Sunday, June 25, 2006

“Brave New World” Wasn’t Scary Enough!

Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, penned a terrifying report on a recent Stanford Law School sponsored conference for The Weekly Standard (June 26, 2006, pp. 20-24). The conference, “Human Enhancement Technologies and Human Rights,” held last month was a gathering of transhumanists.

Transhumanism, Smith explains, “is a radical movement emanating from the universities that seeks to enhance human capacities via technology. The ultimate goal is a utopian world of ‘post-humans,’ such as human/robot hybrids and human consciousness downloaded into computers that will live for thousands of years.”

Transhumanists advocate dispensing with “human racism” and other quaint ideas that people possess unique “moral status flowing from their humanity.” In place of a doctrine of the imago dei, transhumanists substitute “personhood,” a status available to all “self-aware entities—whether human, post-human, machine, chimera, or robot.”

In the future, in addition to sexism, racism, and homophobism, we will be confronted with the sin of “substratism,” a belief that discrimination based upon the kind of stuff of which you are made (whether organic, silicon, or other) is equally morally repugnant. Whether born, assembled, or hatched, we should all have equal rights we are told. Perhaps people will be prosecuted for abuse of their computers in the brave new world of the transhumanists.

Much of the transhumanist agenda sounds so weird and sci-fi that we are tempted to dismiss it out of hand. However, the conference also dealt with some of the more attainable goals. Women freed from “unnecessary” menstruation through new technology birth control pills that inhibit menses for months at a time, a near-absolute right to be “enhanced” (even if it is physically harmful such as lopping off limbs and other body parts), and a moral imperative to “uplift” animals to human levels of intelligence were presented as attainable goals. Conferees seriously discussed all mammalian life becoming post-biological in order to eliminate suffering and the brute side of “nature.”

In the final analysis, the transhumanist agenda represents a quest for extending life forever. When Aubrey De Grey speaks of “Our Right to Life,” he means our “putative right never to die.”

In the near term the impact of such tinkering with human nature will be seen in a continuation of the abortion of 90% of Down’s syndrome babies in the U.S., the late term abortion of babies with correctable defects such as cleft palates and clubfeet in Great Britain, and the redirection of medical technology to “enhancements” rather than therapeutic treatments.

For creatures possessing the “breath of life” and created in the image of God, these trends sound more like the hubris of the Tower of Babel than the fulfillment of our call to have dominion and to subdue the earth.

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