[Paleopsych] Crosswalk: (Wesley Smith) The Revolt Against Human Nature
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The Revolt Against Human Nature
Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2005 Posted: 8:10:29PM EST
Are you ready for the posthuman future? That is the frightening
question posed by Wesley J. Smith in his new book, Consumer's Guide to
a Brave New World. Smith, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and
special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture, has
written another book that demands the attention of every thoughtful
We are living in an age of radical transformations in science,
technology, and worldview. Standing at the center of the worldview now
dominant in our society is an affirmation that human beings have the
right, if not the responsibility, to "improve" themselves in every
way. In a culture that celebrates youth, attractiveness, and
achievement, the idea of personal improvement is now being stretched
beyond what previous generations could have imagined.
"It is a natural human desire to manipulate our bodies to look better,
feel better, and age better," Smith explains. "We not only wish to be
free of disease, but also deeply desire to remain youthful in
appearance and physical vigor."
With "Botox parties" and cosmetic surgery now becoming routine, many
Americans simply assume that personal enhancement is a basic right.
Now, some want to push beyond natural biological barriers in order to
achieve even greater "enhancements" in the future. We now face the
undeniable truth that at least some of our fellow citizens are ready
to use genetic enhancements, cloning technologies, and germ line
engineering to achieve what some now call a posthuman future.
Genetic modifications and germ line therapies differ from previous
technologies of personal enhancement, Smith explains. Plastic
surgery--even something as radical as what are called sex change
procedures--affect only one individual's body. Nothing from those
surgeries impacts the genetic inheritance passed down to subsequent
All this changes when genetic modifications and germ line technologies
enter the picture.
"What if a father could insert a gene to transform his daughter into
the concert pianist he always wanted to be, or an atheist do likewise
to ensure that his children would be genetically predisposed (if it
proves possible) to shun religious belief?" Smith asks, adding, "And
what if these modifications passed down the generations?"
Existing medical technologies would not yet allow these developments.
Nevertheless, with the successful cloning of other mammals, the
completion of the Human Genome Project, and the creation of transgenic
human-animal hybrids, science fiction is likely soon to become science
Smith warns that all this could lead to what some now call a posthuman
race. Others are now pushing for what they call transhumanism, which
Smith warns is now "organizing with the intensity of a religious
Once confined to academic debate and the literary world of science
fiction, these proposals are now taken seriously by scientists,
medical doctors, and ethical observers. As Smith notes, "While
transhumanism is relatively new, the idea that we should apply the
full array of new technologies to remake the natural human order has
been bubbling up in radical bioethics and academic philosophical
discourse for decades."
The late Joseph Fletcher, infamously known as the father of
situational ethics, was, Smith reminds, "a devoted believer in an
anything-goes approach to Brave New World innovations." Believing that
no natural limits were sacred, Fletcher became a prophet for a new
social revolution that would redefine humanity with the goal, Smith
warns, of creating a race of "superior people."
Taken alone, that one comment should be sufficient to prove that we
are entering a new age of eugenics. Some of the greatest moral horrors
experienced by humanity during the twentieth century came in the form
of eugenic arguments, experiments, and procedures. Determined to
create a new master race, the doctors of Nazi Germany invented new and
diabolical forms of eugenic engineering and eventually participated in
efforts to eliminate inferior races by genocide.
Less well remembered is the fact that many Americans also supported
eugenic movements. Following Planned Parenthood founder Margaret
Sanger's dictum, "more children from the fit, less from the unfit,"
American eugenics advocates generally limited their proposals to the
use of contraception for those considered unfit to reproduce and
incentives for the "fit" to breed.
Given the calamitous landscape of the twentieth century, one might
think that the ideology of eugenics would have been thoroughly
discredited and socially discarded. To the contrary, a new form of
eugenic ideology has now emerged. As Wesley J. Smith explains, this
new form of eugenic advocacy "can be summarized in that word that
trumps all others: Choice."
