Beware of transhumanism and posthumanism

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

THERE is now a strong and powerful philosophical and scientific movement that advocates the use of current and emerging technologies, like genetic engineering, cryonics, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology to augment human capabilities and improve the human condition. This may be called transhumanism. Offhand, nothing wrong there, though we have to sort out and clarify the ethical issues involved there.

But that’s not all there is. There is also a movement that goes further than this and seeks to use scientific and technological advancements to produce humans with augmented capabilities who evolve into an enhanced species that transcends humanity—the posthuman. This is where a big question mark can be made!

We all know that man is in constant process of development. With his spiritual soul, he is actually poised toward the infinite. But with his corporeal body, he is somehow always limited to some space and time. Thus, it cannot be denied that in our lifelong journey of human development, we have to contend with the tension between the seemingly endless potentials of our soul and the real limitations of our body.

We just have to be clear about what the true and ultimate end, definition and purpose of man is. And this is where we resort to the deepest belief we hold. Are we Christian believers, or agnostics, if not atheists? Or do we hold on to another philosophy and ideology?

Christian believers are clear about what man is, what the purpose of his life here on earth is, what he is supposed to be in the end. They can make use of whatever they can discover in this life, always respecting the natural law that God the creator has inscribed in the things of this world, but using the things of this world to pursue their ultimate goal.

Christian believers hold that man is God’s image and likeness. He is being tested in this life to see if what God wants him to be is also what he likes to be. That is the purpose of his life here on earth, for which everything that he does in this world can only be the means, the occasion and the reason to make his choice.

Christian believers hold that man is meant in the end to be a saint, because that is what is involved in carrying out his duty to conform himself to God’s will to be God’s image and likeness. Thus, everything that he does should be in pursuit of this ultimate goal meant for man—that is, to be a saint, to be God’s image and likeness, sharers of his divine life and nature.

Thus, Christian believers should try their best to have the proper focus, the proper intentions in all their actions. They can do anything as long as they have that proper focus and intention, and as long as they use ethical ways to pursue their ultimate goal.

We are somehow reminded of this truth of our Christian faith in that gospel episode where Christ lamented over an unfortunate tendency of the people then who just ate and drank, marry and have fun, without giving due attention to the real purpose of their life. (cfr. Lk 17,26-37)

Especially these days when we have a lot of distractions, let alone the fact that precisely there are powerful forces that redefine man and nature, altering them according to their own ideas, we really need to strengthen our sense of focus and purpose in life.



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