Does technology glorify God or the “god from the machine”?
By Jennifer L. Johnson
Susie, a pregnant Christian woman, undergoes genetic testing of the fetus at the doctor’s recommendation. She learns that the baby will have Down syndrome and is given the option to terminate the pregnancy.
Mark’s father has a stroke, and Mark must decide whether his father should be removed from the technology keeping him alive, knowing that his father will likely never walk, talk or eat again.
Throughout their lives, many Christians face a litany of bioethical choices concerning technology with implications for the sanctity of life and human dignity. We must ask ourselves which technologies are necessary and beneficial and which can be used to create a society we do not wish to be a part of.
Technology should be integrated into society in an ethical way that is beneficial to mankind and preserves human dignity. Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at an atomic level, could potentially remove individual malignant cells to avoid the side effects of chemotherapy, create artificial blood cells and remove atherosclerotic plaque to prevent strokes and heart attacks. Cybernetics, the use of computers in biological systems, provides hope to the blind.
However, these technologies should only be used to correct function rather than to augment it. We must be especially careful about altering our biology or the biology of future generations for fear of redefining what it means to be human. Cybernetics, although beneficial to those with disease, can also be used in ways that could redefine human nature. It has the potential to blur the line between humans and machines and make us vulnerable to manipulation and control by others.
We need to view life as beginning at conception and evaluate technologies in light of this, eliminating embryonic stem cell use, in-vitro fertilization and cloning of organisms. We also need to view these new technologies in light of their implications for social justice. Although genetically-modified crops could theoretically be used to provide extra nutrients and to grow crops in regions that are typically infertile, more than likely, they will be used to line the pockets of wealthy businessmen. Therefore, we need to make sure that this technology is disseminated to those who need it most.
Although it is currently not possible to create a “designer baby,” it is possible to choose embryos based on their genes through in-vitro fertilization. When we choose traits, we take natural selection into our own hands and make judgments about which traits are beneficial and which should be eliminated. This sets up society for a possible eugenics movement or creates sub-classes of humans: the superior class screened for the best traits and the inferior class formed the way God designed them. Eliminating traits from a population, either through in-vitro fertilization or through genetic engineering, tells a group of peopletheir lives are worthless and removes traits that may one day be beneficial.
When technology is introduced, we must first ask what Christ would say about it. Does it glorify God and respect his handiwork, or does it glorify the Deus ExMachina—god from the machine—and the human hand manipulating it? We must ask ourselves if the technology would protect human dignity or destroy it further. If technology compromises dignity or free will, it does not benefit society. To evaluate a new technology, we must weigh carefully the benefits and potentialconsequences of it.
For instance, selecting beneficial traits could create a society of healthy, intelligent, athletic and possibly even spiritual people. However, it would sacrifice freewill. We must look at all the possible consequences and secondary effects before we can determine whether a technology is truly beneficial.
As Christians, it is our duty to make individual bioethical choices in light of our faith, but it is also our duty to make our voices heard in legislation and in research facilities by being educated, voting and speaking out about important issues.
Though technology holds the power to cure disease, feed the poor and improve the standard of living, it also holds the power to destroy life, human dignity, and free will. C.S. Lewis states in The Abolition of Man, “Each new power won by man is a power over man. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger.” We must make sure that weare using technology to the benefit of man and not giving technology the upperhand.
Jennifer Johnson will graduate this May from Fresno Pacific University in Fresno, Calif., with a bachelor of science in Pre-Health Sciences and a pre-M.D. emphasis and a minor in psychology. Johnson, who is form Fresno, is the co-president of the pre-medical club and a member of Alpha Chi. She plans to attend medical school this fall.