Science in Christian Perspective
Making New Men: A Theology of Modified Man
D. GARETH JONES
Department of Anatomy
University of Western Australia Australia
From: JASA 26
(December 1974): 144-154.
You and I are living in revolutionary times. In this, of course, we are far from unique. Most ages have been revolutionary in one way or another. And yet I believe there may be a profound difference between today and earlier times. While previous revolutions have undoubtedly exerted a considerable influence on numerous parameters in the life of man, including the structure of his societies, his physical and mental well-being, and his philosophical and religious outlook, they have principally been external in origin. And so, although they have increased man's control over his environment and to a lesser extent over himself, and although they have served to modify man's view of himself, they have had only a limited effect on man as man.
There is however, a revolution currently under way with implications for man as man far beyond anything yet experienced. And this is what I will refer to as the biological self-identity revolution. This is just one of the revolutions in progress at the present time and yet I consider it underlies all the others and is basic to them. The biological self-identity revolution is a crisis in the life of man, stemming from the control man is beginning to exercise over his very existence and destiny as a biological and spiritual being. In other words, this revolution has its origin in what man is and in what he is going to be. If this revolution comes to fruition it may well force its to revise our concepts of man and of his role and status on this planet. This is because the man who may emerge from the biological self-identity revolution could be radically different from the man we now know.
Let me quote a few examples from writers concerned with this question.
Coming: the control of life. All of life, including human life. With man himself at the controls. Also coming: a new Genesis-The Second Genesis, The creator, this time around-man. The creation-again, man. But a new man. In a new image.
What we believe about man, what we want for man, will profoundly influence what actually happens to man.1
Man, who has already learned to remake his physical environment, will now acquire . . . . the capacity to remake himself. The duct of the earth, having become conscious of the dust of the earth, will be able to recreate itself without benefit of the original creator's breath-and to recreate itself in virtually any image, thus becoming an active participant in the new Genesis.2
Man himself is a part of nature, and he is now capable of changing the rules. It is not vanity to say that mass has become like a god. Since, god-like, we can now alter nature, including that part of nature which is man himself, we can no longer console ourselves with the thought that a search for scientific knowledge is its own justification. It has ceased to be true that nature is governed by immutable laws external to ourselves. We ourselves have become responsible.3
Man is already so marvellous that he deserves all our efforts to improve him further.4
The development of biology is going to destroy to some extent, our traditional grounds for ethical beliefs, and it is not easy to see what to put in their place. I think that in time the facts of science are going to make us become less Christian.5
Biomedical scientists are encouraged by that curious new breed of techootheologiaus who, after having pronounced God dead, disclose that God's dying command was that mankind should undertake its limitless, no-holds-barred, self-modification, by all feasible means.6
These quotations, from writers with varying viewpoints, demonstrate very clearly the concern and hope currently being expressed at the directions in which some areas of biological research are pointing. Basic to them all is the belief that man's nature is capable of radical modification, and will indeed be radically modified, in the foreseeable future. The consequences of such modification will probably be momentous for the human race, and will pose questions of major importance for scientists, lawyers, sociologists, philosophers, theologians and last, but not least, the ordinary human being.
My aim in this paper is to analyse the implications of some of these advances from the stance of one haying Christian presuppositions. I will therefore he primarily concerned with theological repercussions, and not with sociological, biological or legal consequences, legitimate as these latter concerns are.
Christians and Relevance
The reasons for my interest in this topic may he worth outlining. In the first place, I believe Christians should be prepared to meet the future, meaning the future in all its guises tomorrow with its very practical problems, 1984 with its inevitable overtones of totalitarian regimentation and strict biological control, the year 2000-that climactic finale to a century of madness and chaos or the dawn of a new age pregnant with boundless, undreamt-of possibilities. And on into the distant future so optimistically depicted by Julian Huxley and Teilbard de Chardin, those mid-twentieth century dreamers of scientific humanism. And finally, into the mists of eternity, radiant with hope for those committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ, dark and mysterious for so many others. It is my contention that evangelicals have for long felt at home in "eternity", being expert at arguing out a particular view of the millenium and second coming and yet tragically uninterested in presenting a cogent Christian position regarding the social and biological problems looming over us. It is these issues with which I will be dealing here, although the more distant future encompassing the cosmic role of Christ is one which Christians should also be seriously studying.7
In the second place, I am convinced that if theology is to he relevant it must encompass what may he termed secular issues. As a biologist I find it distressing to turn to the theological works on "man", and find nothing of direct relevance to a contemporary understanding of man with his specifically twentieth century problems. If theology therefore is to speak to real man, it must delve into the issues which confront man in a real world. And it is at this point that the Christian grounded in biblical and theological principles and trained in a particular professional discipline has his specific contribution to make. He alone is in a position to enhance that wider body of theology, by seeking to enunciate theological principles relevant to his sphere of interest. It is for this reason that I have subtitled this paper "a theology of modified man".8
Third, and more specifically, the human race is heading at alarming speed into a totally unknown and unexperienced realm where man himself becomes the controller and potential manipulator of his own body and brain. This is where the novelty so alarmingly described by Toffler9 comes into its own. This is where "the human body ... until now a fixed point in human experience, a 'given' . . . . will no longer he regarded as fixed".10 This new biology will raise, and has even started to raise, questions with far-reaching implications chief amongst which must be "what is man?" Will the old answers stand up to the assault of previously unimagined changes? If not, how may our view of man be altered, and what guidelines will be required in formulating new concepts? The contribution of Christian thinking to this debate should be a central one, indeed must be a central one, if man is to survive.
The man who may emerge from the biological self-identity revolution could be radically different from the man we now know.
Areas of Critical Importance
I want to deal with three principal areas of research, because it is these which are most likely to eventuate in the near future and which pose the most serious questions for the human race. These are the areas of (1) prenatal manipulation including genetics, (2) organ transplantation and (3) brain research. Each of these is well-under-way at present, and each has already brought about marked changes in human attitudes. There is every prospect therefore, that within the next 10-20 years research within these fields will bring us face-to-face with the profoundest of questions concerning the meaning of man and the extent to which he can be changed and still remain human.
