The goal of this essay is to present a comprehensive picture of the Transhumanist movement. We will examine the history of the assumptions and principles behind Transhumanist thought. Then we will analyze it within the standard framework of ideological thought. We will also discuss why it matters and see its growing influence in popular culture, politics, science, and even in big business. Finally, we will propose a balanced Christian response.
Transhumanism is both a scientific movement and a philosophical system whose adherents attempt to use technology to accomplish one primary task – to eliminate weakness in the modern human being. They are not only trying to eliminate physical weaknesses, such as disease and sickness, but they are also attempting to eliminate emotional weaknesses, such as sadness and anger. However, the greatest goal of the Transhumanist movement is to eliminate the greatest weakness in the human condition: death.
The Transhumanist worldview is based on the ultimate goal of transcending human limitations through evolving into the next evolutionary phase of humanity. If all living things have been evolving into more complex species since the first life form emerged, then humanity will also evolve into a more complex species. But rather than waiting for nature to run its course, which could take millions of years, Transhumanists seek to facilitate the evolution of our own species and accelerate the process. But why stop there? If humans can interfere with evolution, is it possible that we could produce a human species far beyond anything that nature could have ever produced? Could we make a human species without disease, without weakness, without limitation? Could we even make an immortal species? The Transhumanists do not believe that this is just a plausible goal; rather, they believe that it is an inevitable fate that is within reach.
We all have a desire to eliminate sickness, to slow the aging process, to cheat death, to overcome our human limitations. From time immemorial, humans have sought that elusive Fountain of Youth. A major difference is the modern combination of this fundamental desire with modern technologies and well-funded leaders that are now acting upon this desire and committing resources to research and scientific experimentation.
A myriad of sources provide vague and inconclusive definitions of Transhumanism. For example, official Transhumanist website humanityplus.com adopted Oxford graduate Max More’s definition:
Transhumanism is a class of philosophies of life that seek the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology, guided by life-promoting principles and values.
This definition hints at the overall Transhumanist goal, but it fails to address the central problem that they are attempting to solve: What is wrong with humanity? What is the rationality in this desire to disown or transform human identity? The movie The Amazing Spiderman illustrates the logic behind Max More’s ambitious goal. In this recent movie, the character Dr. Curt Connors attempts to heal his deformed left arm through injecting himself with the regenerative gene found in the lizard. However, it becomes clear that this experiment fails as Dr. Connors slowly morphs into a giant mutant lizard. The odd thing about this scenario is that Dr. Curt Connors actually enjoys being a mutant lizard. In fact, he believes that being a mutant lizard is better than being human. What was Dr. Connor’s rationality behind his desire to disown his humanity? He says:
I spent my life as a scientist trying to create a world without weakness, without outcasts. I sought to create a stronger human being, but there's no such thing. Human beings are weak, pathetic, feeble-minded creatures. Why be a human at all when we can be so much more? Faster, stronger, smarter. This is my gift to you.
Dr. Connor’s quote captures the essence of the Transhumanist movement. In order to fix the human condition, we need to cast off humanity altogether and embrace our destiny to create a new faster, stronger, smarter species. The Transhumanists call this faster, stronger, smarter species “posthuman.” There is no real definitive picture of what the posthuman species will look like, but this is the how the Transhumanists define it on their website:
Many transhumanists wish to follow life paths which would, sooner or later, require growing into posthuman persons: they yearn to reach intellectual heights as far above any current human genius as humans are above other primates; to be resistant to disease and impervious to aging; to have unlimited youth and vigor; to exercise control over their own desires, moods, and mental states; to be able to avoid feeling tired, hateful, or irritated about petty things; to have an increased capacity for pleasure, love, artistic appreciation, and serenity; to experience novel states of consciousness that current human brains cannot access.
In short, a posthuman is a species that transcends any biological and intellectual limitation in the human condition. It transcends disease, weakness, and intellectual limitation. It overcomes deterioration, pain, and death. To summarize, the Transhumanist movement seeks to utilize technology to facilitate the evolution of a human into a transhuman into a posthuman. A transhuman is merely the transitional species between a human and a posthuman.
