Thinking Biblically About Transhumanist Technologies

Examining biotechnology—from medical therapies to radical modifications

by Patricia Engler on January 11, 2023
Featured in Answers in Depth
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From governments to billionaires, powerful voices tell us we stand on the brink of a biotechnological revolution that will drastically alter humanity.1 Technologies that enable radical modification of human genes, bodies, thinking, reproduction, and communication already exist—and are rapidly advancing. Nearly 20 years ago, the President’s Council for Bioethics urged for greater public discussion of biotechnologies meant to “enhance” humans, recognizing that today’s choices will establish a trajectory that could shape society—and humanity—in unprecedented, unintended, and irreversible ways.2 Given the stakes involved, Christians need tools for thinking biblically and critically about each application of these technologies as they emerge.

The following discussion introduces these tools by comparing secular and biblical worldview foundations for thinking about enhancement, clarifying key distinctions for discussing enhancements, and suggesting a Christian framework for responding to enhancement technologies. First, a brief introduction to the topic of enhancement is in order.

What Is Human Enhancement?

The term “human enhancement” can mean anything from moderately improving someone’s natural abilities to radically modifying humankind. The latter is the vision of transhumanism, which seeks to technologically evolve humans into post-human—and possibly “Godlike”—beings.3 Recent tools to pursue this vision include brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), nanotechnologies, and gene-editing tools like CRISPR. Although these tools’ limitations lead some scholars to question if biotechnology can “evolve” humans the way transhumanists imagine,4 visions of enhancement continue to capture public, government, and military attention.5

Not only can different technologies entail different ethical implications, but different applications of a single technology may entail different implications depending on purpose, consequences, and context.

Not all applications of enhancement-enabling biotechnologies may fall under the same ethical categories. Not only can different technologies entail different ethical implications, but different applications of a single technology may entail different implications depending on purpose, consequences, and context. Such applications require case-by-case considerations, which will often depend on a person’s worldview.

Human Enhancement and a Secular Worldview

A secular worldview assumes humans evolved through natural processes. Without a knowable Creator as the source of truth, humans become their own “creators” and authorities. Consequently, secularism cannot supply an objective, consistent, overarching foundation for concepts including morality, human value, or human meaning.6 Secularism’s evolutionary outlook also sees human “nature” as strictly material and openly changeable, resulting in a poietic view which, according to Carl Trueman, “sees the world as so much raw material out of which meaning and purpose can be created by the individual.”7 This outlook finds its ultimate expression in transhumanism, which views human bodies as raw material for creating a post-human reality.

Despite lacking a moral foundation for viewing death and suffering as bad, secular transhumanists do generally recognize these as problems demanding a savior.8 The transhumanist hope is that technology will serve as messiah, creating a utopia freed from finitude. However, not only does this framework conflict with a biblical view of sin and salvation,9 but secular transhumanist concepts also self-contradict.10 For instance, having no objective standard of goodness means having no objective standard of enhancement. Secular transhumanists must also borrow moral content from outside secularism to claim that enhancements—not to mention the concepts of liberty, autonomy, and utopia so prevalent in transhumanist arguments—are good.

These inconsistencies do not just pose theoretical problems, but also practical ones. For instance, while goals of furthering human evolution do not guarantee consequences like eugenics and Social Darwinism, transhumanism’s aims are certainly consistent with these outcomes—especially given secularism’s lack of foundations for morality and human value. The rise of an enhanced elite with power to outcompete—or eliminate—the unenhanced would be the ultimate testament to Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.”11 Correspondingly, it may be no surprise that the person who popularized the term transhumanism was Julian Huxley,12 the evolutionary biologist (and first Director-General of UNESCO) who served from 1959–1962 as the president of the British Eugenics Society.13 In sum, a eugenics mentality plus an enhanced elite plus powerful biotechnology minus a foundation for morality would total an unimaginably precarious equation.

