The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity
Link to Syllabus
Current developments in biotechnology, including human genetics, human-animal hybridization, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, pharmacologicals, and robotics, portend both great benefit and tremendous challenges to a truly human future. This course will explore these technological developments, elucidate a theory of specie-typical functioning, suggest a theological response to these developments, and analyze the ways they may affirm or erode human wellbeing.
2-3 hrs. Graduate credit available
C. Christopher Hook, M.D., Institute Co-Director
Brent Waters, D.Phil., Institute Co-Director
The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity
Bannockburn, IL USA
July 16 – 18, 2007
Developments in the fields of genetics, neuroscience, pharmacology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, bioelectronics, and neurotechnology are arriving at a staggering pace, well out-stripping the necessary developments in philosophy, ethics, theology, education, and law that are required for the appropriate, safe, and wise evaluation and use, or rejection, of these technologies. Yet, the United States Government, many governments around the globe, and the forces of enterprise, with the rush to patent, promote, market, and profit from these developments are plowing forward, deliberating developing means to re-engineer the human species.
The motivations for such a re-engineering project are many and include, but are not limited to the following: 1) Defense departments wish to create the most effective, mobile, and survivable force possible. 2) Many of these technologies will be developing initially for legitimate healing purposes, achieving wonderful, as at present only dreamed of, capacities to detect and eliminate pathogens, neoplastic cells and toxins, and restore lost function or reverse disability. 3) The forces of competition in industry, sports and the academy are intense and intensifying. Individuals are motivated, if not forced, to “improve” what can be improved, regardless of the method. 4) Vanity already drives the greater than $15 billion per year cosmetic surgery industry in the United States, and our society’s intolerance of physical difference and aging continues to force the makeover arms race. 5) Despite the claims that the United States is the most “religious” nation on the planet, the realities, as displayed by repeated surveys, is that, perhaps aside from belief about the issue of evolution, our religiosity is not informed by any meaningful commitment to the orthodox truths of Christianity, or by any demonstration of lived practical theology. Thus we are a people who lives in terror of aging and death, and appear to be willing to do anything to try to beat the grim reaper. (This is demonstrated by the extraordinary amounts of money flushed down toilets each day in the form of excreted nutriceuticals, etc.). 6) An ever increasing belief in the necessity and moral appropriateness, if not duty, to re-engineer the next phase(s) of human evolution, the position formed and promoted by those calling themselves posthumanists, transhumanists, and/or prolongevists. All of these forces are interacting in ways that present the human race with some of the greatest choices and challenges it has faced since the Fall.
This seminar will explore these technologies and motivations and analyze and critique them from a technical, philosophical, and theological perspective, developing tools that may be used for the analysis of these and other technologies from a Christian perspective.
1. To provide the student with a sufficient understanding of the state of the art, feasibility, and limitations of human re-engineering technologies enabling him or her to participate meaningfully in the public discussion of these issues.
2. To engage in a philosophical-theological analysis and critique of human re-engineering technologies, and the assumptions and philosophies that underlie such projects.
3. To develop a philosophical-theological toolset for the evaluating these and other technologies from a Christian perspective.
4. To support the student in writing, submitting and publishing a paper, editorial, chapter, etc., on these technologies and the re-engineering vision in one of their professional outlets, so as to promote greater Christian involvement in the public deliberations of the human re-engineering project.
C. Christopher Hook, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Adjunct Professor of
Bioethics, Trinity International University, and Adjunct Professor of
Bioethics, Covenant Theological Seminary
Brent Waters, D.Phil.
Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics & Director of the Stead
Center for Ethics and Values, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Monday - July 16, 2007
Tuesday - July 17, 2007
Wednesday - July 18, 2007
The pertinent literature on these topics is growing steadily and includes readings in ethics, the philosophy of technology, neuro-philosophy, theology, thought experiments in the form of science fiction, the technical literature, transhumanist literature, etc. We provide below two lists, one of required readings, which all participants must read, and one of additional recommended readings for those so interested. With the assistance of CBHD, we will place the syllabus on the Center’s website so that the list of recommended readings can be updated as new material become available.
In addition to the books and articles listed below, we encourage each student to spend some time exploring the following websites, which provide an abundance of resources for becoming familiar with the philosophy, rhetoric, technologies and players in transhumanism. These websites are:
1. The World Transhumanist Association http://www.transhumanism.org
2. Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies http://ieet.org
3. Nick Bostrom’s homepage (which includes a link to Bostrom’s Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University) http://www.nickbostrom.com
4. Ray Kurzweil’s website which is an encyclopedia of transhumanist philosophy and technology http://www.kurzweilAI.net
1. Waters, Brent. From Human to Posthuman: Christian Theology and Technology in the a Postmodern World. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. 2006. ISBN 0-7546-3915-0
2. Young, Simon. Designer Evolution: A Transhumanist Manifesto. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. 2006. ISBN 1-59102-290-9
3. Ray Kurzweil. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking. 2005. ISBN 0-670-03384-7
4. Hughes, James. Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future. Cambridge, MA: Westview Press. 2004. ISBN 0-8133-4198-1
5. Rosen, Christine. Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004. ISBN 0-19-515679-X
6. Passmore, John. The Perfectibility of Man, 3rd Edition. Indianopolis: Liberty Fund. 2000. ISBN 0-86597-258-3
7. Elliott, Carl. Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets The American Dream. New York: W.W. Norton. 2003. ISBN 0-393-05201-X
8. President’s Council on Bioethics. Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. Available as a pdf download at: http://www.bioethics.gov/reports/beyondtherapy/index.html.