An analysis of Transhumanism within the standard ideological categories can be helpful in apprehending the various elements of the philosophy behind its assumptions:
Anthropology: Man is a highly complex bio-machine that is destined for deterioration. Man, in this stage of evolution, is naturally limited physically and intellectually by his physiological and genetic properties. Due to his mechanical properties, man can be chemically manipulated through technology to improve the human condition, to surpass human limitation, and to escape deterioration. One sample quote from Transhumanist Max More:
[T]his body is not sacred. The way we are is not some kind of God-given plan, it's really a pure, random accident. We take two sets of genes, and we shuffle them, and something comes out. Sometimes it’s a wonderful product. Sometimes it has a hole in the heart … or tendencies towards extreme anger, has addictive problems, can’t concentrate…. To say that’s normal, that's sacred, that’s good, to me is rather absurd. It’s random, it’s not a plan…. So genetic engineering seems to be one of the most moral things we can do.
In essence, there is no sacred attribute within mankind. We have no soul, we have no special purpose, we are a mere accident. We are no different than other living things. Thus we have no intrinsic value. Our only inherent value is in our inherent desire to survive. Our only “inherent right” is the “right” to survive for as long as possible.
Axiology: Transhumanism values strength. Physical strength is valued over physical weakness; mental strength is valued over mental weakness. Technology is the ultimate tool in building physical and mental strength.
Cosmology: Transhumanism embraces the naturalistic view that the universe is a result of natural, unguided processes. Life is a result of unguided evolutionary advances. This particular ideology is less valued among the Transhumanists. They deny any metaphysical intelligent agent influencing the origin of the universe and the origin of life. The fact is: we are here, right now, in this exact time and place. We need to focus on manipulating the present to create a better future. The past provides little to no aid to this end goal.
Epistemology: The brain is the highly complex machine with which the human individual acquires, processes, and acts upon knowledge. Since the universe is finite, it is possible to acquire all existent knowledge. If we can acquire all knowledge, we can create a better human being. The transhumanists deny the existence of a metaphysical mind and soul. Some Transhumanists, such as Dr. Robert White, the first neurosurgeon to perform a full-head transplant on a monkey, claims that we have a soul, but it is a product of the tangible electrical signals of the brain. He states:
Consciousness can be transplanted, obviously personality…can be transferred, and so you might ask, where does this bring us as far as the human spirit or soul goes? I guess you could argue, it can be transplanted.
Our loves, dreams, passions, are mere products of our three pounds of neural tissue that can be transplanted from body to body. The brain tissue is the essence of the human person.
Ethics: Transhumanists deny the existence of any metaphysical object or being. Thus, they deny the existence of any transcendent, objective standard of morality. If society acts upon a standard of morality, it is a standard that the material human individual or the human society has created. Morality has no set standard; rather, it can vary between individuals and cultures (moral and cultural relativism). Since morality is the creation of individuals and varies according to the individual, we have no intrinsic value or freedom. Thus, humanity’s measurement of morality and value has to be based on a physical scale (e.g. strength, intellect). Transhumanist Kyle Munkittrick stated it well in his article “When Will We Be Transhuman? Seven Conditions for Attaining Transhumanism”:
Using a scaled system based on traits like sentience, empathy, self-awareness, tool use, problem solving, social behaviors, language use, and abstract reasoning, animals (including humans) will be granted rights based on varying degrees of personhood. When African grey parrots, gorillas, and dolphins have the same rights as a human toddler, a transhuman friendly rights system will be in place.
To summarize, personhood, and subsequently, individual rights, are determined based upon varying degrees of physical and mental strength within the human population.
Sociology: Society is a collective group of human individuals infected with disease, sickness, mental retardation, and death. Since humanity’s value is measured according to physical and mental strength, an individual’s human value varies according to these two criteria. A strong athlete is more evolved than a disabled child. Einstein is more evolved than a child with ADD; therefore, the athlete and Einstein have more human value than the other unfortunate two. Thus, society is a playing field for Darwin’s ultimate game of survival of the fittest. The strong win, the weak lose, the prize is survival. Man’s only “inherent” freedom is the freedom to survive, using whatever means available.
Soteriology: Transhumanism recognizes the depravity of man, but rejects the belief that man’s depravity is a result of sin or “moral failure.” The human condition is a physical problem. It needs a physical solution. Through technology, humans can surpass and transcend the physical limitations of the human condition, evolving into the better posthuman race from the depraved human evolutionary stage.