It is these areas of investigation and debate which lie at the heart of biophilosophy, or as Rosenfeld has termed it biosoeioprolepsis, i.e., the anticipation of biology's impact on society.11 The prospect of men making new men, which implies different or modified men using biological techniques, may not readily appeal to us and yet is in sight. What I now want to do is to spell out briefly the evidence for such a prospect and the questions which inevitably follow.
One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress.
Standard men and women; in uniform batches. The whole of a small factory staffed with the products of a single bokanovskified egg. 'Ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines!'12
The wife is stimulated with hormones to produce several ova in a mentsrual cycle. By means of minor surgery under general anaesthesia one or more ova are withdrawn through the abdominal wall, a procedure that can he done repeatedly. The ova are then fertilized with the husband's sperm, and within five days or so have grown in the laboratory to more than thirty-two cells. The last step to be taken when more is known about the embryonic development will he to replace the embryo in the wife so that it will implant and grow to full term to be delivered naturally.13
In vitro fertilization
The gap separating Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (written in 1932) and Robert Edwards' embryology research of the late 1060's and early 1970's may appear a formidable one, I would suggest however, that this is more illusory than real, because once it has been proved possible to interfere with the early stages of human development outside the body, the remaining far-more dramatic developments will be accomplished given time.
What is the state of the art? The quotation I have given from the paper of Edwards and Sharpe describes in vitro fertilization of human ova, that is, fertilization outside the body. In 1966 Edwards demonstrated how ova extracted from human ovaries could be cultured in the laboratory ("test-tube") with the development of ripe eggs. This was followed in 1969 by the fertilization of such ova using human sperm, and subsequent, apparently normal development of the fertilized ova. Taking these techniques further Edwards, together with a gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe, reported that they had been successful in taking some eggs as far as the blastocyst stage, by which time the fertilized egg had divided into as many as 60-100 cells.14 This is true "test-tube fertilization", and while the blastocyst represents a very early stage in development it is sufficiently advanced for implantation into a woman's uterus to undergo subsequent maturation.
Recently the first reports have come to hand of the implantation in women volunteers of ova fertilized in vitro and the subsequent normal development of these fetuses. The applications of this technique put forward hy Edwards and his colleagues as justification of their research are (1) the alleviation of infertility brought about by a blockage in the wife's uterine tubes; (2) the ability it bestows on investigators for sexing the embryo-this in turn is important because, since many genetic disorders are sex-linked and hence usually occur in males, these could he avoided by replacing only female blastoeysts; and (3) modification of the embryo itself in an attempt to mask various genetic diseases.15
In spite of these assurances, the technique of in vitro fertilization even in its present stage of development raises problems. The very act of growing human eggs outside the body means that a large number will "die" in the laboratory. This is implicit in the technique because in order to guarantee one successful implant as many as ten or so eggs will have to be used. While there is probably nothing illegal in destroying or allowing to be destroyed unimplanted blastocysts,16 some may object on ethical grounds to the deliberate destruction of fertilized human eggs. The fact that certain contraceptive devices, such as intra-uterine devices (IUD), probably act in much the same way is no solution to this problem.
The ethical issue is taken further when we consider that a fetus produced in vitro may be malformed. A considerable percentage of naturally fertilized eggs are malformed, most of which are spontaneously aborted. There is no reason for believing the percentage will he any lower with in vitro fertilized eggs. Indeed the manipulation processes themselves could conceivably increase the possibility of malformation. At present there is no way of guaranteeing that the fetus will be normal, as it is not yet possible to cheek that the implanted blastocyst is free of damage. It is not difficult to imagine the psychological trauma which may be experienced by a couple whose infertility has been overcome by in vitro fertilization, only to be presented with a malformed baby. This possibility however, is also present after other forms of treatment for infertility, and therefore should not be unduly emphasized.
What then should our reaction be to this dilemma? There are, it would appear, three major approaches. In the first place there is the attitude of researchers like Edwards and his colleagues. Theft aims are chiefly guided by the needs of their patients, and by the medical wellbeing of any resulting children. Edwards has written: "We believe it essential that doctors and scientists are free to pursue research into aspects of knowledge that could contribute to the well-being of humanity provided the rights of the patients, including those of the fetus, are safeguarded as far as possible."17 He sees no objection to "selecting against afflicted blastoeysts"18, that is, discarding those with genetic abnormalities, believing this course of action to be preferable to either aborting affected fetuses or producing handicapped children. lie is fully aware of the controversial nature of his work and that it will bring him into conflict with established social attitudes. He contends however, that "the rights of blastocysts must be subordinated to the general good of society",19 a position he defends by reference to prevailing liberal attitudes on abortion.
If theology is to be relevant it must encompass what may be termed secular issues. In the second place there are those who, while not unsympathetic to this position, feel that human experimentation should wait until equivalent animal experiments are further advanced .20 Embryo transfer experiments have been confined mainly to mice and rabbits, while embryos of these species have been maintained for about one-third of their total gestation periods in various laboratory media. Linked to these developments are efforts aimed at designing an artificial placenta. Experiments of this nature using laboratory animals present ethical objections to only a limited number of people, and from a broad developmental biology point-of view have many advantages over human material.
A third approach to human in vitro fertilization is that typified by Paul Ramsey who has written: "The decisive moral verdict must be that we cannot rightfully get to know how to do this without conducting unethical experiments upon the unborn who must be the 'mishaps' (the dead and the retarded ones) through whom we learn how,"21 Basic to this attitude is the possibility of harm to the fetuses as a whole, and coupled with this the objection that a hypothetical or unborn child is being submitted to a dangerous procedure.22 This leads into the consideration of when in the course of development a living human embryo acquires protectable humanity.23 While this latter point raises many well-known, and virtually unanswerable, questions, it also introduces a new principle for this debate. This is that, in contrast to abortion where a fetus already exists in utero, a fetus is deliberately being created in this new situation by experimental procedures. Does this introduce new ethical considerations?
