Reporter Elaine Jarvik of the Deseret News [Salt Lake City, Utah] offers a summary of the issues involved in transhumanisn and radical forms of human enhancement in “Shall We Enhance?,” published in the January 7, 2006 edition of the paper.
She reports: Stupidity and sadness, cancer and bad golf scores. In the world according to transhumanism, these and other human frailties will eventually go the way of scurvy. Also on the horizon: immortality. The possibilities are either tantalizing or terrifying, depending on your point of view. Transhumanists embrace a future in which everyone has the right to live a life beyond current biological limitations. Their detractors argue that all these radical enhancements will make us less human.
She gives attention to both sides of the argunments, and interviewed me for the article. The section:
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s R. Albert Mohler Jr. is another vocal opponent of radical enhancements. It’s one thing, he says, to try to give a person with bad eyesight 20/20 vision, and it’s another to try to create humans whose eyesight is superhuman. The latter, he says, uses science “to redefine the species.”
“From a Christian worldview perspective,” he says, “there are two problems with this. First, you have the normative definition of what it means to be a human being made in the image of God.” To try to exceed normal human capacities, he says, “is to open, quite literally, a Pandora’s Box of moral problems.”
The second problem, Mohler says, is the transhumanist desire to prolong life beyond normal aging. “The tranhumanists increasingly see death as an oddity that is to be overcome. Christians certainly do not embrace death as a good in itself, but we understand that death is a part of what it means to be human, and that, indeed, the effort to forever forestall death is itself an act of defiance that will be both unworkable and morally suspect.”
On the other hand: Richard Sherlock takes a different view. Sherlock is a philosophy professor at Utah State University, one of only several Utah members of the World Transhumanist Association — and also a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We ought to be able to look at the future as an opportunity, not a threat,” says Sherlock, who is also a board member of the Journal of Evolution and Technology. “I don’t think you can say God has said ‘this, but no more.’ All these technologies are ways in which we become more like our Creator,” he adds. In fact, he says, the idea of a continually advancing human “fits better within a Mormon context that sees humanity as a developing structure, aspiring to be more like God.”
SEE ALSO: My commentary, “The Revolt Against Human Nature,” published February 23, 2005.