26 August 2011

When Humans Pretend to be Gods

I have recently finished reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It was a book about human cloning and organ donations, where in a dystopian society, science has allowed humans to have the ability of cloning their own species so that later on, as diseases necessitate the transplants of organs, there would be a permanent source of these organs. It basically is organ farming, to some degree.

That made me think. Personally, would I like that scenario to happen? Would I agree to that procedure? After all, it's one way science can advance, right?

Perhaps I am one of those people who are supportive of scientific advancement. I find myself cringing at the various hurdles that local laws impose to people who want to do research on stem cells, cloning, among other things. The main objection to this is because there are people who think that doing so is tantamount to playing God.

Of course, the scenario that was portrayed in the book was a little extreme: you have these cloned human beings that are leading a life of their own, until they get a notice saying that they should go to this clinic and start giving their organs away to the real people. So the question perhaps is where do we draw the line, assuming that cloning can indeed be done?

My first stab at the matter would be on the ability for cognition. In the book, people decided that they would rather think of the clones as non-humans, something you just get as a product, without a life of their own. Which is why there were advocates of these clones who were trying hard to argue that these clones had souls as well. I do not believe that humans have a soul component that is separate from the body: what makes us human is the power to think. Once we lose this, for example, by being brain dead, then our "soul" so to speak is gone. Personally, it's the ability to decide for ourselves is what makes us human and higher than other animals. Not all of our behavior is due to instinct. If a clone can do that, then for all intents and purposes, the clone is also human.

Thus, given that stance, I would be against the scenario that is portrayed in that book. Perhaps that is my boundary. Once the clones have an ability to think for their own, then that's where I will stop. If cloning can be done such that only specific organs are cloned, not in a full human body, but just in a petri-dish, then I think I am fine with that.

So how far am I allowing science to go forward? For example, there's the idea of eugenics, where humans modify genes so that the offspring can have better genes and trump the randomness of things. I think I am fine with that. Of course, this has been done in the past, with dire consequences. People have previously argued that certain races are more inferior than others, and that gave them right to attempt to eradicate these certain races. But just because this has been used malefactively in the past doesn't mean that we automatically shun the benefactive use of it. Of course, there's the possibility that genes become less diverse, and I still don't know what to think of that, given it is not my field of study, but for the moment, if the technology can be potentially used for the greater good, then I don't see any problem implementing it.

So where has this rant brought me to? Perhaps the bottom line is that I do not like the idea of scientific research being hampered by beliefs that somehow, are not objective, to some degree dogmatic, and are influenced by beliefs that are quite subjective and unfalsifiable, like for example, religion. I do agree however, that there is an ethical component to research. After all, even in my personal research in grad school, I have to submit every experiment I do to the ethics committee and have it approved before I can conduct it. I am fine with having an ethics committee that would make sure that I am not violating the rights of my participants. Perhaps what I am not fine with is if this ethics committee starts dictating what I can and cannot do simply because some holy book tells me I shouldn't. So far they haven't been doing that, which is a good thing. But it remains to be seen what would happen when science progresses and people's morality cannot catch up with it.

(Mountainous Terraces, from my Machu Picchu Series)


  1. I really don't have a clear cut opinion. Hard to, on topics like that. I don't think we should be scared of science though and I don't think religion should have a say.

  2. Zhu,

    I agree about not being scared of science, and that religion should not have a say on the matter. However, I think most people do not want to think for themselves: most people do not even sit down and think about the various scenarios that are possible and whether they agree to it or not. Instead, they just go and play the religion card, and let the clergy and other god experts think for them, which is sad.

  3. I'm with Zhu.

    Aside from that I'm quite an anti-religion person because I think that religion has brought more trouble than good. I'm so fed up with the constant bickering about Christianity and Islam. I remember in one Star Trek episode where it was mention that they managed to eradicate religion and now people live by the Golden Rule and humanitarian standards.

  4. Charles,

    Good point regarding religion bringing more trouble than good. I think part of it is this idea that "my" religion is better than "yours" and therefore you should change and follow my religion. It's this notion of forcing one unfalsifiable idea down another's throat that I think is the cause of the many problems that surround religion nowadays.

  5. There are many ways for humans to pretend to be gods. Take for example Adam and Eve and most of their descendants, they exercised their free will gifts and chose to decide for themselves what is right and wrong, they wanted to be like God. Another example are the atheists, they deny and have nothing to do with God because they instead want to be the gods greater than God.

  6. Anonymous,

    If you have read my blog entry correctly, then I am actually saying that I am fine with humans "pretending to be Gods". This was a reference regarding my opinions on cloning. I don't mind that. What I mind is when science is hampered by dogmatic beliefs based on the Bible or some other "holy" book.

