Frankenstein is breathing; may soon get up and walk
February 22, 2005
“She’s got eyes like Zapruder
and a mouth like heroin.
She wants me to be
Perfect like Kennedy.”
— Marilyn Manson, Punk rock artist
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – On a recent balmy, south Florida evening about 150 of my state newspaper editor colleagues, state executive directors and our spouses, took a break from four days of conferencing to take a boat tour of this city’s network of scenic canals featuring a plethora of multi-million-dollar homes. Some refer to Ft. Lauderdale as “The Venice” of North America. After seeing what we saw, it is easy to see why.
Homes belonging to the rich and famous were among those we scanned, including two homes owned by Wayne Huizenga, who started Blockbuster Video with a $5,000 loan (he later sold the chain for a gazillion dollars). He now owns the Miami Dolphins professional football team and seemingly half of the real estate (his total worth has been estimated to be around $1.8 billion) in this wealthy city that many consider the crown jewel of Florida’s spectacular “Gold Coast.”
But of all the mansions I eyeballed, it was the home of actor Lee Majors that sent my mind to thinking as we cruised down “Millionaire’s Row.” If you are a “Baby Boomer” or one among “The Greatest Generation,” then perhaps you remember Majors as the super-strong, ultra-fast “Six Million Dollar Man,” a television show that enjoyed brief fame in the 1970s. It was one of the first programs that subtly advanced the idea that combining man and machine was not just acceptable, but imperative. Then some 20 years later came “Robo Cop,” a Hollywood sci-fi flick that can still be seen in the wee hours of the morning on cable television. It was the story of a police officer who is killed, but brought back to quasi-life as a robot with a man’s face and memory. It furthered the belief that combining man and machine was something not only doable, but morally acceptable.
I suspect both the “Six Million Dollar Man” and “Robo Cop” were inspired by atheist, author and humanist philosopher Isaac Asimov, whose 1950 collection of short stories, I Robot, got people thinking about the possibility of combining machines and humans into some type of creature. “Let us make man in our image,” (to borrow a phase from Someone who knows about such things) once unthinkable by man, became one group’s battle cry.
So the theory of combining man and machine into a being of some type is not new. What is new is this theory moving ever closer to reality. It has even obtained a name.
Theologians and philosophers in recent years have provided us with new terms like post-modern, post-Christian and post-denomination. Now the intelligentsia is offering the newest entry to this growing list of “post-somethings.” It is called posthumanism and it promises to be the most frightening “post” of them all.
Posthumanism is the term that describes those among us who believe the next “evolutionary” step for the human race is for humans – or body parts of humans – and machines to be combined to make a “creature.” Posthuman.com offers this definition: “It (posthuman) describes a sentient being that started out as a human or as a mind with a human way of thinking – and then by use of technology changes into someone who is no longer human.” In other words, welcome to the brave new world of downloadable intelligence, designer skin, and superhuman abilities.
Posthumanists like Max More, who Marvin Minsky, “the father of artificial intelligence,” has compared intellectually to the late Cornell University astronomer Carl Sagan, are optimistic about the movement’s future. More notes how machines have become more organic, self-modifying and intelligent. Such developments are being driven by fields like artificial life, machine intelligence and fuzzy logic.
The fuzzy logic I will buy. I have fuzzy doubts about the rest.
“At the same time, we are beginning to incorporate our technology into ourselves,” More explains. “We began with pacemakers, artificial joints, and contact lenses. Artificial retinas are under development, and signals have successfully been passed back and forth between a neuron in vitro and a field effect transistor. The researchers suggest the next step is to connect up an array of neurons and electronic components. Computers and their interfaces rapidly evolve to fit us. How long before our computers are implanted in our brains, as seamlessly integrated into our cognition as an extra hemisphere? Maybe 10 years, maybe 50 or 60, but it’s coming.”
There was a time when I guffawed at such notions. I’m not laughing now. Be forewarned that Frankenstein is breathing and may soon get up and walk.
New developments in science and technology are surfacing at such a high rate of speed that some might soon overwhelm our capacities to adapt to change. Personal computers did not exist 30 years ago, cell phones did not exist 20 years ago and the World Wide Web did not exist 10 years ago. In biology, similar strides have been achieved since the discovery of DNA’s structure in 1953, including new medicines, bioengineering and cloning. Then, in 2002, a living creature — the polio virus — was assembled piece by piece with several biochemicals by scientists at New York State University.
