Unification News for April 1997

Humanist Hubris

This article was inspired by the recent news about the cloning of a sheep. Biologists have known for years how to divide an embryo to produce identical twins, and even how to clone simple animals such as frogs. But sheep are mammals, and if they can be cloned, so can human beings.

This event said much about where science is taking us, and it revealed considerable ignorance. It can also tell us something about Humanists, those people who place far too much confidence in science, and in their own intellectual prowess.

The cloning announcement caused quite an uproar. Rush Limbaugh asked, "Can we clone a soul?" One Christian caller insisted, "No," and said that human clones would be like zombies. Dr. Dean Edell pointed out some potential positives. For example, if an infertile couple lost their only child, they could clone that child, and so, raise him afresh.

Without even stopping to admit their ignorance, Congress rushed ahead with "banning" legislation. Several well-spoken scientists stepped forwards before any drastic new laws were passed. However, it still looks like some sort of broad ban will be enforced.

People who recognized the possibilities inherent in cloning welcomed the news, including science fiction fans-and the homosexual community.

Few understand what was actually done. Clones of any species arrive as newborn babies, just like ordinary identical twins. In humans, a clone's brain would inevitably develop individual differences. Also, it would grow up in a world decades further along than the one its "parent" experienced. Thus, if (as in popular fiction) you cloned Hitler, or John F. Kennedy, you'd get a person with a markedly different personality, not to mention fate.

Still, there will undoubtedly be people who will have themselves cloned. A famous person might say, "What better legacy could I possibly leave?"

Cloning will be just the first step. Whether one likes it or not, medical science is poised to bring humanity into a very strange new world.

Heart pacemakers are now routine, and doctors have just announced a "brain pacemaker," the first use of which will be to quell the tremors of Parkinson's Disease sufferers.

We know that gender differences are basic; physically they are rooted in the chromosomes, deep within the cells of the body. Thus, sex- change operations can alter a person's "plumbing," but that's about it. However, doctors are now learning to utilize ordinary viruses, altering them so that they will carry selected new genes directly into living cells. This technique is intended to repair genetic birth defects, but it might also be used alter one's gender, racial or other characteristics.

Doctors are now conducting "fetal tissue" research. As repugnant as this is to many, they have already developed treatments for several serious human ailments. In the not-so-distant future, through either cloned or fetal-tissue

transplants, entire new body parts could be supplied to living adults. Thus, handicapped people could be restored to full vitality. Also, this would allow something which has often been deemed impossible.

Someone who had changed gender could go on to become a parent. Using "donated" testes or ova would be easier, at first, but their own genes might also be utilized.

One researcher has learned to transplant sections of living animal brains. He has switched the "behavior regulating" parts of avian brains, producing a chicken that calls like a dove, and so on. This technique could enable stoke victims to resume normal lives. On the other hand, anyone who's seen those old Boris Karloff movies knows where this might lead.

Robotic body parts, and even mind/brain enhancements, will someday become available. Remember The Bionic Man ? That TV show depicted just few of the possibilities. Direct mental connections with computers will follow. While computers themselves will probably never think like humans, they could still help us in ways we cannot yet imagine.

It will take someone far wiser than this poor author to sort out the potential spiritual results of these various procedures . . .

Naturalists, and many others, would prefer that such things never took place. They're not just blowing smoke; the international "environmental" treaties they are now sponsoring will, if strictly followed, put a huge damper on the progress of humanity. (See Naturalist Wonder.)

But Humanists welcome progress, including all the exotic possibilities mentioned above. In fact, they will work for them with all of their might.

Naturalists, at least, accept the idea of spiritual forces, nebulous though they make them sound. Humanists vehemently deny anything spiritual. They are, almost by definition, atheists. (The most conscientious among them are agnostics-for sheer logic cannot disprove God's existence.)

Without the "superstition" of belief in a soul (endowed by God with morals and a free will), Humanists must concoct their own worldviews. Lacking the Naturalist's awe of natural instincts, or of mysterious forces outside themselves, they must look within. But they cannot see anything more than clever animals, only recently descended from the trees.

The results of human evolution, and the forces of our raw, neurochemically-based emotions, are regarded as primitive stepping stones, which must now be surmounted. In one such effort, Evolutionary Biology hopes to quantify these influences, in order to explain people's behavior and motivations. (So far, the published results are a contradictory muddle.)

Richard Leakey, in his book Origins Reconsidered, seeks for our roots in the hominid fossils of Africa, as well as in the behaviors of primates. He posits that human consciousness was born out of group interaction, and a need to "put yourself in the other guy's head." Thus to out-think others, in order to dominate them. Often by deception, and sometimes, through violence. Ape studies have revealed crude behaviors of this sort. It's not much of a basis for human morality. (An attitude well reflected in our current political leadership . . . )

Social "memes" (group and cultural memories) are now seen as taking over for biological evolution. These, unlike genes, are "out in the open," and subject to guidance. They can, and increasingly do, change rapidly.

In this, the mind is paramount. However it came to be, Humanists regard intellect as the one thing that separates us from the animals. Only cool reason, they believe, will prevail. (Fanatical Naturalists deny that there is any significant difference between humans and animals!)

Thus, the intellect, and the knowledge and science it has developed, is viewed as the only legitimate authority. A Humanist's hope for the future rests primarily in technology, as applied to both ourselves and the world.

Humanists perceive that most people are still "deluded by superstition" (i.e., belief in God), and are not nearly as educated as they are. Hence, they deem themselves fortunate; an elite, far above the teeming masses. They see themselves as poised to lead humanity into . . . into just what, remains somewhat vague.

Humanists have souls too. They do seek the comforts of faith. Yet they must scorn the "common" religions, and the incantations of the Naturalist. Instead, their intellectual prowess leads them to devise their own faiths, with some very imposing configurations. Still, the basic patterns remain.

Marxists worship the invisible Force of History, with Marx as its prophet. Biologists worship the Force of Evolution, with Darwin filling the same role. Technicians worship at glowing, silicon alters. Their paeans to the Internet take on a frankly mystical air.

From Nietzsche to the present day, Humanists have longed for a superior human being, someone who understands things fully, and will make the world right. Writers have often imagined such people, such as Frank Herbert's Paul Atreides in Dune. In essence, a messiah without a God.

Of course, no such person has ever arisen from the secular world, and all pretenders have ended in failure-or worse.

Those Humanists who reject such techno-faiths, having seen their weaknesses, often embrace Nihilism. Worship of the self becomes paramount. Overindulgence is common. So is suicide.

Commonly, Humanists live as academics. Others work within government, or at various nonprofit entities. They may boast a long string of college degrees, but outside their narrow fields they are often woefully lacking in real-world experience. Thus the Utopias they plan for us are recipes for godless ruination. In every case, the actual lessons of history are ignored.

The main thing Humanists are missing is the genuine spiritual element. It is only from knowing this that we can grasp the need for the restoration of the human spirit itself. Genetics and technology may transform the human body (and brain) and improve its abilities, but they will not be able to reach that great intangible, the Heart. Few secular writers have envisioned a future in which the human heart itself has changed.

For the two competing forces, Humanism and Naturalism, it's "confidence in reason" vs. "faith in nature." The Principle explains that these are but aspects of a vastly greater whole. Faith in God, is more like it!

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