Theology: Transhumanists reject any belief in a transcendent, metaphysical god; however, they believe that a materialistic divinity can be attained. Through technology, the transhuman can become a “divine being”—omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. In essence, man can become god. One of the Transhumanist founders and renown futurist, F.M. Estfandiari, more popularly known by his stage name, FM-2030, stated that in order to attain a Transhumanist society, man would have to reject all religious beliefs. Ironically, Transhumanism resembles a religious set of beliefs. Both Christianity and Transhumanism recognize an issue with the human condition. Christians believe that the physical problems that humans face are mere symptoms of a much deeper spiritual issue. Mankind spiritually rebelled against God, and, in consequence, we age, we suffer, we die. Thus, the human condition, really being a spiritual problem, requires a spiritual solution. The Transhumanists, however, believe that the human condition is purely a physical problem. Thus, a physical problem needs a physical solution. What is this solution? Man has to become god himself. Belinda Silbert, a popular Transhumanist and supposed psychic, wrote the following in an article called “Transhumanism as a Bridge to Divinity”:
To “see eternity in a grain of sand” is all very well, but to LIVE in that eternity and to experience it multi-dimensionally (with senses that are not dulled by the confines of the present human paraphernalia) would be true bliss. Responsible Omniscience; Omnipresence; Omnipotence AND Benevolence would be the totality of the sensory apparatus of the new human.
Wesley J. Smith, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Human Exceptionalism, commented on Silbert’s quote in his article called “Transhumanists Want To Become Gods.” He said:
Transhumanism is a collective of (mostly) naked materialists who hope science and technology will replace the deeper meaning they lost by rejecting metaphysical beliefs. Transhumanists harbor futuristic dreams of making themselves immortal and possessing what would now be thought of as superpowers through technological recreation…. I find it all rather sad. And worrying. Transhumanism harbors blatantly eugenic ambitions and as part of its theology (more on that in a moment) it angrily rejects human exceptionalism…. I used the word “theological” above because in many ways Transhumanism is a quasi religion. It has dogma, eschatology, and yearns for a material New Jerusalem of immortal life. And if Belinda Silbert is to be believed, they want to be gods.
Transcendence, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immortality… To solve the human condition without a god, man has to become god himself. This is the true essence of Transhumanism: It is the pursuit to reject God in order to become one.
This system may appear very abstract and esoteric, like a theme out of a science fiction novel, but it has actually been influencing our popular culture for years. Consider several recently released movies as examples. In the movie Limitless, Bradley Cooper plays a struggling, unsuccessful writer who is given a pill that enables him to access 100% of his brain. This turns him into a “limitless financial magician.” He is overcoming his human limitation through technology. In the X-Men series, mankind is depicted as a feeble, weak species compared to the strong, intelligent, evolved mutant species. The “X-Men” have surpassed normal human limitations. In the recent movie Transcendence, Johnny Depp’s character obtains complete access to all knowledge via microchip, transcending physical and intellectual capacities. Once again, he is overcoming his human condition through technology.
The Transhumanist worldview appears to be a futuristic, abstract movement with no philosophical grounding in modern culture. In reality, the Transhumanist movement is the product of some of the most influential thinkers in recent history. How did Transhumanism emerge and solidify into a movement? In Oxford University professor Nick Bostrom’s essay “A History of Transhumanist Thought,” Bostrom documents the emergence of the movement (not without bias and incorrect historical claims). Bostrom’s essay is valuable in two distinct ways. It not only provides a history of Transhumanist thought, but it also evidences the way in which its adherents are attempting to rewrite history in order to further their cause.
Bostrom begins his essay by arguing that the desire to surpass biological limitation is inherent within mankind:
The human desire to acquire new capacities is as ancient as our species itself. We have always sought to expand the boundaries of our existence, be it socially, geographically, or mentally. There is a tendency in at least some individuals always to search for a way around every obstacle and limitation to human life and happiness.
Bostrom identifies the movement’s understanding that death is mankind’s greatest limitation. Humans that age and suffer still have the capability to act, to think, to love, to live. Death eliminates all of these things. It is the end. With death, no one has the capacity to accomplish anything. It is the ultimate limitation. Bostrom indicates that Transhumanists often cite the example of the Epic of Gilgamesh in their writings. In this ancient Mesopotamian legend, King Gilgamesh attempts to retrieve an herb that brings eternal life to the fortunate individual who consumes it. This is an ancient example of attempting to defy human limitations through natural means, which, in its broad sense, would fall under the category of Transhumanism. It is ironic that Transhumanists, who categorically reject the existence of the metaphysical realm, would use an example involving a magical herb. Nevertheless, many prominent Transhumanist articles cite this example.
