Transhumanism, and the image of God
Transhumanism is a movement that holds that scientific and technological advances can be used to improve humanity. For example, to increase life-span, to get rid of diseases through gene modification, to implant electronic microchips for security purposes, or to monitor a person’s location, purchases, and movements. Some of this might seem only vaguely relevant to creation science apologetics. However, at its heart it is a godless movement, and ultimately is one that is justified by belief in evolution. Creation Ministries International first tackled the question of transhumanism in 2011. Fast forward to 2023 and it is being promoted more than ever by notable academics and leading forums, together with well-funded research grants such as one from President Biden’s government.1
Roots and aims of transhumanism
Those within the transhumanism movement seek to increase human mental, sensory, and physical capabilities, but this shows a failure to fully understand what it is to be human.2 Its advocates seek to use present technologies, such as embryonic gene editing technology (What is CRISPR?),3 and information technology, together with emerging ones such as molecular nanotechnology and artificial intelligence4 (these technologies are not necessarily wrong in themselves, but how they are used raises ethical issues for society). Xiao Liu writes that, “We’re entering the era of the ‘Internet of Bodies’: collecting our physical data via a range of devices that can be implanted, swallowed or worn.”5 This utilisation of new technology arises because of the evolutionary belief that humanity is only a work-in-progress, according to transhumanist beliefs:
“Transhumanists view human nature as a work-in-progress, a half-baked beginning that we can learn to remold in desirable ways. Current humanity need not be the endpoint of evolution. Transhumanists hope that by responsible use of science, technology, and other rational means we shall eventually manage to become posthuman, beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have.”6
This perspective presents a direct challenge to how we understand ourselves as human beings, created in the image of God. Although in some senses transhumanism is not clearly defined, in effect it is the belief that evolution needs to be given a helping hand, which when you think about it is rather ironic—for it is an intelligently designed helping hand! The stated goal of transhumanists is to evolve mankind to ‘the next level’ so that human beings can supposedly transcend natural limitations and so self-create Humanity 2.07 (Max Tegmark calls it Life 3.0). This is sometimes referred to as the emergence of a ‘post-human’ species. In fact, the close links between transhumanism and evolution point to it being an outworking of eugenics. Evolutionary biologist, and eugenicist, Julian Huxley proposed the phrase transhumanism in an essay in 1957, and stated that:
“ … once there are enough people who can truly say that [they believe in transhumanism], the human species will be on the threshold of a new kind of existence, as different from ours as ours is from that of Pekin [sic] man.”8
Such wishful, utopian thinking continues today, but instead of it being a fringe idea, Huxley’s successors have the ear of leading politicians and get to freely propagate their views on global forums. Yuval Noah Harari is professor of history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and an advisor to the World Economic Forum. He put the situation as follows in a book entitled Homo Deus (man-god):
“Instead, bioengineers will take the old Sapiens body, and intentionally rewrite its genetic code, rewire its brain circuits, alter its biochemical balance, and even grow entirely new limbs. They will thereby create new godlings, who might be as different from us Sapiens as we are different from Homo erectus.”9
Harari rejects belief in the God of the Bible, but instead wishes to deify mankind. He believes that enlightenment humanists, with their belief in evolution, have taken away faith in God, and placed it in other people, hence we see that transhumanism leads to idolatry of the self.
Further problems of transhumanism
A further problem is the lack of knowledge regarding the true nature of humanity. Does naturalistic science know enough about what it is to be human in the first place? Joanna Kavenna raises this question (in the New Scientist of all places): “This poses the ancient question again: what does it mean to be human?”10 She asks the question knowing that a majority of people around the world hold to some form of religious or spiritual belief. In this context, most believe that human beings possess a non-material soul which animates the physical body. Furthermore, the concept of consciousness is beyond the scope of naturalistic science, and in many ways this remains mysterious within the philosophy of science despite the best endeavours of researchers:
“ … consciousness—this mysterious thing that every human possesses or feels they possess—remains ‘the hard problem’ of philosophy. We lack a unified theory of consciousness. We don’t understand how consciousness is ‘generated’ by the brain, or even whether this is the right metaphor to use.”10
Kavenna points out that naturalistic science has not made any progress in deepening this understanding over the years, and it doesn’t even know who the first humans were. She writes:
“We don’t know who the first humans were: that fascinating quest likewise drives us straight into a great void of unknowing.”10
Of course, biblically-minded Christian creationists have the advantage, knowing the first humans were Adam and Eve. But transhumanists’ embrace of naturalistic science, and their belief in evolution, means they have an inadequate understanding of humanity.
