This blurb came into my mailbox recently, from a blog called “Future Human”:
“The life-changing forces of technology and globalization are re-inventing what it means to be human. Three-person babies. Extreme biohacking. Outposts on Mars. Sex robots. The union of man and machine. Even the end of death itself. The once-immutable facts about what it means to be alive are up for grabs.”
Reading that paragraph forms icicles in my blood, but apparently some people think that it’s all quite exciting, this “re-invention” of humanity.
At the risk of sounding anti-progressive, I can’t say I find anything even remotely appealing about being a “Future Human,” except maybe camping on Mars someday in an interplanetary Airstream.
In our God-denying world, it may actually be already possible to create three-parent babies and sex robots, but the price tag will be our own humanity. What we are missing is that there is an inherent cost attached to our “progressive” thinking, especially as it denies the body and its meaning.
For example, when a woman aborts her child, even if she is the most vehement of pro-choice activists, even if she celebrates abortion as a right and a privilege, she will pay the price in her own humanity. It is unavoidable.
J.K. Rowling reflected this reality in her Harry Potter series:
“…it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn,” said Firenze. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something so pure and defenseless to save yourself and you will have but a half life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.”
What Rowling shows so clearly is that we wound our own humanity with certain acts. The victim of the crime is the innocent unicorn, but it is the killer’s humanity that is deformed thereafter.
We never completely lose our human nature, but we can decimate it with our acts. Disfigured by sin, man by his nature retains the image of God, but is deprived of God’s likeness. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 705) God’s grace in the sacraments can, of course, restore broken human nature, but it is first necessary for us to see that we have killed a unicorn and suffered the cost.
Take the possibility of interacting with sex robots. The person who does so makes sexual activity into something totally devoid of genuine human love, and in so doing, becomes less human himself. If he habituates himself to such acts, he wears away at his humanity, as surely as acid rain will eat away his skin.
Three-parent babies? Same thing. The child will be the victim, deprived permanently of his origin in the fullness of parental love, but the three genetic donors chip away at their humanity, as surely as if a shark had bitten off an arm. The most profound part of themselves, they have consigned to a science fair project, even if done with good intention and affection. As Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote, sex (marital love) is precisely that which God has designed in nature for us to realize that God is love, that our origin and our destiny is love. As good as technology is, it’s not God.
To put this in Theology of the Body terms, St. John Paul says that “‘the domination…of the forces of nature threatens the human person…[turning] him into an object of manipulation” rather than a person to love.
We are already a long way down the road of losing our humanity when we can abide abortion in our cities, divorce casually, contracept as a matter of course. It’s why we look out our windows and see a world we instinctively protect ourselves from, rather than welcome. We live in a culture prodded forward by people who are living a half-life, who have killed the unicorn, who have lost touch with their full humanity.
We are those people. We have lost bits of our humanity just by breathing in the air of the 21st century. We swim in that deformed humanity. And what is the cost? The experience of genuine love, true belonging, peace.
To extract ourselves requires conscious examination of the premises of our whole culture: Are the natural limits of humanity a curse or a precious gift? Does progress require us to repudiate our human nature? Are children mere accessories we can choose to either add or subtract from our lives? Is sex nothing more than a darkly thrilling amusement park ride?
I don’t want to be a “future human.” I don’t want to live a half-life, to be severed from the source of all true hope and joy, no matter how progressive they may trick it out to be. It is false, like the inhabitants of The Capital in the Hunger Games, unable to see how their own grotesquerie keeps them enslaved.
It is enough to grow to the stature of simply being human, preserving the image and likeness of God in myself, and living in a world shared with other images of God. That is the project we need to be excited about. That would be genuine progress.
We at TOBET are in the process of producing a theology of the body curriculum for pre-school through 8th grade. Children raised with The Body Matters curriculum will be able to discern those things in the culture that might deform their humanity and will be better equipped to see their own likeness to God, choosing to relish God’s design of the body, God’s design for humanity, God’s design of love.
Read more about our curriculum HERE.