There is an unquenchable human desire, not merely to have more, but to be more.
Throughout history human beings have wanted to be freer, wiser, more powerful, better known, more esteemed, younger, more beautiful, and so forth. We just can't seem to be content to be what we are. Something in us craves to be something more, something other than what we are.
That sentiment is taking new shape in our technological age, in which certain thinkers are beginning to consider the possibilities for, as they put it, "changing human nature."
Nick Bostrom directs the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. He is co-founder of something called the World Transhumanist Association. That about says it all, no?
Dr. Bostrom believes we need to be looking for pharmaceutical and genetic ways to enhance human cognition ("Genetic Enhancement and the Future of Humanity," The European Magazine, 6/13/11). Dr. Bostrom is not some mad scientist. He is perfectly rational in wanting to discover ways to improve brain function beyond study and learning alone. His concern is for raising IQs, so as to accelerate innovation in many fields, and for helping people with various forms of brain dysfunction or atrophy - such as those who suffer from Alzheimer's.
He warns, however, of "existential risks" in seeking such progress. He's not concerned that we're all going to end up thinking like Sartre or Camus; by "existential risk" he means risks to the continued existence of humankind.
No wonder Dr. Bostrom believes we need to work on the ethics of "transhumanization" alongside the genetics of it. He hopes "we will catch up at a rapid pace." Don't we all.
But what are we trying to become beyond our present human nature? Dr. Bostrom says there is no single standard of perfection and that many different forms of human existence might be envisioned.
And right here is where the real problem lies.
It is inherent in human beings, as the image-bearers of God, to want to be more than what we are at present. We should all, especially those who believe in Christ, long and strive to grow and improve in every aspect of our lives, all the days of our lives. As believers, we have a perfect standard toward which to strive - our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. We have a power at work within us that is able to take us exceeding abundantly beyond anything we've ever dared to ask or think. And we have God's good and perfect Word to outfit us for every good work.
Why are so many of us dawdling through our Christian lives?
But as soon as we say there is no standard of perfection, that we'll have to make this up as we go along, and hope that the ethics can keep pace with the research, that many different forms of human nature might be envisioned, and so forth - as soon as we do this we inject a huge amount of uncertainty into the project, even as we shovel more coal into the boiler. And that, it seems to me, is a formula for "existential risk" of the first water.
Where are the Christians when this kind of stuff is being discussed? Are we going to be content to allow Oxford and Harvard and MIT and deep-pocket donors and drug and high-tech companies and the lawmakers in their pockets to decide the future of the human condition?
The change human beings need today - indeed, in every age - must not come only from the minds and tools of men. Christ is the change we need, and He comes to men from the lived and spoken witness of gracious, informed, and outspoken believers.
Wherever they may be.
Additional related texts: 2 Corinthians 3.12-18; 2 Corinthians 10.3-5; Ephesians 3.20
A conversation starter: "Do you realize that there are smart people in reputable places thinking and working to change human nature? Shouldn't you and I have some voice in this?"