ANALYSIS OF REARING PRACTICES AND TRANSHUMANISM 13
A Magical Pathway towards Immortality:
Comparative Analysis on Initiation and Merit of
Human Rearing Practices and Transhumanism
In this paper, the analogy of initiation and merit of human rearing practices and transhumanism are discussed by analyzing several published scholar journals, based on which we concluded the of the controversy and multifaceted nature of the current transhumanism issue and are to argue how traditional childrearing practices and human enhancement possess resemblance in the initiation but differ in the aspects of the entailing conducts in reality.
Keywords: transhumanism, rearing practices, initiation, consequences, posthuman.
Comparative Analysis on Initiation and Merit of
Human Rearing Practices and Transhumanism
Human rearing practices obviously have a long and successive history by the nature of natural selection and survivability, yet the tremendous sacrifice needed by parents makes philosophers contemplate about the spiritual stimulation of the practice. In The Symposium, Socrates, the classical Greek philosopher who was credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, mentioned his reflect on the practice directly:
And in this way, Socrates, the mortal body, or mortal anything, partakes of immortality; but the immortal in another way. Marvel not then at the love which all men have of their offspring; for that universal love and interest is for the sake of immortality. Those who are pregnant in the body only, betake themselves to women and beget children—this is the character of their love; their offspring, as they hope, will preserve their memory and giving them the blessedness and immortality which they desire in the future.
The quote of Socrates sharply conveyed the connection of the mortality of human beings and our preference and unending love of eternity. Beauty, on the other hand, is also an unlimited pursuit of human in their earthly life. Chasing after both, human beings are devoting themselves to the rearing practices of the posterity.
Typical human rearing practices is a parental practice that aims to enhance the survivability or to protect of their offspring in a diversified community. We classify this typical parental rearing practice, here, as an essential type of traditional human enhancement. In contrast to this terminology is the transhumanism, which seems to be similar to traditional human enhancement in the goals and initiatives of such practices but varies from their ethical and operational perspectives.
Transhumanism can be expressed as a pathway of enhancing embryos in a wide aspect of human capabilities of different tasks using GNR (Genetics, Neurotechnology, and Robotics) and interventions that “transcend their limitations by harnessing the power of science and technology (Rectenwald & Carl 434)”. It can also be regarded as human enhancement because of its enhancing nature. However, the significance difference lying between traditional and transhumanist human enhancements is that, because of the special condition of human beings relative to other species, typical rearing practices can hardly have any effect on the overall progression of human evolution, whereas transhumanist human enhancements alters the inheritable components of human beings which consequently greatly intervenes the evolutionary direction.
In this paper, we will mainly discuss how the initiation and merit of typical human rearing practices and the transhumanism are similar and dissimilar and endeavor to predict the future of transhumanism.
Transhumanism, which is not commonly understood by the public, has long thrilled those transhumanists’ hearts since the idea came out. It is effortless to understand why this is an exciting scenario, post-human, beings with extensively greater intellectual, physical, and emotional capacities than present human beings have, will be ruling the universe. According to Nick Bostrom (2003), a transhumanist who works in the Faculty of Philosophy in Oxford University, “transhumanists view human nature as a work-in-progress, a half-baked beginning that we can learn to remold in desirable ways” (493). Although disturbed with some concerns about some potential negative outcomes such as widening social inequalities and a gradual erosion of the human merits, he is captivated by the immortality and intellect a post-human may possess. He even drew an analogy between the view on human from chimpanzees and the view on post-human from us human to illustrate the inconceivable difficulty of picturing post-human’s life.
On the other hand, in Eduardo R. Cruz’s publication in 2015, he underscored the significance of traditional rearing practices as a moral, cognitive and emotional enhancement of a child, which on the other hand might not be accomplished by transhumanist enhancement that focuses partially on the advancement of evolution. He also stated that “directed evolution, however feasible, cannot proceed by severing itself from our biological past” (831). Interestingly, he criticized Nick Bostrom’s words, who is exactly the transhumanist mentioned above, that they redeem the natural state of human, which maximizes reproduction and survival rate, with dismal, that they see “a mismatch between evolutionary processes and ‘what we value,’ but also see another mismatch between ancestral optimal conditions and the modern environment as something negative, detrimental to survival in contemporary society (838)” by agreeing that “organisms are a product of historical processes that resulted in far more messy and less transparent systems than man-made machines” (838). Cruz, together with many other anti-transhumanists, still believes evolution and natural selection are much wiser than human engineering, which might be hazardous as its operators have lots of hindsight.