Nick Bostrom then continues to describe the time period from the first developments of metaphysical beliefs, through Christianity’s influence in the Dark Ages. Transhumanists often believe that the emergence of metaphysical beliefs, in particular relation to Judeo-Christian teaching, is a product born out of hopelessness, due the inevitability of death. Since age, suffering, and death are inevitable in the human condition, religion attempts to instill a sense of false hope by claiming that there is eternal life after physical death. Subsequently, religions, such as Christianity, ignorantly convince themselves that aging and death are not as catastrophic as they seem, believing any attempt to solve these inevitable events are hurtful to society. Thus, it is Christianity’s fault for thrusting Europe into the intellectually crippling Dark Ages. The belief in a future eternal life resulted in the death of scientific innovation, and subsequently, the death of millions of people from seemingly curable diseases.
These claims are rooted in an incredibly biased interpretation of historical facts. The scientific enterprise is rooted in the Christian pursuit of truth about God’s universe and, as the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler described, to “think God’s thoughts after him.” The notion that Christianity suppressed scientific inquiry is just false. Bostrom’s bias reflects the Transhumanist negative perception of religion, which is rooted in their unique stance concerning morality and freedom. Though the Transhumanists side with the moral and cultural relativists, they argue for a standard of morality based on biological limitations. If the greatest thing that man can strive for is to surpass the natural human limitation of death, then anything that becomes an obstacle to this goal is by definition immoral. Thus, Christianity, by their definition, is a propagator of immorality that must be censored.
Transhumanists are typically strict empiricists, believing that true knowledge can only be attained through the empirical method, gathered through the five senses. Therefore, it is completely at odds with Christianity. They assume that the non-physical realm does not exist, and they believe that Christianity is not provable. Therefore, Christianity is an obstacle to scientific progress, and a moral outrage. This belief in the metaphysical realm and in a non-empirical faith system (in their opinion) is a distraction from achieving the ultimate goal – to defy biological limitations.
Bostrom’s historical account emerges from the crippling shadow of the Dark Ages into the great cultural revival of the Renaissance, the age of humanism, the age of man. As Bostrom says:
Renaissance humanism…created the ideal of the well?rounded person, one who is highly developed scientifically, morally, culturally, and spiritually.
During the Renaissance Humanist Movement, the man-based philosophies that emerged become the intellectual foundation of modern Transhumanist thought. Bostrom quotes from Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man as an example of early modern Transhumanism:
We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that you may, as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer. It will be in your power to descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; you will be able, through your own decision, to rise again to the superior orders whose life is divine.
According to Bostrom, the Renaissance brought about the rejection of God’s dictatorship over the individual’s life. Man instead chose to be the master of his destiny, the sculptor of his body, the master of his soul. He has the desire and freedom to make himself into the being he wants to be, for better or for worse. (Interestingly, this is no different than the original sin in the Garden of Eden.)
Bostrom’s analysis progresses into the Enlightenment era, the age of scientific innovation. The Enlightenment brought about the actual scientific means to become a “better human being.” Modernized science brought about the rise in improving the physical human condition. In response to this scientific movement, French Enlightenment philosophe, Condorcet, summarized the desire to use science to surpass human limitations:
Would it be absurd now to suppose that the improvement of the human race should be regarded as capable of unlimited progress? That a time will come when death would result only from extraordinary accidents or the more and more gradual wearing out of vitality, and that, finally, the duration of the average interval between birth and wearing out has itself no specific limit whatsoever? No doubt man will not become immortal, but cannot the span constantly increase between the moment he begins to live and the time when naturally, without illness or accident, he finds life a burden.
Condorcet captures the essence of the Transhumanist agenda: with science, the impossible becomes a plausible reality. There are two pivotal figures that established the philosophical underpinnings that turned Condorcet’s dream into a powerful scientific movement: Charles Darwin and Frederick Nietzsche. The first is Darwin and his publishing of The Origin of the Species in 1859. In The Origin of the Species, Darwin proposes his famous theory of natural selection, a natural mechanism involving time, chance, and environment, through which all life forms slowly evolve into more complex species. Darwin presented a way in which man could improve his condition through natural means. If life has been evolving into better species since the first life form emerged, then humanity will also eventually evolve into a better species.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche furthered Darwin’s theory of natural selection in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, written in 1883. Nietzsche introduced the idea of the “Ubermensch,” which is German for “Overman,” “Superman,” or “Superhuman”:
I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man?