“We built life in the lab,” gushed one posthuman Web site hailing the achievement.
Posthumanist influence is growing, catching the attention of the news media and the academy. For example, The New York Times in December 2003 referred to posthumanist Paul Rebhan as one of the “unorthodox geniuses toiling away in their labs and libraries, bent on changing the world.” Posthumanists hold conferences at venues like Yale University and have established an international network of associations led by Oxford University-educated minds (like More) dedicated to creating a creature of both skin and data.
Christian author and English professor Gene Edward Veith first got me thinking about posthumanism several years ago when he was writing about so-called cyberpunks, whose goal is to exist in their own computerized world of virtual reality, virtual sex, and virtual communities. As Veith observed, “They seek to achieve …the fusion of humans and machines. There will be no distinctly human identity – just flickering electronic impulses on the neurons (of one’s brain).”
The posthuman movement is developing its own worldview – one superior, it hopes, to biblical Christianity (which it rejects), Marxism and humanism. Posthumanists have addressed a variety of disciplines like art, philosophy, science and law. There is a Web site devoted to posthuman art and Sandra Braman, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor, in her published paper, “Posthuman Law: Information Policy and the Machinic World,” develops the legal portion of a posthuman worldview.
“It has been an unspoken assumption that the law is made by humans for humans,” Braman writes. “That assumption no longer holds: The subject of information policy increasingly flows between machines, machinic rather than social values play ever-more important roles in decision-making, and information policy for human society is being supplemented, supplanted, and superceded by machinic decision-making. As the barrier between the human and machinic falls with implantation of chips within the body and other types of intimate relationships, and as dependence upon the information infrastructure continues to grow, the question of the rights of technological systems themselves is entering the legal system. All of these are manifestations of a transformation in the legal system so fundamental that it may be said that we are entering a period of posthuman law.”
Did you get that? Technological systems have rights.
That is the sort of stuff that spooks even me. Indeed posthumanism is so radical that it regards Darwinian evolution as passé and trumpets its intention to make biology obsolete. Atheistic humanists detest posthumanism for obvious reasons.
The posthuman movement has ties to many of the world’s high tech research companies and they, like the clone advocates, aggressively lobby for taxpayer dollars to fund their despicable “research.” There are a number of Web sites devoted to posthumanism. Among them: incipientposthuman.com, betterhumans.com and imminst.org (short for Immortality Institute), which markets 40 books on the subject and proclaims that its mission is “to conquer the blight of involuntary death.”
Involuntary death is a blight?
Not to those of us redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus.
Thus saith the Lord, “… it is appointed for people to die once – and after this the judgment – so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Heb. 9:27).
Meanwhile, untold private dollars are pouring into university laboratories and research companies willing to conduct posthumanist quackery. Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not science. Posthumanism is madness. It demonstrates what happens when man rejects a holy God and is turned over to his own ghastly device. Indeed posthumanists are not just atheists, they are anti-God.
“God was a primitive notion invented by superstitious people, people only just beginning to step out of ignorance and unconsciousness,” More believes. “The concept of God has been oppressive: a being more powerful than we, but made in the image of our crude self-conceptions. Our own process of endless progression into higher forms should and will replace this religious idea.”
Futurist Francis Fukuyama, a serious thinker in his own right, rejects posthumanist notions on many levels, including religion. In the preface to his book, Our Posthuman Culture, he reminds us that Christianity maintains that man is created in God’s image, which is the source of human dignity. “To use biotechnology to engage in what another Christian writer, C. S. Lewis, called the ‘abolition of man’ is thus a violation of God’s will,” Fukuyama writes.
Some roboticists, machine intelligence researchers, and cognitive scientists have suggested that it may soon be possible to “upload” our selves (our psychology, memories, emotional responses, values, feelings) from our biological brains into synthetic brains.
More is excited about the prospect.
“Running on new hardware, perhaps connectionist nanocomputers, our mental processes could run up to a million times faster. No more gods, no more faith, no more timid holding back. Let us blast out of our old forms, our ignorance, our weakness, and our mortality. The future belongs to posthumanity.”
May Missouri Southern Baptists be faithful to the end so that future generations may hear our echoing response to More: “Not on our watch.”