For myself, I would prefer much greater emphasis at present on animal experiments, particularly primate ones. As with all experiments on human patients, techniques should previously have been brought as near as possible to perfection using animal trials. I can see no reason for abrogating this principle with respect to in vitro fertilization. Assuming this principle is adhered to, and human trials are one day inaugurated with a substantial chance of success, what then? I would tend to agree with Edwards that the needs of couples and the welfare of their children are paramount. Blastoeysts and even much later stages of fetal growth must be viewed as of secondary importance. There are however, two important points to he borne in mind at this juncture. The first is that these procedures are carried out within the family situation. The second is that in adopting this position I am allowing inroads into the control man is exerting over his reproduction and hence over himself. In doing this I am aware of at least some of the consequences. Using the well recognized "wedge principle", what I am allowing is but a start. Once this form of control has been successfully exploited, far greater degrees of control will follow. These are on the horizon at present and I will discuss them in a moment.
My reason for allowing this is that man has been given responsibility by God for exerting authority over his environment and over himself. Later on I will return to this principle. At this point I simply wish to suggest that the techniques I have been describing do not contravene this principle, as long as they are carried out for the benefit of society. Of course this tpe of control over human reproduction is itself simply' an extension of current, and generally accepted practices. This does not justify in vitro fertilization, but it should make its question current methods of controlling and modifying human reproduction and ask what ethical issues they too may raise.
Certain contraceptive techniques prevent the implantation of blastoeysts, while A.I.H. (artificial insemination by the husband) removes by one step the human aspect of reproduction. A.I.D (artificial insemination by a donor) introduces many further difficulties, ethical, psychological and legal, and yet it is estimated that up to 10,000 AID, children are born each year in the United States alone. It is not my intention to discuss AID., except to point out that it, plus its extensions, sperm bank AID, and "space-time" sperm banks '24 are procedures currently in use or feasible at present. They reflect a considerable degree of manipulation over human reproduction and represent half-way houses between natural reproduction and rigorously controlled reproduction. The future is very close and prenatal manipulation plays a role in many of our lives. But where is our theology of prenatal manipulation?
I have spent some time in discussing in vitro fertilization because it is a contemporary development and constitutes the springboard for all other forms of prenatal manipulation.
I would agree that needs of couples and the welfare of their children are paramount. Blastocysts and even much later stages of fetal growth must be viewed as of secondary importance.
The implantation of a fertilized ovum need not he into the same woman from whom
it came. It could be donated by another woman, the gestational or host mother
as opposed to the biological mother, who would then carry the
to term. This has been characterized prenatal adoption by Bentley Glass25 who
sees its use in the future, adapted for eugenic
purposes. He writes: "In the future age of man it will become possible for
every person to procreate with assurance that the child, either one's
own or one
prenatally adopted, has a sound heritage, capable of fully utilizing
provided by society for optimal development".26
The possibility of host mothers to incubate someone else's fertilized ovum has led to extravagant pictures of "wombs for rent", given the appropriate social structure. After all there have been "wet nannies" in the past, why not "host mothers" in the future? This is far from idle speculation. It is an accepted method of transporting a number of embryos within an adult animal of the same species, for example, in sheep and rabbits.
Such a technique could be used, in theory at least, for maintaining an ovum fertilized in the normal way where the wife has uterine abnormalities either preventing the implantation of the blastocyst or maintaining a normal pregnancy. The disadvantages of the technique would appear enormous. The parent-child relationship may he dramatically altered, hearing in mind that it is questionable whom the child would regard as its parent. Apart from psychological uncertainties regarding identity, it is likely that by the time such a procedure became feasible it will he possible to bring fetuses to term in the laboratory.
Moving further into the realm of manipulation brings us to the mixing of cells within a fetus. The injection of donor cells into an embryo, and their subsequent multiplication during fetal growth leads to the partial colonization of organs. The resulting fetus is a chimera or hybrid. The emotional way of envisaging chimeras is in terms of man-animal hybrids27 or crossspecies cannibalization .28 It is difficult to know how seriously to take these nightmarish fantasies, except that intraspecies donation of cells is far from fantasy and opens the way for genetic engineering and composite organ transplants within pre-implantation embryos .29
Genetic engineering must be distinguished from negative eugenics which is the elimination of bad genes from the population and medical genetics which involves counseling prospective parents on the risks of serious hereditary diseases in their children. Genetic engineering, by contrast, is the attempt to impart new characteristics to forthcoming generations by manipulating the genetic material. In other words, this is positive eugenics or, to use Lederberg's term, euphenics -the engineering of human development.30
The substitution of one gene for another by replacing DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) with "better" DNA is possible in organisms with a very simple chromosomal apparatus, and amazing results have been reported from a variety of plants and animals including peas, bacteria, tadpoles and newts. Whole genes have been transferred from one cell to another, suggesting that gene transplants may he possible; inactive genes in cells have been "switched on" to produce enzymes which those particular cells normally do not produce, while RNA (ribonucleic acid) foreign to a cell has been introduced into cells to induce them to behave in novel ways.
The controversy surrounding genetic engineering is intense, even in scientific eircles.30o The one reaction which is not warranted is complacency. Even a few years ago geneticists would have put genetic engineering in the twenty-first century. Today however, many geneticists would view it as a human possibility on a limited scale within 15 years.31
While the processes I have just sketched apply to relatively simple organisms,
an increasing range of procedures is now possible in mammals. For
genetic material has been introduced into a mouse cell to replace a deficiency.
This is still a very long way from what is generally envisaged as
engineering in the human, which will involve germ cells rather than body cells
and which will have to be exceedingly exact. This will require major technical
advances, and yet such is the rapidity of genetic advance that a discussion of
its implications is in place.
On the positive side genetic engineering will enable a genetic defect, say haemophilia, to be remedied by fertilizing a couple's eggs and sperm in the test tube and inoculating blastocysts with normal non-haemophilic cells. The resulting child, which will be carried in the normal way, will be a haemophilic-normal mosaic, who will in all probability he normal. Many other so-called "missing gene" defects could probably be rectified in a similar manner.32
While the replacement and modification of single genes in the human lies in the future, these procedures are well within the bounds of reality, and will be seen one day as gene therapy. And so just as today complete blood transfusions are caned out on unborn children suffering from severe rhesus incompatibility with the mother, very early embryos will have 'gene transplants' to overcome a wide variety of genetic disorders.
