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Homo sapiens now, compared to other animals, are considered to have superior mental development. However, one of the goals of transhumanism is to increase that development to a state far surpassing what is possible to mere Homo sapiens. We now have the power of articulate speech, yet if something like uploading a person into a global brain is available, the speech available in that environment would no longer be articulate or even understandable to normal Homo sapiens. Even the idea of upright stance would be a moot point in a virtual environment.
This is why many transhumanists explain transhumanism as a directed evolution from Homo sapiens to something new, improved, enhanced, and wholly different. This type of being is called Homo superior (H+), or sometimes Homo futures.[i] One of the more troubling things about this concept is how this will be done and what it means for the rest of humanity.
Much of transhumanism relies on the implementation of genetic editing. In a nutshell, the idea is a person can alter his or her genes and/or DNA to enhance that person’s overall biology. This would greatly reduce the limitations of human biology. Certain enhancements might include relatively small “upgrades,” such as giving people super strength or night vision, but could also be as extreme as immortality or an immunity to every known disease. While these are certainly tantalizing and tempting outcomes, there is no way to know the future ramifications of these enhancements.
One definite and unavoidable consequence to transhumanism is the passing down of edited/enhanced genes through generations. This means that, eventually, a world could conceivably exist where the choice to conceive human children with a human partner would be totally removed, thereby forcing the transhumanism agenda onto the rest of the human population against their will. It might be defined as merely a personal choice today, but that is only remotely valid for, at most, one generation. For example, getting a tattoo is a personal choice, yet when a tattooed person has a baby, the baby is not also born with tattoos. With transhumanism, the future generation has no choice, and, once this choice is made for members of that future generation, there is no going back. A Homo superior baby could never grow up and decide to be a Homo sapien, even if he or she morally disagrees with what transhumanism has done to his or her biological makeup.
Also, a Homo superior is not just created out of thin air; a Homo sapien is needed to create a Homo superior, which means for the addition of every Homo superior, one Homo sapien is lost. Over time, these two factors (the shrinking Homo sapien gene pool and the loss of existing Homo sapiens) would eventually result in a complete species eradication. This is known as specicide. While the great evil of genocide is defined as “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group,” [ii] specicide (in the context of this chapter) is the actual extinction of the entire human species.
If one accepts the current model of natural evolution, we see that one species is not made extinct to create another, more advanced species. For example, primates were not made extinct by nature to create human beings. One might argue that natural selection contributed to the extinction of species; however, this is not the same context as with humanity versus transhumanism. The pursuit of transhumanism is not natural evolution; rather, it is unnatural interference. The eradication of Homo sapiens is not natural selection; rather, it would be more comparable to the unnatural wiping-out of an animal species due to unnecessary human intervention. For example, if North Korea launched a nuclear weapon at the Arctic Circle region of the world, killing all the polar bears, would anyone consider that to be natural selection?
This is why defining transhumanism as moral or even as a step in the pursuit of morality is irrational. Taking what is arguably a natural process into our own hands as human beings, altering it at the expense of an entire species and subjecting others to that decision against their will is, by any stretch of the imagination, immoral.
This is not to say that transhumanists today are immoral or do not have humanity’s best interest at heart. Personally, I do not view the stated intentions of transhumanism as evil. However, to truly make sure it is best for humanity, any position, idea, or belief (including religion) should welcome criticism and scrutiny. It is the only way to know for sure if our way of thinking is correct, by holding it logically against opposing views and weighing out the options. I certainly do this as a Christian and invite other Christians to think critically about their beliefs as well. I believe this is what can strengthen our beliefs and allow us to abandon certain traditions or cultural interpretations that do not hold up to scrutiny against the whole of the Bible.