Could man evolve into the superhuman species? If nature has produced the human species from selecting “good” traits from the gene pool, can humans utilize technology to select the “best traits”? Can man create a superhuman species? 20th century biologist Julian Huxley furthered Nietzsche’s philosophy in founding the modern Transhumanist Movement. Huxley’s accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of his brother, famed author Aldous Huxley, and his grandfather, Thomas Huxley, a famous Darwinian archaeologist, who was the first to coin the term, “Neanderthal.” However, though not as publically known as his accomplished brother and grandfather, Julian has arguably influenced more of modern society than both of his relatives. Post World War II, in the early 1950s, Julian was appointed to the influential post of the first Director-General of UNESCO within the United Nations, where he was exposed to much of the modern technology developed during wartime. He partnered with Charles Galton Darwin, the grandson of the father of evolution himself, Charles Darwin, to explore technology’s potential to evolve mankind into Nietzsche’s “uberman.” In Religion Without Revelation (1927), he wrote: “The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself – not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way – but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.”
Contrasting Transhumanism with Christianity
In essence, Transhumanism is attempting to solve the human condition with the absence of a god. This is the physical human condition: we age, we suffer, we die. Christianity agrees with this definition. All deteriorate with age, all suffer from disease and illness, all die. No one can live forever. Yet we all yearn for eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
This bleak definition of the human condition begs the following question: what is the root of the human condition? This is where Christianity and Transhumanism differ. Christians believe that the physical instances of aging, suffering, and death are merely physical symptoms of a much deeper spiritual issue: sin. Man spiritually rebelled against God, thus, mankind physically suffers. Since the root of the problem is spiritual, mankind needs a spiritual solution. God provides that solution Himself in the person of Jesus. However, Transhumanists reject any belief in the metaphysical realm. Thus, Transhumanism asserts that the ultimate root of the human condition is humanity’s biological limitation.
Though evolution supposedly made man into a more complex species than his primate ancestors, man is still physically and intellectually limited by his biological makeup. Every individual’s DNA codes their maximum physical and intellectual capacities. The most physically and intellectually advanced persons in the entire world are still limited by something that all humans share: death. Even before death, everyone will be limited by disease and sickness, by age and deterioration. This biological limitation has produced mankind’s bleak and unfortunate human condition. We age, we suffer, we die. We are finite creatures.
Influence on Science
Now we must ask the key question: Why does this matter? Why should we care? Is it not obvious that immortality is unachievable, that nobody can “become a god?” Would anyone with common sense actually believe that we could create an invincible human species? However, scientific experimentation within the past few decades has shown that what was previously thought to be in the realm of science fiction might actually be possible. I will begin by detailing several of these pivotal experiments, though there are many.
Essentially, the Transhumanist research has been aimed to create a god-like super human race. So how does one go about “becoming a god?” Two “divine” attributes have captured the attention of most of Transhumanist research: biological immortality and neurological omniscience. First, I will discuss the experimentation that has been performed attempting to attain biological immortality.
From a completely materialist view, the human body is an extremely complex bio-machine. Cambridge researcher, Aubrey de Grey, the leading researcher in finding the cure to aging, concisely summarized the Transhumanist view of the body:
My approach is to start from the straightforward principle that our body is a machine. A very complicated machine, but nonetheless a machine, and it can be subjected to maintenance and repair in the same way as a simple machine, like a car.
Aubrey de Grey presents a very interesting comparison. A car, like any machine, will accumulate damage with work and time. A car shouldn’t be able to last for more than twenty years. Why then do we see cars from the 1960’s, 50’s, even the early 1900’s still in motion today? Maintenance. A mechanic has to go into the machine and repair the damage. With consistent maintenance, a machine can function for an indefinite period of time. If the human being is indeed a machine, is it possible for science to repair our bodies’ damage? Can we function for an indefinite period of time? If Transhumanism’s goal is to make the human body an immortal machine, the first step is to continually and systematically repair what is broken in the human body.