But what about the misuse of genetic engineering? This is one of the supreme realms in which the writers of scientific futurism strive hard to outdo the writers of science fiction. Rosenfeld writes,
When this kind of biochemical sophistication has been attained, when man can write out detailed genetic messages of his own, his powers become truly godlike. Man will presumably be able to write not any set of specifications he might desire for his ideal human being. And who can find fault with ideal human beings?33
I will return to this question later on. For the moment though, how likely is this prospect? In the foreseeable future it would appear to be very slim, simply because complex qualities such as intelligence are determined by numerous sets of genes. And of course the final product of genetic inheritance, that is, the individual human being, is considerably influenced by his environment and the diverse pressures resulting from the environment. Even if it were ever possible to produce our "ideal human being" in genetic terms, the resulting genetic/environmental product might be far from ideal unless, of course, the environment too were ideal.
The controversy surrounding genetic engineering is intense, even in scientific circles. The one reaction which is not warranted is complacency.
Perhaps J.B.S. Haldane best summed up the issue. According to him,
the only problem
with creating a race of human angels is to find the genes for wings
and for moral
perfection. Humorous as that statement may he, it contains a profound
and anatomists are rarely willing to face. There is more to life than
and ideal bodies.
Linked to this, there is an ethical issue we need to consider. The preceding discussion has assumed that conception has taken place or will take place regardless of genetic or other difficulties, even when the likelihood of such difficulties is recognized. It is then up to the medical geneticist to rectify the abnormality, even if it involves dispensing with the fetus. It has become unfashionable to question the wisdom of these steps. Paul Ramsey however, sides with the unfashionable.
Preventive genetic medicine
has a number of familiar, proven options more desirable than genetic manipulation. If we want to promote responsible parenthood by means of our knowledge of genetics . . . the first question is not whether, assuming the child must be, we should make it of this or that genetic composition, but whether a conceptus should be conceived at all. We ought not to choose for another the hazards he must hear, while choosing at the same time to give him life in which to hear them and suffer our chosen experimentations.34
Taken to its logical conclusion this position precludes practically the whole of genetic engineering, and this is the direction in which Ramsey himself tends. It does however, have even wider connotations than this, because with or without genetic engineering we are responsible for bringing children, some of whom are known to have medical defects, into the world. We choose to give them life. They have no choice. This is the ultimate dilemma of certain existentialists, including Sartre. Man is responsible, but never for his own birth. Quite apart then from the potential of modem scientific investigation, we must accept the momentous responsibility of ushering into this world further lives. This is the essence of our God-given responsibility as members of the human race, and from this stems all our actions on the unborn fetus.
This may he termed biological predestination. It is the process of producing carbon-copies of individuals or, more dramatically, "people from cuttings."35 It is this technique which will allegedly enable us to produce an endless stream of exact copies of Mozart or Einstein, or Hitler, of course. Alternatively if your preference is for an army of a few thousand identical soldiers, all appropriately selected for certain conditions of battle, cloning will be the technique of choice. And so one could continue. Probably more alarming nonsense has been written about this technique than any other in the genetic arena, ideas put forward including plans for establishing international boards of control and the best age for cloning in various groups of the population.36
In essence cloning is asexual reproduction, with the result that the new individual or individuals are derived from a single parent and are genetically identical to that parent. Hence the exact copies. Cloning is brought about by the removal of the nucleus from a mature but unfertilized egg and replacement by the nucleus of a specialized body cell of an adult organism. The egg with its transplanted nucleus proceeds to develop as if it had been fertilized, and produces an adult organism which is genetically identical to the organism which served as the source of the transferred nucleus. In this way it is possible to produce an unlimited number or clone of identical individuals. Up to the present cloning has been effected in animals such as frogs, salamanders and fruit flies.37
There is no theoretical reason to prevent human cloning and it will probably be feasible within the next few years. It is difficult however, to find reasons for doing it. Organ transplantations between members of a clone would present no problems; if one partner in a marriage had a severe genetic defect the other could be the clone-parent; it would be a sure way of selecting the sex (and much else) of a child. These dubious benefits of cloning are hardly worth serious consideration as there will relatively shortly be other, far more responsible, ways of overcoming these drawbacks.
Cloning may be termed "biological predestination." It is the process of producing carbon-copies of individuals, or, more dramatically, "people from cuttings."
On the deficit side cloning is almost universally condemned, even by relatively
liberal commentators.38 The major problem is that cloned "specimens"
would lack any sense of individuality. It denies to these specimens "the
right to be one's self", and if ever such specimens should exist they will
be in the unenviable position of knowing without a shadow of doubt that they are merely biological replicas, who are essentially preordained and whose
biological future is mirrored in someone else.39
This is a truly frightening possibility because it means we will be able to produce people who are not people in that they are denied the chance of themselves experimenting with life. They will simply reflect a previous experience. The psychological trauma which may result from this is unimaginable. Of course it is possible to argue that they will not be identical to their cloned-parents or even to their cloned-siblings, because of their different environments. If this is the case, and it probably is, why clone? Instead of the original genius, one may end op with a pathetic travesty of the great man.
Cloning is an extreme technique and yet it is valuable in that it points to the extent of dehumanization which will be possible via prenatal manipulation. Kass has put forward a valuable principle which sums up this section: "We may not be entitled, in principle, to a unique genotype, but we are entitled not to have deliberately weakened the necessary supports for a worthy life. Genetic distinctiveness seems to me to be one such support."40
I will not deal at length with this topic as the ethical decisions which principally surround it are not directly related to modifying man. They have chiefly to do with the definition of death, which results from the use of cadavers as donors. Important as these issues are they are peripheral to my main concern in this study.
The transplantation of kidneys, hearts, livers, lungs and eyes does not usher in the brave new world. Some of it may he heroic surgery, other aspects are virtually routine surgery, but the patient plus his transplanted organ is still much the same original human being. What about brain or head transplants? For very many reasons, including technical ones and difficulties concerning the supply of donors (!), such transplantation while making good science fiction reading is out of the question.41
A more profitable line-of-investigation, although still remote in the future, if even realistic, is the concept of the cyberg. This is the term used for a cybernetic organism or automated man, in which the machine component of the organism receives instructions from the man and also informs him of the conditions it is encountering.42 For instance, one can imagine a cyberg designed for astronautics. He may resemble a man but many of his bodily functions, such as respiration and communication, would he carried on cybernetically by artificial organs and sensors. However fanciful this sounds, far more fantastic man-machine schemes have been suggested. While I am not concerned with the details of such prophecies it should be remembered that they are based on two current developments: the increasing efficiency and growing use of mechanical prostheses, and the development of the computer.43
Arthur C. Clarke envisages that Homo sapiens will give way in the distant future to Machine sapiens.44 However likely or unlikely this speculation may turn out to be, it is based on the belief that machines capable of greater intelligence than man will be evolved. This in itself is a highly debatable point, and I will not enter that controversy. The modification of man by way of machines and the computer, however, has its roots in man's present dependence on these artifacts, and we should ask ourselves to what extent man has already been modified by them.