In much the same way, it is beneficial to allow scientific pursuits to be held against logical scrutiny as well. In fact, I would argue that it is foolish not to do so. In doing this with transhumanism, it is my opinion that this idea goes well beyond a personal choice. If it was merely a personal choice, my introduction to this chapter would be far different. However, since it has the potential to affect the rest of us, it is worth acknowledging up front before getting into the other moral, political, and economical ramifications of transhumanism. Regardless of how much it may seem like a personal choice on the surface, the current transhumanist agenda has no other outcome than that of unavoidable force, enslavement, and eventual extinction.
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One main difficulty in processing the transhumanist agenda is to define what is immoral and what should be illegal. Immorality and illegality are two very different things. Morality varies slightly from person to person, and even more culturally. A person could disagree with what I may believe to be immoral without bringing the law into it whatsoever. For example, I believe adultery is immoral. I would even argue this to be an objective moral issue rather than a subjective one. Adultery breaks up families, emotionally damages the children of a cheating spouse, and has the ability to radically change the worldview of all affected. However, in America, adultery is not illegal. There are many things in our culture the majority of people consider immoral, yet for good reason, they remain legal.
We certainly would not want to live in a culture where every accepted immoral thing was made illegal. If this were the case, our First Amendment right to free speech would be completely eradicated. Lying is immoral, but if it was made illegal, we would no longer live in a free society. When it comes to free speech, either all speech has to be free, or none of it can be.
There are also things that are illegal yet not necessarily immoral. For example, failing to stop at a stop sign is illegal. Now, if running a stop sign is done on purpose, a case could be made that it is immoral, because it potentially puts other people at risk of injury or even death. However, if a stop sign is run accidentally, while possibly careless and stupid, it would not necessarily have to be considered immoral. When it comes to the traffic law itself, however, intent isn’t a factor. Either a person runs the stop sign or doesn’t. If the he or she does, that person has committed an illegal act.
Morality, unlike the law, differs from person to person. A Christian might have a different set of moral guidelines than a Buddhist, though some guidelines for morality may overlap. Western culture by and large has some differences in moral guidelines than Eastern or Middle-eastern cultures. Therefore, to have civilized society, law and morality are both needed, though they may differ at times.
In American culture, a morality of freedom is in place amongst most people. This morality basically says, “Leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.” It is the idea that a person is free to do what he or she wants as long as it is not hurting someone else or stopping others from exercising their freedom to do what they want. One of the main exercises in this type of morality is the freedom for people to do what they wish to their own body, also called “morphological freedom.” As long as it is not adversely affecting others, the American cultural understanding of morality allows for it.
This tenet of American morality is what transhumanism stands on. The main argument is, “I should be able to do whatever I want to my body.” Yes, the principle is true; the way it is used is a bit disingenuous. If transhumanism was kept specifically to one’s own body, then it would be a nonissue in American society. However, as discussed earlier, transhumanism is not confined to those who wish to participate in it. Eventually, as early as within a single generation, altered genes and mutations absolutely will spill over into the gene pool of the rest of humanity. Therefore, it is an issue that affects not only the transhumanist, but also the nontranshumanist who wishes to keep his progeny completely Homo sapien.
This causes even further problems for religiously minded people such as Christians. In America, citizens are supposed to have the freedom of religion, meaning they can practice their religion without persecution from the government or other citizens. A major Christian belief is that the physical body is a gift from God, and it is imperative to treat it respectfully in accordance with biblical teaching. Altering genetics into something other than human, in some Christian interpretations, could be considered as forfeiting the image of God after which all humans are created. A Christian would not want to force someone to not do something immoral if it only affected the person doing it, but when a person wants to do something that will affect the rest of humanity in a way that revokes the right to keep an unaltered human progeny, most Christians will find it unacceptable.
The question also comes up: If successful transhumanists in the future are no longer considered human, are they subject to accepted human rights? Would transhumanists require their own Bill of Rights? This is what one transhumanist has proposed.
Zoltan Istvan is a leader in the Transhumanist Movement.[iii] He ran for president in 2016 to bring awareness to the transhumanist agenda. He is the author of The Transhumanist Wager, a novel delving into the ideals of transhumanism.
