The 21st Century Tower of Babel

June 4, 2017

NGM-0417-Cover-NewsIn recent years, a new trend is emerging in popular culture. Scientists are discussing theoretical ideas about the future. Now, with the advent of new and emerging technologies, these ideas are going from theoretical discussion in professional, peer-reviewed journals to a more practical discussion about implementation. The ramifications of implementing these new possibilities for humanity is only now entering serious debate and discussion among futurist thinkers in the fields of bioethics, medicine, computer science, and physics. Should these innovative ideas become reality, what will this portend for humanity? Will it be a blessing or a curse? Will they unite humanity or will they further divide humanity? Moreover, what will it mean to be human? These and other questions among scientists are only now coming to the attention of the public.

These theoretical ideas came into existence through an article by two research scientists in September 1960 entitled, “Cyborgs and Space”.[1] This article discusses the hypothesis that the human body should be altered by merging humans and machines as a solution for astronauts to survive extended space travel. Clynes and Kline set the tone for the on-going discussion among scientists when they write, “Space travel challenges mankind not only technologically but also spiritually, in that it invites man to take an active part in his own biological evolution.”[2] Now, fifty-seven years later, these ideas are now openly discussed in the market place. This discussion has emerged in the open forum as transhumanism. As Clynes and Kline predicted, this discussion is as much a spiritual matter as it is a physical concern. What are some basic ideas guiding and influencing the discussion regarding merging humanity with machines?

The first guiding principle that governs the transhumanism is that of enhancing human capability through biomechanics. The desired end for this goal is to give improved physical capabilities through prosthetic technology or exo-suits. The second guiding principle is enhancing humanity’s quality of life through nanotechnology and genetic engineering. The goal of this principle is to reduce the impacts of aging, inherited defects, and disease. The third guiding principle is moving humanity from a finite state to an immortal state by merging the human psyche with sentient androids. The goal of this principle is to move humanity beyond the current limitations of the human body to a resilient sentient android body that can theoretically last into infinity. This is theorized to be accomplished by merging the human mind with this android body through a process called mind-uploading.[3] This seems to be the real objective of transhumanism—change the imago Dei in humanity to gain immortality by merging the mind with artificially sentient android bodies and enter the divine realm. Yet, this aim is not without a biblical precedent.

The book of Genesis records how Satan tempted Eve to disobey God’s command by enticing her to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-6). How did he beguile Eve into sinning against God Almighty? He did it by appealing to the possibility of being able to attain divine knowledge (Gen. 3:4-5). This has been a common satanic modus operandi ever since—motivating humanity to attain a divine status, privilege, or attribute. Later, this same idiosyncrasy in humanity is illustrated at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). Here, a unified humanity is described as desiring to build a city and a tower that can reach unto heaven (Gen. 11:4). Heiser writes of this passage, “…gods were perceived to live on mountains…the nature of this structure makes it evident the purpose in building it—to bring the divine down to earth.”[4] Thus, the builders of the Tower of Babel were attempting to elevate themselves to the status of divinity by physically attempting to enter the divine realm by building a city on top of a tower. Is this not a similar theme promulgated by transhumanists—man attempting to physically enter the divine realm?

As transhumanists seek to change the image of God in humanity to that of a man-made machine, several questions arise. First, if it were possible, would these machines be considered as human as a flesh-and-blood organic body? Second, if it were possible, is the human psyche that has been uploaded into these bodies considered a soul or spirit? Third, since the uploaded mind in the android body in merely a digital copy of the original human mind, is this psyche tainted with sin and in need of salvation? Theoretically, could Joe Smith be saved multiple times if his mind were copied an infinite number of times? Fourth, does Christ’s atonement become limited or unlimited with regards to these sentient humanoids? Fifth, is the imago Dei transferred to humanoid machines with all the accompanying dignity, human rights, and respect inherent in human beings in their current bodies? Sixth, for Christian theologians, can a sentient humanoid be defined in terms of theological anthropology—the doctrine of Humanity? While these questions make for great contemplation in the halls of academia, God Almighty has declared the definitions and parameters germane to the goals of transhumanism.

