In 2005 Christian bio-ethicist Nigel Cameron spoke to the National Right to Life Convention. His challenge to the prolife community was to consider moving beyond abortion as the singular focus of our pro-life endeavors. He said, "In the 21st century it will not be enough to simply be pro-life, one must also be pro-human."
Michael Sleasman, Managing Director and Research Scholar for The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity explains, "while many of the ethical questions of the late 20th Century dealt with bioethical concerns over the beginning and end of life issues (the making and taking of human life), the questions raised by these new, these emerging technologies threaten to change the nature of the human species and the very essence of what it means to be human."
Western civilization is at a critical juncture. According to U.S Congressman Brad Sherman, a member of the U.S. House Science Committee,the unprecedented capabilities of emerging bio-technologies have set the stage for a technological revolution which he referenced as analogous only to the development of nuclear technology. That our culture has reached an ethical crossroads is evidenced by the following statements made by American congressmen at a "nanopolicy roundtable" held in 2006.
"We are talking about a suite of technologies that are going to revolutionize the way we do things and how we live. And the questions are How will that happen? And what will we do as this unfolds? Do we have systems in place that are capable of keeping up with the rapid change in technology?" - Marty Spritzer (Representing U.S.Representative Sherwood Boehlert, Chairman of the House Science Committee)
"What are the policy implications of the emerging ethical issues related to nanotechnology? In other words, how does this bounce back to us (Congress)? Do we need laws? Do we need regulations? Do we need congressional action? Don't ask me to answer all of these question. That's your job, and I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts." - U.S. Congressman David Weldon
"Now, like my colleagues, I do not have any answers. Rather, I hope to identify some of the questions. I know that the right time to start thinking about these questions is now...What is the definition of a human?" - U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman
Similarly, The president and co-founder of the Institute on Biotechnology & the Human Future Nigel Cameron said, "The problem is brought into ready focus by the manner in which bioethics has essentially emerged as the conjoined twin of bio-policy."
The questions have been posed, but their answers require a deeper look into the nature of ethics and policy, ideas and action. So, we will look deeper.
Ideas are irrelevant without action, and action is precedented by idea. Or, to quote the widely acclaimed American philosopher Sam Harris, "Beliefs are scarcely more private than actions are, for every belief is a fount of action in potentia."
One concept that has contributed to American greatness is its celebration and protection of free speech and inquiry. No matter how outrageous, disturbing or irrational, America zealously guards the right to think, inquire and speak without censure. This right is vital to our progress as a culture, because true truth never fears inspection. Sincere seekers of truth welcome all ideas to the table of rational debate. That said, any policymaker can tell you that at some point ideas must translate into action, otherwise society will stagnate or even regress. A "plurality of ideas" is essential to stimulate healthy social debate, but at some point, specific ideas must be selected as those on which to act.
As demonstrated by the Congressional quotes above, American bioethics and bio-technologies are currently held hostage, so to speak, by a misconception deeply rooted in the American mind. We will refer to this misconception as the concept of " plurality of action".
Unless we intend to abandon rationality, it is apparent that in some circumstances you can not have two opposing actions simultaneously. You can not have your cake and eat it too. You can not go up to get down. If you kill someone, they can not be alive. Yes, there are paradoxes, yes there are gray areas. but gray areas and paradoxes have never been the points upon which men construct their ethics, philosophy, science, or law. These things, if they are to grow and flourish, must be constructed on a solid and cohesive foundation of "first principles" from which all further action may rationally proceed.
The assumptions on which man rationally constructs his social frameworks constitute his "worldview". Everyone has a world view. Whether he realizes it or not, he has at some point formed assumptions about what it is to be human and acts accordingly. A worldview then is nothing more than a set of presuppositions that we act on. A cultural worldview is nothing more than the set of socially agreed "first assumptions" from which national policy rationally proceeds.
Every worldview attempts to answer the three fundamental human questions:
* What is man?
* What is wrong with the world?
* Can we make it better?
The first question is critical to the discussion at hand. It begs the question "Where did man come from?" And this is the ultimate question on which all ethics, all morality, and by inference all policy and culture rest. Prior to the emergence of modern bio-technologies, Western culture managed to evade this question, to quietly ignore it. But the advent of modern bio-technologies has once again returned us to the elephant in the room which we all had hoped to ignore. " What is the origin and nature of man?"
In a rational world, our bio-policy is dictated by our ethics, our ethics is dictated by our worldview, and our worldview is dictated by our assumptions concerning the origin and nature of man. Ethics can not be a gray area. If we treat it as such, we will find ourselves unable to act in, much less to lead in the coming bio-tech age. It is imperative that American policy makers decide on a cohesive frame of reference and then act accordingly. What will be the idea behind our action? The assumption that man is the creation and design of an intelligent being, or that he is the result of chance evolutionary processes? Is man a unique creation or an organic phenomenon in process? Will we assume the existence of an eternal Supreme Being or the eternal existence of uncreated matter?
Either way the question is answered, an assumption has been made. Nobel Prize winning physicist, Leon M. Lederman, agrees. He said:
"In the very beginning, there was a void, a curious form of vacuum, a nothingness containing no space, no time, no matter, no light, no sound. Yet the laws of nature were in place and this curious vacuum held potential. A story logically begins at the beginning, but this story is about the universe and unfortunately there are no data for the very beginnings--none, zero. We don't know anything about the universe until it reaches the mature age of a billion of a trillionth of a second. That is, some very short time after creation in the big bang. When you read or hear anything about the birth of the universe, someone is making it up--we are in the realm of philosophy. Only God knows what happened at the very beginning. "
Personhood asserts that the only rational basis for a pro-human policy in the 21st century is the historic Judeo/Christian view of man as created in the image of God. We also assert that the rational outcome of a materialist/evolutionary assumption is the transhumanist vision of emerging technologies unrestrained by archaic superstitions and ethics.