A friend on Facebook, Stephanie, asked me what I thought of a BBC article by Frank Swain about living forever. The article looked at some different studies on life extension and how the mortality rate has changed in the past several decades. No doubt the life expectancy has improved in the past century, and according to many experts we can see an even more significant increase in the next 50 years.
In the article, Swain quoted Gennady Stolyarov, a transhumanist philosopher and author of a children’s book titled Death is Wrong. “It would be wonderful to get to a world where all death is optional. Right now, essentially all of us are sentenced to the death penalty, even though most of us have done nothing to deserve it.” 1
After I read the article, several things sparked my interest that I wanted to examine. The above quote about our being sentenced to the death and not deserving it, had me salivating. Questions like:
-What do you mean by deserve?
-Where do you get your notion of right or wrong when you say some do not deserve death?
-Just what do we deserve and why do you say that?
-Does anyone deserve death?
-What penalties, if any, does someone deserve? Who decides? 2
I expected to write a piece on just what we do deserve, and explain where I get my ‘notion’ on right and wrong, but I ended up taking a completely different trail as I explored further.
I was unfamiliar with the term ‘transhumanist’ so I looked it up. Transhumanists, or H+, is a international intellectual group or movement that has a goal of improving and transforming the human condition. Here are a few sites dedicated to the H+ cause. You can read some of their mission statements, goals, and definitions below.
http://humanityplus.org is dedicated to elevating the human condition. We aim to deeply influence a new generation of thinkers who dare to envision humanity’s next steps. Our programs combine unique insights into the developments of emerging and speculative technologies that focus on the well-being of our species and the changes that we are and will be facing.
http://www.transhumanism.org Over the past few years, a new paradigm for thinking about humankind’s future has begun to take shape among some leading computer scientists, neuroscientists, nanotechnologists and researchers at the forefront of technological development. This is the assumption that the “human condition” is at root a constant. Present-day processes can be fine-tuned; wealth can be increased and redistributed; tools can be developed and refined; culture can change, sometimes drastically; but human nature itself is not up for grabs.
http://www.prochoicealliance.org Our-Values We believe that social justice, safety, human rights and dignity for women must be paramount in public policy and private practice in emerging biotechnologies. We believe that treatments, devices, and pharmaceuticals developed with public funds should be accessible and affordable to all. We believe in respect for women as decision-makers about their own health, and that in order to make good decisions about participation in research, women must be given accurate and unbiased information and be free from coercive, misleading, and deceptive practices.
http://lifeboat.com/ex/main is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI, as we move towards the Singularity.
I was familiar with the term singularity, but not how it was used above. To me a singularity, in cosmological terms, was a point in time when everything was created. I wrote about it in The Miracle of Existence. Above, a singularity is a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature.
Frankly I found all of this information fascinating and at the same time disturbing. Some of you reading this hold the same view of human nature as I do, which is, at his core man is sinful and self serving. Others see inherent goodness and believe that ultimately mankind will overcome their darker nature and evolve into a species that looks beyond their own desires. Your view on human nature will determine how you perceive the agenda of H+.
As I poured over the links, web sites, and information about H+, I recalled a movie my son and some of his friends, (Annie, Luke, and others) were considering seeing titled ‘Transcendence‘. Since I am on Easter Break I went to a matinée. Without turning this into a movie review, I will just say it was rather depressing and to spend your money on some ice cream instead. But, it did put forth some of the H+ views and goals, ultimately giving the transhumanism world view a positive spin.
Simply put, the main character, Dr. Will Caster, facing death had his brain transferred to a digital super computer program, and once on the information super highway, he was able to play the stock market and create immense wealth for his wife. She in turn, (with his help), created a massive underground lab where technological medical advancements developed into Christ-like abilities. The goal: to improve the human condition. The cost? Human individuality; as each was treated, Caster was able to control them in some kind of Borg, hive collective.
Fun story, but don’t miss the underlying message. Our brains, mind, essence, is nothing more than digital. A soul? Spirit? Something immaterial? Nonsense. Technology can replace God. The crippled can walk again, the blind can see. With this kind of technology, what use do we have for Jesus or God? If we can eliminate the death penalty that Stolyarov says we are all charged with, maybe we can become gods.
On the lifeboat site I linked above, they had a list of the ten most important Transhumanist Technologies. Number 2 on the list wants us to dismiss the possibility of a soul. Meat, (flesh) is not needed. Once we overcome the discomfort of the fact that we are nothing more than chance material patterns, we can explore existing on other tiers.
In the Prochoice Alliance group above, sex selection and designer babies becomes nothing more than choosing your favorite loaf of bread. Unfavorable traits are de-selected, and replaced with favorable traits. I am talking beyond simple hair or skin color, but even emotional and mental capacities could be weighed. 3
Transhumanists and the organizations they build recognize the dangers of technological advancements, but without a moral compass held within the Christian world view, they are destined to become lost and take countless lives with them.
Don’t misunderstand me. The technological advances around the corner that could cure cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and a host of other human ailments should be pursued. But what do we become if all our needs are met? Do the struggles some of us have create desirable character traits? What would happen to compassion, (I John 3:17) if there was not a need? Who would encourage, (Acts 18:27)? Would gratefulness, (I Corinthians 4:7) or patience, (Romans 5:3–4) become meaningless terms?
Many years ago in college term paper I likened technology to a rope. Something that could pull us out of an abyss, or be used to tie a noose around our necks. With a broader view and more life experience I begin to see it more as a noose. At some point, the dangers of technology could become like a Hydra. Cut off one head and you have several more to deal with. Couple that with the sinful, fallen nature of man, and you have a peril on the same level as the “Deplorable Word” spoken by the White Witch who annihilated life on her home world.
1. Swain, Frank. “How to live forever.” BBC. British Broadcasting Corporation, 21 April 2014. Web. 22 April 2014.
2. Koukl, Gregory. Tactics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009. Print
3. Coeytaux, Francine. Darnovsky, Marcy. Fogel, Susan B. “Assisted Reproductive Technologies.” Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, 1 January 2014. Web. 22 April 2014.
Living Forever by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.