However, Nicholas Agar, one of the most renowned transhumanists who is leading the discussion of transhumanism, in his evaluation of the moral image of nurture and nature (2004), argues against genetic determinists who accept the morality of germline modification. Such genetic engineering that is applied to the reproductive cells is known as “germline genetic engineering”, a modification of germ cells, or fertilized ova (Lappé 621). This idea of nurture, or traditional childrearing practices, is that humans can reverse the unintended consequences and undo environmental influences, whereas germline modification, or direct genetic modification of the human offsprings’ embryo, fails to reverse and is permanent. Agar claims that “nurture cannot serve as a moral image for genetic modification if genes and upbringing make fundamentally different contributions to human development” (112). Genetic determinists are basically advocates of the theory claiming that an organism’s most significant biological characteristics attribute to its genes alone. They possess the perspective that the ethics of modifying someone’s genes are essentially different than the ethics of changing someone’s environment. Agar disproves this view by evaluating the ultimate effects in the process of both nurture and genetic modification, stating that “it specifies that when changes to genes and changes to diet or schooling have the same effects, we should evaluate them similarly” (14). We should not discriminate against the genetic changes and environmental effects and “expect the distinction between the morally acceptable and questionable” (113) of them. The moral images of nurture which Agar calls the “nurture principle for its connection with [nature] (113)” is Agar’s specific thesis following: “If we are permitted to produce certain traits by modifying our children’s environments, then we are also permitted to produce them by modifying their genomes” (113).
In Fox’s (2007) research article evaluating liberal eugenics, which is a term that brings the liberal action of free-will to parents to perform eugenics, he pointed out a commonly implemented idea among liberal eugenicists - the distinctions between nature and nurture, which corresponds to the altering of the nature and traditional rearing through nurture. An example would be the idea that rearing practices are essentially different than genetic modification because the idea of nurture is simply bringing out the best of children, and these complex traits such as intelligence and athletic abilities are just written in their genes; child rearing practices are a utilizing practice of children’s embedded genetic information, but not bringing out new characteristics through mandated change in the environment of the children by their parents while genetic change alters essential characteristics.
The scholars presented above stand for some representative opinions on this topic in current academia. It’s still a highly debatable subject, whether one kind of human enhancement is better than the other. In summary, there are undoubtably many who are enthusiastic about the brand new engineering technology, believing that it will expand the realm of human in a vast amount; there are also scholars holding the view of the transhumanist practice cannot replace traditional enhancement in the least, because the complexity of natural evolution is far beyond human’s imagination; some of the ethical views, on the other hand, even indicate it should be regarded the same as traditional enhancement due to their resemblance that cannot be overlooked; while others reckon that they are essentially different, that one modifies existing traits while the other brings out new ones.
Discussion & Analysis
Initiation and Analogy of Nurture and Transhumanism Reevaluated
As directly mentioned in The Symposium, the motivation of child birthing and nurture is basically the yearning for eternity and beauty. Because of us human beings are in nature mortal existence who are pining for perpetuity, we want to achieve it by having generations of posterities; since we, in essence, have the tendency leaning towards beauty, the parenthood dedicate to beautify the offsprings with tiring and long-term enhancements.
Transhumanism is fundamentally similar in initiation. In transhumanism, us human want to achieve eternity not by reproduction, but by designing an immortal individual: the perpetuity will no need to be reached by a population, but an individual. Actually, however, the natural selection seemed to choose to perform evolution by reproduction instead of by the individual, and the reason behind can be analyzed as energy saving, since the species are passively chosen by environment instead of actively choosing, and cost reducing, as evolving by population is less expensive by the an individual.
That might be the reason why Eduardo R. Cruz casts doubt on the possibility of transhumanism replacing traditional child birthing and rearing practices, and his conclusion that the human intellect is still far from universal intellect to outperform artificial selection. In addition to the evolution aspect, there is also something about human characteristics, just as Fukuyama noted, “modifying any one of our key characteristics inevitably entails modifying a complex, interlinked package of traits, and we will never be able to anticipate the ultimate outcome. ... Nobody knows what technological possibilities will emerge for human self-modification” (43).
Nevertheless, several liberal eugenists draw the analogy of the resemblance of traditional rearing practices and genetic modification; scholars researched on transhumanist values and ethical issues discussed the possibility of fusing the both the traditional and transhumanist ideas. We are to argue how traditional childrearing practices and human enhancement possess resemblance in the initiation but differ in the aspects of the entailing conducts in reality.
