For centuries people have looked to words spoken by God in the Bible’s first book for clarity on what it means to be human: “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness” (Gn 1:26). Consistent with the thinking reflected there, human nature, created by God in his image, is understood as something well established and unchanging.
Genesis also says that in creating, God made human beings “male and female” (Gn 1:27). Today, an influential school of thought called gender theory says sexual identity is a social construct and a matter of choice.
Pope Francis often has criticized gender theory, saying it fails to “recognize the order of creation.” But a militant “transgender rights“ movement aims to reshape public policy and practice on issues from using public restrooms to serving in the military.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Science and technology today spearhead discussion of a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human? At a deep level, how we think about human nature itself appears in flux under the lens of “transhumanist” and “posthumanist” thought.
Joining the conversation
Transhumanistm and posthumanism have existed in secular intellectual circles for decades, and they have served as staples of science fiction, but lately they’ve been reaching out to a broader audience. A notable instance was a popular book written by an Israeli historian named Yuval Noah Harari. Bearing the title “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” (HarperCollins, $35), the book says the main human project of the 21st century is to “upgrade Homo Sapiens into Homo Deus … attaining divinity” by transformative scientific and technological technique.
In a 2015 interview with Catholic News Agency regarding transhumanism, Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said, “Catholics cannot accept a vision of man which presupposes an outright ‘unacceptability’ of his basic human nature, nor a vision that labors to replace it with an alternate bodily structure that is engineered to be ‘post-human.’”
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