In 2015, Zoltan launched a five-month national tour in a bus shaped like a coffin to spread the messages of transhumanism. At the end of the tour, Zoltan delivered the Transhuman Bill of Rights to Congress. Zoltan said:
You read the United Nations Declaration of Rights, which most democracies base their bill of rights on, [and] here we are 65 years later, there’s nothing in it that talks about cyborgism. There’s nothing in it about whether you can torture an artificial intelligence or a robot. There’s nothing in it about whether you could marry robots. I can tell you transhumanists and cyborgs, people that want to try these things will fight for them.[iv]
Among others listed, the Transhuman Bill of Rights includes: a universal right to live indefinitely and eliminate involuntary suffering through science and technology; the belief that growing old should be treated as a disease; and the tenet that, under law, no cultural, ethnic, or religious perspectives influencing government policy can impede life-extension science, the health of the public, or the possible maximum amount of life hours citizens possess.[v]
Capitalist-vs.-Socialist Approaches to the Transhumanist Agenda
The political and economic views of prominent transhumanists are varied. Some see the advantage in privatizing technological research and development to promote competition in the free market with the hopes of faster and more effective advancement. For example, imagine if Apple was solely developing products for transhumanists. Most likely, the technology needed to complete the goals of the transhumanist agenda would far surpass what is available now.
Others, on the other hand, take a more left-leaning approach and believe it is the role of the government to advance the efforts of transhumanism. While this approach takes the financial responsibility away from private citizens, it gives all the power to the government. This means the government can advance the cause as slowly or as quickly as it wants. Also, this gives regulatory power to the government. If the government holds the patents and rights to these technologies and products, it will be the decision of the government how they are used and who has access to them. This approach, while on the surface seeming to decrease cost to private citizens and companies, has the added disadvantage of an inevitable raise in taxes. After all, how would the government pay to advance transhumanist research and develop new technologies? Either it cuts costs somewhere else, or, far more likely, raise the taxes of all American citizens. This creeps into the area of immorality, as there are people who would not wish to have their tax dollars pay for transhumanist technologies. Yet, it is illegal to refuse to pay taxes.
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As of now, it is unclear if the costs of transhumanist technology will be privatized or socialized; however, there are issues with either scenario. If transhumanist technology is privatized, then taxes will not have to be increased to fund it, the technology would likely advance far more quickly, and the actual products—be they microchips, injections, pills, or anything else—will become available at the lowest cost possible to the consumer due to free-market competition. However, this would also result in a lack of regulation, just as it is today. Transhumanist technologies would be free to spread throughout the population, affecting even those who do not wish to participate in a variety of ways. For example, what if a transhumanist with edited genes anonymously donated blood, and a person not wanting to participate in transhumanism received this blood unknowingly? What if a person is not required to disclose that he or she has altered genes before having sex with someone else? Eventually, edited genes could easily become the norm, and those not wishing to be a transhumanist or bring transhumanist offspring into the world will have that choice revoked. As stated earlier, this would mean the end of Homo sapiens.
On the other hand, if transhumanism becomes a government-funded program, the government would make all the rules and decide how the technology is used. This could still easily result in altered genes in with the genes of the general population, such as the previous scenario, yet there are other concerns to consider. The idea of the government making all the decisions might not be worrisome if the people running the country were completely trustworthy and honest; however, this has never been the case. Power corrupts, and in this scenario, the government would hold all the power. American citizens, transhumanists and nontranshumanists alike, would have to trust the government to use the technology responsibly, yet many, including myself, would not be enthusiastic or optimistic about that idea. What if they decide to only keep it for themselves? What if they decide to go down the road of eugenics and human and/or transhuman experimentation? If a transhuman is not protected by the Bill of Rights, what would stop the government from testing and experimenting on people it has made into transhumanists? What could begin as an innocent medical trial could easily turn into a horrific and tortuous nightmare.
