Just Because We Can, Should We?
I have always been drawn to the classics. From rotary dial phones to the 61 Oldsmobile I drove in high school that is now parked in my garage waiting to be restored, I like classics. And yet, where these were once viewed as exhibiting “cutting-edge” technology, they are now dated. From cell phones to cars, technology pushes us to trade in what is old for an updated version.
Today, this desire for the updated version isn’t just limited to things, it’s also seen in the way that we see ourselves. No longer are we content with merely rebranding ourselves or improving ourselves through a surgical procedure. Today, we find those who are pushing us to look to technology and reconsider the very definition of what it means to be human.
Last week I attended a conference in Chicago that addressed the meaning of “Our Citizenship is in Heaven.” The theme was rooted in Paul’s words from Philippians 3:20 “Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul is reminding those feeling pressured by the desires for earthly things to realize that their true identity comes from knowing that their home and hope is in Christ.
While knowing that Paul’s words are true, we can find ourselves influenced by the world’s desires to seek out an updated reality. An example of this is seen in Transhumanism. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it is commonly defined as “a growing intellectual movement based on the idea that we should use science and technology in ethical ways to improve ourselves and our world.”
While this may seem innoxious, it is far from it. First, concerning ethics, it begs the question of whose ethical ways to improve ourselves and our world are we embracing? Second, it presumes that technology can be our savior giving us what we and our world need. While improved technology may drive our desire to purchase a new car, this is a far cry from looking to technology to improve or redefine the human life.
Transhumanism has a simple objective in mind: to incorporate technology into the human life to overcome aging. Ultimately the goal is to create an indefinite lifespan achieved with medical and technological improvements that will add years to a person’s lifespan faster than the passage of time. In simple terms, it explores how humanity can discover new ways of extending life at a pace that prevents death from catching up with them.
Some may wonder if there is anything wrong with this. However Jason Thacker, in his article, “Transhumanism Is Yet Another Temptation to Play God” suggests that, “it’s yet another expression of humanity’s belief that we are gods in ourselves.” It blurs the ethical lines that should call us to ask, “Just because we can do something should we?” Jacob Shatzer writes, “Transhumanism isn’t only about uploading our minds into computers and living immortally in a digital world; it’s a vision of what it means to be human in relation to technology.”
What does it mean for us to be human, not only in the here and now but for eternity? The Transhumanist suggests that, “If humans have the ability to take more control, why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we change in the ways we want to?” This takes us back to the question of ethics. In its most basic sense, transhumanism pushes us to take advantage of any technology to change ourself in any way we desire. It champions the freedom to recreate ourselves.
Yet, once again, this desire is based in the assumption that something is wrong, that something is out of order. Primarily that there is something wrong with the finite nature of our mortality.
Shatzer reasons, “Christians believe that true happiness is found in God, not in self-creation. As followers of Christ, we worship a God who took on flesh, who became a person in order to redeem humanity. Salvation for Christians isn’t an escape from the biological to the digital, for God has redeemed the biological in Christ.” Understanding this allows us to live this mortal life without fear knowing that God promises us a recreation and eternal life that far exceeds anything that the transhumanists promise.
The Christian’s hope is not found in escaping the limitations of our humanity, but in the blessings promised in eternal life. While the transhumanist’s hope is to “transcend current physical or cognitive limitations through the use of science and technology”, our hope rests in the eternal life found in Christ alone.