The Definition of Humanity for Ugly Bags of Mostly Water

Flasks - ScienceThere is a chasm between a large number of religious people and most scientists. The chasm results from disparate belief systems, and often both sides of the equation are enormously insulted by the very ideas postulated by the opposition. Many religions offer a theory of creation. Some go so far as to completely refute any scientific evidence that would suggest the planet is more than 6,000 years old. Many scientists go so far as to say that there is no such thing as any supernatural being that might be considered a creator. So, it’s the atheists against the creationists, and it looks as if there is no way for these two sides to come together.

From the perspective of someone who is somewhere in the middle of the thinking on all this, there’s a great deal of hope and a lot to consider when it comes to bridging this great divide. It may not look that way at first, but if each side were to let go of some tiny piece of stubborn and unrealistic belief, every time that happens one of those pieces can be used to build another part of the span that’s needed to meet in the middle.

On The Kovacs Perspective, Steve Kovacs interviewed a guest named Zoltan Istvan who calls himself a transhumanist. Most people will not be familiar with the term, so a quick explanation is necessary. Transhumanism is simply the idea of using technology to improve our lives and increase our lifespan. Some people may automatically cringe at the idea of cybernetic organisms, termed cyborgs for short, yet the fact is many of us are technically already cyborgs to some extent.

Asimo - RobotA classic example of this is the use of an artificial pacemaker. Artificial pacemakers operate by giving small jolts of electricity to regulate an irregular heartbeat, or to attempt to start it beating again if it stops. They don’t operate all the time; instead they only work when there’s a need for them. This means they have to read the signals of our bodies and respond accordingly. Amazing technology that’s being used to keep millions of people alive. They are externally programmable, and some even include a defibrillator as part of the device. There are different types of artificial pacemakers that perform other functions, or more complex ones, but the intent is still the same. This is an object that is unnatural to a human body that is used to improve the body’s natural functions.

One area of transhumanism takes this further, in that we can use science to replace our body parts as necessary to extend our lives. The biggest objection to this tends to come from the religious groups that do not believe we should alter what has been given to us by our creator. Some who are on the extreme edge will actually allow their own children to die rather than allow medical intervention.

While listening to this guest speaking, though, it occurred to me that the definition of humanity is what people really take issue with, and that’s mostly tied to the meat of our bodies. It also occurred to me that if our humanity is based on our physical packaging (ugly bags of mostly water, according to a description used in a Star Trek episode I watched many years ago), then all animals are human, or express humanity in its purest form. You simply can’t separate one definition from the other. If it’s in fact our intellect that separates us from animals, rather than the package it’s enclosed in, then using technology does not negate our humanity.

From my view, if there is a creator at all, God gave us our intelligence. Why would we be gifted with intelligence if we were not supposed to use it? As for the scientists who express disbelief in spiritualism of any kind, my question is this: When you work on a molecular level where there is no explanation for how embryonic stem cells (which are completely identical to one another) know exactly what address to go to in the human body, and exactly what to do to change themselves into whatever organs or tissues are needed in that particular place, do you not wonder where these cells are getting their information from? I believe in evolution of the species. The flu virus is a very short-range sample of it, considering it evolves constantly to the point where we need a new flu shot every year. I also believe there’s something bigger than we are. The closer I look at scientific matters, particularly in connection with the miracles of the human body, the more I’m inclined to believe in a larger force being at work.

Crucifix - ChaliceEven the Vatican takes many of the biblical stories with a grain of salt. They’ve admitted that the stories of Jesus were written fifty years after his death by people who were not there. It’s all hearsay. Much of the bible is considered to be parable. It’s the messages that are important, rather than any specific facts, so to take the bible as a literal interpretation is not really what is intended. There goes the hard-core theory that the earth is only 6,000 years old. Never mind the fact that the bible itself states that it is forbidden to translate the texts, yet none of us would be reading it if it hadn’t been translated because most of it was written in languages that are either completely dead, or are so obscure that only an expert could decipher the texts. Then you run into the problem of translating common expressions that make no sense in other languages, cultures, or times.

No responsible scientist will tell you that science is absolute, either. Science is fluid, and it’s meant to be. It is ever-changing as we understand more and more about the things we study. We examine everything, taking nothing at face value. It doesn’t matter if those things were proved 500 years ago, because they may have been discovered by faulty methods. Even through constant testing, there will sometimes be consistent flaws in the scientific method. The very purpose of science is to learn, even at the cost of disillusionment, and a lot of science is based on the assumption that previous theories were correct. An example of this would be any experiment that relies on gravity. What if the same experiment is performed in a zero-gravity environment? Would the results still be the same? Most experiments are conducted on-planet, and very few are conducted without ambient air, so what happens when you no longer have 78% nitrogen in the atmosphere and 21% oxygen?

As usual, the reality boils down to something much closer to the middle than so-called purists would like to believe. Nothing is certain, so everything is possible. When it comes to animals and their ‘humanity’, the most recent studies suggest that they can understand our language (at least partially), but humans are incapable of understanding theirs – at least for now. This tells me something. It tells me that animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and humans are nowhere near as intelligent as we think we are. It doesn’t help anything, either, when we refuse to learn. Sticking to a hard-and-fast theory which has no hope of being proven, and being incapable of changing our minds when new evidence comes to light, makes us look pretty stupid indeed.

Rain Stickland
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Rain Stickland

Rain Stickland is a Canadian writer and producer, who is overly fond of ferrets and other furry creatures.
Rain Stickland
Follow Rain
Rain Stickland

About Rain Stickland

Rain Stickland is a Canadian writer and producer, who is overly fond of ferrets and other furry creatures.
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4 Responses to The Definition of Humanity for Ugly Bags of Mostly Water

  1. Religion and science divide us right down the middle. Creation, global
    warming, climate change cause arguments every day. People will
    never agree on how we were created. Even though there is now
    nearly 100% agreement among scientists that the earth is getting
    warmer, there is about as much disagreement among people as there is on how we
    all got here.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting! I don’t think people will ever fully agree, but I have hope that one day we won’t be as divided as we are now. If people can open their minds even the slightest amount, it would make a huge difference in our ability to coexist. When it comes to ‘climate change,’ which is a euphemism thought up by the deniers to avoid saying ‘global warming,’ you’re right. The problem is the special interest groups who are lining the pockets of politicians in order to be able to keep running their corporations without government interference. If the environmental groups were allowed to act in the way they were intended, so many of the accidents and neglects would not be happening. There’s no excuse for the damage that’s being done – it’s all about money.

  2. A very interesting article. Just read it. Thanks for writing it and listening to that show. Cheers, Zoltan

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