It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie – being able to “upload” our minds to computers to live on after we die, to freeze our bodies only to bring them back in the future, or to pop pills to enhance our mood and intelligence.
While these may seem like impossible notions, these are the kinds of things the transhumanism and posthumanism movements are hoping for and working toward.
However, as with most technological advancements, these proposals have bioethicists and theologians questioning: just because we can, does that mean we should?
Transhumanism is a loosely-defined cultural, intellectual and technical movement that describes itself as seeking to “to overcome fundamental human limitations” including death, aging, and natural physical, mental and psychological limitations, says humanity+, a transhumanist online community.
The movement overlaps greatly with posthumanism, which posits that a new, biologically superior race is on the horizon, and could replace the human race as we know it. Posthumanists support technologies such as cryogenic freezing, mood-and-intelligence-enhancing drugs, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, bionics and “uploading” a mind to an artificial intelligence.
Will treading into this territory completely change the way man relates to God, to their own bodies, and to one another? These are the questions many bioethicists are grappling with as they consider the morality of such technologies.
For Catholics, escaping suffering and trials by escaping human nature itself is a morally unacceptable option, according to Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., Director of Education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
“Catholics cannot accept a vision of man which presupposes an outright ‘unacceptability’ of his basic human nature, nor a vision that labors to replace it with an alternate bodily structure that is engineered to be ‘post-human,’” Fr. Pacholczyk told CNA.
Instead, the “integral vision of man” accepts that man is incarnate – that humans have a body –and that “we are meant to embrace and grow through the limitations of our human nature,” he said.
“Even if our nature were to be radically re-engineered and modified,” he elaborated, “our innermost self would retain fundamental shards of incompleteness.”
The human experience is a struggle between a longing for the infinite, and learning to accept and embrace human’s finite nature, Fr. Pacholczyk explained. This longing would still exist even if technology were to significantly advance man’s material reality, because the longing for the infinite transcends the material world, he added.
Christ’s life provides the road map to transcendence – rather than transhumanism – for man’s life, “achieved through repentance, discipleship, self-denial, committed love, and generous self-giving,” said Fr. Pacholczyk. The infinite that man longs for “is effected from above through grace, rather than through the mere machinations of human cleverness or willfulness.”
Only by accepting their nature can humans re-orient themselves to “the only authentic source of redemption compatible with his essence,” which is Jesus, he added.
Full story at Catholic News Agency.