Machines are simply extensions of ourselves, because in one sense our bodies are machines. It is true we identify with our bodies, and it is this which enables me to refer to "my body" and to "me". Is an artificial limb or are artificial heart valves a part of "me"? For those possessing such gadgets, normal life would be impossible without them. To what extent then, do artificial protheses affect our identify? To what extent does our body, or parts of our body, contribute to our knowledge of ourselves as individual and distinct beings? In the end we are faced with that perplexing question: "Who am I?"
In the light of our answer to this question we may be able to decide what modifications a human body is able to undergo and still retain its identity. This applies to protheses and transplants as well as to genetic manipulation and assaults upon the brain. Apart from our heredity, the greatest present contributor to our identity is undoubtedly the brain. And the brain is particularly vulnerable to external assault, which is an application of our technological expertise.
The possibilities of misapplication of the results of brain science are already frightening to many people. Could it he, they ask, that here at last we face the ultimate Pandora's Box, a secret whose uncovering would be the destruction of human society? Has brain research gone far enough, if not tot) far, already?45
These words of Donald MacKay written in 1967 are even more appropriate today than then. Brain research has burgeoned over the past few years, and while we are still on the threshold of any overall understanding of it, our potential for manipulating various aspects of its functioning is increasing daily. So real is this advance that some people are throwing up their arms in despair and complaining about the "rape of the mind."
There is a major difference between the application of this type of research and that considered previously in the realm of prenatal manipulation. Whereas intervention before birth affects the lives and characteristics of those not yet in existence, brain manipulation will he carried out on those with known personalities which may consequently be modified during adult life. Investigations upon the brain therefore may pose an even greater threat to the integrity of individuals already conceived and already possessing recognizable identities. It may not be an overstatement to say that the power to change the brain confers a corollary power which is the ability to change personality and even self-identity. This is the crux of the biological selfidentity revolution, and the issues it raises lie at the heart of biophilosophy and, dare I say it, contemporary theology.
I will deal with the two areas, which it seems to me are crucial in this debate. These are the electrical stimulation of the brain and mood-controlling drugs. Electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB)
In very general terms we can say that the brain consists of a number of lobes which are interconnected and which, by virtue of their relationship to the rest of the body and the outside world by way of the spinal cord and peripheral nervous system, constitute a functioning whole. There is therefore constant interplay between the brain of an individual and the world that individual has to cope with, the brain receiving continuous stimuli from the surrounding world and putting out appropriate information to deal with that world. The picture which an individual gives of himself to other individuals is very much the result of these interactions.
Machines are simply extensions of ourselves, because in one sense our bodies are machines. Is an artificial limb or are artificial heart valves a part of me"?
It is not difficult to appreciate then that damage of the brain
upsets these interactions
and may well alter the picture others have of the affected individual. In other
words, brain damage may alter the individual's personality and in so doing may
alter the person himself. Brain damage may dramatically change a
patterns, and the question may then be asked: what is a person's real nature?
Do we have a basic personality on which life, and certainly disease,
or is our personality nothing more than the construct of our
experience ?46 These
questions become the more pressing when we turn from disease to interventions
in the brain, because issues which were previously unavoidable now
to man's control.
Within the lobes of the brain there are various areas which have relatively specific functions. For instance there are areas concerned with speech, vision, hearing, motor and sensory functions etc. In addition there is a region involved in organizing the metabolism of the body and hence with sensations of hunger and thirst, fear and rage. One of the principal ways in which these functions have been localized to specific regions in both laboratory animals and humans is by inserting small electrodes into the brain under local anaesthesia and observing what happens when a small current is applied. For example if a motor region is stimulated an arm or leg may involuntarily move, while with an auditory region the patient may hear a non-existent conversation or weird sounds.
Using this technique Dr. James Olds found in 1953 that when he stimulated a region of the brain known as the hypothalamus in rats, they appeared to enjoy it.47 Olds concluded that the parts of the hypothalamus giving this reaction constituted pleasure centers. Further research indicated that of the pleasure centers one appears to he associated with eating and another with sexual emotions. Besides these pleasure centers there is also evidence that aversive or punishment centers exist in the hypothalamus, while other centers are apparently involved in the development of obesity, thirst and hunger. An area close to the hypothalamus, know as the amygclala, gives a variety of actions when it is stimulated, the best known being rage.
It is not difficult to understand why many people regard these data as detrimental to a human view of the brain. Once these data are assimilated, much of the mystique of the brain, and possibly of the human person, disappears. ESB has therefore, a great deal to answer for. This is not all, because with understanding conies potential control. ESB not only facilitates accurate mapping of the brain, it also ushers in the prospect of modifying human behaviour.
Some of the most dramatic examples of this technique are illustrated by the work of José Delgado.48 For instance, he has shown that a five-second stimulation of a particular spot in a monkey's brain will make the monkey stop whatever it is doing, make a face, and turn its head to the right, walk on its hind legs around its cage, climb the cage wall and return to the floor. With cessation of the stimulation it grunts, stands on all fours and resumes normal activity.
The point here is that each time the button is pressed the monkey goes through exactly the same ritual. And so one could give numerous examples to illustrate this point. Cats can be induced into either paroxysms of rage or excessive contentment simply by stimulating the appropriate brain region. In one instance Delgado, with an excessive degree of showmanship, went into a bull-ring and stopped a charging bull by stimulating one of its brain regions by remote control. Taking these developments further, it is possible for an animal to stimulate its own brain by pressing a lever or button connected to electrodes implanted in its brain. And it is from this that one gets the terrifying picture of a rat continuously stimulating its own pleasure centers, regardless of food or water, until only exhaustion brings this tragic sequence of events to a conclusion.