Human Enhancement and a Biblical Worldview

In contrast to secularism, a biblical framework for thinking about enhancement begins with Genesis, which reveals that God designed an orderly universe with distinctions between Creator and creation, humans and nonhumans, and men and women. Having deemed his completed creation very good (Genesis 1:31),14 God rested from creating, as Genesis 2:1–2 twice underscores.15 These Genesis truths point to a givenness in nature, consistent with a mimetic view which, according to Trueman, “regards the world as having a given order and a given meaning”16 to which humans must conform themselves.

Genesis further indicates that God created humans in his image as relational, embodied beings called to steward creation.17 Individually, we are also called to fulfill good works for which God created us as the unique persons whose bodies he lovingly knitted.18 We do not own our bodies to use however we choose19—much less to recreate ourselves into beings other than humans. Instead, the concept of an essential human nature appears to be taken for granted throughout Scripture20 and is foundational to much orthodox theology. For instance, the doctrines of the incarnation, atonement, and redemption entail that God took on human nature as the second Adam to save descendants of the first Adam.21

It was this first Adam’s sin which corrupted creation, resulting in brokenness, death, and suffering. While humans have always been finite in relation to God, we are now also fallen and able to die. Loving others carries new responsibilities in this fallen world, such as caring for the vulnerable, exercising wisdom in light of human fallenness, and mitigating the fall’s effects by easing others’ suffering. But contrary to transhumanist dreams, we cannot defeat sin’s effects ourselves.22 Instead, we hope in our Savior, Jesus, who conquered death and will restore creation.

Theological Positions on Enhancement: Are Humans “Co-Creators” with God?

This biblical worldview supplies a Christian foundation for thinking about enhancements. But not all professing Christians reach the same conclusions. Various theologians and Christian ethicists conclude that enhancements are prima facie immoral for trespassing against God’s given designs;23 some, however, argue that limited enhancements may be allowable, provided they do not pose other concerns or transform humans into nonhumans.24 Still others fully embrace radical human modification.25 A common argument for such “Christianized transhumanism” comes from Philip Hefner’s view of humans as “created co-creators.”26 Advocates for this concept argue that, as beings made in their Creator’s image, humans are meant to join God in creating humanity.27 However, a closer look reveals this concept is not biblical.

For instance, while humans are creative as image-bearers, we are not creators on a level with God,28 who creates ex nihilo.29 Correspondingly, one scholar notes that Scripture uses the Hebrew word create (בָּרָא, bārā') almost 50 times in relation to God, but only 4 times—none of which refer to literal creative acts—in relation to humans.30 As Psalm 100:3 (NKJV) declares, “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves. . . .” Not only does this passage reaffirm the Creator-creation boundary, but the verb tense of has made also echoes that God completed creation.31 While we are called to steward creation, Genesis nowhere indicates that we are meant to “co-create” ourselves further.32

So, if the co-creator idea does not come from Scripture, where does it come from? It is rooted in Hefner’s highly unorthodox, theistic-evolution-based revisions of core biblical doctrines including sin,33 the dual nature of Christ,34 the cross, and the atonement,35 that heretically claim that Jesus died, not to pay humanity’s sin debt, but to show how to advance evolution.36 These revisions are not peripheral to Hefner’s co-creator concept; rather, Hefner states that his chapter section on “Revising Christological Doctrines” conveys “the heart of the actual content of the program for the created co-creator.”37

Adopting the evolutionary view that humans are continuous with nature, Hefner also reinterprets God’s image as something which applies to all nature.38 This reinterpretation carries major problems from a Christian ethics perspective, undermining the biblical view that God’s image sets humans apart from animals and imbues humanity with unique responsibilities and rights.39 Furthermore, the idea that humans lack a unique image-bearing nature means that whatever God deemed very good about humans must not be our nature but our changeability, leaving no basis to respect humans as they are.40 Ultimately, Hefner’s created co-creator concept is incompatible with biblical doctrines and biblical ethics, so it cannot serve as the basis for a biblical response to enhancement technologies. Rather than starting from theistic evolutionary reinterpretations of Scripture, a biblical response to these technologies must begin from the foundation of a commitment to the authority of God’s Word.

