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Nothing you can make that can’t be made.
No one you can save that can’t be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
All you need is love. —The Beatles
By Wesley J. Smith, First Things, 6.23.17
Transhumanism is all the rage among the nouveau riche of Silicon Valley, who are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into research they expect will launch “The Singularity.” What is that, you ask? The Singularity is an anticipated point—as important to transhumanists as the Rapture is to Evangelical Christians—at which the cascade of scientific advances will become unstoppable, allowing transhumanists to recreate themselves as “post-humans.”
The transhumanist quest has two primary goals: radical life extension—which we will not discuss here—and the exponential increase of human intelligence (perhaps because it would better enable them to achieve the first goal). Transhumanists are obsessed with increasing cognitive functioning. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla Inc., has started a companydedicated to developing neural technologies to cure disease and increase human intelligence by way of a “direct cortical interface—essentially a layer of artificial intelligence inside the brain.” The company is also reported to be exploring “cosmetic brain surgeries” to make us smarter.
Musk is not alone in putting his money where his futuristic dreams are. Last year, the New Scientist reported:
If you could implant a device in your brain to enhance your intelligence, would you do it? A new company has just invested $100 million into developing such a device, and is being advised by some of the biggest names in science.
The company, Kernel, was launched earlier this year by entrepreneur Bryan Johnson. He says he has spent many years wondering how best to contribute to humanity. “I arrived at intelligence. I think it’s the most precious and powerful resource in existence,” says Johnson.
Johnson’s belief exemplifies why I find transhumanism—essentially neo-eugenics—both morally deficient and philosophically sterile. There’s nothing wrong with intelligence, of course. It is one of the attributes that make humans exceptional. Indeed, our species’s extraordinary intelligence enabled us to leave the caves.
But intelligence is hardly the “most precious and powerful resource” in existence—not even close. That place of honor belongs to love. And I find it striking how rarely transhumanists speak about love or how to enhance our capacity to express it—except, perhaps, in the most carnal sense.
Many animals love, of course. Some birds mate for life. A mare will mourn the death of her foal. A mother bear will kill without hesitation if she thinks her cub is endangered. A dog may sacrifice his own life to save his master. But only humans have the inherent capacity to give—and apprehend—Love with a capital L.
Perhaps transhumanists have little interest in the human capacity to love because its full expression transcends carbon molecules and the firing of neurons. It is no coincidence that a deeply faithful theist gave us perhaps the most profound description of love’s boundless scope:
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.The purer the love, the less the regard for self. And lack of self-regard conflicts with materialistic transhumanism, which is steeped in solipsism and hyper-individuality.
Here’s the tragically ironic thing: The people among us who are most innately capable of love—at least, in the full sense described by St. Paul—are those with Down syndrome. Every person I have ever met with that genetic condition is better than I am because of his or her greater capacity to love.
But they are not intelligent, at least not in the particular ways that transhumanists value. And sad to say, we are in the midst of a pogrom to wipe these beautiful and gentle people off the face of the earth. Denmark has the stated goal of becoming “Down syndrome free.” Ninety percent of fetuses diagnosed with Down in the U.S. are aborted, while Iceland brags that its abortionists dispense with 100 percent of diagnosed fetuses. France recently prevented Down syndrome associations from running TV advertisements about the joys of parenting Down children, because they could make those who aborted their Down babies feel guilty. These awful statistics indict us for lack of love.
Besides, love is not a quantifiable quality, as many consider intelligence to be. There is no quick fix for the love-challenged. Our hearts cannot be enhanced through brain implants or other futuristic tinkering. On the contrary, learning how to love usually requires being loved. It expands through unquantifiable human connections. Transhumanism, on the other hand, is all about effortless improvements. Its adherents seek to become extraordinary—longer life, smarter brains, superhuman capacities—without having to really work at it.
Here’s the bottom line: No matter how much we strive to engineer ourselves into post-humanity, no matter the fortunes invested by transhumanist venture capitalists in increasing our intelligence, exponentially expanding our capacity to love is the only way we will ever truly enhance the human species.
Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. His most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine.