Just before Easter (2019), I attended a seminar sponsored by the Paris bar on the subject—I translate—“Transhumanism: the Human Being Raised to a New Level.”
The speakers included impressive scientific experts in the realms of cerebral stimulation, exoskeletal research, and genetic manipulation.
You may well ask why generally conservative lawyers would be flirting with such a subject. The answer, aside from the legal implications of the topic (more on that later), is probably—at least in part—that these days everyone wants to be on the cutting edge of futuristic ideas. “Of making many books”—and mod seminars—“there is no end.”
One would have thought that the impending Easter celebration might have suggested at least a word about fallen human nature (the first Adam) and the new creation instituted by the incarnation and the conquest of death by the Second Adam, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.
Ah, no. Instead, we were presented with theories of human transformation. The evolutionary process, based on natural selection, is just too slow. Humans must take control, thereby moving beyond humanity as is to a hyper-humanity—a stage beyond mankind as we have known it (him? her?). By the application of the scientific wonders of our time, illness can be a thing of the past; perhaps death itself can be conquered.
A half-century ago, secular humanist Julian Huxley put it this way:
Up till now human life has generally been, as Hobbes described it, “nasty, brutish and short”; the great majority of human beings (if they have not already died young) have been afflicted with misery in one form or another—poverty, disease, ill-health, over-work, cruelty, or oppression. They have attempted to lighten their misery by means of their hopes and their ideals. The trouble has been that the hopes have generally been unjustified, the ideals have generally failed to correspond with reality.
The zestful but scientific exploration of possibilities and of the techniques for realizing them will make our hopes rational, and will set our ideals within the framework of reality, by showing how much of them are indeed realizable. Already, we can justifiably hold the belief that these lands of possibility exist, and that the present limitations and miserable frustrations of our existence could be in large measure surmounted. We are already justified in the conviction that human life as we know it in history is a wretched makeshift, rooted in ignorance; and that it could be transcended by a state of existence based on the illumination of knowledge and comprehension, just as our modern control of physical nature based on science transcends the tentative fumblings of our ancestors, that were rooted in superstition and professional secrecy. . . .
The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself —not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way, but in its entirety, as humanity.
In fairness, at least two of the invited speakers at the Bar conference expressed concern as to the possible negative effects of messing with humanity as such. There were reminders of Hitlerian experimentation on death-camp inmates to justify the Third Reich’s conviction that Aryans were superior to, for example, Jews and other minorities.
Far more, however, should have been said about the horrors of all eugenic philosophies—for example, the sad history in the Commonwealth of Virginia where interracial marriage was prohibited by law to ensure “racial purity.” It would also have been enlightening if the established historical connection had been pointed out between Darwinian evolutionary theory and eugenic racism.
But what about genetic engineering? From an ethical standpoint, how should it be evaluated? Here are a series of propositions that, in this author’s view, should govern this difficult area.
- No genetic manipulation is ever justified if it entails the destruction of embryos or fetuses, since they are actual, not just potential, human beings. The end never (pace Lenin and Joseph Fletcher) justifies the means.
- If no human life is destroyed by genetic modifications, and where there is adequate evidence based on responsible animal experimentation, etc. of the absence of negative side effects, there is no reason to condemn the human application of the methodology per se.
- If the conditions just set out are fulfilled, and genetic manipulation is likely to cure or mollify an identifiable negative medical condition unable to be corrected by less intrusive means, it should be encouraged.
- If the conditions set forth above are fulfilled, there should be no a priori objection to genetic manipulation the purpose of which is to improve the lot of a human being (for example, if IQ could be raised). But the creation of “designer babies”—such as apparently produced a few years ago by Chinese doctor He Jiankui employing the new germinal technique (CRISPR-Cas9) to alter existing DNA by way of “genetic scissors”—and any and all efforts to implement racial preferences genetically must be unqualifiedly condemned.
- Serious sanctions must be incorporated into domestic and international law to deter practices that would, with no medical benefit, genetically modify the human being and his/her progeny. (The European Commission’s Directive 2001/18/EC and the even more restrictive French legislation on genetically modified foods is surely a step in the right direction, but a great deal more needs to be done to protect the human being from irresponsible experimentation. In Canada, it is illegal for researchers to alter the human genome in any way that could be inherited; if convicted, the defendant faces up to ten years in prison.)
These principles are grounded in a biblical view of man—that the human being, as created by God Almighty, must not turned into something else. There is nothing the matter with reducing the effects of original sin insofar as a fallen race is capable of doing so; but there is everything wrong with thinking that we are our own gods and can do a better job than the Creator through fashioning a new humanity.
We must never forget the miseries imposed on the modern world by the atheistic, humanistic Marxist belief in a “Soviet New Man” to appear as soon as the proletarian ownership of the means of production in society brings about the end of capitalism and the magical appearance of a classless society.
The work of Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein has always been described as the creation of a monster—for good reason.
If we are really dissatisfied with humanity as is (and there is generally good reason to be dissatisfied, especially when we look into the mirror), the answer is indeed a “new creation.” But that is not available in the laboratory. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).
John Warwick Montgomery
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This first issue of the “sweet 16th” volume of the Global Journal commences with a moving poem from our Associate Editor, Dr Roland Ehlke. Then Gary R. Habermas and Benjamin C. F Shaw offer an important review article discussing “Jewish Scholars on Jesus’ Resurrection.” Finally, consistent with the Global Journal’s interest in connecting theology and law, Lindsay Wilson of Ridley College poses the question: “Taking God to Court: Was Job Wise in His Use of the Legal Metaphor?”
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 Julian Huxley, New Bottles for New Wine (London: Chatto & Windus, 1957), pp. 13-17.
 I have written much on this subject. See, for example, my book, Slaughter of the Innocents, relevant material in my Christ Our Advocate and Christ As Centre and Circumference, and my public debate with Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics—available as a transcript and in audio format).
 Cf. Patra S, Andrew AA. Human, Social, and Environmental Impacts of Human Genetic Engineering. J Biomedical Sci. 2015, 4:2. doi:10.4172/2254-609X.100014.