by George B. Mearns
The first Star Trek episode I saw was about a scientist who was able to duplicate a body and
put in the personality of that person using computers. When the gang arrived on the planet
they discovered four people there. By the time the show ended we discovered that all four
were walking computers duplicated from the originals who had long since died. One
defended the others and killed several crew members. The scientist wanted to protect his
little empire but didn’t realize the dangers of doing so.
Transhumanism was a title of a class at Summit this past fall (1). It drew my interest. I
thought it might be a class on some new philosophical thought but it was more than that. The
idea involved in transhumanism is “transforming humans through technology” (2). The idea
being advocated by both philosophers and scientists of transhumanism is to combat aging
and prevent suffering among other ideas. Sometime after 2045 they think that computers will
have so surpassed the human mind that they could be integrated into the mind. People then
could program their future children to be any number of things, editing genes to prevent
future problems as well as enhancing future humans.
Sounds pretty farfetched, doesn’t it? Or is it? Television and movies have certainly
portrayed this. Shows like Star Trek, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Women, and
movies like AI (for artificial intelligence), Star Trek (with Data and The Borg in The Next
Generation and four movies), and Star Wars are just some of the more popular treatments.
In real life we can look at several things. Drugs have been used to try to control humans such
as Ritalin for boys and various sexual enhancing drugs for older men. As for computerized
parts for the body, just think of the prosthetic limbs that have been developed since the wars
in the Middle East over the last couple of decades. Soldiers have computerized arms and
legs that operate like the real thing. There has been concern rising in sports where athletes
who have artificial limbs might have an advantage because of them. The idea of “self-
destructing body parts trying to do me in” (3) might become a thing of the past as
computerized parts become available. Then there is nano technology that is the concept of
injecting little computer like robots into the body to fight a disease. There is also robot
technology. I recently saw a robot that ran like a dog.
What has any of this to do with us? Questions are now just beginning to be raised about what
scripture has to say to this and how ethical or moral any of this is.
As I was listening to this being presented, the first word that came to mind was utopian.
Utopian ideas sound good but often end up destroying everything in its path. Communism
was an utopian idea where everyone would be equal, yet some would be more equal than
others because someone had to run the show (4). By the time it was fully examined, over 150
million died in peace time in Russia and China and other communist countries (5). North
Korea is a virtual prison camp. The utopian idea that a woman can choose how to use her
body and avoiding children has led to 55 million abortions in the U.S. alone. The utopian idea
of the “Master Race” of the Nazis led to a world war.
Who controls the computer or computers? That certainly will have to be addressed. Will
there be an elite group who will direct people in certain ways? Your child will be a scientist but
their child will be a farmer. Who will determine this? I would encourage you to read Aldous
Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984 for the consequences of such thinking.
When we get to the theological aspects, what about God? God has created us as fearfully
and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). Since the idea of transhumanism is being developed
mostly in Britain and Europe where Christianity has declined to a small percentage,
philosophical evolutionary thought is behind some of this (6). The human and his brain have
evolved to a point that he can now control death so we are told. Humanity is not made in the
image of a computer but in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). While some have a desire
to live as long as possible, if one sees death as an end, then that desire leads to much of the
thinking behind transhumanism. In Christ, we will have eternal life, but not by computers.
What about free will? In socialist countries, free will doesn’t seem to be very important. The
government already tells them how long to work, what their pay and vacation time will be, and
when to retire. Euthanasia is more prominent in such countries. Some are advocating this
here as well. One leading political appointee stated recently that 75 was old enough and
suggested that those over that age should just die (7). Some see the old as useless, others
want to live forever. Now we are hearing of “designer babies” where DNA is changed to
customize a child (8). Who will choose?
What if one resists this or sees technology differently? As I said above, such views often lead
to the death of those who oppose them. We should not be surprised by this. Some pundits,
politicians and professors have suggested that those who oppose the politically correct view
of climate change, homosexuality, and any number of issues should be imprisoned as
criminals and/or shot. When people become the elite with power they can say and do
whatever they like and again, people suffer in spite of what those elite say.
At another class at Summit, we looked at J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the
Rings. The Ring in which the Fellowship was to destroy often made promises of good as it
tempted various beings with power but brought destruction, ugliness, and death. The true
power in those stories was the humble who were willing to give up themselves and any
influence of power to save others, to be servants rather than being those in control. Tolkien
wrote from a Christian perspective and as one reads through the material, one can begin to
see such humility (9).
Then there is the mind of humans. I think that those who think a computer can take the place
of a mind, or be integrated in such a fashion just do not have a good understanding of what
God has created. And therein lays our challenge. Proclaiming the God who created us,
whose image we bear, will be the means to counteract some of this (10). I’m all for computers
and technology that will benefit humanity but as we all know, good can be turned to evil
unless we live self-controlled lives in Christ. We can keep a human body alive through
machines but once we “pull the plug” then both the mind and body dies. One has to wonder
just how long a computer can keep the mind alive unless it replaces the mind. But then what?
It is interesting that in both Orwell and Huxley as well as in Star Trek, there were those who
rebelled against the powers that be. It cannot be just one person because they will eventually
be overcome as in Orwell. That is why we see the Fellowship of the Ring in Tolkien. Even in
Star Trek we see a few Borg rebelling against the Collective and eventually growing to lead a
rebellion. We need to continue to develop our lives in Jesus Christ and those lives need to
be connected in the assembly of God’s people. We may never see any of this for such ideas
might fall to pieces. Yet as society moves further away from God, we need to be prepared to
talk about the God of creation as Paul did in Acts 17 to the Athens philosophers.
(1) A Vision for Tomorrow, Trevor Thompson, Summit (Abilene Christian University Bible
(2) Quotes come from class notes.
(3) From a song, The Forty Year Old Waltz, by the folk group, The Limeliters.
(4) See George Orwell, Animal Farm.
(5) R.J. Rummel, Death by Government, written in the 1990s and updated before his
death in the early 2000s.
(6) Wesley J. Smith, “New-Time Religion”, First Things, December 2014, p. 19-21,
discusses various religious aspects of transhumanism and the difficulties involved.
(7) See Victor Davis Hanson, Old and In The Way, http://townhall.com accessed on
(8) See John Stonestreet, When Adam Plays God, www.breakpoint.org commentary on
(9) The Gospel in Middle Earth, Jeff Childers, Summit, 2014.
(10) See Ian Paul, Extending human ability through technology, http://www.psephizo.com
copied on 11/17/2014, discussing a new booklet on transhumanism and Christian ethics.