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Life

Jan 08, 2019 by Alyssa Duvall

Why Christians Need To Avoid The Transhumanist Trap

It may sound too sci-fi to be worthy of consideration but, honestly, did you ever think we'd have something like Siri or Alexa when you were a kid? Technology moves fast, and sometimes it carries ideology with it. Transhumanism, the theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology, is rapidly gaining broader popularity and acceptance within the culture.

In an insightful editorial for The Gospel Coalition, Jacob Shatzer seeks to address the issue of transhumanism and why it's a problem Christians need to stand up and notice.

"We live in a culture that puts more and more in the “changeable” category," Shatzer opens. "Not only do we have increasing abilities to change things about ourselves, but our culture champions the right—even the necessity—to change in order to follow our hearts."

"This self-construction narrative connects to various Enlightenment ideas and sensibilities of the past, but it doesn’t stop there. It also connects to transhumanist visions of the future, visions that claim there should be no limit on 'self-improvement'—no matter how you define 'self' or 'improvement,'" Shatzer explains, careful to illustrate that transhumanism isn't just about becoming a cyborg or "uploading" your consciousness to a computer. "It’s about endless possibilities, many of which are on offer right now."

"At root, transhumanism is a commitment to use whatever we can to move to the next stage of human evolution," Shatzer continues, outlining what we might call the transhumanist manifesto. "If humans have the ability to take more control, why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we change in the ways we want to? Transhumanism inevitably moves toward posthumanism—that stage when we’ve moved beyond the human."

So, how do transhumanists work toward the end of moving beyond human in the so-called chain of evolution? "We’re talking enhancement: actions to add to or change what’s within the range of normal human life," Shatzer explains. Not just cosmetic changes or corrective enhancements like eyeglasses, restorative dental work, prosthetics to restore quality of life, mind you. Something much, much bigger, 

According to transhumanists, Shatzer continues, people should have what he calls "morphological freedom," the freedom to change any part of ourselves for our own happiness. " toEveryone has both a right to life and also a right to seek happiness. Happiness can only be defined through self-determination and self-construction. Both survival and happiness require a right to freedom. Therefore, the right to modify one’s body logically follows."

"The problem isn’t the freedom in morphological freedom," Shatzer says, "but in the total commitment to self-determination. Christians believe that true happiness is found in God, not in self-creation. Any freedom we exercise in relation to our bodies, therefore, should be oriented to that chief aim—to flourish in relationship to God. Morphological freedom is built on a perspective of grasping control rather than obeying the call of God."

Next, Shatzer continues, "if we have the right to morphological freedom, and we can take advantage of whatever technology we wish to, then what about beginning to merge with technology?"

"This leads to 'augmented reality,' in which the technological connection mediates reality to you and changes your reality." We're all familiar with apps that utilize this technology, most notably Pokemon Go, but Shatzer explains that the issue is much broader than just games on your phone.

"For transhumanists, augmented reality is a way to pursue life expansion via cybernetics, merging human and machine," Shatzer writes. "It can happen with minimal integration—looking through special glasses or a smartphone—but it expands far beyond... [it] further promotes this vision of grasping for control and mastery over our worlds, rather than living faithfully before God who is in control and who calls us to serve."

The next logical step after transhumanism's second phase is the full blending of human with machine via any feasible method of "mind uploading."

"Few Christians today would opt in for this aspect of transhumanism. I trust that few in your small group want to create a mindclone or upload their consciousness to a computer," Shatzer explains. "But as we’ve seen in these three steps of transhumanist logic, we’re not as far from this as we might think, given our different degrees of acceptance of morphological freedom and augmented reality."

"In other words," Shatzer says, "we may be more on our way toward this vision for existence—due to our acceptance of other practices and ideas—than we care to admit."

Transhumanism is certainly far out, but it is out there, and it's a real problem for Christians to be aware of, and to avoid as we set our minds and our hearts on Christ, not happiness, Shatzer concludes: "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."



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