[Paleopsych] CBC: Will Human Beings Remain Truly Human? by Wesley J. Smith
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Fri Aug 13 15:17:12 UTC 2004
Will Human Beings Remain Truly Human? by Wesley J. Smith
(Register for the Techno-Sapien Conference Today)
Brave New World is closing in upon us at mach speed. Consider the mind
boggling technological potentials that have gone, in just the last few
years, from science fiction to very real science potential. The most
obvious of these is the prospect of human cloning. But following just
behind that biotechnology is a radical concept that makes cloning seem
about as novel as a transistor radio; the drive toward a post human
world known as "transhumanism."
Transhumanism is a nascent and explicitly eugenic philosophy that
advocates seizing control of human evolution through bioengineering.
Transhumanists come from the highest levels of academe. The founder of
the movement, Nick Bostrom, is a professor of philosophy at Yale
University who recently received a three-year fellowship at Oxford
University. Other pioneer transhumanists include Professor James
Hughes of Trinity College, Hartford, and Gregory Stock, director of
the Program on Medicine, Technology, and Society at the School of
Medicine, UCLA and author of the recent book, Redesigning Humans.
Transhumanists are biotech-absolutists. They assert that humans should
not merely be allowed to metamorphose themselves through plastic
surgery, cyber-technology, and the like, but should have the right to
control the destiny of their genes via progeny design and fabrication.
This could include replacing natural chromosomes with artificial
chromosomes, increasing or decreasing the number of chromosomes in
offspring or clones, and even in Hughes words, "mixing species
University of Alabama bioethicist Gregory E. Pence, an enthusiastic
proponent of cloning-to-produce-children, also promotes mixing human
and animal genes. In his book, Who's Afraid of Human Cloning? Pence
writes, "In some ultimate sense, humans are both nothing more, and as
wonderful as, compassionate monkeys." By "weakening the ethical
boundary between non-human and human animals," he asserts that it will
be easier to "do to humans some of the things we think quite sane to
do to animals," beginning with cloning and moving from there to
Transhumanists intend to take us on a long march to post humanity. If
that is not to happen, we will have to resist. Unfortunately,
transhumanists have arrived among us at a weak moment when traditional
sanctity-of-human-life cultural norms have been undermined
significantly. But the future won't wait for us to regain our moral
equilibrium. Genetic science is advancing at an almost reckless pace.
If we are going to maintain the equal dignity of all human life in the
face of the biotechnological threat, society will have to act.
Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics has
written, "It is our difficult task to find ways to preserve [society]
from the soft dehumanizations of well-meaning but hubristic
biotechnical 'recreationism'-and to do it without undermining
biomedical science or rejecting its genuine contributions to human
welfare." This crucial task will require informed and committed public
participation in which people become aware of both the potentials and
perils of our unfolding technological world, and be able to
distinguish between the two.
This is why the upcoming CBC conference---"Technosapians: The Face of
the Future?" -is so important. The conference will bring together some
of the leading thinkers on these issues in one place to debate,
discuss, and ponder the potential consequences of transhumanism and a
post human future. I urge all to attend, and then be willing to
participate through our democratic institutions in helping society
benefit from biotechnology without succumbing to it.
Author Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute
is a special consultant to the CBC. He is currently working on books
about human cloning and animal rights.
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