Should we be required to live in the body in which we were birthed? The Bionic ear is with us in the form of the cochlear implant. We have bionic arms and legs attached to the war wounded. Now the Bionic Eye is here.

We are slowly becoming a body of technology as the flesh weakens and decays. Does bionics confirm or deny the existence of God? The most religious among us will claim — in a fascinating metaphysical dance around an illogical argument — that God invented everything and so He invented Bionics and therefore it is God’s hand that is creating the technology to replace failing body parts.

Do you find that argument curious? Doesn’t bionics show the failure of God in preserving the body? Is it possible bionics exist in spite of God instead of because of Him? Why would God create a body that can wear out? Why would God create a mechanical replacement that is not of the flesh and spirit? Is bionics Anti-God and Pro-Science? Is it our bodies or our minds that make us human?

If it is spirit that gives us cogent life over inanimate objects, where then, does the mechanical eye fit into that lifeforce equation? How far away are we from interchangeable body pieces? If your eye is wearing out, head over to the vending machine and buy a new one in a different color for $20. Is your heartbeat weak? Order the latest mechanical model from Amazon.com and feel better in 2-3 business days.

Is your arm feeling tired after pitching 3 innings in the Major Leagues? Screw in a new arm and double your pitch speed.

We are on a doomed route of falling for a life without the failures of the flesh.

The forced, artificial, regeneration of human cells will lead to a propagation of lives that — 100 years ago — would not last past the age of 30. In 20 years the life expectancy — the demand for “continuing” — will be 200 years. Will that sort of fake, extended, life be worth living? Is everlasting life what we all seek?

Is that why science leads us into total-body bionics? What percentage of a regenerated body must remain “original flesh born of original sin” in order to still be considered “human” and not artificial life? 51 percent? One percent? One one hundredth of one percent? Is a whisper of breath from a mechanical lung enough of a human mark to be considered alive and not just powered up?

Is the ultimate test of science verses faith merely a game of cosmic one-upmanship: The divinity of disease eradicates the body and science removes the flesh with a soulless replacement made of plastic and titanium?

17 Comments

  1. Hi David,
    I’m surprised nobody has jumped into the mix on this subject yet.
    I say people are people no matter what — even if they are young, old, supplemented with electronics, assisted with medical devices, etc.
    As far as the God argument is concerned, I don’t think that using medical devices takes does anything to reduce a person’s faith in a supreme being.

  2. Hi David,
    It’s our soul that makes us human and not just robots. While there are some robots that seem to be getting closer to being human-like, they will always be “cold” machines crunching 0s and 1s to make decisions. They will never love or have feelings like human beings have.

  3. David!
    Wow! What an article! My head is spinning…
    I am reminded of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
    I have to agree with Chris. It is not our body that makes us human but our souls. As for those people who do not believe in souls, well, that is their opinion. I think opinion is all we can really have on this matter.
    Do you think that a person in a comatose state is still human? Or not?

  4. Emily —
    Where does the soul reside? Can science find it and replicate it?
    If the soul is part of a belief system, then to non-believers a soul does not exist, right?
    Isn’t it intellectually disingenuous to argue “well, they don’t think they have a soul even though they do” because that presses a belief system into the realm of fact finding and scientific evidence.
    If you want to have your head swim in the “soul, not soul” debate, do a quick search on “Do Animals Have Souls?” and you’ll see just how silly, petty and furious the arguments are over that shallow topic.
    http://www.google.com/search?q=do+animals+have+souls
    If God creates everything, why wouldn’t he want a Roomba to have a soul if it serves you, makes your life better and provides intelligence and prescience of its own independent of human intervention?
    As the line fuzzes between human and mechanical I think we’re in trouble if we make the matter one of value judgments and belief systems instead of one of what it means to be alive and living — with or without a soul.
    Is being removed from a womb the only way to be considered human?

  5. Hi David,
    “Screw in a new arm and double your pitch speed.” I think there might have to be a few rule changes made in the Major Leagues. This would make the flap over Sammy Sosa’s bat a few years ago seem like chicken feed.
    There was talk of disqualifying Richard Whitehead from the Comrades Marathon because of his “springlike” prosthetics. They did not. Here is a link to coverage of the winners that talks about him.
    http://tinyurl.com/3bhvhr
    Here is a quote from the article:
    “Thirty-year-old Briton Richard Whitehead became the first runner with artificial legs to complete the tortuous Comrades, a symbol of the tough spirit which over the past 80 years has become synonymous with the ultra marathon.
    Whitehead, who was born without legs, completed the Comrades in just under ten hours.”
    This guy totally blows me away. I think he would be good evidence that supermen do exist today.
    Donna

  6. Hi David,
    Even inside the womb a human is still a human. They might not be considered a person with all of the same Constitutional rights that Wal-Mart might have, but it doesn’t change the fact that Wal-Mart will never become a person, while most fetuses will end up being born and lead lives common to humans all over the world.
    It’s hard to prove the existence of a soul using an empirical proof. It would be the same as trying to show a proof that Michael Moore is brilliant to a family that just washed up on the shores of South Miami after fleeing from Cuba and their socialized health care benefits for the great unknowns of American-style freedom of self-determination. Those folks will just have to agree to disagree.
    The same is with a soul. Notwithstanding Stephen King novels, my car will never be evil because it can never have a soul. But, if we wired in a human brain using some sort of neural network that allowed the car to be controlled by the human who had become a bionic being, that might make a difference.

  7. Excellent link, Donna! What people fail to realize is that disabled people like that have to be twice as good as “average” runners with two good feet to simply overcome the loss of the original limbs. There’s no advantage currently to having bionics because it is in its infancy. We don’t have any Six Million Dollar Men/Women… yet! 😀
    I am reminded of Lance Armstrong’s struggle against doping charges. He has an enlarged heart due to his cancer treatment and some, in France, were arguing that his larger heart was an unfair advantage and his post-cancer Tour de France wins should be stripped from him. The fact that he had cancer and beat it gave him a disadvantage in winning not an advantage.

  8. Chris —
    It’s that sort of canonical thinking that is going to hold us back from moving forward into the next, great, technological realm where robots have the same rights as “humans” and if the United States doesn’t tempt that playing of God, some other country will, and they’ll rule the world –- and our Christian nation — for the next thousand years.