Pushing Human Enhancement in a Starving World

by Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

I am out of patience with the Utopian transhumanist would-be human enhancers. They preach a future of astonishing health and longevity — that we can gain the vision of a hawk and the memory of a computer — and want us to pour research dollars into the futile immorality project.

Latest example: “How Science Can Build a Better You,” by David Ewing Duncan, in — where else? — the New York Times. He recites some wonderful examples of how people with disabilities have been helped via cutting edge technology. But he also proves — by segueing unnecessarily into the human enhancement siren song — that in the end, the real agenda isn’t curing the sick and improving the capacities of the disabled but attaining hyper abilities. From the column:

How far would you go to augment yourself? Would you replace perfectly good legs with artificial ones if they made you faster and stronger? What if a United States Agency for Human Augmentation had approved this and other radical enhancements? Would that persuade you?

Ethical challenges for the coming Age of Enhancement include, besides basic safety questions, the issue of who would get the enhancements, how much they would cost, and who would gain an advantage over others by using them. In a society that is already seeing a widening gap between the very rich and the rest of us, the question of a democracy of equals could face a critical test if the well-off also could afford a physical, genetic or bionic advantage. It also may challenge what it means to be human.

Still, the enhancements are coming, and they will be hard to resist. The real issue is what we do with them once they become irresistible.

As I have repeatedly written, we are not flotsam and jetsam floating on currents that we can’t control. We can say no to the seduction of eugenic human enhancement. We can, as rational human beings, say, “Let’s just not go there.” And we should.

I have noticed that these transhumanist types also are generally very liberal politically. Well, how’s this for liberal? As NYT pundits dream dreams of becoming the Ubermenchen, people in Africa are going hungry, children are dying by the millions of malaria and measles, and AIDS still threatens to cause a continental implosion. And yet here in the spoiled West, some sigh at the prospect that one day we can amputate our legs so that prosthetics can make us jump higher and run faster. They yearn for a pill that will make them more intelligent. They seek biotechnological fountains of youth. It’s decadence.

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