In my previous blog, I raised the question of why it should be considered wrong to improve the human condition. After all, we turn to technology to improve our health. Why not expand technology to make humans better? In my first response, I argued that by eliminating all human defects, we run the risk of dehumanization. That is, we remove the characteristics that define us as humans i.e., our relational, volitional, spiritual, rational, moral, and creative capacities. Transhumanism does not actually enhance, but rather cheapens the significance of humans by reducing human nature to mere information.
In addition, the rise of transhumans will inevitably leave some humans behind. Political writer Francis Fukuyama believes that the separation between “Naturals” and the “Enhanced” will be so deep that it will make all other divisions based on religion or race seem insignificant in comparison. Indeed, he thinks that it would result in a “full-scale class war” (Radical Evolution). One could question whether there is any track record of long term civility in the history of humankind to indicate that we will avoid life-threatening conflict between radically divergent species. As Bertrand Russell once observed, “Science has not given men more self-control, more kindliness, or more power of discounting their passions…Men’s collective passions are mainly for evil; far the strongest of them are hatred and rivalry directed toward other groups.”
My conclusion then is that, transhumanism is fueled by technological hubris. It is a story with striking similarities to the account of the tower of Babel.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth (Genesis 11: 3ff, NIV).
In both cases, we find 1) humans driven by a desire to accomplish a feat that would otherwise seem impossible i.e., build a tower that could reach heaven, build a machine into which a human could be downloaded to achieve immortality, and 2) make a name for themselves, to be able to say that human effort can realize a god-like task. Brent Waters observes that, “The history of the world [is] not an account of creation being drawn mysteriously to a destiny assigned by its creator, but an unfolding tale of human potential and capability” (From Human to Posthuman). But what precautions are taken into consideration with advancing technologies? As scientist Martin Rees warns, “Humans should not create something new unless they are reasonably certain something awful will not result” (Radical Evolution). Indeed, humans do not have a very good track record of taking care of themselves. I am inclined to agree with Bill Joy that we are more likely to instigate the “Hell Scenario” where unimaginably horrific events begin to unfold. Thankfully, the Christian worldview affirms the sovereign God who is not threatened by human technology, and who promises believers that there will come a day when a true and everlasting transformation will occur.