Imagine if there was a voluntary medical test offering a cash incentive for people taking part in it. Imagine it is to test a cure for the common cold through gene editing. The medical professionals infect you with a cold, then use a process of genetic editing to cure you. However, what if, by the standards and understanding of the culture, this now means you are no longer considered human or Homo sapien, but are now considered Homo superior, set apart from humanity? Now you find yourself in a situation where you are not protected by any kind of basic human rights. You are now the property of the government to be used however it wishes. Would you trust the government enough to think you will be well taken care of? I certainly would not.
Either approach, whether more capitalistic or socialistic, offers some very troublesome potential outcomes to consider before diving headfirst into the transhumanist agenda. Some of these technologies are already available, yet, so far, no legal standard or moral guidelines within our culture have been put in place to protect the rest of the population or even transhumanists themselves. I, like any other rational person, do not want to see harm come to anyone, whether transhumanist or not.
Restoration vs. Glorification
The question to the skeptic of transhumanist ideas, especially to those who are Christian, is this: Where is the line? Where does human biological improvement stray from acceptable to unacceptable? We have plenty of technologies and medical advancements today that can cure diseases and ailments through technology. Would someone with a prosthetic hip be considered a transhumanist? What about those who receive laser eye surgery? What if a cure to cancer could be found through genetic editing, which is currently being researched?[vi] What if a human being could be genetically edited to become completely resistant to all diseases? Where is the line?
Many differing answers have been offered by people throughout the years, and it seems that no general consensus has been reached. Therefore, I can only speak for myself in attempting to provide an answer. My personal belief is that it comes down to the difference between restoration and glorification. Is the medical treatment restoring what was once there, or is it glorifying it into something supposedly better? Is the hip replacement an attempt to restore a person’s use of his or her hip, or is it an attempt to improve the bones to the point they cannot break or wear down? Is the laser eye surgery restoring a normal, human level of vision, or is it providing someone with an ability that is unnatural to humans, such as night vision or infrared vision? Is it restoring the person to normal human ability or is it glorifying the person to superhuman ability?
That is where the line falls for me. It is found at the point where a person can no longer be considered human because he or she has advanced to something else, such as aHomo superior. Going further, as a Christian, I would have personal trouble accepting anything coming close to changing myself from human into something else. I would regard that as giving up my promised inheritance of glorification from God in the life to come for an inferior human and technological glorification in this life.
We will all have to stand before God someday. Even if immortality were possible through technological means, it does not change this fact: Death will still occur. Eventually, our sun will burn out. Our planet will become uninhabitable. Even if we find another planet, the universe itself will eventually come to an end. Due to the exponential expansion of the universe, a day will come when everything will be too far away from everything else to have advantageous effect. Stars will no longer be able to warm planets. Gravitational orbit will be a thing of the past. The universe itself will die. In the case that the universe ends earlier than that in a massive Higgs Field Doomsday event, even time itself will run its course. No matter what, we cannot escape entropy forever.
Transhumanism is a stall at best. No matter the level and sophistication of technology, nothing can truly live forever in this life. The next life will come for each of us. I believe it is wise to acknowledge this fact now and plan accordingly. We will be on the other side of death far longer than we could ever be on this side. I may be lucky enough to live eighty or ninety years, but after death comes, I will be on the other side until the end of time and beyond. My concern is not getting right with the technology an imperfect, flawed, human race can produce. My main concern is to be right with the Creator of humanity, the universe, and time itself, because only He can truly save me.
The good news is that He has provided a way for salvation and guaranteed glorification. It doesn’t require government funding, private corporations, or waiting for advanced technology to be developed. It is available right now to every human being on earth. And even better, the God who saves desperately wants to give you this gift through His Son today, and He is only waiting for you to accept it. He wants this so much, in fact, that He gave His life for it. It cost you nothing; the price has already been paid. To truly prepare for the future, ask Jesus Christ into your life today and begin believing in and following Him.[vii] Do this, and Jesus guarantees what transhumanism can never offer: You will truly and eternally be saved.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
NEXT: AI and the Image of the Beast
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