The first area that God Almighty answers the aims of transhumanism relates to longevity. God declares that humanity has a limited lifespan. Regarding the human lifespan, God decrees that the average lifespan of humanity will be limited to a seventy to eighty-year range (Ps. 90:10). Thus, if one could add all the ages of the people who have passed on since Noah and divided that number by the number of people who have died, that average would fall between the number seventy and eighty. Some people live longer than eighty and some die before seventy. Longevity is a predetermined timeline for humanity. God Almighty told Adam, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:19). Moreover, God Almighty reiterates the limited longevity of humanity when He declares, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…” (Heb. 9:27). The interesting aspect of this passage is that it implies and immediacy of judgment upon death. It would seem from Scripture that humanity is not going to circumvent the decrees of the Creator of the Universe on human longevity by up loading a person’s mind into a sentient humanoid body.

The next area where God Almighty answers the concerns of transhumanism is regarding the locality of the human spirit or psyche. God declares through the Apostle Paul that the locality of the human soul can never be in a state of flux (2 Cor. 5:6, 9). Matter has a limited locality. It is understood through quantum mechanics that particles loose locality and attain omnipresence at 10-33cm. However, the human spirit is not comprised of physical matter. It is incorporeal. Thus, for the human spirit to be containerized in a man-made object is akin to attempting to capture a shadow and place it in a clear box for observation. The irony and paradox are quite evident.

Moreover, the angels are involved in escorting the spirit of a dead person either into the presence of Christ or to be cast into the fires of Hell (Matt. 13:36-43; Lk. 16:22). The indication from the Scriptures is that all of this transpires instantaneously (the speed of light or faster). To copy the spirit of a person so that it can be uploaded into a humanoid robotic body would require a machine that operates faster than the speed of light and faster than God’s angels could work. Thus, for transhumanists to successfully achieve mind-uploading would be tantamount to interfering with the angels as they execute their Divinely mandated duties and responsibilities over the spirits of dead people (Jude 9). Therefore, is a battle with God’s angels really something that transhumanists want to fight in order to upload a person’s spirit into a body?

Contemplating the ramifications of transhumanism and the imago Dei is one that is only beginning in the academic arena. However, it would seem from an initial survey of the available information that the aims and goals of transhumanism are the end of an envelope that scientists are willing to push. Like the Tower of Babel, God Almighty perhaps sees the imaginations of the hearts of futuristic scientist thinkers and must repeat, “…this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” (Gen. 11:6). Seeking to improve the quality of our lives on earth is not a terrible thing. However, it seems that transhumanism is going about to solve a noble problem in an incorrect manner and for an immoral reason—attaining a divine state. Unfortunately, too many that are hoping to extend their longevity through biomechanics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering will find that it only hastens their inevitable date with death. We are reminded of the sobering words of the Holy Spirit spoken through the Apostle Paul, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Cor. 15:50). Thus, it seems that transhumanism is the 21st century manifestation of the Tower of Babel.

[1] Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline, “Cyborgs and Space”, Astronautics (September 1960): 26-27, 74-76. Accessed June 4, 2017. http://web.mit.edu/digitalapollo/Documents/Chapter1/cyborgs.pdf.

[2] Clynes and Kline, “Cyborgs and Space”, Astronautics, 26.

[3] Cameron Holmes. “Mind Uploading: Confronting the Privacy Challenges and Legal Ramifications of Inevitable Technological Advancements in the Context of the Fourth Amendment.” Tulane Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property 19, (Fall 2016): 191-206. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost. Accessed June 4, 2017. http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=7&sid=057b7a13-e80a-4b15-9546-3733e83798db%40sessionmgr101&hid=116.

[4] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Rediscovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, (Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2015), 114.

A Contemplation on the Human Dichotomy

 

June 1, 2017

 

4537265c6e672dfc98ae8bbda106fbb9People in every generation often wonder why human society works the way that it does. The great thinkers, philosophers, and theologians throughout human history have contemplated such phenomena. They have offered their own explanations and solutions to the dichotomy between human virtue and human vice. Some of their musings have metamorphosed into some of the great religious and political movements in recorded human history. Yet, all of humanity’s efforts to correct itself seem to have only worsened this ethical schizophrenia in our human experience. Technology, education, political enfranchisement, economic egalitarianism, and spiritual experimentation have all failed to produce the desired resolution to the human quandary.

