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.

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