Three Distinctions for Thinking About Enhancements

When assessing specific enhancement technologies from this biblical foundation, three distinctions are especially useful: (1) normal vs. enhanced states, (2) therapies vs. enhancements, and (3) tools vs. modifications.

When assessing specific enhancement technologies from this biblical foundation, three distinctions are especially useful: (1) normal vs. enhanced states, (2) therapies vs. enhancements, and (3) tools vs. modifications. All three distinctions have blurry boundaries, complicated by the fact that ideas about what is normal, healthy, or diseased may vary by culture or across time.41 However, a distinction between concepts is not disposable simply because the concepts’ boundaries are vague.42 To say otherwise would be an informal logical error known as the continuum fallacy. For instance, Soren Holm and Mike McNamee point out that shades of red and yellow may blur into one another, yet the conceptual difference between red and yellow remains real and useful—especially at traffic lights.43

Correspondingly, distinctions between concepts like normal and diseased remain useful despite vagueness. Pinpointing detailed definitions of health and disease surpasses the scope of this discussion; however, to the extent that healthy and diseased states are recognizable in practice, normal states can be understood for this discussion as those which fall within the range of natural human variation without qualifying as diseased.44 Such a definition provides an imperfect but largely practical baseline for discerning normal states from enhanced states.

The second distinction to clarify is enhancement vs. therapy. Because therapies are generally considered ethical, a number of ethicists use this distinction to gauge if a relevant biotechnological intervention is acceptable.45 Others, however, object that enhancement and therapy are overlapping concepts.46 Eyeglasses, for instance, enhance vision, while some say vaccines enhance already-healthy immune systems.47 However, much conceptual blurriness can be erased by defining therapy as the preservation or restoration of normalcy.48 This definition would assert that both glasses and vaccines function therapeutically, restoring vision or preventing disease.49

To further clarify the boundaries of what counts as an enhancement, Claudio Tamburrini and Torbjorn Tannsjo suggest distinguishing between three categories of interventions this way: (1) negative medical interventions are therapeutic, (2) positive interventions improve a trait within the naturally occurring human range, and (3) proper enhancements “take an individual beyond normal functioning.”50 These categories are not always clear-cut, especially if certain therapies may carry individuals beyond normal function (albeit, potentially with certain trade-offs).51 However, the fact that such cases can occur in individual medical contexts does not logically provide moral grounds for a radical enhancement free-for-all. It is also worth repeating that a boundary is not useless simply because it may be blurry.

After recognizing the enhancement-therapy boundary’s validity, the task remains to show its moral significance.52 While secularism cannot supply moral content to condemn or condone either enhancements or therapies, Christians can seek moral guidance from God’s Word. As noted above, Scripture not only portrays humanity’s embodied nature as given and good, but also indicates that individuals are knit together by God for specific good works.53 The reality that we have been fashioned by a sovereign, loving, all-knowing Creator suggests that ambitions to transcend human or individual traits (which do not reflect results of the fall) are inappropriate.54

Biblical morality also affirms contented, thankful stewardship of God’s gifts.55 However, Scripture condemns covetousness, pride, greed, idolatry, ingratitude, complaining, selfish ambition, and disobedience to God—all of which reflect plausible factors in humanity’s fall.56 So Christians can expand on the therapy-enhancement distinction by considering whether an intervention primarily mitigates the fall’s effects or mirrors the fall’s causes.57 Medical therapies aim to mitigate effects of suffering, as Jesus did through healing.58 Absent other concerns, therapeutic applications of dual-use technologies thus seem justifiable—especially if alternative treatment options cannot suffice. But interventions involving covetous, hubristic desires to be “like God,” or other forms of rebellion mirror the cause of the fall, qualifying as immoral.59 By factoring in motives and conveying moral significance, the mitigating-mirroring distinction may be more useful for Christian ethics than a simpler enhancement-therapy distinction.