Smith cites Philip Kitcher, author of The Lives to Come: The Genetic
Revolution and Human Possibilities, as arguing for a "laissez-faire
eugenics" which would allow persons to "create their own versions of
optimal human life--a prospect that Kitcher naively assures us will
work out just fine because there will be a 'universally shared respect
When the ideology of choice is translated into momentum for a new
eugenics movement, we are in big trouble. Reckless confidence in new
scientific technologies is often translated into a sense that every
new technology shifts from what is possible to what is necessary. As
Smith warns, some now argue that America should begin experimenting
with new eugenic technologies simply to counter any similar move made
by a foreign nation.
Many of the proposals now taken seriously by the scientific
establishment are simply breathtaking. Gregory E. Pence promotes human
cloning as a means to allow parents to pass down a "wonderful genetic
legacy" to future generations. Gregory Stock, director of the Program
on Medicine, Technology and Society at the UCLA School of Medicine,
argues that human beings should be free to redefine themselves and
their offspring. As Smith explains, "This could include inserting
animal DNA into human embryos, inserting or removing chromosomes,
inserting artificial chromosomes into a genetically engineered embryo,
or perhaps altering human capacities through nanotechnology."
As Stock sees it, this may mean that the human species will branch off
in different directions. Reproduction would take place in
laboratories, since biological reproduction through human sex would
lead to unpredictable outcomes. In this new posthuman age, parents
would order their children like designer products and would, like all
informed and demanding consumers, insist upon the latest chromosomal
Gregory Pence goes so far as to argue that children will one day be
chosen as we now choose pets. "When it comes to non-human animals we
think nothing of trying to match the breed to the needs of the owner,"
Pence asserts. "Could people be chosen the same way? Would it be so
terrible to allow parents to at least aim for a certain type, in the
same way that great breeders . . . try to match a breed of dog to the
needs of a family?"
Wouldn't all this lead to a deep unfairness in terms of competition
among human beings? Some advocate a form of "egalitarian eugenics"
that would require government support, Smith explains, "to ensure that
all parents have an equal choice to participate in the coming genetic
This is nothing less than an audacious attempt to redefine what it
means to be human. As Smith understands, "The deeper one delves into
the posthuman agenda, the clearer it becomes that dissatisfaction with
natural humanity lies at its heart."
Behind the eugenics movement stands a fundamental hatred of humanity.
"These people and kindred would-be enhancers think that human life has
no special meaning in itself," Smith explains, "but that the value of
any life--animal, human, posthuman, machine, space alien--depends upon
the individual's measurable capacities, particularly his or her level
Inescapably, vital worldview issues are at stake. "Transhumanists
embrace extreme materialism and scientism," Smith understands. "Driven
by an ethos of radical individualism that countenances no restraints
and disdains moral limits on personal behavior, believing that they
possess the wisdom to improve the human species, longing desperately
for corporeal immortality, transhumanists expect to mount a rebellion
against nature that will, in the movement's eschatology, result in the
literal re-creation of human life."
East of Eden, human beings have been frustrated with the limitations
of our nature. The first sin was, after all, an attempt to defy God's
authority by claiming for human beings what had been forbidden. That
first sin has spawned a legacy of continuing and accelerating efforts
to transcend the human condition. Dissatisfied with our bodies, we
want to defy aging and turn ourselves into beautiful machines that
will never age, fail, or die. Pushing the limits of cognitive
ambition, some demand the right to enhance human
consciousness--whatever the cost--in an effort to maximize human
performance. In this age of radical and revolutionary technological
advancements, many of our fellow citizens would gladly trade the
long-term risks of germ line engineering for the immediate
gratification of genetic enhancement.
Wesley J. Smith is profoundly correct when he identifies the root
problem as a basic hatred of humanity. The prophets of these new
technologies point to a utopian vision of posthumanity. As advertised,
their vision would include no one who is, in their eyes, genetically
substandard, or even unenhanced. Some go far as to predict a new
two-class structure for human society, with the genetically superior
ruling over a genetically inferior class of workers and servants.
All this represents a Promethean effort to transcend human nature,
redefine humanity, and be as gods. We have heard all this before, of
course. This is the ancient song of human moral disaster set to a new
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by
Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily
national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to
www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to
mail at albertmohler.com. Original Copy from Crosswalk.com.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Christian Post Columnist
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