Modern technology can
do amazing things to help
people in great need. But
what if the same technology
can be repurposed to
enhance healthy people
beyond their natural limits?

Has this ever happened to you? I
went to the grocery store for bread,
eggs, and cheese, but when I got home
I realized I had forgotten the bread. My
wife just laughed, and said, “I do that
all the time!” When I was younger, I
passed this off as absentmindedness.

But now I’m not so sure.
As baby boomers like me get older,
we worry (if you’re not there yet, then
perhaps you worry about your parents
or grandparents). One in nine Americans
has Alzheimer’s dementia, a condition
associated with memory loss,
difficulty in performing daily activities,
and severe mood swings. Alzheimer’s
has no cure, and it worsens inexorably
until death.

Who wouldn’t encourage almost any
form of research to help? For instance,
several “cognitive enhancement strategies”
are on the market. These include
drugs that stimulate the brain’s memory
and learning. Such drugs do not
prolong life, but they can improve its

In an even more startling development,
experiments have put silicon
chips in animal brains, paving the way
for human trials of a “memory prosthesis.”
Such a brain implant might
help restore lost memories and rebuild
cognitive abilities.

But what if we could use these strategies
to enhance “normal” people? It
sounds like science fiction. Yet with
our cell phones and ever-present computers,
we have become increasingly
comfortable merging our bodies with
devices. D. T. Max, in a recent National
article, put it this way: “Our
cars are our feet, our calculators are our
minds, and Google is our memory. Our
lives are now only partially biological.”

So if it is okay to merge with
machines to ease the decline of aging,
is it okay to enhance the natural abilities
of a healthy person? A modern
movement called transhumanism
wants to do all this and more. This
philosophy claims we should accelerate
“human evolution” to transcend
our physical and mental limitations.

Transhumanism promises to make
humans more advanced through
robotics, merging us with machines,
even “uploading our consciousness”
into computers. In essence, it desires
to reinvent humanity. Why not leave
the shackles of our bodies and buy into
the transhumanist vision?

These questions cry out for a clear
biblical perspective on healing and
wellness to guide us. We must first
acknowledge that disease, decline,
and death are a result of Adam’s sin.
Because of the Curse in Genesis 3, all
of us must age and die. Job laments that
man is born to trouble as the sparks
fly upward
” (5:7). Moses reminds us,
The years of our life are seventy . . .
yet their span is but toil and trouble

(Psalm 90:10).

Next, we must remember that our
God knows how much we suffer. We
can rejoice with Paul that our Lord is
the Father of mercies and God of all
” (2 Corinthians 1:3). The medical
profession is but an earthly reflection
of this heavenly principle. So it is
completely reasonable to seek modern
medicine to lessen our pain and help
us live more productive lives.

But should we go even further? As
long as our drugs and devices can
help us navigate our senior years with
grace and productivity, that’s a good
goal. But should we try to become “better than well” to enhance human
abilities to see farther, think faster, or
lift more than our natural bodies and
brains ever could?

The Fall has
hurt our
abilities in
many ways,
but restoring
our original
potential and
grasping for
more aren’t the
same thing.

Many biblical issues come into play.
The transhumanist push seems pretty
self-centered. On the sixth day of creation,
God called his completed work
“very good” (Genesis 1:31). We weren’t
missing anything. True, the Fall hurt
our abilities in many ways, but there’s
a huge difference between restoring
our original potential and grasping
for more.

Modern transhumanists are saying
to the Lord of life, “Actually, I can do
better.” We know God has condemned
such impulses, for he condemned
Satan for tempting Eve, when he told
her, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).
This may sound extreme, but it’s the
kind of thinking that undergirds much
of the transhumanist movement. Do
Christians really support these goals?
At what point does the desire to
overcome the effects of the Fall go too
far? It’s hard to say. Drawing a hard
line between healing and enhancement
will not be easy. But the question
is important because human beings
should not try to meddle with their
very nature.

Helping others in their infirmities
is clearly taught in
Scripture (Romans 15:1). But wrong motives can pervert
even justifiable actions
(see Matthew 6:1). We shouldn’t trust a secular
vision that doesn’t recognize God’s
higher purpose (see Psalm 119:67).

What is wrong with seeking a long,
pain-free life? Inherently, nothing. But
Christians need to emphasize that our
fundamental problem is not a lack of
physical strength or a deficit in our
brain capacity. Our problem is a corrupt
heart and a sinful, self-centered
will. The only cure for that is Christ,
and the free gift of salvation that
comes only from trusting him.

Dr. Dennis Sullivan, a physician and former practicing
surgeon, has been a medical missionary in Haiti and Central
African Republic. He is currently professor of pharmacy
practice at Cedarville University, where he teaches clinical
ethics and directs the university’s Center for Bioethics.

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