Another distinction to consider is whether an enhancement functions primarily as a tool or an ontological modification.60 Tools are often thought of as devices we pick up, interact with via our bodies (as opposed to our thoughts alone), and then let go. Ontological modifications, in contrast, are bodily alterations meant to change humans into something other than what they are.61 Some interventions—for example, a gene-editing initiative to transform humans into aquatic creatures—would most obviously count as modifications. But wearable devices (that do not bypass bodily mediation by interfacing directly with the brain) may function more as tools, which humans use and remove while remaining their embodied, finite selves.

What about devices embedded in the body? While strictly therapeutic devices like pacemakers only mitigate the fall’s effects, many invasive devices may be dual-use technologies with both therapeutic and non-therapeutic applications.62 A helpful step in these cases is to consider the relationship between the body and the device. The more immediacy, intimacy, invasiveness, and permanency a device has relative to the body, the more a device bypasses bodily mediation; and the more a device is meant to alter humans ontologically, the more the device resembles a modification rather than a mere tool.63

Basic Ethics Questions to Consider

Along with these distinctions, Christians need to consider basic ethics questions for evaluating enhancement technologies. An initial question to ask (even before applying the above distinctions) is whether human life is harmed in making or using the technology, rendering its application unethical. The next questions to ask concern an intervention’s foreseeable risks vs. benefits. This step requires carefully considering the intervention’s possible unintended consequences, recognizing that—on a fallen planet filled with fallen people—technologies often carry significant potential to harm as well as to help. When identifying these possible consequences, three key areas to consider include the technology’s effects on (1) humans as a species, (2) humans as a society, and (3) humans as individuals.

Two central questions to ask regarding humans as a species concern how a technology may affect our creaturely embodiment and God-given relationality. For instance, Lee Johnson observes that enhancement initiatives to largely replace human bodies with technology demand caution in light of Scripture’s emphasis on the body’s importance.64 Similarly, enhancements that involve directly linking devices with the brain may bypass our embodiment—and alter our self-identities65—in ways which pose concerns from a mimetic perspective of bodily givenness. Likewise, enhancements that enable direct brain-to-brain communication66 may affect our relationality by sidestepping the bodily mediation which interpersonal interactions otherwise require.

Associated with a technology’s effects on relationality are its effects on society. For instance, a common objection to enhancements states that these interventions would introduce destructive gaps between those with and without enhancements,67 raising ethical concerns complicated by questions of whether enhancements represent appropriate uses of medical resources.68 C. Ben Mitchell and his coauthors describe how enhancements could alter entire occupations, strongly pressuring professionals to enhance themselves and triggering downstream societal effects, including the need for greater social coordination, monitoring, and control.69 Other social consequences may include increased body dysmorphia, commoditization of the body (and—in cases like the creation of enhanced “designer babies”—commoditization of children), and widespread eugenics mentalities.70

Compounding these issues are consequences for humans as individuals. For example, if enhancements become ubiquitous, would pressure to enhance grow increasingly coercive? If so, such coercion would compromise individuals’ ability to provide informed consent for enhancement procedures—an ability already complicated by the unknown effects of novel biotechnologies.71 These challenges are amplified when parents wish to enhance children, who are incompetent to provide consent.72 Additional concerns include consequences for individuals’ privacy, freedom, and autonomy, which BCI-related enhancements may especially compromise.73 Considerations of such risks can be particularly difficult because humans lack omniscience to predict all the interacting effects that a novel biotechnology may trigger. Because humanity’s Creator is omniscient, those who attempt to improve on God’s blueprints may learn the hard way why humans are designed as they are.

Summary: A Biblical Framework for Thinking About Enhancement Technologies

In summary, biblical principles, conceptual distinctions, and general ethics considerations combine to give Christians a framework for responding to specific enhancement interventions.

