Thursday, March 8, 2012

Transhumanism, Anyone?

E. Christian Brugger, a Catholic bioethicist, begins a series on transhumanism in Zenit. For this one, he focuses on the issue of selective reproduction and makes a brief stop at performance enhancing drugs, condemning them in classic Catholic style. It seems he's intent on giving the idea a bad name, but I guess we'll see as the series develops.

What I'd rather see Catholic ethicists exploring is what might be acceptable forms of enhancement. I sure hope the consensus doesn't tack towards "we have to leave things alone and 'natural'." I mean, if we follow that approach, I guess I'm guilty of enhancing myself with caffeine, right? What about eating spicy foods--that gets endorphins rushing and enhances my sense of what I can accomplish?

On a more realistic note, what about cybernetic implants that can improve our cognitive capabilities or, for example, reflexive abilities--making us safer, better operators of high tech equipment? What about drugs that could enhance our ability to fight disease, let us require less sleep, live longer, metabolize food more efficiently, literally have that extra hand we always talk about needing, and so on? Better yet, how about detachable arms so that you could snuggle up to your spouse more comfortably?

In all technological advancements, there is the potential for abuse. I think our response as Catholics needs to be less immediately negative and focused on the problems and rather look at how the technology could be used for true good.