at least two areas:  1) the dehumanization of humans, and 2) the unavoidable but dangerous distinction between the “Naturals” and the “Enhanced.

First, a strong case can be made that, by forfeiting the negative traits that make us human (in our current form), we lose the potential positive qualities that result from difficult life experiences.  In the book Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau, one chapter underscores the negative impact of transhumanistic assumptions.  Political writer Francis Fukuyama observes that, “Human nature exists, is a meaningful concept, and has provided a stable continuity to our experience as species.”  It is, “with religion, what defines our most basic values.”  But in the transhumanist world, we “no longer struggle, aspire, love, feel pain, make difficult moral choices, have families, or do any of the things that we traditionally associate with being human.”  Consequently, we “no longer have the characteristics that give us human dignity.”  He continues:

“Even something like the elimination of pain and suffering… There’s something about the experience of pain and longing and anxiety and all of these things that our therapeutic society is trying to get rid of.  It is somehow necessary to our self-understanding of what we are as human beings.  I mean, you can’t have courage without risk.  You can’t have real compassion or sympathy with the personal experience of pain.

Human nature provides us with a sense of morality as well as the ability to make moral, social and creative choices.  It allows humans to dialog with each other about issues pertaining to justice, autonomy, human rights, politics and, ironically, whether transhumanism is a good idea.  Brent Waters continues this sentiment by summarizing Leon Kass’ perspective, “It is in coming to terms with their finite limits, and the inherent pain and suffering entailed in those limits, that humans embody the nobility of spirit that is supremely expressed in procreation.”

British neuroscientist Susan Greenfield adds that, in the end, humans will lose their individuality and personal identity.  They will lose the will to achieve because achievement will be built into the technology.  Perhaps the worst facet of the transhumanist scenario is that, if the successful transfer to machines occurs, then humans won’t know that they are dehumanized, nor with they care to know it.

In next week’s blog, I will discuss a second potential downside to transhumanism – a new form of class war!

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