In summary, biblical principles, conceptual distinctions, and general ethics considerations combine to give Christians a framework for responding to specific enhancement interventions. The first step is to identify major topical issues surrounding the intervention and consider how biblical principles speak to each.74 Another initial question is whether human life is harmed through the intervention. If no moral issues are yet apparent, the next step is to identify the nature of the intervention using the conceptual distinctions addressed above. The more an intervention mirrors the fall’s cause or seeks to transcend God’s given design, the more morally suspect it becomes. Finally, Christians must apply basic ethical considerations to gauge whether the intervention is unwise. Then, by saying yes to technological applications which mitigate the effects of the fall, saying no to applications which mirror the cause of the fall, and embracing an embodied, relational life of thankful, contented stewardship, Christians can model genuine human flourishing amidst the biotechnological revolution. Meanwhile, believers must also communicate the message of hope which no enhancement intervention can supply, showing that the way to abundant life is found not in transhumanist efforts, but in our embodied Savior, Jesus.

Footnotes

  1. E.g., United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, Human Augmentation – The Dawn of a New Paradigm, May 13, 2021, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/human-augmentation-the-dawn-of-a-new-paradigm; Klaus Schwab, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What It Means, How to Respond,” World Economic Forum, January 14, 2016, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/. See also “Questions Christians Need to Ask Before Using Brain-Computer Interfaces,” Answers in Genesis, November 25, 2022, https://answersingenesis.org/human-evolution/questions-brain-computer-interfaces/.
  2. The President’s Council on Bioethics, Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Perfection (New York: ReganBooks, 2003), 4–10.
  3. E.g., see Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (New York: Penguin, 2005), 389.
  4. Robert Ranisch, “When CRISPR Meets Fantasy: Transhumanism and the Military in the Age of Gene Editing,” in Transhumanism: The Proper Guide to a Posthuman Condition or a Dangerous Idea? eds. Wolfgang Hofkirchner and Hans-Jörg Kreowski (Cham,Switzerland: Springer 2021), 111–120.
  5. E.g., Policy Horizons Canada, “Exploring Biodigital Convergence,” February 11, 2020, https://horizons.gc.ca/en/2020/02/11/exploring-biodigital-convergence/; United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, Human Augmentation; and Peter Scott et al., “Cyborg Soldier 2050: Human/Machine Fusion and the Implications for the Future of the DoD,” CCDC CBC-TR-1599, Defense Technical Information Center, https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/citations/AD1083010.
  6. See Dr. Georgia Purdom and Dr. Jason Lisle, “Morality and the Irrationality of an Evolutionary Worldview,” Answers in Genesis, May 13, 2009, https://answersingenesis.org/morality/morality-and-the-irrationality-of-an-evolutionary-worldview/; Ken Ham and Avery Foley, “Do Secularists Have a Foundation for Morality?” Answers in Genesis, July 12, 2016, https://answersingenesis.org/morality/do-secularists-have-foundation-morality/; H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr., The Foundations of Bioethics, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 37–67.
  7. Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2020), 39.
  8. Patrick Hopkins, “A Salvation Paradox for Transhumanism: Saving You Versus Saving You,” in Religion and Transhumanism: The Unknown Future of Human Enhancement, eds. Calvin Mercer and Tracey Trothen, (Santa Barbara, California: Praeger, 2015), 71–81.
  9. Jason T. Eberl, “Enhancing the Imago Dei: Can a Christian Be a Transhumanist?” Christian bioethics: Non-Ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality 28, no. 1 (January 2022): 76–93, https://doi.org/10.1093/cb/cbab016. See also Calvin Smith, “Post-humans in the Metaverse: Transhumanism and the Evolution Connection,” Answers in Genesis, February 22, 2022, https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/calvin-smith/2022/02/22/post-humans-in-the-metaverse/.
