In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis foresaw the progressive abandonment of what conservatives would call “moral law” based on Judeo-Christian values giving way to “the dead hand of the great planners and conditioners” who would decide what men should biologically become. The term “great planners and conditioners” correspond with modern advocates of transhumanism who esteem their blueprint for the future of the species as the one that will ultimately decide the fate of man. A step toward establishing this goal occurred when the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Human Enhancement Ethics Group (based at California Polytechnic State University) released a fifty-page report entitled, “Ethics of Human Enhancement: 25 Questions & Answers.”[i] This government-funded report addressed the definitions, scenarios, anticipated societal disruptions, and policy and law issues that need to be considered en route to becoming posthuman. Some of the topics covered in the study include:
- What are the policy implications of human enhancement?
- Is the natural-artificial distinction of human enhancement morally significant?
- Does human enhancement raise issues of fairness, access, and equity?
- Will it matter if there is an “enhanced divide” between “new” people classifications?
- How would such a divide make communication difficult between “normals” and the “enhanced”?
- How should the enhancement of children be approached?
- What kind of societal disruptions might arise from human enhancement?
- Should there be any limits on enhancement for military purposes?
- Might enhanced humans count as someone’s intellectual property?
- Will we need to rethink the very meaning of “ethics,” given the dawn of enhancement?[ii]
The “Ethics of Human Enhancement” report was authored by the NSF-funded research team of Dr. Fritz Allhoff (Western Michigan University), Dr. Patrick Lin (California Polytechnic State University [who took major offense at me pointing out transhumanism prophetic issues]), Prof. James Moor (Dartmouth College), and Prof. John Weckert (Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics/Charles Sturt University, Australia) as part of a three-year ethics study on human enhancement and emerging technologies. This came on the heels of the U.S. National Institute of Health granting Case Law School in Cleveland $773,000 to establish guidelines for setting government policy on what could be the next step in human evolution—“genetic enhancement.” Maxwell Mehlman, Arthur E. Petersilge Professor of Law, director of the Law-Medicine Center at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and professor of bioethics in the Case School of Medicine, led the team of law professors, physicians, and bioethicists over the two-year project “to develop standards for tests on human subjects in research that involves the use of genetic technologies to enhance ‘normal’ individuals.”[iii] Following the initial study, Mehlman began offering two university lectures: “Directed Evolution: Public Policy and Human Enhancement,” and “Transhumanism and the Future of Democracy,” addressing the need for society to comprehend how emerging fields of science will, in approaching years, alter what it means to be human, and what this means to democracy, individual rights, free will, eugenics, and equality. Other law schools, including Stanford and Oxford have hosted similar “Human Enhancement and Technology” conferences, where transhumanists, futurists, bioethicists, and legal scholars have conferred on the ethical, legal, and potentially inevitable ramifications of posthumanity.
“No matter where one is aligned on this issue, it is clear that the human enhancement debate is a deeply passionate and personal one, striking at the heart of what it means to be human,” explained Dr. Lin in the NSF report. Then, with surprising candor, he added, “Some see it as a way to fulfill or even transcend our potential; others see it as a darker path towards becoming Frankenstein’s monster.”[iv]
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO
Dr. Thomas Horn and Jimmy Evans Explain The Greatest Threat Transhumanism Poses To Humanity On Daystar
Because any attempt at covering each potential GRIN-tech, catastrophic, Frankenstein’s monster possibility in a series such as this would be impractical, I summarize over the next couple entries a few of the more important areas in which bioethicists, regulators, and conservative Christians should be informed and involved in public dialogue over the potential benefits and threats represented by these emerging fields of science:
Synthetic biology is one of the newest areas of biological research that seeks to design new forms of life and biological functions not found in nature. The concept began emerging in 1974, when Polish geneticist Waclaw Szybalski speculated how scientists and engineers would soon enter “the synthetic biology phase of research in our field. We will then devise new control elements and add these new modules to the existing genomes or build up wholly new genomes. This would be a field with the unlimited expansion [of] building new…‘synthetic’ organisms, like a ‘new better mouse.’”[v] Following Szybalski’s speculation, the field of synthetic biology reached its first major milestone in 2010 with the announcement that researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) had created an entirely new form of life nicknamed “Synthia” by inserting artificial genetic material, which had been chemically synthesized, into cells that were then able to grow. The JCVI Web site explains:
