Alan Goldstein’s presentation was not as coherent as his article in Salon entitled Invasion of the High Tech Body Snatchers (you’ll need to endure some ads or else pay to be a Salon Premium member to read it). Here is a brief excerpt to tease you:
Right here, right now, it is virtually impossible to find a human being in the developed world who is not technologically enhanced or modified. Ever been vaccinated? Have a tooth crowned? Wear contact lenses? One does not need a pacemaker to qualify as a bioengineered Homo sapiens. These examples have profound implications. There is no theoretical difference between a dental implant and a mental implant except that we know how a tooth works and can manufacture a functional replacement. Currently, the same cannot be said for the neural network of the brain. But from a bioengineering standpoint, that is only a matter of time.
The big message from Goldstein is that while bioethicists obsess over cloning and stemcell research, bioengineers will soon be able to replace every part of our bodies. Anybody care?
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We are obviously on or near the cusp of major medical breakthroughs and revolutions regarding the human body, and in reality, many of these steps forward will be helpful (assuming that we don’t totally screw up and pollute or destroy the gene pool and human DNA structures).
From medicines that help regulate thyroid and blood pressure, it is only a matter of time before we see medicines that help manage weight loss and cholesterol.
From the pace maker for the heart, its only a matter time before something is developed that will “take over” for human heartbeat if there is heart failure – sort of a portable CPR machine that can be hooked up and stimulate heart movement until medical assistance arrives.
Cures for diseases unimagined years ago (cancer, parkinsons, etc.).
Etc., Etc. It will be amazing and scary at the same time, and yes, some of the implications may even suggest that there is no God (I’m not giving my own opinion – I am just saying that this is a philosophical viewpoint that seems to naturally stem from more advanced (ie – not existent yet) cloning, causing a fundamental shift in human nature).
The real problem, ethically speaking, is that once we sucessfully cross the rubicon, its not a slippery slope, but rather a slippery mountain covered in ice with a vertical drop. It will be much harder to draw a line and say “if we cross this line now, its bad.” You will either be for it or against it.
Oh well…at least it will insure that we have lots of philosophy and ethics teaching positions available 🙂