In the practical entailing enhancement conducts, the involvement of genome and the proportion of innate or acquired are significantly different. Yet Agar’s famous thesis about the entire resemblance of the analogy, saying that “if we are permitted to produce certain traits by modifying our children’s environments, then we are also permitted to produce them by modifying their genomes” (113), is untrue considering the entailing aspects. Apparently, transhumanism alters genome and is mostly innate, thus is more complete and irreversible, and can make alternations far more advanced, while traditional enhancement is slow, reversible and comparatively gentle. The difference leads to a much higher risk presented in the former, since outcomes under such conditioning are not stable because of a considerable number of unintended consequences or follow-ups, and nurture has very low risk to be detrimental, but changing the nature has an inevitable high risk. Besides, traditional childrearing practices and human modification differ in the aspect of transcending the limitation of human nature. Rearing practices bring out abilities and traits from the genes itself, as we mentioned above, whereas human enhancement conducts create or directly modify new genes which essentially create new characteristics which human in nature may never possess.
Merit Differences Revisited
Many may assume the essentials of both traditional childrearing practices and practices of human enhancement as artificial selection on human ourselves, for such acts of human put their ultimate purpose on improving a temporary or a long-lasting characteristic effect of an individual or a population. Artificial selection can be simply defined as a process of selective breeding according to human desires or needs. It applied primarily to animals and plants consumed as food or kept as pets. As Charles Darwin argued at length in a section of The Origin of Species (1859) called “Selection by Man,” breeders have used artificial selection to gradually alter organisms over time, selecting for specific traits or qualities that they have deemed most desirable in plants and animals. These plants and animals are bred for consumption, aesthetic appeal, endurance of environmental conditions, physical capacities, and so forth. As Darwin explains:
We cannot suppose that all the breeds were suddenly produced as perfect and as useful as we now see them; indeed, in many cases, we know that this has not been their history. The key is man's power of accumulative selection: nature gives successive variations; man adds them up in certain directions useful to him. In this sense he may be said to have made for himself useful breeds. The great power of this principle of selection is not hypothetical. It is certain that several of our eminent breeders have, even within a single lifetime, modified to a large extent the breeds of cattle and sheep. In order fully to realise what they have done, it is almost necessary to read several of the many treatises devoted to this subject, and to inspect the animals. Breeders habitually speak of an animal’s organisation as something quite plastic, which they can model almost as they please. (33)
At the mention of “Selection by Man”, many will immediately think of our cute and loyal dogs. Presumably, the best-known example of artificial selection by breeders is the dog, “man’s best friend”. Artificial selection, or selective breeding, has been performed on both plants and animals for centuries, and even the Romans had selective breeding. Those species that had especially significance to human’s agriculture and animal meet supply (specifically, livestock), such as rice, wheat, and hounds for hunting, have been immensely different than their own wild form of species. The old method of selective breeding conducted by humans involved briefly using labor forces to artificially choose the best plants or animals that best fitted their wish among the offspring and then mating them.
However, if we implement the idea of artificial selection in both childrearing practices and human enhancement practices, it is reasonable to argue that they are distinctive in this aspect. Human enhancement practices are basically the changing of “nature” of an individual, whereas traditional rearing practices are simply the acts of nurture. If transhumanist enhancements, complemented with the liberal theory which every individual has their free will to choose acts of genetic enhancements to their children, are to be spread in a certain population, it will quickly be a directed evolution that flourishes the entire population or even spread to the entirety of human beings. This is the intended purpose of artificial selection for human ourselves that advocates of transhumanism promotes, and this purpose, if implemented in real scenario, does have the capability of rapidly changing the nature of overall human characteristics in a relatively short period of time. In contrast, traditional rearing practices does not has such an effect of artificial selection because the essence of rearing does not cross the line with altering genetic sequences of heredity. For instance, musical and athletic abilities etc. of parents’ children are what they always want to improve, but because they never intervene the pathway of genetic inheritance and survivability of an individual, traditional rearing practices are hardly connected with both natural and artificial selection. Thus rearing practices can barely have any merit on the genome and evolutionary status of human, compared to modification of heredity.
Conclusion & Future Study
The value of trahnshumansim is promising indeed, but there still exists an unknown number of unforeseen technological issues and ethical dilemmas within our sights to dig in. Thus, in this research paper on the specific topic of initiation and the merit of traditional human rearing practices and conducts of transhumanism, which represent the old and the new, to explore future possibilities and issues. We conclude that the initiation processes of both conducts display great similarity, but the realistic entailing conducts and consequences of both cases are distinct. Based on the conclusion, what is likely to happen is that transhumanism must, whether in part or in whole, replace traditional rearing practices, because it is much faster and far more efficient (which is granted so much by modern human beings) to perform embryo engineering so as to accomplish the final goal of the initiation: be beautiful and perpetual, regardless of the controversial ethical or survival problem it would probably arouse. Therefore, the study in respect with this field shall focus more on how to reduce the risk of transhumanism.
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