  10. See also James Hughes, “Contradictions from the Enlightenment Roots of Transhumanism,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 35, no. 6 (2010): 622–640.
  11. Certainly, many supporters of human enhancement will oppose Social Darwinism, but they have no moral basis for doing so within secularism. Some may also believe that enhancements will in fact make humans more moral; however, this outlook tends to underestimate not only the abilities of technology but also the fallenness of humanity. See Joel Thompson, “Transhumanism: How Far is Too Far?” The New Bioethics 23, no. 2 (2017): 165–182.
  12. Julian Huxley, “Transhumanism,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology 8, no. 1 (1968): 73–76.
  13. Paul Weindling, “Julian Huxley and the Continuity of Eugenics in Twentieth-Century Britain,” Journal of Modern European History 10, no. 4 (2012): 480–499.
  14. Notably, God can objectively call something good because his character is the source and standard of goodness, establishing a foundation for morality.
  15. Importantly, the word finished (כָּלָה, kālâh) in these verses typically refers to making a total end of something. (See James Strong, The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Red Letter ed. [Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2001], 130. While one of Strong’s definitions listed here for kālâh (1c) is “the process of ending,” Strong associates kālâh in Genesis 2:1 with definition 1a, “the ‘end’ of a process or action.”)
  16. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, 39.
  17. See Genesis 1:26; c.f. Genesis 2:15.
  18. See Ephesians 2:10 and Psalm 139:13.
  19. E.g., 1 Corinthians 6:19–20.
  20. For instance, Genesis 1 and 2 record how God created humans separately and differently from animals; furthermore, Scripture refers to humans alone as being made in God’s image and able to be redeemed.
  21. The relationship between the first Adam and second Adam is outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:21–22 and 45–49.
  22. Transhumanism’s flawed soteriology is discussed in Patrick Hopkins, “A Salvation Paradox for Transhumanism,” in Religion and Transhumanism, 71–81.
  23. E.g., C. Ben Mitchell et al., Biotechnology and the Human Good (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2007), 150–151; the International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God, Vatican, 2004, §§ 82, 91, https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040723_communion-stewardship_en.html.
  24. E.g., Eberl, “Enhancing the Imago Dei.”
  25. Examples can be found in Stephen Garner, “Christian Theology and Transhumanism: The ‘Created Co-Creator’ and Bioethical Principles,” in Religion and Transhumanism, 229–243.
  26. Philip Hefner, The Human Factor: Evolution, Culture, and Religion (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 1993).
  27. E.g., Ted Peters, Playing God? Genetic Determinism and Human Freedom (New York: Routledge, 1997), 168–170. Notably, the forward for Peters’ book, which applies Hefner’s co-creator concept to argue for human gene editing, was written by Francis Collins, founder of the major theistic evolutionary organization BioLogos. For more on BioLogos, see Calvin Smith, “BioLogos: House of Heresy & False Teaching, Part 1,” Answers in Genesis, January 17, 2022, https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/calvin-smith/2022/01/17/biologos-heresy-and-false-teaching-part-1/.
  28. Hefner acknowledges, but does not subsequently deny, the objection that the term “co-creator” implies that humans are somehow on par with God (Hefner, The Human Factor, 236–237).
  29. Some suggest that humans who invent new names, words, or sentences are creating ex nihilo (e.g., Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2008], 104); however, using our preexisting, God-given faculties for thinking and language to invent new patterns of symbolic, immaterial information is immensely different from literally speaking new material realities into existence from nothing. Advocates for the created co-creator concept may emphasize the term created to note that humans are not on God’s level (e.g., Ted Peters, “Matthew Fox and the Vatican Wolves,” Dialog 28, no. 2 [1989]: 137–142; note, however, that Peters may blur the Creator-creature boundary in other ways, such as by arguing that creation will one day “be absorbed into God” [Ted Peters, Anticipating Omega: Science, Faith, and Our Ultimate Future, (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 18]). Still, subsequent issues with the term co-creator remain problematic; see also note 28.
