TEXT OF ESSAY

In the words of Nick Franek, “Brevity can be just as powerful.”

Trans-humanism, the pursuit and evolution of human perfection is nothing more than the definitive goal of all life. Often seen as an encroachment on the realm of God, is it not more appropriately deemed redolent of the very purpose for our existence? We do, after all, assume the garb of reasoning beings, guided progressively by logic towards unified betterment. Driven, perhaps from a shared sense of lost wealth and enlightenment, expressed most clearly in the biblical tale of Adam and Eve; we seek progress, peace and understanding as if something due to us, that God’s broken promise be made whole and the gates of Eden open once more. It is on humanity’s back that these hopes must lay and through our toil, that they be achieved. I would that we traverse all paths to enlightenment, not just the spiritual and philosophical, but also the practical, the earthly and the mundane. For what other reason was the essence of life (DNA) made so malleable, than for us to render unto it changes more befitting of our needs? Like copper, iron and gold, once only worked into crude tools and ornaments, now carrying a world’s mass communications and forming the very fabric of our society’s definitive achievements, is it not our every right to continue life as we always have? Generations of toil and careful selection has cultivated thousands of different species of domesticated plants and animals. Modern methods vary only in their speed, efficiency and effectiveness. No longer must we breed a set population of beings over the course of hundreds of years to produce desired results, rather we may now alter them as needs require within a single generation. This is evolution, not just of the different species in question, but of human society itself. Through our rapidly accelerating accumulation of knowledge and scientific understanding, we surpass yet another natural barrier, one only recently even known to exist.
We have, to all appearances, transcended to a higher plain. No longer, it seems, are we an existence for which our own biological evolution is necessary, or even applicable for continued growth and development; abandoned now in favor of technological and societal progression, but if ever we reach the point that these traditional modes become inadequate for our continued ascension, or if indeed the opportunity presents itself as safe and convenient, then I would place full faith in humanities ability to achieve higher status and greater fulfillment through self modification. Though I would also acknowledge the presence of many associated risks, I stand by this statement in every sense that it may be strictly applied, that is, so far as the afore mentioned methods of technology and society may be applied in coordination with genetic alteration and enhancement. Such a shift comes with its own unique risks, challenges and ideals. Indeed, perhaps more so than anywhere else in science, genetics approaches the very meaning of humanity by providing windows for the analysis of our physical make-up and its associated strengths and weaknesses, along with their accompanying doors, through which we may ourselves wander into this perceived “temple” and rearrange the benches, even pausing to exchange the sermon for one of a more favorable nature, better reflecting an individual’s perceived needs. Here is not blasphemy, but God-given opportunity. It is my warning however that any powerful body of knowledge, neither strictly good, nor evil, will nevertheless possess ample capacity for both, through the wiles of humanity and may yet prove to be a cure on one hand and a curse on the other; such is within our nature.
While I would not make the argument that opportunity necessarily denotes correctness upon an action; no action ever taken, whether beneficial or detrimental to mankind, has ever occurred for lack of opportunity, I would never the less assert that the rearrangement and modification of an organisms DNA possesses “substantial equivalency” to many pre-existing and commonly accepted human practices. When breeding animals, humans match parents to influence the genes of the next generation, scientists use the same process with GMO’s, but in a Petri dish. In terms of danger to the environment, I’ve seen little evidence that any genetically modified commercial organisms (with the exception of those stupid fish) pose a greater threat than their pre-existing domesticated cousins and the pesticides/fertilizers that they require. I also have great difficulty comprehending any conceived dangers regarding bacteria, or viruses. We already possess the capacity to destroy ourselves, what’s the difference now? Moreover, such things would be done in secret anyway, so whether you condone or disavow them is of little consequence. Encouraging genetic research is more likely to aid in finding and producing cures to disease, than causing it.
To address concerns of a “slippery slope” scenario, I must again assert that over all, genetic manipulation is no different from anything else done by humanity and to reassure the opposition by affirming their own fears. We, as imperfect creatures, may never achieve a state of perfection and perhaps it is even justified to state that there is no perfection and that there exists danger in the pursuit of such, that the closer we come and the greater our knowledge and power, the greater threat we pose to ourselves, but is it not inherent to the human identity that this be so? A human is more than a set of genes, or other coding data. Indeed, I believe our ethereal form and traits to be more or less inconsequential to the greater human purpose, the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Indeed, to conceive of God, is to be God. To seek the infinite, we must consume it; take it unto ourselves until we are all that remains. There is no earth, no universe, only a collective human system, organized for the purpose of furthering its own means. It is obvious that genetics, like everything else in science, is a double edged sword, but through keeping it in the public eye, we gain control over it. If the government spends money on beneficial research, than it ensures public control over the program, regulations can be easily set and observed and its products can be freely released for use; problems only occur when you ignore the issue, or hide it away.

