Ready for brain chip implants? How the church can answer the moral questions raised by new tech

Gene editing, brain chip implants and synthetic blood may sound like ideas out of a science fiction novel. Yet all three are emerging technologies being researched and developed today. These so-called human enhancements are aimed at reducing disease and improving cognitive abilities and physical strength. If you think these artificial modifications to the human person sound worrying, you are not alone. A recent Pew study found that most Americans would be “very” or “somewhat” worried about the potential uses of gene editing (68 percent), brain chip implants (69 percent) and synthetic blood (63 percent).

Those polled questioned the morality of such modifications and expressed concern that they could also increase inequality in the United States. Americans are about evenly divided on whether or not these procedures would be “meddling with nature.” But among those with the strongest religious commitment the answer was more certain: 64 percent believe that gene editing crosses the line, and 65 percent say the same of brain chip implants and 60 percent of synthetic blood.

Advertisement

As debates about these and other technologies take place, the Catholic Church is well positioned to fold these discussions into its seamless garment of life ethic (see “Means, Ends and Embryos,” America, 7/4). The church should help facilitate conversations around the moral questions raised by these issues. In a society that is uneasy with these changes, Catholic theologians and philosophers can offer guidance on the level of caution required as these unnerving and unpredictable practices move closer to reality.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bruce Snowden
1 year 9 months ago
Loosely quoting something Paul says, God says, about Himself, "No one knows my Mind!" In essence, no one tells the Supreme Being how to be God. Since no one knows the Mind of God, and one can tell Him how to be God, I wonder when He decided at creation to make man "in His image" if He may have had in mine the human ability down the pike, to do what He did, using a Divine form of evolutionary "Gene Editing," so as to make Man compatible to Trinitarian indwelling? If so, consequently humanity is now attempting to imitate and create synthetic blood et al, imitating nothing other that the innate and mysterious Divine technologies of the Godhead? Is such a thought utterly without merit? .
Robert Killoren
1 year 9 months ago
The Pew Report in quite enlightening and pretty comprehensive in surveying some of the moral and ethical dimensions. One distinction Pew makes is between therapy versus enhancements. A brain chip to cure a person who suffers seizures or uncontrollable shaking would be a blessing. A chip that gives the privileged few superior intellects could create dangerous inequalities that smack of eugenics. However fear of a discovery's potential shouldn't be the reason for throwing it out. If vaccinations were available only to the wealthiest in society that also would be a moral dilemma. I tend to look optimistically to a future with the hope of finding cures that would be avaiable to all. In any case Catholics should be a part of the discussion.
J Cosgrove
1 year 9 months ago
A problem with all this is that no technology will eliminate a basic part of human nature. One that is never satisfied. We are just never happy with where we are or what we have. If one could eliminate every disease imaginable, provide untold material and social products and make us attractive and physically agile, people would still be fretting over the fact that there is some shortcoming with their life. Eliminate these shortcomings that are bothering people at the moment and soon there will be new problems unimagined in the past which they will fret over. Then the discussion will turn to how science or medicine should rid this never thought about problem from our existence. Only one place where that does not happen.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The Most Rev Bishop Michael Curry, primate of the Episcopal Church, speaks during the wedding ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle in Windsor, near London, England, Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Owen Humphreys/pool photo via AP)
Fabricated and impersonal, too many Catholic preachers hide themselves, forgetting that personality matters in preaching,
In this image made from video, Archbishop Philip Wilson, center, heads to Newcastle Local Court, north of Sydney, Australia Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP)
Philip Wilson was found guilty of failing to inform police about allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by a priest in the 1970s.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 22, 2018
The Holy Spirit might be the forgotten person of the Holy Trinity.
James Martin, S.J.May 21, 2018
Pope Francis walks past cardinals as he leaves a consistory in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican June 28, 2017. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis is trying to ensure that those who elect his successor are humble men committed to “a church of the poor and for the poor.”
Gerard O’ConnellMay 21, 2018