Poll on Human Enhancement Technology

This new poll from the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American think tank, is a bit of a surprise, because we didn’t know that that the technology they asked about was anywhere near to being implemented. Nevertheless, the results are interesting. Their report is The religious divide on views of technologies that would ‘enhance’ human beings.

They have charts and tables with a lot of information, so you should click over there to read the whole thing if you’re interested. We’ll just give you the main points, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Many Americans are wary of the prospect of implanting a computer chip in their brains to improve their mental abilities or adding synthetic blood to their veins to make them stronger and faster, according to a major new Pew Research Center survey gauging the public’s views on technologies that could enhance human abilities. And this is particularly true of those who are highly religious.

The “highly religious” are the most wary. Well, if they don’t like evolution, it makes sense that they’d object to this stuff too. We’re told:

For instance, a majority of highly religious Americans (based on an index of common religious measures) say they would not want to use a potential gene-editing technology that would give their baby a much reduced risk of disease (64%), while almost the same share of U.S. adults with “low” religious commitment would want to use such a technology (63%).

Interesting, but not unexpected. Let’s read on:

Similar patterns exist on questions about whether people would want to enhance themselves by implanting a computer chip in their brains or by having synthetic blood transfusions. Not only are highly religious Americans less open to healthy people using these potential technologies, but they are more likely to cite a moral opposition to them – and even to connect them directly to religious themes.

Case in point: Many people who said these technologies would be morally unacceptable explained their position with references to “changing God’s plan.” In the case of a computer chip in the brain, some opponents connected this idea to the “mark of the beast,” a reference involving Satan in the Bible’s book of Revelation.

It’s amusing that those who could probably benefit most from a brain implant are the least likely to want it. We continue:

In addition to gaps based on levels of religious commitment, members of certain religious groups are more apt than others to express reservations about the potential future human enhancement technologies that were mentioned in the survey. For example, white evangelical Protestants are more likely than Americans overall (65% vs. 49%) to say using synthetic blood to give healthy people greater speed, strength and stamina would be crossing a line and “meddling with nature.”

As expected, there are denominational distinctions:

U.S. Catholics are somewhat less wary of potential human enhancements than are evangelicals. Still, most say they would not want brain chips or synthetic blood, and many see these things as morally questionable or problematic.

[…]

Similar to Catholics, white mainline Protestants are ambivalent toward these issues, but they are more open to potential human enhancements in some ways. For instance, a majority (57%) of white mainline Protestants say gene editing for babies would be no different than other ways humans try to better themselves.

Here’s one final excerpt:

Perhaps some of the most striking findings on these issues, however, involve those who are not affiliated with any religion. Self-identified atheists and agnostics, in particular, are by far the most open to using these technologies, and easily the least likely to see them as morally troubling.

Some of those enhancements seem quite desirable, but your Curmudgeon would be wary of a computer chip in the brain. No, it’s not because of religious concerns. We’d need to be assured that no one could hack into our brain — because if that could be done, it would.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “Poll on Human Enhancement Technology

  1. …But…but…isn’t ‘Human Enhancement Technology’ just a form of ‘Intelligent Design’?

    I would have thought IDiot/Creationists would be wildly in favour!

  2. The squeamishness about the blood, is that related to Biblical identification of blood with life?

  3. I agree with the Curmudgeon that one should think carefully about some of the possible “enhancements”, but I see nothing theoretically wrong with considering them. For example, I now know that I have a deletion in one of my CTT genes (cystic fibrosis carrier). I didn’t know that when I had children. Knowing that now, I’d insist that my partner be tested too, and if she had an abnormality in one of her CTT genes, I’d consider in vitro fertilization and testing zygotes to choose one that didn’t have both CTT gene variants and discarding the others (horrors, creationists). (That’s a hypothetical, since I’m long past having any interest in having more children!) And while I don’t see any moral problem with synthetic blood, I’m pretty sure the athletic doping commissions would object.

  4. docbill1351

    Olivia told me I didn’t need enhancing.

  5. docbill1351, she meant that in your case, it would still be futile.

  6. Enhancing one’s own body, trans-humanist, can do what ever they like and good luck to them! But mixing genes in DNA to make a future improvement???? They will find there are going to be numerous fails before any kind of success. There are NO genes for smart, fast, or strong!

  7. Yes, evangelicals prefer downs syndrome children and other mentally deficient problems. That’s what keeps the doctors in business and the parents broke (save for the ACA that they can still use until republicans drop it).

    @TomS
    Yes, that’s what they equate, blood is semen, so claims the conservative church lady.

    On topic, there’s some question as to whether or not these technological enhancements would really be beneficial, not from a moral standpoint, but from a practical side as well as high risk side. It is one thing to change DNA to eliminate problems, another to implant artificial things supposedly to enhance one’s capabilities. On the other hand, remarkable achievements are being made in restoring eyesight, hearing, artificial limbs worked by thought processes, etc., but bible based morality, absolutely not. Too many centuries passed while religious folks prevented examining human bodies before and after death, and too many quacks with their outrageous treatments did far more harm than good, but they were all sanctioned by the holy ones.

  8. Doctor Stochastic

    No doubt the All-Russian Athletic Association would find the technology interesting.

  9. Ah, yes! The master race. Just think of the fun Hitler would have had with this if the technology were available then. Just think of the fun a future Hitler could have, developing a new race of superior beings for his/her army.

  10. Dave Luckett

    Ah… Is this technology – or rather, technologies – available? Synthetic blood? I wasn’t aware that it was possible to make blood synthetically. I had no idea that, say, a red blood cell could be made in a lab.

    And implanted computer chips in the brain? I had read of very advanced prosthetic limbs with chips that could “read” nerve impulses to move the limb, but as I understand it, the main difficulty is then training the user to generate the right nerve impulse.

    How much of this is that well-known staple of science-fiction, the Frankenstein plot?

  11. Eddie Janssen

    “In the case of a computer chip in the brain, …”
    The game of chess would become irrelevant.

  12. Why implant a computer chip in the brain, when all the computing can be done separately? It just subjects the computer chip to the limitations of the human bodily environment.
    Computers are making human judgement on investing irrelevant. When will they make mathematicians irrelevant?

  13. Many people who said these technologies would be morally unacceptable explained their position with references to “changing God’s plan.”

    As with inoculation against smallpox, or application of a lightning rod? These people are still in the 18th century. Should you also allow thugs in the street to beat you up and steal your money? After all, they could be sent by God to teach you a lesson.

  14. Ceteris Paribus

    But just imagine the holy benefits that await the fundagelicals: If technology could reduce the size of humans by just 50%, they could seat twice as many True Believers in existing pews. Oh, and the blessing of being able to fit 20 or 30 Quiverfull cherubs in the family van!

  15. Same old story: If God had wanted man to fly, he would have given him wings.

    Take that, Wright brothers! Burn that blasphemic contraption of yours!

  16. That example occurred to me. And then I wondered whether that is just an “urban legend” that people actually said that. It seems plausible, which just makes me suspicious.

  17. Eric Lipps

    In the nineteenth century, religious zealots opposed the use of anesthesia in childbirth because the Bible saith this on the subject.

    I’ll bet there aren’t too many folks (or too many women, anyway) today who believe Genesis is literally true but would respect that alleged divine decree.

  18. Mike Elzinga

    If the fundamentalists go to faith healers to be come “enhanced” (if their deity wanted them to be the way they are, why would they go to faith healers?), how to they feel about Viagara?