  30. Dennis Durst, “Uses of Biblical, Theological, and Religious Rhetoric by Cloning Advocates: A Critique,” Ethics & Medicine 24, no. 1 (2008): 25.
  31. The verb “make” (עָשָׂה, ʿāśâ) in this verse appears in perfect tense, which in ancient Hebrew indicates a past, completed action.
  32. Some have argued that creativity is part of our nature, so enhancement itself must be natural and therefore good. Certainly, God did fashion humans as creative beings—not in an ex nihilo sense of creation, but in the sense of creating with the preexisting materials which God provided and within the boundaries of creation’s given laws and order. But in our fallen world, not every application of our God-given (and therefore, “natural”) capacities are necessarily constructive, moral, or good. To suggest otherwise would be a naturalistic fallacy, an informal logical error which claims something is good simply because it occurs in (fallen) nature.
  33. Hefner, The Human Factor, 123–142.
  34. Hefner, The Human Factor, 232–234.
  35. Hefner, The Human Factor, 253.
  36. Hefner, The Human Factor, 253.
  37. Hefner, The Human Factor, 251.
  38. Hefner, The Human Factor, 237–240, 273.
  39. E.g., Genesis 9:2–6.
  40. Gerald McKenny, “Human Nature and Biotechnological Enhancement: Some Theological Considerations,” Studies in Christian Ethics 32, no. 2 (2019): 229–240. Note that McKenny is also writing from a theistic evolutionary view, despite evidently preferring to avoid the conclusions which Hefner directly distills from theistic evolution.
  41. See Engelhardt, The Foundations of Bioethics, 189–227.
  42. See Soren Holm and Mike McNamee, “Physical Enhancement: What Baseline, Whose Judgement?” in Enhancing Human Capacities, eds. Julian Savulescu, Ruud ter Meulen, and Guy Kahane (Chichester, West Sussex: Blackwell, 2011), 296.
  43. Holm and McNamme, “Physical Enhancement,” 296.
  44. Natural variation encompasses all phenotypes which can arise from the unedited genome. (For some traits, the actualization of certain phenotypes may partially depend on environmental inputs such as diet and exercise; however, the genome still sets limits on the effects which these inputs can naturally produce.) So, normal does not simply mean average or median here. Standards of “normal” also cannot change indefinitely, assuming the unedited human genome sets limits on possible natural variation. While concepts of natural genetic limitations—and therefore, of “normal” and “natural”—are more problematic in evolutionary views, the view that God created separate kinds of living things enables a “kind-typic” (rather than narrowly “species-typic”) conceptualization.
  45. See The President’s Council on Bioethics, Beyond Therapy, 13.
  46. E.g., Bjørn Hofmann, “Limits to Human Enhancement: Nature, Disease, Therapy or Betterment?” BMC Medical Ethics 18, no. 1 (2017): 1–11.
  47. E.g., Eberl, “Enhancing the Imago Dei.”
  48. This definition is conceptually similar to the understanding of therapy provided in Coenen et al., “The Politics of Human Enhancement and the European Union,” in Enhancing Human Capacities, 523–534.
  49. See Tamburrini and Tannsjo’s definition of proper enhancements below.
  50. Claudio Tamburrini and Torbjorn Tannsjo, “Enhanced Bodies,” in Enhancing Human Capacities, 274.
  51. Holm and McNamee, “Physical Enhancement,” in Enhancing Human Capacities, 295–296.
  52. Holm and McNamee, “Physical Enhancement,” 295–296.
  53. Psalm 139:13; Ephesians 2:10.
  54. The Apostle Paul denounced an analogous form of inappropriateness when he asked, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (Romans 9:20, ESV). While this passage refers to spiritual states rather than physical ones, the principle applies that God is sovereign over creation in such a way that finite creatures are not in a position to challenge the Creator’s wisdom.
  55. E.g., 1 Timothy 6:6–8; Hebrews 13:5; c.f. Philippians 4:11–13.
  56. E.g., Exodus 20:3 and 17; Proverbs 16:5; Mark 7:20–23; Luke 12:15–21; 1 Corinthians 10:7–12; Philippians 2:3.
  57. Parallels between human enhancement goals and the factors behind humanity’s fall are also noted in Mitchell et al., Biotechnology and the Human Good, 151.