There is no reason why ESB should not bring about this same kind of thing in human beings. In principle it is possible now. And under certain circumstances it is used now.
At present its use in humans falls into two categories-as a therapeutic tool and in the continuing treatment of emotional disturbances.
The power to change the brain confers a corollary power which is the ability to change personality and even self-identity.
A term often applied to these uses is psychosurgery.48° By increasing the
current passing through the implanted electrodes, brain tissue can be
This is used to destroy tissue in certain cases of intractable
epilepsy and Parkinson's
disease and sometimes to gain relief from intractable pain. Frontal leucotomy
which was in vogue in the 1930's and l940's and which was, and still
resorted to in cases of severe depression is a rather less refined example of
Far more difficult ethically is the use of psychosurgery in modifying behaviour. Consequently it may be employed in people characterized by violent outbursts of rage, to destroy the brain region eoneerned.48b Or it can be used not to destroy brain tissues but simply to quiet a violent psychotic individual by stimulating electrodes implanted in his brain. This latter application of ESB is currently used on a limited number of patients in mental hospitals, but its potential is obvious.
Is there any objection to using ESB as an antidote to specific symptoms? We do this every day with drugs and conventional surgery. Why not by surgery on the brain? The underlying question we have to answer is: "What is normal?" What are our expectations of the normal individual? When I am calm, am I any more me than when I am angry? How do we distinguish between what may he regarded as "normal" anger and "pathological" anger? And who decides?
"Who controls the controllers?" Rosenfeld states the dilemma very perceptively: "The notion of a man controlling his own brain is one thing. But the prospect that a man's brain might he controlled by another is something else again."49 This issue is an intensely practical one because it brings us into the area of criminology and of the expectations of society.
If it can be shown that there is a high correlation between deviant behavior and brain damage, what is the best way of controlling the deviant behavior? Is it by primitive measures, coupled perhaps with moral coercion, or by a direct approach to the brain of the deviant? An answer to this type of question would take us into deep philosophical waters, as it involves the relationship between the brain and the person. Difficult as this issue is, it requires an urgent answer because increasingly courts are having to decide whether a person should be sent to jail or a psychiatric institution. Who or what is at fault-the man or his mental illness? By what criteria do we decide that a man is or is not responsible for his actions?
Many of the questions raised by the use of these drugs are the same as for ESB. The" main difference is that these drugs are freely used in the community at present, and so while their effects may not he as dramatic as ESB, their overall significance may be just as great.
There is now a bewildering array of mood-controlling drugs, the principal groups being (1) sedatives or hypnotics, e.g., barbiturates; (2) stimulants, e.g., amphetamines; (3) tranquillizers, e.g., imipramine (Toframnl) and isocarhoxazid (Marplan); and (4) hallucinogens e.g., LSD, i.e., the psychedelic drugs.50
At present the majority of these drugs while acting within certain general limits, are not unduly specific. They raise or lower the threshold of action of general systems in the drugbiochemistry-behaviour triad. Of course this may change. The specifit of these drugs will undoubtedly improve. Are we to be concerned about this?
In my view the principal dangers arising from the widespread use of these drugs do not lie in a totalitarian foisting of them on a population. Bather it is the voluntary taking of psychoactive agents as a means of escape from the real world that is far more disturbing. While some of these drugs are highly useful in many circumstances and are probably iudispcnsihle in present-day society, their overindulgence can be a means of shielding people from pressures they should face squarely and if possible resolve.
Drugs are modifying our behaviour patterns far more profoundly than we may care to realize. What is happening is that we are looking for technological solutions to our problems, as opposed to social solutions. It is generally far easier to prescribe drugs to alleviate symptoms than to tackle the social situation giving rise to the symptoms. While this use of drugs is undoubtedly justified, the increasing dependence upon drugs by an increasing number of people and by society as a whole may actually lead to a change in the quality of life.51
A disturbing side-effect of this trend is that seen in society's treatment of certain social misfits. The condition of "minimal brain dysfunction" is a relatively recent condition characterized by children whose behaviour is socially unacceptable. Children who are "hyperkinetic" on the basis of their school reports are regarded as in need of treatment with a daily administration of doses of amphetamines.
Great care needs to be taken in equating unacceptable behaviour or personality disorders with brain malfunction. The latter should first be proven before neurobiological or neuropharmaeological action is taken to "cure" it.
We do not know how far the techniques of ESB and mood-controlling drugs will develop. Let us hope the day never comes when men and women will sit down comfortably in their armchairs and stimulate their pleasure centers for hours on end. This is hardly an endearing prospect, but whether it is any different in principle from living on a diet of tranquillisers, alcohol and T.V. is a debatable point.
Perhaps the brave new world is already here, and yet because of our obsession with the horrors of technology and not with its benefits, it has quietly overtaken us.
Towards A Theology of Modified Man
The modification of man raises some of the profoundest issues we will ever face. I will briefly outline what appears to me to be some of the essential principles requiring consideration in formulating a theological approach to them.
1. Research will continue
There can be no moratorium on future biological research, unless this is desired by the scientists involved, as may he the ease with certain forms of bacteria research termed "plasmid engineering." It would be fallacious though to rest our hopes on any such limitation. Research will continue, and will probably also continue to escalate.
It could be argued that because the aims of certain workers in these fields are essentially humanistic, this type of research should be opposed on Christian grounds. To suggest this is to confuse philosophical principles and the scientific enterprise. Scientific research is not dependent upon the aspirations of its exponents in this simple manner. Christians therefore are to be concerned with analyzing each technique on its merits rather than inveighing against these areas of research as a whole on questionable philosophical grounds.