Genomic science has greatly enhanced our understanding of the biological world. It is enabling researchers to “read” the genetic code of organisms from all branches of life by sequencing the four letters that make up DNA. Sequencing genomes has now become routine, giving rise to thousands of genomes in the public databases. In essence, scientists are digitizing biology by converting the A, C, T, and G’s of the chemical makeup of DNA into 1’s and 0’s in a computer. But can one reverse the process and start with 1’s and 0’s in a computer to define the characteristics of a living cell? We set out to answer this question [and] now, this scientific team headed by Drs. Craig Venter, Hamilton Smith, and Clyde Hutchison have achieved the final step in their quest to create the first…synthetic genome [which] has been “booted up” in a cell to create the first cell controlled completely by a synthetic genome.[vi]
The JCVI site goes on to explain how the ability to routinely write the software of life will usher in a new era in science, and with it, unnatural “living” products like Szybalski’s “new better mouse.” Jerome C. Glenn added for the 2010 State of the Future fourteenth annual report from the Millennium Project, “Synthetic biologists forecast that as computer code is written to create software to augment human capabilities, so too genetic code will be written to create life forms to augment civilization.”[vii] The new better mice, dogs, horses, cows, or humans that grow from this science will be unlike any of the versions God made according to conservative theology. In fact, researchers at the University of Copenhagen may look at what Venter has accomplished as amateur hour compared to their posthuman plans. They’re working on a third Peptide Nucleic Acid (PNA) strand—a synthetic hybrid of protein and DNA—to upgrade humanity’s two existing DNA strands from double helix to triple. In so doing, these scientists “dream of synthesizing life that is utterly alien to this world—both to better understand the minimum components required for life (as part of the quest to uncover the essence of life and how life originated on earth) and, frankly, to see if they can do it. That is, they hope to put together a novel combination of molecules that can self-organize, metabolize (make use of an energy source), grow, reproduce and evolve.”[viii]
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO
FLASHBACK: Dr. Thomas Horn Discusses Prophetic Implications Of Transhumanism At Strategic Perspectives Conference
PATENTING NEW LIFE-FORMS
Questions are evolving now over “patenting” of transgenic seeds, animals, plants, and synthetic life-forms by large corporations, which, at a minimum, has already begun to impact the economy of rural workers and farmers through such products as Monsanto’s “terminator” seeds. Patenting of human genes will escalate these issues, as best-selling author Michael Crichton pointed out a while back in a piece for the New York Times titled, “Patenting Life,”[ix] in which he claimed that people could die in the future from not being able to afford medical treatment as a result of medicines owned by patent holders of specific genes related to the genetic makeup of those persons. Former special counsel for President Richard Nixon, Charles Colson, added, “The patenting of genes and other human tissue has already begun to turn human nature into property. The misuse of genetic information will enable insurers and employers to exercise the ultimate form of discrimination. Meanwhile, advances in nanotechnology and cybernetics threaten to ‘enhance’ and one day perhaps rival or replace human nature itself—in what some thinkers are already calling ‘transhumanism.’”[x]
The prospect of human cloning was raised in the 90s, immediately after the creation of the much-celebrated “Dolly,” a female domestic sheep clone. Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned using “somatic cell nuclear transfer,” which involves removing the DNA from an unfertilized egg and replacing the nucleus of it with the DNA that is to be cloned. Today, a version of this science is common practice in genetics engineering labs worldwide, where “therapeutic cloning” of human and human-animal embryos is employed for stem-cell harvesting (the stem cells, in turn, are used to generate virtually any type of specialized cell in the human body). This type of cloning was in the news again when it emerged from William J. Clinton Presidential Center documents that Supreme Court member, Elena Kagan, had opposed during the Clinton White House any effort by Congress to prevent humans from being cloned specifically for experimental purposes. A second form of human cloning is called “reproductive cloning,” and is the technology that could be used to create a person who is genetically identical with a current or previously existing human. While Dolly was created by this type of cloning technology, the American Medical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have raised caution on using this approach to create human clones, at least at this stage. Government bodies including the U.S. Congress have considered legislation to ban mature human cloning, and though a few states have implemented restrictions, contrary to public perception and except where institutions receive federal funding, no federal laws exist at this time in the United States to prohibit the cloning of humans. The United Nations, the European Union, and Australia likewise considered, yet failed to approve, a comprehensive ban on human cloning technology, leaving the door open to perfect the science should society, government, or the military come to believe such knowhow holds intrinsic value.