For clarification, humanity is, for the case of my argument, defined not as genetically “homosapien,” but as any form of life, or life-like existence, which establishes a capacity towards self awareness, societal complexity and emotional expression. It could, for these reasons, apply to not only “humans” per say, but also other intelligent apes and even computers potentially. I will not, divulge methods for dealing or differentiating between any such groups, other than to say that they all may come to possess certain transcendent ideals, but that these may vary greatly in nature according to certain inherent tendencies of a species, or individual. In the spirit of defining human life, I may also choose to describe the impact of this philosophy on other areas of my belief system such as, say, abortion and stem-cell research.
One may argue that to kill, or destroy a human, embryo or not, is murder. To which I would be inclined to agree, if it weren’t for my decidedly differing views on the definition of humanity. For me, genetic/biological identity is neither a necessity, nor a factor for automatic association; far more important is the presence of self awareness. Cell development may begin at conception, but it is not until many months later that an embryo develops even the most rudimentary comprehension and ability to respond to its surroundings. (One may even go so far as to say that the fetus does not obtain “life” as a separate entity from the mother until birth, but I do not yet feel fully capable to make this argument myself. Better leave it for awhile, or just leave it to others altogether.) I would assert that as some degree cognitive understanding is the quintessential element of a human creature, the embryo at these earlier stages is, by this logic, in fact not human, or even fully “alive.” The most that can be said of such beings is that they possess the “potential to live.” Truly, I must shudder at the vague nature of such terms, for one may, by the same logic, assert that acts of birth control or pregnancy prevention, are also acts of preventing, or destroying the “potential of life.” Even setting this aside, I may find other errors in using the term “potential life” to oppose abortions; primarily that the “potential for life,” is by no means invariably equivalent to that of existing life, rather, due to the fetus’s lack of awareness, its sole value must be denoted upon itself by those around it. Remember, a child does not ask to be born. It is brought into the world through members of the presently living beckoning it forth. Should situations arise that it, for certain reasons, is no longer desired, then it would be a disservice to the child itself to bring it into the world regardless. (Note that I would leave these types of decisions up to my wife and support any one of her choosing, for it is also my opinion that while in the womb and therefore, in her possession, it is the woman who has authority over the fetus and no one else.)

It is also my belief that embryo’s that are not used in artificial insemination, or are aborted should be used in stem cell research. I would prefer that they be used for a useful purpose, rather than merely be destroyed.

There is perhaps one area that I clearly have not yet addressed. How does one justify modifications made on a yet unborn child? The issue here is perhaps less the modification of genes themselves and more of a question on whether parents have a right to “pick and choose” traits that they wish for their children to have, to decide their identity for them, at its most basic level. Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with this. I do not believe that this romanticism with a person’s own genes (something that even I may be inclined to possess) should be translated into law. After all, what is, in essence, the difference, so far as the child is concerned? They never had a word on the matter in the first place. One method abandons it to God and the other leaves it up to humanity and humanity, despite its many faults may arguably be more inclined to establish new systems to promote its own favorable development than the latter; as the saying goes, “God helps those who help themselves.” It is, for this purpose that we were made to reason. If we held ourselves entirely up to the mercy of God, then one may wonder why we even bother to get up in the morning; for if, by the grace of God, we should deserve to live, then surely food would spring into our mouths of its own accord! No, it is not for these reasons that I oppose the genetic modification of our children, but merely a matter of simple practicality and even perhaps a little selfishness. The truth is that I savor human variety. If everyone were smart, good looking, strong and healthy, wouldn’t we all be average? Perhaps society would continue even if this did come to pass. It certainly would so long as we were to at least maintain some variations of traits and restrict any influence over personality factors, but what then? If such a day were to come to pass, we would be sorely limiting ourselves. I believe that we need stupids, crazies, cripples and the generally miserable. They exist as a part of the human identity, good, or bad and I do not feel that we may yet understand the roles that individuals so afflicted play in our world, in the words of William Shakespeare, “all the world’s a stage and all its people, merely actors,” remember that all too often, the most interesting and influential characters in our history have also suffered from some pretty serious problems. Without crazies, where would we get our artists (or dictators)? Having stated that I disagree with the general modification of traits; I do not mean to say that I am opposed to all modifications (certainly, any modifications may be allowed by the above criteria so long as they are limited to a small number of children, but that is not necessarily the purpose of the above statement, nor will I make any arguments to that extent). Anything that could cause early, or premature death, could be changed or blocked, so long as these alterations were effectively limited to the extent necessary to prevent this.

One could also look at the Question as “all or nothing,” an option which I find interesting in a sort of abstract way, kind of like communism. If the direction of society were to be so completely changed, then perhaps much of my above argument above could be rendered irrelevant (excluding the portion talking about variation and unmodified personality). I do not, for instance think that without stupid people, our world should necessarily collapse, perhaps it could even be greatly improved, but I simply do not yet feel that such measures could be done effectively, on a large scale without sever limitations and who knows, maybe our world’s value would decrease without those of “lesser intelligence.”