In spite of the tremendous advances of science, we still have an incomplete understanding of the complexity of the genetic code, with new advances only uncovering greater and greater levels of interrelated functionality. For example, for many years evolutionary scientists considered a large part of the genetic code to be ‘junk’, but recent discoveries have demonstrated that it has important roles in the cell; see Junk DNA ideas have hindered progress in medical science. Sadly, for all the wonderful benefits of biomedical science, it also has a catalogue of mistakes through the introduction of products which later turned out to be harmful, such as the drug thalidomide.
There is also the problem of power and control. Who decides what is best for humanity? Should we let a technocracy of politicians, rich industrialists, and elite scientists decide? An earlier CMI article previously illustrated this with the example of the Borg collective in Star Trek.11
In the series, the Borg were a network of organic, sentient beings (humans and other aliens) that had been modified by cybernetic and nano-technology—hence cyborgs. The transhumanist technology was used to completely control the beings and remove their individuality, subsuming their mind and conscience into a single social collective. The dark collective, comparable to a hive of bees overseen by the queen, was also extremely powerful and had as its goal the aim of assimilating all others into its system. On the other hand, the technologically-advanced United Federation of Planets (under the guidance of its non-interfering Prime Directive) used its know-how to maximise the personal freedom and ability of the community (human and that of the other fictional alien species).
This fictional illustration, which may appear fanciful, does raise a pertinent point (as a metaphor) about the future of humanity. Is it right for an elite technocracy to develop and use advances in science to control people—whether this is in some form of social collective of post-human beings, or some other social structure? Or should we use science and technology to maximise freedom and human flourishing? As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and idealistic socialist and technocratic states have historically only impoverished the people, as can be seen with the former Soviet Union. Peter Hitchens warns about the suffering caused by atheistic, utopian dreamers: “Utopia can only ever be approached across a sea of blood.”12 This leads us to consider a Christ-centred view (leaving aside eschatology).
The Christian view
Of course, human beings have used technological advances over hundreds of years to improve people’s lives—so, what is wrong with transhumanism? Professor of sociology Steve Fuller, who has previously lent his support to the Intelligent Design movement, argues that transhumanism is nothing to be afraid of, and is just the continuation of the advance of technology that has occurred over several hundred years.13
However, there is a fundamental difference between Judeo-Christian beliefs and atheistic evolutionary ones with regard to how human beings may use technology to shape humanity’s future. Christians maintain that human beings are created in the image of God, but that we suffer the after-effects of the Fall, which is why we get sick and die. In this life we wish to live as healthily as possible, and we do what we can for others too; in this way, we hope to improve life expectancy, while maintaining quality of life. But ultimately, death must be faced (Hebrews 9:27), which is the stark reality. No technology that man could invent can possibly avert death. The good news is that forgiveness of sins and salvation is spiritually obtainable through Christ’s work upon the cross; Christians who have trusted in Christ look forward to the resurrection and to eternal life.
There is also something sacred about human beings, created in the image of God, which is why there are ethical problems with tinkering with what it means to be human. On the other-hand, atheistic philosophers hold that mankind is merely a product of evolution by natural selection, and so can be changed according to the whim of scientists, and wealthy technocrats. These two worldviews impact upon how we view humanity.
Christians believe that we can use technology to benefit people, and so overcome the effects of the Fall. Some technologies that may appear to lie within the remit of transhumanism may be beneficial to some humans in terms of healing. A person may take medicine to be healed of a disease, or wear glasses or a hearing aid to overcome human frailty. Loss of a limb might lead to someone utilising a prosthetic device to help with mobility. Technology therefore may aid human well-being and flourishing; or it may seek to optimise the capability of people broken by disease or disability; such uses are not seeking to create a post-humanity. Transhumanism on the other hand, informed by belief in godless evolution, extends this to argue that humanity needs to be improved through use of such things as genetic engineering and microchips. The purpose being to create a ‘better’ humanity, but without really knowing what it is to fully human.
