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Transhumanism’s Eugenics Authoritarianism

Wesley J. Smith

Zoltan_Istvan_BIO_PIC.jpgTranshumanism is selfish, all about me-me, I-I. Its goal is immortality for those currently alive, and the right to radically remake themselves and their progeny in their own image. 

Zoltan Istvan (pictured at right) is an up-and-comer transhumanist, who is very good at promoting himself and his ideas. (I met him at a transhumanist and religion conference, about which I will be opining on a later occasion, and we got along fine.) 

Istvan’s newest missive, in Wired, argues that transhumanism means we will have to limit what he crassly calls "human breeding." From his article:

The transhumanist age — where radical science and technology will revolutionize the human being and experience — will eventually bring us indefinite lifespans, cyborgization, cloning, and even ectogenesis, where people use artificial wombs outside of their bodies to raise fetuses.

Breeding controls and measures make more sense when you consider that some leading life extensionist scientists believe we will conquer human mortality in the next 20 years. Already, in 2010, scientists had some success with stopping and reversing aging in mice. The obvious question is: In this transhumanist future, should everyone still be allowed to have unlimited children whenever they want?

Yea, well good luck with that. Sorry Z, but we are both going to die at some point, and within the scope of a normal human lifespan.

But let’s get to his blatant eugenics:

In an attempt to solve this problem and give hundreds of millions of future kids a better life, I cautiously endorse the idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different than getting a driver’s license. Parents who pass a series of basic tests qualify and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children. 

Those applicants who are deemed unworthy — perhaps because they are homeless, or have drug problems, or are violent criminals, or have no resources to raise a child properly and keep it from going hungry — would not be allowed until they could demonstrate they were suitable parents.

How would you stop them? Forced abortion? Forced sterilization? Like all modern Malthusians, Istvan punts to avoid the brutal logic of his advocacy, basically saying let the World Health Organization figure it out. 

Istvan’s advocacy is steeped in the ultimate hopelessness of materialistic atheism — a cause that he also ably champions. When one believes that all we have and ultimately are comes down to mere molecules, you grasp at quasi-religious straws, and if necessary, authoritarian control.

Rather than focus on immortality and controlling the "breeders," I suggest as an antidote reading Leon Kass on accepting with grace the natural ebb and flow of human life. From Kass’s wisdom:

In perpetuation, we send forth not just the seed of our bodies, but also the bearer of our hopes, our truths, and those of our tradition. If our children are to flower, we need to sow them well and nurture them, cultivate them in rich and wholesome soil, clothe them in fine and decent opinions and mores, and direct them toward the highest light, to grow straight and tall that they may take our place as we took that of those who planted us and made way for us, so that in time they, too, may make way and plant.

But if they are truly to flower, we must go to seed; we must wither and give ground.

This is simply realism, an acceptance of the way things are and will always be.

But more profoundly, it is an expression of love. Kass understands that life shouldn’t be about me-me, I-I. Others will follow in our wake as we flowed out of our ancestors. Human exceptionalism similarly holds that we owe duties to our posterity and not just ourselves. One of those is ultimately let others carry the baton.

This isn’t to say that disease should not be struggled against and medical science improved. But it does recognize that we are not perpetual. At some point, it is best that we shuffle off this mortal coil, as — despite all of transhumanism’s desperate yearnings — we all must.

Istvan can pretend his call to authoritarianism seeks to protect suffering children. But it is primarily aimed at preserving his place in perpetuity. Me-me, I-I. 

I am not worried about transhumanism every really panning out. But its underlying value system needs to be rejected. Human freedom and equality depends on it.

Cross-posted at Human Exceptionalism.

Image source: Wikipedia.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.