  58. Importantly, mitigating effects does not mean defeating effects. For instance, lifesaving interventions can stave off death, but not eliminate death. Transhumanist initiatives to defeat death end up mirroring the fall’s cause by trying to effectively redeem humanity through human efforts and pursuing Godlike immortality on human terms.
  59. Notably, such mirroring is sufficient, but not necessary, to qualify as immoral, as other moral concerns may also exist.
  60. Ontology refers to the essence or nature of something. So, in this context, an ontological modification is an attempt to change the nature of a person—or of all humanity—into something essentially different from what it is.
  61. In contrast, bodily modifications like piercings or tattoos are (with some possible exceptions) not typically aimed at changing the ontological humanity of an individual.
  62. An example is Elon Musk’s Neuralink. See Butorac et al., “Gray Matters: Exploring Technologists’ Perceptions of Dual-Use Potentiality in Emerging Neurotechnology Applications,” Health Security 19, no. 4 (2021): 424–430.
  63. For instance, a device like the Neuralink, with electronic threads running throughout the brain to interface with thousands of neurons, seems to lean strongly toward the modification side (“Interfacing with the Brain,” Neuralink.com, accessed December 12, 2022, https://neuralink.com/approach/).
  64. This emphasis is evident, for instance, in Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection and in Paul’s teachings on the body (e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:15–20, 15:35–49). See Lee Johnson, “Return of the Corporeal Battle: How Second-Century Christology Struggles Inform the Transhumanism Debate,” in Religion and Transhumanism, 273–289.
  65. Frederic Gilbert et al., “Embodiment and Estrangement: Results from a First-in-Human ‘Intelligent BCI’ Trial,” Science and Engineering Ethics 25, no. 1 (2019): 83–96.
  66. Vladimir Maksimenko et al., “Increasing Human Performance by Sharing Cognitive Load Using Brain-to-Brain Interface,” Frontiers in Neuroscience 12 (2018): 949.
  67. Regarding this objection, Joel Thompson notes enhancement advocates may reply that social gaps will decrease as enhancements grow ubiquitous and that altered governance and technologies for “moral enhancements” could help prevent the “haves” from overpowering the “have nots” in the meantime. Thompson responds that such views place unjustified confidence in the efficacy of “moral enhancements” which raise ethical questions of their own (Joel Thompson, “Transhumanism: How Far is Too Far?” The New Bioethics 23, no. 2 [2017]: 165–182; Birgit Beck, “Conceptual and Practical Problems of Moral Enhancement,” Bioethics 29, no. 4 [2015]: 233–240). Furthermore, the type of “altered governance” which may foreseeably arise in response to an enhanced society may not at all be consistent with democratic freedom, posing further societal problems still (Mitchell et al., Biotechnology and the Human Good, 12–13; see also James Hughes, “Contradictions from the Enlightenment Roots of Transhumanism,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 35, no. 6 [2010]: 622–640).
  68. Holm and McNamee, “Physical Enhancement,” 300–301.
  69. Mitchell et al., Biotechnology and the Human Good, 12–13. For tips on discerning whether such arguments contain slippery slope fallacies, see “Logical Fallacies: Slippery Slope Arguments,” Answers in Genesis, February 10, 2021, https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/patricia-engler/2021/02/10/logical-fallacies-slippery-slope-arguments/.
  70. Mitchell et al., Biotechnology and the Human Good, 90–92, 140.
  71. Jess Hasken, “Coercion in Bioethics,” Macalester Journal of Philosophy 16, no. 1 (2007): 15–28; Maxwell Mehlman and Jessica Berg, “Human Subjects Protections in Biomedical Enhancement Research: Assessing Risk and Benefit and Obtaining Informed Consent,” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 36, no. 3 (2008): 546–549.
  72. Mehlman and Berg, “Human Subjects Protections,” 546–549.
  73. Jonathan Pugh et al., “Brainjacking in Deep Brain Stimulation and Autonomy,” Ethics and Information Technology 20, no. 3 (2018): 219–232.
  74. For instance, evaluating “designer-baby” technologies requires considering a biblical view of parent-child relationships and the meaning of the family institution God created (Genesis 2:24).

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