our specifications: take a virus, cut out the parts we don’t want, insert the parts we want, let the virus attach itself to our cells, and let the virus do its thing using the machinery of our cells to multiply and transmit our specified code throughout the body and changing it. It’s nothing new and certainly not science fiction. We already use this procedure in gene therapy, and the UK has recently approved “3-parent”genetically manipulated embryos. If images of the zombie apocalypse comes to mind, I don’t blame you. Fears about what we can do with technology are natural, but to let these fears of what concupiscence can wreak overwhelm and paralyze us is unhealthy too. The answer lies precisely in taking time and effort to use the gift of our intellect, the gifts of science and technology wisely, to reflect humbly on what we should do and where we’re headed, and rooting our tasks in the dignity of the human person and the community it is connected to.
A good question to ask ourselves is: How would this bring us closer to God and neighbor? Striving against concupiscence has never been an easy battle, nor will it ever be. That takes formation, dialog, and participation. 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us to be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope in Jesus: do we choose to read, reflect, think, and pray about these matters amidst our busy schedules? From movies like Transcendence in which the movie wants us to believe that uploading one’s consciousness into a digital cloud is not a cold, hell-like experience to video games that let you exercise technology-enhanced powers, these issues are central to the media we regularly encounter today. Far from esoteric, these subjects arise readily in conversation: are we ready to put in the effort to cut through the confusion? Are we ready to converse and witness to our hope in Jesus or do we shy away from such participation and dialog?
We’ve already successfully transplanted the head of a monkey onto the body of another. This was interpreted by transhumanists as evidence that we can transfer personality and consciousness. Shades of Total Recall, anyone? The implication of this line of thinking is that the soul is transferrable, and that soul, consciousness, and personality are quantifiable properties, not some unique God-given attribute. Thus, given this shady logic, if we are created in the image and likeness of God, doesn’t that reduce God to mere human construct? But like the monkey which ended up surviving for 7 days before the body rejected the head, we’re on the path to losing our heads with this kind of thinking. For starters, Dr Robert White, the neurosurgeon who performed the head transplant procedure, admitted that we can only presume one monkey’s consciousness was transferred to the other, yet he immediately went on to assure his listeners that the monkey’s personality was likewise transferred.
In the Amazing Spider-Man movie (and comic books), Dr. Connors develops a serum that allows him to grow back an arm he had lost. It works, but unfortunately, it also changes him into a horrific Lizard creature that in the Lizard’s opinion, is superior to humanity: “Why be human at all when we can be so much more? Faster. Stronger. Smarter.” And as in reality, it begins with seemingly good intentions on Dr. Connor’s part: “I spent my life as a scientist trying to create a world without human weakness, without outcasts.” So, too, in the story of Captain America’s origins. Captain America is injected with a serum that changes his body from frail to supersoldier proportions. The difference is that Captain America retains his strong sense of heroism, courage, sacrifice, and integrity even after the change. The serum in effect transformed him without annihilating who he is. In other words, the change was built on his human nature. A similar way of thinking can be applied to technology. Generally, when technology builds on, not destroys human nature, it can be good. For example, replacing a limb that a soldier lost in battle with an artificial, technologically-based one can be good. This idea can be compared to grace from God. Grace transforms us to be more like Our Loving God, but grace doesn’t destroy our human nature. Far from it, grace builds on human nature.