2. Man is viceregent for God
Man has been given dominion over the created order by God. 52 He is therefore to be responsible for it, in that he is to exercise his power in accordance with God's moral nature. "His sense of responsibility," as Montefiore has written, "no less than his status in creation, must be little less than God's"53 As Montefiore has further written in regard to the environment,
Man, because he is in God's image, is a moral being, accountable to God for his actions; and because be is made in the image of God, man is also an intelligent being, under an obligation to use his mind in the exercise of his dominion and therefore unjustified in abusing his environment through indifference or lack of foresight.54
These words are just as appropriate in discussing man himself. Man is responsible for the well being of man, as an individual, as a neighbor, as a society and as a species. This further implies that each man is to he treated as a responsible human being with the power of choosing his own lifestyles and destiny. Each person should be able to choose what he does or does not want inflicted upon his own body. This is his prerogative and no one else's. The more technological society becomes the more difficult it becomes to maintain this principle, and yet it is an indispensible one from a Christian angle.
Man is also responsible for future generations of mats, as much as for the present generation. There is a limit therefore to the degree of tampering with future generations which can he permissible in terms of this principle. Future generations have a right to be as fully human as this generation.
This biblical position is our life-line when considering modified man. Cast it away and no clear principles remain. Macfarlane Burnet believes that "Man is no longer something made in the image of God, but (is) a part of the whole world of living things".55 Hence the title of a hook of his Dominant Mammal. But where does this take us? How does it guide us through the maelstrom of perplexing issues facing us? Leach believes that "we could act like gods". To what end? "That we can act confidently with a sense of purpose." We need a sense of direction to guide us in the choices we have to make. Furthermore, we need the perspective of eternity. Without this it is more than likely that man will exploit himself and his world to the full for selfish and self-defeating purposes.
Apart from man's knowledge of his relationship to God, of God's standards and of God's requirements for the created order, what model does man have for modifying man? Jacques Ellul has made the rather unflattering comment that those with the power of remodelling man will make the new human in their own image.57
3. The "ideal" human being
This leads on to the question of what is the aim of modifying man? Is there such a being as the "ideal" man? Is there a holistic view of "man" at all, or is the being we call man composed of a series of almost unrelated normalities and abnormalties?
These are crucial philosophical questions for our generation, because humanism has brought us to the point of denying the existence of a meaningful man. Instead, what it presents to us is a mass of determined, reductionistic pieces of information that, by modifying human beings, it is attempting to build into a "new" man-the humanistic ideal of a human being.
concept of the "ideal" is itself a humanistic one, and so
human being is a vision of
ethics and moral philosophy, not of biology.58 Carl
Henry works out the consequences of this position a little further.
central to the current conflict over the ideal image of man is the contemporary uncertainty about who or what man really is. It has not yet dawned on our contemporaries that their creative postulation of a novel man, if consistently ventured, must involve a total severance with man as Christianity has known him-man ideally imaged in Jesus of Nazareth, man who owes his existence to a divine creator and preserver.59
Man is also responsible for future generations of man, as much as for the present generation.
Man as we know him is therefore the man we are to strive to help, and
we follow in modern biology are found in man as we now know him. Does
then invalidate much of the genetic transplantation and
I have been discussing? My answer is "No". We are
surrounded by individuals
suffering from defects of one sort or another; the remedy of these defects and
the alleviation of suffering are cardinal principles of medicine which apply as
much in modern biological medicine as in more traditional medicine. A line must
be drawn however, between this approach and that which attempts to improve man
according to unspecified goals.
Even this principle though may lead to a surprising degree of modification of man within certain limits. It does not justify reactionary cries of alarm. We are to he modern but in a Christian way.
4. The dehumanization of man
This is intimately involved in the search for the "ideal" man. The danger is that it ends as a dehumanization, involving a depersonalization, of man. A great deal of thought needs to be devoted to working out the implications of dehumanization. As a start it might be worth suggesting that deviation from the creation ideal is implied in dehumanization. As a part of the creation ideal we see a close association of sex and marriage, marriage and parenthood, and childrearing with home .60 While these associations may or may not be inviolable rules, they are clear pointers in the direction God intended human life to proceed.
Any major cleavage within them is an aspect of dehumanization. The extent to which any of the procedures I have outlined are dehumanizing will have to he considered. Are there, for example, any circumstances under which AID. would be acceptable from a biblical standpoint? Does it automatically breach the marriage bond? It can be argued that it imparts into the marriage relationship something from outside, something which does not stem from the relationship itself. Viewed in this way it falls short of the creation ideal,61 and opens the way to mechanistic trends. In relationship to AID. I believe an essential consideration concerns the reasons for desiring it. Are these motives humanistic or are they concerned with the welfare of the two parties in the marriage? Does the latter motive ever justify A.I.D. from a biblical perspective? Similar questions need he asked in all the areas I have considered. Is ESB to control rage ever justified? Again, there may be situations in which biblical principles will allow it, and others in which they will contraindicate it.
5. Freedom and change
The biological developments discussed in this paper bring us face-to-face with the reality of change in our lives. This presents us with the challenge of confronting change, both in the biological world and in our attitudes, and of deciding what we are prepared to do with it. Are we determined to resist change, come what may, or will we accept it and strive to see it in a Christian perspective so that we can help decide the kind of change to be adopted?
Attitudes have already changed enormously. For instance contraception has had a vast effect on attitudes towards marriage, the fetus and perhaps the quality of life for our children. Has Christian thinking promoted any of these changes, or has it been defeated repeatedly as it has unsuccessfully resisted them? We must think through issues concerning modified man, because the issues either are, or will shortly he, on our doorsteps. Change will not slow down to allow the Christian Church to catch up.
Accompanying these changes in the life of man is an increase in his freedom and in the extent of his control over himself and others. Man however, is not as free as humanists often assert, and yet he has greater freedom than we sometimes like to admit. Society is not a vast laboratory as some would believe, but neither is it a museum. Man is on the move, and it is the task of the Christian to remind scientists that the "man" they wish to control is a fellow citizen, a human like themselves. It is also relevant to point out, as Langdon Gilkey has suggested, "that there is less freedom in the knower and controller through his knowledge than most descriptions of the potential uses of science seem to assume."62
6. Optimism or pessimism?
New men have not as yet been made, although the old man can, within stringent limits, be modified. Does this hold out hope for a glorious future? To some humanists, it does.63 To some scientists, it does; to others, it is more like the brink of catastrophe.64
Sir George Pickering confronted with the possibility of an indefinite extension of human life commented: "I find this a terrifying prospect, and I am glad I shall be dead and will have ceased to make my own contributions to this catastrophe before it happens".65
For the Christian it should remind him of the conflict between man's old and new spiritual natures, and of the conflict between good and evil within the universe. Whatever man can make of man, it is God who is in ultimate control, and however all powerful man may appear, he remains the creature in a God upheld world.