REDEFINING HUMANS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Where biotechnology is ultimately headed includes not only redefining what it means to be human, but redefining subsequent human rights as well. For instance, Dr. James Hughes, whom I have debated on his syndicated Changesurfer Radio show and who likewise has been on my radio show and featured in our documentary Inhuman, wants transgenic chimps and great apes uplifted genetically so that they achieve “personhood.” The underlying goal behind this theory would be to establish that basic cognitive aptitude should equal “personhood” and that this “cognitive standard” and not “human-ness” should be the key to constitutional protections and privileges. Among other things, this would lead to nonhuman “persons” and “nonperson” humans, unhinging the existing argument behind intrinsic sanctity of human life, and paving the way for such things as harvesting organs from people whenever the loss of cognitive ability equals the dispossession of “personhood.” These would be the first victims of transhumanism, according to Prof. Francis Fukuyama, concerning who does or does not qualify as fully human and is thus represented by the founding concept that “all men are created equal.” Most would argue that any human fits this bill, but women and blacks were not included in these rights in 1776 when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. So who is to say what protections can be automatically assumed in an age when human biology is altered and when personhood theory challenges what bioethicists like Wesley J. Smith champion as “human exceptionalism” (the idea that human beings carry special moral status in nature and special rights, such as the right to life, plus unique responsibilities, such as stewardship of the environment)? Some, but not all, believers in human exceptionalism arrive at this concept from a biblical worldview based on Genesis 1:26, which says, “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’”
NANOTECHNOLOGY AND CYBERNETICS
Technology to merge human brains with machines is progressing at an accelerating pace. Nanotechnology—the science of engineering materials or devices on an atomic and molecular scale between one to one hundred nanometers (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter) in size—is poised to take the development between brain-machine interfaces and cybernetic devices to a whole new adaptive level for human modification. This will happen because, as Dr. C. Christopher Hook points out:
Engineering or manipulating matter and life at nanometer scale [foresees] that the structures of our bodies and our current tools could be significantly altered. In recent years, many governments around the world, including the United States with its National Nanotechnology Initiative, and scores of academic centers and corporations have committed increasing support for developing nanotechnology programs. The military, which has a significant interest in nanotechnology, has created the Center for Soldier Nanotechnologies (csn) [which is] interested in the use of such technology to help create the seamless interface of electronic devices with the human nervous system, engineering the cyborg soldier.[xi]
NEXT: TRANSHUMAN EUGENICS
WATCH! SUPER SOLDIERS, HYBRIDS, AND CYBORGS ARE CLOSER REALITY THAN YOU THINK… AND BRINGING PROPHECY FULFILLMENT WITH THEM!!
[i] Authored by the NSF-funded research team—Dr. Fritz Allhoff (Western Michigan University), Dr. Patrick Lin (California Polytechnic State University), Prof. James Moor (Dartmouth College), and Prof. John Weckert (Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics/Charles Sturt University, Australia)— “Ethics of Human Enhancement: 25 Questions & Answers,” Nanowerk News, August 31, 2009, http://www.nanowerk.com/news/newsid=12381.php. See also: “NSF-Funded Ethics Report on Human Enhancement Released Today” Human Enhancement Ethics Group, August 31, 2009, http://www.humanenhance.com/category/news-and-events/press-releases/.
[iii] Contact: Jeff Bendix, “Case Law School Receives $773,000 NIH Grant to Develop Guidelines for Genetic Enhancement Research,” EurekAlert, April 26, 2006, http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-04/cwru-cls042606.php.
[iv] “NSF-Funded Ethics Report on Human Enhancement Released Today” Human Enhancement Ethics Group, August 31, 2009, http://www.humanenhance.com/category/news-and-events/press-releases/.
[v] Waclaw Szybalski, In Vivo and in Vitro Initiation of Transcription, 405. In A. Kohn and A. Shatkay (eds.), Control of Gene Expression, 23–24, and Discussion 404–405 (Szybalski’s concept of Synthetic Biology), 411–412, 415–417 (New York: Plenum, 1974).
[vi] “Overview,” FIRST SELF-REPLICATING SYNTHETIC BACTERIAL CELL, J. Craig Venter Institute, accessed April 18, 2011, http://www.jcvi.org/cms/research/projects/first-self-replicating-synthetic-bacterial-cell/.
[vii] “Global Challenges Facing Humanity,” The Millenium Project, accessed April 25, 2011, http://www.millennium-project.org/millennium/Global_Challenges/chall-14.html
[viii] Peter E. Nielsen, “Triple Helix: Designing a New Molecule of Life,” Scientific American, December 1, 2008, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=triple-helix-designing-a-new-molecule&ec=su_triplehelix.
[ix] Michael Crichton, “Patenting Life,” New York Times, February 13, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/13/opinion/13crichton.html.
[x] Charles W. Colson, Human Dignity in the Biotech Century (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004).
[xi] C. Christopher Hook, Human Dignity in the Biotech Century (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004), 80–81.