What is the main mechanism that causes damage to the human body? The ultimate enemy to the human body is disease. Diseases result from mutations in the DNA. DNA is a molecule in every single living cell that stores the information that codes for the entire makeup of an organism. DNA codes for the information to make proteins and proteins eventually form a whole organism. What if there is an error with the DNA sequence? What if the DNA is miscopied? These are mutations. Sometimes, DNA replication miscopies a large portion of the DNA. This condition is very rare and usually fatal. However, often the cell miscopies only one point in the DNA. These are called point mutations. Point mutations may not seem to have much consequence on the entire human body; however, this is not the case. If the point mutations occur in a pivotal part of the DNA sequence, the result is often a permanent disease, such as Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Hemophilia, Color Blindness, Tay Sachs Disease, Sickle Cell Anemia, Phenylketonuria, and many more. How does one mutation in a gene result in disease? Even a small problem in the DNA sequence can create a dysfunctional protein. A dysfunctional protein is unable to carry out its specific function. Thus, a disease, in essence, is when an organism is unable to perform a bodily function due to the dysfunctional proteins needed to perform that function.
Most medications for genetic diseases treat the dysfunctional protein. They act as inhibitors to prevent the protein from carrying out a dysfunctional process. While many of the medications are successful to this end, most of the medications are only able to sustain the individual from death. While they are still alive, they will suffer from the effects of the disease. But rather than treat the dysfunctional protein, can we treat the source? Can we cure mutation in the DNA? If we can fix the source, the disease will cease to exist.
Harvard researcher, Dr. Nadia Rosenthal, is a pivotal researcher in this field. She believes that if we can change the DNA, we can prevent diseases. In 1996, Dr. Rosenthal designed an experiment that resembles how the weak, thin Steve Rogers turned into the tall, strong Captain America. In a group of test mice, Dr. Rosenthal isolated the gene that codes for muscle growth. Humans have this gene as well. It is the gene that codes for muscle growth after exercise or injury. She took the isolated gene and embedded it in a virus capsule. A virus injects some of its DNA into every cell of its victim. Humans that survive viruses have the virus’s DNA in them for the rest of their lives; they just become immune to the virus and its symptoms. Dr. Rosenthal encapsulated the isolated gene into the virus and injected the virus into the mice. The virus subsequently injected the muscle-growth gene into every cell in the mice’s bodies. The mice’s cells responded to the gene and began to grow muscle at an exponential rate. They are called Schwarzenegger mice because they almost doubled in size. As the mice aged, they did not deteriorate; they actually became stronger. Some of them became healthier in their old age than when they were in their prime of life. Like Captain America, these mice became physically superior beyond what typical processes of diet and exercise could produce. Could this experiment have the same effect on humans? Could humans actually become like Captain America? Dr. Rosenthal predicts that this type of experimentation will lead to the extinction of all protein related diseases.
This experiment opened up many new areas of research, particularly in the anti-aging field. Leading anti-aging researcher, Dr. Aubrey de Grey of Cambridge University, believes that the end of aging and beginning of indefinite life spans is close in reach. He explains that everyone who dies of natural causes more specifically dies of disease. We are born with “disease fighting mechanisms,” but these mechanisms, like machines, wear down as we age and accumulate damage. When we are young, we have the ability to fight off diseases with these mechanisms. As we age, our mechanisms become worn down, and we acquire the built up damage from the diseases. Eventually, this makes us die of natural causes.
De Grey explains:
A key pillar of many people's thinking about this topic is the misconception that "aging itself" is somehow a different sort of thing than the diseases of old age. There is actually no such distinction. Age-related diseases spare young adults simply because they take a long time to develop, and they affect everyone who lives long enough because they are side-effects of the body's normal operation rather than being caused by external factors such as infections. In other words, aging is simply the collection of early stages of the diseases and disabilities of old age, and treatment of aging is simply preventative medicine for those conditions - preventative geriatrics.
In short, modern research needs to treat aging as a disease because it is a result of the accumulation of damage in the body from fighting off diseases. But if experiments, like Dr. Rosenthal’s experiment, show that we can eliminate disease, can we also eliminate aging? Can we choose how long we want to live? Can we even live forever? Transhumanists believe that this is a goal that is not far out of reach.
