Friday, February 22, 2013

Humans retire. Machines are repaired.

Just yesterday I was reflecting on the remarkable witness of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation in light of our culture's fear of aging and illness. Scientists are hoping to find the elusive Fountain of Youth once again by developing ways for people to live longer, to be unimpeded by the marks of aging, and to live youth perpetually. 
There stands Pope Benedict. 85 years old. Aging. Naturally. And rather than phone the hospital for some replacement parts, he simply says -- I've done all I can. I am limited. I am aging. I am human. 
Quite the witness in today's world! Doubly so when I saw that today's Public Discourse article is about "The Building of Bionic Man." It might seem the stuff of science fiction, but it's coming closer to reality. Replace a part for something better. Replace a part because it's not perfect. Replace a part because it might enhance you. 
Dr. William Carroll raises the question of how we can tell the difference between machine and human in these cases:
Mechanistic materialism has profound ethical consequences. If living things are simply complicated machines, why should we treat them differently from non-living things? Ethics is grounded by our view of what the world is really like. It is important, then, to think clearly about machines and organisms, for confusion about the basics leads to confusion about how to act. If living things are nothing but complex machines, the sum of their diverse parts, it becomes easy to see all of evolutionary history as only a mechanical, algorithmic process.

As much as modern man might like to think he can create, he cannot. You can read Carroll's article for more on the difference between machine and human. 
And as you read about the future bionic man and sigh, shaking your head at "what has our world come to," just remember the quiet witness of a man in white who has embraced his finitude as a creature and has told us that it is okay to age, it is okay to suffer, it is okay to tell others that you are not Superman.

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