The Christian is to continue living in faith, knowing that God's purposes for him and for mankind are no less exciting in the 1970's than at any period in the past. The Christian is to reflect the image of God inhis life, his thinking and his contribution to society. It is for him to see that, as far as he is able, man is modified according to God's and not man's precepts.
Dates in brackets refer to the original date of publication.
1Rosenfeld, A., The Second Genesis, Arena Books, New York, 1972 (1969), p. 21.
2Ibid., p. 29.
3Leach, E., A Runaway World?, British Broadcasting Corporation, London, 1968, pp. 14, 15.
4Muller, H. J., Genetic progress by voluntarily conducted germinal choice. In G. Wolstcnholme (ed.) Man and His Future, CIBA Foundation, Churchill, London, 1967 (1963). p. 261.
5Crick, F., Discussion on ethical considerations. In Wolstenholme, Ibid., pp. 364, 380.
6Kass, L. R., New beginnings in Life, In M. P. Hamilton (ed.), The New Genetics and the Future of Man, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1972, p. 20.
7See my comments in Jones, D. G., Teillsard de Chordin: An Analysis and Assessment, Tyndale Press, London, 1969, pp. 43-49.
81 am grateful to Dr. James Houston, Principal of Regent College, Vancouver for his emphasis on the contribution of the professional disciplines to theology.
9Toffler, A., Future Shock, Pan, London, 1971 (1970), pp. 172-201.
10Ibid,, p. 182.
11Rosenfeld, A. op cit., p. 29
12Huxley, A., Brave New World, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1955 (1932), pp. 17, 18
l3Edwards, R. C. and Sharpe, R. J., Social values and research in human embryology, Nature (1971), 231, 87
l4See the discussions by Leach, G., The Biocrats, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1972 (1970), pp. 99-102
l5Edwards and Sharpe, op cit., pp. 87, 88
17Edwards, H. G., 'Aspects of human reproduction'. In W. Fuller (ed.), The Biological Revolution, Anchor Books, New York, 1972 (1971), p. 136
181bid., p. 137
191bid., pp. 137, 138
20See examples quoted by Kass, op cit., pp. 28, 29
21Ramsey, P., Fabricated Man, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1970, p. 113
22Kass, op. cit., p. 30
23Ibid., p. 34
24Leach, op. cit., pp. 86.98
25Glass, B., 'Science endless horizons or golden age?' Science, (1971), 171, 28
27Leach, op. cit., p. 115
28Taylor, C. H., The Biological Time Bomb, Panther, London, 1969 (1968), p.86
29Edwards and Sharpe, op. cit., p. 88
30See Rosenfeld, ob. cit., p. 147
30oSee Nature (1974), 250, 278-280 for discussion of plasmid engineering.
31For a discussion of genetic engineering see Leach, op. cit., pp. 153-160; also Penrose, L. S., 'Ethics and eugenics'. In
Fuller, op. cit., pp. 112-120
32Leach, ibid., p. 159
33Rosenfeld, op. cit., p. 143
34Bamsey, P., Genetic therapy. In Hamilton, op. cit., p. 159
35Taylor, op cit., p. 29
36Haldane, J. B. S., Biological possibilities in the next ten thousand years. In Woistenholme, op. cit., p. 353
37See Gordon, J. B., Transplanted nuclei and cell differentiation, Scientific American (1968), 219, 24-35
38See Edwards and Sharpe, op. cit., pp. 88, 89; Leach, op. cit., pp. 110-1 15; also Kass, op. cit., pp. 45-49
39Leach, ibid., p. 114
40Kass, op. cit., p. 48
41Gontrast Clarke, A. C. Profiles of the Future, Pan, London 1964 (1962), pp. 225, 226
42Taylor, op. cit., p. 90
43Ibid., pp. 91-94
44Clarke, op. cit., p. 233
45MacKay, D. M., The human brain, Science Journal (1967), 3, 47
46Taylor, op cit., p. 161
47See Olds, J., Emotional centres in the brain, Science Journal, op cit., 87.92
48For descriptions of some of Delgado's experiments see Rosenfeld op cit., pp. 197.211; Leach, op cit., pp. 227-233;
also Delagdo, Physical Control of the Mind, Harper and Row, N.Y. (1969)
48aFor a critique of psychosurgery, see Valenstein, E. S., Brain Control, Wiley, N.Y. (1973)
48bMark, V. H. and Ervin, F, K., Violence and the Brain, Harper and Row, N. Y. (1970)
49Rosenfeld, op cit., p. 211
50For a brief account of these drugs see Alexander, D., Beyond Science, Lion Publishing, Berkhamsted, 1972, pp. 25.32
51Fnr an interesting discussion of this issue, sec Rose, S., The Conscious Brain, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1973, pp. 294-303
52Genesis 1 26, 27; Psalm 8 5 ff; Hebrews 2 7-9
53Montefiore, H., Can Man Survive? Collins Fontana, London, 1970 (1969), p. 57
54Ibid., p. 58
55Burnet, Macfarlane, Dominant Mammal, Penguin, Ringwood, 1971 (1970), p. 28
56Leach, op cit., p. 809
57Quoted by Alexander, op cit., p. 25
58Hertz, K. H., What can man make of man. In K. Haseldcn and P. Hefner (eds.), Changing Man the Threat and the Promise, Anchor Books, Garden City, 1969 (1968), p. 104
59Henry, C. F. H., The new image of man. In C. Hatfield (ed.), The Scientist and Ethical Decision, Inter Varsity Press, Illinois, 1973, pp. 170, 171
60Alexander, op cit., pp. 206, 207
62Gillkey, L., Evolutionary science and the dilemma of freedom and determinism. In Haselden and Flelner, op cit., pp. 72, 73
63See for example Burnet, op cit., p. 215; Lederberg, J., Biological future of man. In Wolstenholme, op cit., pp. 268-270; Glass, op cit., p. 29.
64Examples quoted by Taylor, op cit., pp. 239, 240
65Ibid., p. 239