9. Students should also familiarize themselves with the contents of the two reports from the NBIC (Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno) Project of the National Science Foundation and the National Nanotechnology Initiative that are available for pdf download at http://www.wtec.org/ConvergingTechnologies/.
10. The following text will only be published in May 2007, and thus may not be accessible in sufficient time for required reading, but it is strongly recommended that all students obtain the book when possible: Mitchell, C. Ben, et al. Biotechnology and the Human Good. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. 2007. ISBN 1589011384
Recommended Supplemental Readings:
1. Scharff, Robert and Dusek, Val, eds. Philosophy of Technology: The Technological Condition – An Anthology. Blackwell Publishers. 2003. ISBN: 0-631-22219-7
a. Especially Chapters 16, 18, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 33, 37, 42, 50, 51, 53, 54 and 55
b. This is the best anthology on the philosophy of technology available and worth having in one’s library.
2. Parens, Erik, ed. Enhancing Human Traits. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. New edition, 2000. ISBN 0878407804
3. N. Katherine Hayles. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1999. ISBN 0-226-32145-2
4. Bostrom, N. “What Is Transhumanism?” (2001) accessible through http://www.nickbostrom.com. Also see the Transhumanist FAQ at www.transhumanism.org.
5. Schuurman, Egbert. Faith and Hope in Technology. Toronto: Clements Publishing. 2003. ISBN 1-894667-28-X
6. Segal, Howard. Technological Utopianism in American Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1985, 2005 Re-release edition. ISBN 0-226-74438-8
7. Kroker, Arthur. The Will To Technology & The Culture of Nihilism: Heidegger, Nietzche & Marx. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2004. ISBN 0-8020-8573-3
8. Faulker, Robert. Francis Bacon and the Project of Progress. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 1993. ISBN 0847678587
9. Jonas, Hans. The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age. University of Chicago Press. 1985. ISBN 0226405974
10. Ellul, Jacques. The Technological Society. Vintage. 1967. ISBN 0394703901
11. Ellul, Jacques. The Technological Bluff. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. 2003. ISBN 080280960X
12. Kuczynski, Alex. Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession with Cosmetic Surgery. New York: Doubleday. 2006. ISBN 0-385-50853-0
13. Blum, Virginia. Flesh Wounds: The Culture of Cosmetic Surgery. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2003. ISBN 0-520-21723-3
14. Kilbourne, Jean. Can’t Buy Me Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel. New York: Touchstone. 1999. ISBN 0-684-86600-5
A few science fiction novels and critical works that cover human re-engineering issues include:
15. Dinello, Daniel. Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology. University of Texas Press. 2006. ISBN 0292709867
16. Stross, Charles. Acclerando. ACE. 2006. ISBN 0441014151 (Highly praised in the transhuman community!)
17. Vinge, Vernor. Rainbows End. 2006. ISBN 0312856849
18. Stephenson, Neal. The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illutrated Primer. Bantam. 2000, reprint ed. ISBN 0553380966
1) Read the required materials in advance of the seminar.
2) Attend all sessions of the seminar
3) Participate in the discussions
4) Students taking the seminar for academic credit hours will be required to submit one writing project as follows:
a) Prepare an article, editorial, educational piece, etc. for a journal in your specific discipline concerning one of the technologies or the issues of human re-engineering. Preferably the journal will be peer-reviewed, could be a non-peer-reviewed publication that is read by many or most of the members of your professional group.
b) The article needs to be in the form required by that particular publication, and ready for submission pending corrections, modifications, etc., after the faculty’s review.
c) Upon receipt of the graded document, the student should make appropriate corrections, and then submit the piece to the target journal. Acceptance is not required, but it is our hope that you will be able to get published, and start establishing yourself as a voice in the discussions about human re-engineering.
d) Students taking the seminar for 3 hours of academic credit will be required to turn in a critical review of a book related to the theme of the seminar and an additional 1,500 words paper or article.
e) Grades will be based upon accuracy, fluency, cogency, and likelihood of publication.
f) During the last session of the seminar each student will meet with the faculty to discuss his or her topic and planned target journal. Students are therefore encouraged to consider in advance, either from the readings, and/or class discussions, topics they would like to tackle.
g) Deadline (post-marked or email-dated) for the paper is September 30, 2007.
h) If sending a hard copy, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelop in which we can return the papers.
i) Please make and send two copies of the papers, one to each of the faculty:
C. Christopher Hook, M.D.
200 First St. SW
Rochester, MN 55905
Brent Waters, D.Phil.
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
2121 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60201