 

God Almighty through the prophet Jeremiah declared that the human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked and rhetorically asked, “…who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Moreover, Jesus Christ echoed this same sentiment when He revealed that the evil behaviors of humanity originate in the heart (Matt. 15:18-19). It would seem, therefore, that the loci of humanity’s problems originate from deep within our kardia (heart-the center of the human spiritual life). This explains why a person can demonstrate acts of benevolence and charity and equally demonstrate acts of selfishness.

 

The story of Cain and Abel in Genesis illustrates this moral, ethical, and spiritual dilemma. Abel represents a virtuous person and Cain represents the vain person. Abel worships God in the proper way and his offering is accepted by God (Gen. 4:4). By contrast, Cain worships God in an unacceptable manner and his offering is rejected by God (Gen. 4:5). God implores Cain to repent of his attitude but instead he chooses to act out in the supreme act of hubris by murdering the perceived competition for God’s favor—his brother, Abel. Scarcely, nine generations pass before the entire human population is assessed by God Almighty as having a heart in which every imagination was only evil continually [emphasis mine] (Gen. 6:5). This continuously evil heart resulted in the social construct of global humanity as one that was corrupt, of great wickedness and filled with violence [emphasis mine] (Gen. 6:5, 11). The extent and scope of the insanity that characterized the antediluvian world is only now being understood in the twenty-first century through science and technology in the fields of paleontology and archeology.

 

Thus, in the twenty-one centuries since our Lord’s ministry on earth, we are witnessing similar chaotic circumstances in the global human experience and asking the same questions as the sages in previous centuries. The extrabiblical hope that secular humanism and social Darwinism has offered is now under great scrutiny and re-evaluation within academia. The mounting evidence being collected and analyzed by physicists, mathematicians, and biologists are causing professional scrutiny and re-evaluation of the staunchest foundations of the Enlightenment. It would seem that Christ is confounding the wisdom of the collective human mind (1 Cor. 1:27). Moreover, with the plethora of moral failings in Christian leadership, it would seem that the Lord is fulfilling His promise to begin the judgment of world by first starting with His church (1 Pet. 4:17).  Yet, the dilemma of the Human dichotomy remains contemplated, yet unresolved.

 

Could it be that this duality in the human heart, between virtue and vice, becomes the great unresolved conflict in human history? As the foreboding feelings of a coming human conflagration loom, what shall be said of this generation or the ones to come if the current trajectory remains constant? As the signs of the times crescendo and the resultant morose engulfs the global human mind like an air raid curtain, what shall be said of Christ’s people, who shine in a dark and uncertain hour? However, God Almighty does not leave us without a resolution.

 

As King Solomon of Israel concluded after all of his hedonistic pursuit in search of purpose, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecc. 12:13). The prophet Micah reinforces this thought when he declares rhetorically, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Mic. 6:8). Later, Christ would also echo these sentiments when he was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Matt. 22:36-37).

 

However, being exhorted to do good to our fellow-man and love God does not seem to resolve the conflict between vice and virtue within the heart of humanity. It only means that virtue should be the focus or emphasis. Christ does not leave this question unresolved. He declares His resolution to the problem in His first public sermon, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mk. 1:15). Thus, the Creator of the Universe, Emmanuel, God with Us, the Fullness of the Godhead Bodily, Christ Jesus, says the resolution to the dichotomy between the propensity in the human heart for virtue and vice is to repent and believe the gospel [emphasis mine]. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul provides the imperative, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16).

 

Therefore, what shall we say then? Shall humanity, in this generation, repent and believe the gospel? Shall those who identify themselves with Christ, as Christians, walk in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis in order to not let sin reign in their bodies? (Rom. 6:12). Is this spiritual standard too much to consider? Shall we heed the inquiry of Moses when he announced to erring Israel, “…Who is on the LORD’S side?” (Ex. 32:26). Yet, as the Apostle Paul reveals, even the creation is waiting for Christ to eradicate the curse of sin which facilitates this dichotomy in the human heart for vice and virtue (Rom. 8:22). Thus, it would seem that the resolution to this tension between vice and virtue in humanity is Christ’s redemption and its result will also solve the environmental problems championed by those who worship the creation rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:23).