A dilemma for humanists
This does however create a dilemma for humanists. Humanism has traditionally taught that it is possible to be ethical and value people without reference to the biblical texts. Andrew Copson and A.C. Grayling write that; “Humanist ethics is also distinguished by placing the end of moral action in the welfare of humanity rather than in fulfilling the will of God.”14 In some ways (but not all)15 this is similar to the Judeo-Christian notion of morality and values, which is objectively grounded (humanism grew out of deistic Unitarianism, and for a time was known as the Ethical Society). But humanism’s embrace of evolution leads ultimately in a different moral direction, and raises the prospect of transhumanism—where humanity ‘needs’ improving. If one believes human beings have evolved by accidental processes, and survival-of-the-fittest, then why not allow a wealthy and powerful elite to guide evolution with human intelligence?
So, humanistic beliefs, because they are subjective, or based upon evolution, may lead to a devaluing of human beings, not to their elevation. Here we can see that humanism ultimately leads to post-humanism, in effect to the abandonment of humanism—to the idea of creating post-humans. Humanism therefore results in a dilemma: should it embrace transhumanism and reject humanist ideals, or does it really remain committed to humanity as it has been understood for millennia?
Transhumanism continues to be promoted by governments, global businesses and elite technocrats, with little understanding of the true nature of humanity. A complete understanding must include the spiritual dimension; that is, mankind created in the image of God, but fallen from grace. The justification for transhumanism arises from the foundational weakness of atheistic humanism, with its belief in evolution. The thinking of its advocates is as follows: if mankind has evolved by random processes, then why not improve people? As discussed, the deep irony is that transhumanist projects involve intelligent design, but most transhumanist designers have denied the existence of their own Designer! Sadly, history is littered with evidence of failure, where science has not delivered good, but greater suffering.
References and notes
- The White House, Fact Sheet: The United States announces new investments and resources to advance President Biden’s National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative, whitehouse.gov, 14 Sept 2022. Return to text.
- Ostberg, R., Transhumanism, Encyclopedia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/transhumanism, 3 Nov 2022;accessed 19 Dec 2022. Return to text.
- CRISPR = Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. See: Le Page, M., What is CRISPR? A technology that can be used to edit genes, newscientist.com, (no date). Return to text.
- Mek, A., Transhumanism Horror: Elites want to genetically alter children in the womb, High-Bred Globalist Kids (Video), Rairfoundation.com, 15 Dec 2022. Return to text.
- Liu, X., Tracking how our bodies work could change our lives, weforum.org, 4 June 2020. Return to text.
- Bostrom, N., Transhumanist values, in: Frederick Adams (ed.), Ethical Issues for the 21st Century, Philosophical Documentation Center Press, 2003. Return to text.
- Fuller, S., Humanity 2.0: What it Means to be Human, Past, Present and Future, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Return to text.
- Huxley, J., Transhumanism, In New Bottles for New Wine, Chatto & Windus, London, pp. 13–17, 1957. (Sinanthropus, reclassified to Homo erectus). Return to text.
- Harari Y.N., Homo Deus: A brief history of tomorrow, Harper Collins, Ch. 1, 2016. Return to text.
- Kavenna, J., Who do we think we are? newscientist.com, 5 July 2017. Return to text.
- Smith, C., Transhumanism—mankind’s next step forward? Will mankind evolve into a perfect being?, creation.com, 3 Feb 2011. Return to text.
- Hitchens, P., The Rage Against God, Continuum Int. Publ., London, p. 113, 2011. Return to text.
- “We need to be always reminding ourselves that we have always been enhancing ourselves, that science has always been enhancing the human condition, that we have been trusting machines over our own bodies for at least 300-400 years now. We’ve already broken through that barrier—we do live in a very artificial world. Even though the stuff on the horizon may amplify our powers tremendously, it is nevertheless part of the same process. It is a step change but it’s the same story, the story of scientific progress.” As reported by Tucker, I., Steve Fuller: it’s time for Humanity 2.0, theguardian.com, 25 Sept 2011. Return to text.
- Copson, A. & Grayling, A.C., (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Humanism, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., Chichester, p. 19, 2015. Return to text.
- For example, consider humanism’s advocation of such practices as abortion and euthanasia. Return to text.