The following story appeared in the April 7 Idaho Catholic Register.
By Jay Wonacott
Marriage for Life
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is one of the most spookily prophetic and insightful novels of the 20th century regarding the impact of technology on human biology and society.
Published in 1932, this dystopian novel paints a futuristic vision of humanity that is a sobering look at the scientific understanding of the human body’s intrinsic meaning. Additionally, the novel addresses deep concepts about human sexuality, psychology, economic classes, drug use, literature, culture and death. For those who have not read this classic, it will help you to better understand our world in 2023 (91 years since the book was written) and why people commonly say we are now living in a “brave new world” – one that Huxley uncannily anticipated.
Over the past many years, there’s been a growing discussion about
the “transhuman movement.” Wesley J. Smith notes in his March 2022 First Things article, “The Impossibility of Christian Transhumanism,” that transhumanism believes that a “singularity” is coming and is a “time when a crescendo of scientific advances will make the movement unstoppable, and transhumanists will transform themselves into super-beings who can enjoy physical life without end.”
Smith goes on in the article to argue that transhumanists are materialists who rely on technology to “rescue them from the ultimate obliteration of death.” Smith points out that this physical life for a transhuman is made possible by the future breeding of human clones as sources for organ replacement. Other trans-humanists are interested in having their heads “cryogenically frozen to allow eventual surgical attachment on a different body or a cyborg.” Transhumanists’ greatest passion, he writes, is to eternally save their minds – as opposed to their souls – by uploading their minds into computer programs, a concept known as ‘digital immortality.’”
Standing in stark comparison to the biotechnological utopianism of transhumanism is the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we contemplate the mystery of the bodily resurrection of Jesus at Easter, we Christians should have a lot to say about transhumanism as the antithesis of what we believe about embodiment and death.
The great philosophical question: “What happens to us after we die?” is an-swered by Christian teaching. The Catholic teaching in paragraphs 988-1019 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the question of bodily resurrection. At every Mass, we proclaim in the Creed our belief in the “resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” The Catechism notes in paragraph 966 that “on no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body.”
St. Paul addressed the question of the resurrection of the body to the Church at Corinth: “How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain...But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:12-14)
Presently our heavenly life is hidden with Christ in God, but according to scripture we already sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:6)
At Easter, we celebrate the promise that Jesus’s resurrection is the “first fruits” being shared with us who are members of his body! Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day, we “also will appear with him in glory.” (CCC 1003)
The Catechism teaches that in Christ Jesus, all of the dead “will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,” and that Christ will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, a spiritual body. (CCC 999)
The mystery of the resurrection is vacated by the transhumanist doctrine that blatantly rejects Christian teaching on the nature of the human person and the ultimate destiny of our bodies as incorruptible and spiritual realities. Tertullian taught that the flesh is the “hinge of salvation.” We believe in God who is the creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and redemption of the flesh. (CCC 1015)
In this comparison between Christianity and transhumanism, Smith writes: “First principles matter, and those of transhumanism and Christianity could not be more contradictory. Transhumanism is materialistic. Christianity is theistic. Transhumanism is utopian. Christianity sees the fallen world realistically. Transhumanism perceives immortality as something that can be achieved by men. Christianity identifies eternal salvation as the mercy of a loving God. Its eschatology focuses on God’s promises, not upon advanced scientific applications.”
The transhumanist wants to ‘unhinge” the flesh to be used as a tool for the
“real” person who is the “mind” that uses and manipulates the body and then discards it because it is only material and, thus, perishable. The transhumanist view is that the mind can be eternally preserved – scientifically.
This dualistic vision about the mind and body of the human person is a direct contradiction of the fact that a human person is a composite of spirit and matter. This is the key teaching of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus came into the world to redeem the whole person – including the body – and destined it for incorruptibility.
The Incarnation (the enfleshment) of Jesus on the Feast of the Annunciation comes to its full meaning at the resurrection of the Lord on Easter. Jesus’ body, conceived in Mary’s womb, is broken and dies. At the resurrection, that same body is glorified and resurrected and shines forth as a hope for us all.
While transhumanism awaits the “singularity” in the union of man and ma-chine, we know that the “singularity” of Jesus – the union of God and man – has already come and will come again in this world.
This hope of Easter is that Christ has conquered eternal death and those who are part of His body will also, on the last day, rise with Him in our own glorious bodies. This remains the message of hope for every “body” and one that should ring true in our confused, divided and broken brave new world.
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