Dr. Rosenthal’s experiment opened up another major area of research. If we can isolate genes and have them successfully interact with our bodies, can we pick and choose genes to change the makeup of our bodies? In other words, do we have the ability to design our own bodies? Can we design our children? We have had this ability for decades now. In the United States, we can select the sex, eye color, and hair color of a developing fetus. Scientists in China discovered the gene that codes for IQ. Now parents have the potential to select the intelligence of their children. Gene selection is so common that college students can manipulate an embryo in their college labs. It is only a matter of time when gene selection performed only in labs becomes commonplace in our health care system.
The Transhumanists believe that human gene selection is a priority area of research. We are “fixing the bad” characteristics of the current human being and creating a “better human being.” However, this is only half of the Transhumanists’ ultimate goal. They desire to make the bad into good and the good even better. We can perfect our human traits and senses, but our human genome prohibits us from naturally acquiring traits found in other species, such as night vision, echolocation, and regeneration. However, if we are able to design our own children with human traits, is it possible that we can design children with animal traits?
Though this research seems to resemble the imaginary stories of Spiderman, Hulk, and other characters found in comic books, these types of experiments have been performed for decades now. In the UK alone, more than 150 embryos, containing both human and animal genetic material, have been created since the introduction of the 2008 Human Fertilization Embryology Act. This act legalized cross-species experimentation in Britain. America is one of the greatest research centers for cross-species genetics. We have been growing human ears on mice, injecting human DNA into pigs, and creating embryos from cow eggs. These are just a few of the many human-animal genetic experiments.
The immediate purpose for human-animal genetic engineering is to find a solution for organ transplantation. If we can create a pig with human DNA whose organs won’t be rejected by the human body, we will never have to worry about a shortage of organ donors ever again. However, this technology has developed a new area of research. What if we can use this technology to combine the best of human and animal traits? What if we can create people like Spiderman? Can we isolate a gene in a spider and create a man that can walk on walls and shoot webs out of his hands? Could we isolate the regenerative gene in a lizard and create a superhuman that can regrow limbs at will? As formerly discussed, there has been a growth of experimentation performed in this area. Transhumanists believe that the time when scientists can produce a successful, viable human chimera is close in reach.
The brain is another highlighted area of Transhumanist research. What would it be like to have all access to all knowledge at any given moment? What would it be like to have complete control over all of your thoughts and feelings? What would it be like to never feel hurt, never feel anger, never feel sadness? To always feel happy and peaceful? Could it be possible to manipulate the brain to never feel anger, to always feel happy, to implant all known knowledge into one individual?
Transhumanists’ main goal in their neurological research is to ultimately obtain omniscience, access to all knowledge, and to only feel feelings of happiness. How does one go about accomplishing this? One method is to map the entire brain and to create a code for each action and feeling through electrical signals. A group of scientists from 80 different European nations are working on simulating the human brain in the Blue Brain Project, a branch of the Human Brain Project. Once the code is created, they want to create a microchip to implant into the individual’s brain. Once all of the brain’s electrical signals are downloaded in the microchip, the neurologist is able to take the microchip, download it into a computer, and through the coding take out feelings of anger, avarice, and sadness, and implant feelings of euphoria. Transhumanist scientist Dr. Michio Kaku recently said on a Johns Hopkins University news report that scientists had just performed this experiment with a mouse. They coded a specific behavior of the mouse, downloaded the behavior into a microchip, manipulated the code on the computer, and when the microchip was put back into the mouse, the mouse started acting upon the new behavior. Google recently hired Ray Kurzweil as their Chief futurist, who is arguably one of the most famous futurists in the world and a leading Transhumanists spokesperson. Kurzweil seeks to take the index of information from Google, download it into a microchip for brain implantation, and enable humans to have all access to the same information that the Google search engine can access.
In the next decade, Transhumanism may become the single most influential bioethical issue in our society due to its core mission to redefine what it means to be human. Subsequently, Transhumanism is going to encompass every current bioethical issue: abortion, stem cell research, cloning, euthanasia, etc. because these specific areas of research are the tools by which Transhumanists seek to attain their ideal post-human form. As Transhumanism grows in influence, it will force our society to answer “What does it mean to be human,” and our society’s answer to this question will define the course of our future as a people. Though the movement is little known and little understood in popular culture today, it is imperative that the Church prepares for this movement now by knowing how to answer the key ideological questions that the Transhumanists are attempting to redefine. The Church needs to be able to articulate clearly what the Christian alternative to the materialistic worldview of the Transhumanist is and to effectively reach out in love to those who are pursuing an agenda that ultimately is futile and leads inevitably to hopelessness and death.
