In my previous
post, I made light of the "human enhancement" portion of the 21st
Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (PDF, 56.1 KB),
and I'm not the only one who's a bit puzzled by its safeguards against
"potential use of nanotechnology in enhancing human intelligence and in
developing artificial intelligence which exceeds human capacity."
In all seriousness, I believe it's one of the few passages of
the bill that looks far into the future and demands that we begin to
think about what exactly it is we're trying to do here. It also
presages a debate that is growing in not only environmentalist circles,
but in religious ones as well.
Take a look at a few paragraphs from this
interview C. Ben Mitchell, an assistant professor of bioethics and
contemporary culture at Trinity International University, in the
January 2004 issue of Christianity Today magazine.
The Bible does not address nanotechnology, but does it
offer any principles that should guide Christians as they think about
The Bible's message is about redeeming that which has
been lost and about caring for those who are in need and those who are
suffering. It seems to me that the biblical obligation is to care for
those who are the least of these, rather than make an effort to advance
Does the Bible prohibit enhancements?
I don't know of a specific prohibition that says we ought
not to try to enhance human beings. I find a number of cautions. The
tower of Babel story is a powerful cautionary tale against trying to
usurp God's authority. It's a warning that at least ought to give us
I'm curious as to where bionanotech scientists believe their
limits should be. Ultimately, though, it's not even the scientists who
will set those limits. It's those who will fund and commercialize the
technologies, the market that demands them and the governments that
will decide where to clamp down and say, "no further."
The question is,
who is doing the informing, and ultimately what will guide the
governments' decisions? These questions will become increasingly important over time,
and I'll have more to say on them soon.