Katarina Bradford is a freshman at Hillsdale College. She has interned twice with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, the first time with their South East Asia office in Singapore during the summer of 2013, and the second at their headquarters in Atlanta during the summer of 2014.
1. “See official Transhumanist Website under FAQ’s: humanity+.org”
Humanity+.org. "Transhumanist FAQ." Humanity+ Transhumanist FAQ Comments. Web.
3. “See official Transhumanist website for a deeper explanation of Max More’s definition at humanity+.org under FAQ’s”
Humanity+.org. "Transhumanist FAQ." Humanity+ Transhumanist FAQ Comments. Web.
4. The Amazing Spiderman. Dir. Marc Webb. Perf. Rhys Ifans (as Dr. Connors). Universal, 2012. Film.
5. “See official Transhumanist website for a deeper explanation of the posthuman at humanity+.org under FAQ’s”
Humanity+.org. "Transhumanist FAQ." Humanity+ Transhumanist FAQ Comments. Web.
6. Humanity+.org. "Transhumanist FAQ." Humanity+ Transhumanist FAQ Comments. Web.
7. “Max More’s quote occurs 11:49 minutes into the documentary”
TechnoCalpys. Dir. Frank Theys. Votnik Production Co., 2006. Online Documentary.
8. “Dr. Robert White’s interview occurs 3 minutes into the documentary”
TechnoCalpys. Dir. Frank Theys. Votnik Production Co., 2006. Online Documentary.
9. Munkittrick, Kyle. "When Will We Be Transhuman? Seven Conditions for Attaining Transhumanism: Science Not Fiction." Science Not Fiction. Discover Magazine, 16 July 2011. Web.
10. “See official Transhumanist website for further explanation at www.humanity+.org under FAQ’s”
Humanity+.org. "Transhumanist FAQ." Humanity+ Transhumanist FAQ Comments. Web.
11. See Wesley J. Smith’s full response to Belinda Silbert’s statement in this article:
Smith, Wesley J. "Wesley J. Smith - Transhumanists Want to Be Gods." National Review Online. National Review, 25 Feb. 2013. Web.
13. Limitless. Dir. Neil Burger. Perf. Bradley Cooper. Roadshow, 2011. Film.
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15. Transcendence. Dir. Wally Pfister. Perf. Johnny Depp. Alcon Entertainment, 2014. Film.
16. The entire “Historical Development” is based upon Nick Bostrom’s article “History of Transhumanist Thought.” See the full article at this source:
Bostrom, Nick. "A History of Transhumanist Thought." Journal of Evolution and Technology (2005): Www.nickbostrom.com. Pearson Longman. Web.
20. Mirandola, Giovanni Pico Della. Oration on the Dignity of Man. Chicago: Gateway Editions, 1956. Print.
21. Bostrom, Nick. "A History of Transhumanist Thought." Journal of Evolution and Technology (2005): Www.nickbostrom.com. Pearson Longman. Web.
22. Darwin, Charles. The Origin of the Species. Ware: Wordsworth Editions, 1998. Print.
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31. See Audrey de Grey’s full article on this site:
"Aubrey De Grey on the Undoing of Aging." Fight Aging! Fight Aging!, 19 Apr. 2013. Web.
32. Chang, Emily. ""In China, DNA Tests on Kids ID Genetic Gifts, Careers"" CNN. Cable News Network, 5 Aug. 2009. Web.
33. Daniel Martin for the Daily Mail. "150 Human Animal Hybrids Grown in UK Labs: Embryos Have Been Produced Secretively for the past Three Years." Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 22 July 2011. Web.
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35. “See 9:15 minutes to 11:30 minutes of the documentary to receive more information:”
TechnoCalpys. Dir. Frank Theys. Votnik Production Co., 2006. Online Documentary.
36. “See the ‘In Brief’ link on the Blue Brain Project’s website to learn more: www.bluebrain.epfl.ch”
The Blue Brain Project. "Accessibility Links." The Blue Brain Project: In Brief. Ecole Polytechnique Eederale De Lausanne, 2013. Web.
37. Michio Kaku, and Johns Hopkins University. "Transhumanism Knocking on Your Door." YouTube. YouTube, 29 Mar. 2014. Web.
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