    Additionally, as an atheist myself, I think it would be correct to say that atheists do not want to be god. In fact, I despise the whole concept of god altogether. All I strive for is a healthy dose of skepticism, not believing in everything that is presented in front of me, whether it is a human who gives me the information, or some antiquated book.

  7. It is the exclusive right of God to decide what is right and what is wrong for all humans. For any man, say an atheist, to despise the whole concept of god altogether is the same thing as saying that there is also no standard for all of what is right and what is wrong; that is, any man is the one who determines what is right and what is wrong for himself. In effect, man makes himself a god like God. Hence, knowingly or unknowingly, an atheist makes himself a god.

  8. "It is the exclusive right of God to decide what is right and what is wrong for all humans." - Wrong assumption. You're already assuming that there is a God, as well as assuming what rights this so called God has. Prove first that there exists a God, before you use this claim.

    "For any man, say an atheist, to despise the whole concept of god altogether is the same thing as saying that there is also no standard for all of what is right and what is wrong; that is, any man is the one who determines what is right and what is wrong for himself." - Wrong again, you're assuming that life without God means an immoral life. One can lead a moral life without believing in God.

    "In effect, man makes himself a god like God. Hence, knowingly or unknowingly, an atheist makes himself a god." - If that's how you define the notion of God, then so be it. It's just semantics. At least, if I am implicitly treating myself as a God, I let others lead their lives the way they want to. It's rather benevolent of me to do that, don't you think, that is, compared to a God that promises destruction if humans disobey.

    I suggest you check your logical assumptions first, before believing in whatever statements it was that was shoved down your throat.

  9. Granted that there is no God. It follows from this assumption that all humans, including the atheists, are the gods who decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong, or "lead their lives the way they want to." For atheists to claim that their are no gods is to contradict themselves; that is, they deny themselves. Atheism is a contradiction, plain and simple.

    In addition, if all humans "lead their lives the way they want to," then this will result in anarchy. Example, Juan wants to be a terrorist, Pedro wants to lead a life as a rapist, Pablo wants to be a murderer, etc., all of them are not accountable to no one. You see, atheism is also synonymous with anarchy.

  10. “It follows from this assumption that all humans, including the atheists, are the gods who decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong”. - Just because we want to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, does not mean that we are gods. We’re still *not* superhuman, nor supernatural. We don’t have powers, we just have the intellect to decide what is good for us and what is not. That does not equate us to being god, and hence, there is no contradiction. Having the ability to decide whether I would want to kill my neighbor or not does not make me a god. On the other hand, I think that people who need a book to lead their lives are robots. Can’t you think for yourselves even for just a second?

    “You see, atheism is also synonymous with anarchy.” – No, I don’t see. Just because we can lead our lives the way we want to, does not mean that havoc rules. One is selfish, I do believe in that. So, is it in one’s selfish interests to be a rapist or a terrorist? Is it beneficial given the penalties that are set in place? If I am selfish, I will refrain from doing on to other people what I don’t want to be done to myself. It’s all for self-protection. I do realize that there are people who become rapists; they had it such that that was the most selfish move for them. Instant sexual gratification, ideological actions, their constraints may have resulted in those decisions.

    Finally, another point why atheism is not synonymous with anarchy. Atheism is simply the belief that a supernatural being DOES NOT exist. You are confounding the idea that atheism equals a) non-belief in a supernatural entity, and b) personal freedom. Non-belief in a supernatural entity means that atheists don’t rely on a fictional supernatural entity for guidance, but this DOES NOT mean that we do not follow rules that are set in place by decisions made by the majority. If the majority (i.e., a state’s population) thinks that rape or terrorism is a crime, atheists have no problem accepting that.

  11. A god is a being or thing, not necessarily with supernatural power. Atheist is under this category. And anyone denying the existence of God and deciding for himself what is right and wrong makes oneself a god, it has nothing to do whether he has or no supernatural power.

    Just like Adam and Eve who had no supernatural powers, atheists want to be gods like God. They all want to be independent from God, it is all about independence. Generally, to be godlike is to be completely independent. But some atheists are dependent on their parents for their educations, finances, etc. This is another one of the atheists contradiction.

    So, the atheists follow "rules" that are set in place by decisions made by the majority or state's population? For the sake of argument, let's call this rules as "state's laws." But most of the state's laws are based on God's laws. Atheists who are following state's laws are also indirectly following many of the God's laws to guide them. This I may say the most incredible contradiction of the atheists.

    Atheists replace God's laws with state's laws and become dependent on these laws. Actually, they make the "state" as their "super god" instead of the biblical God to guide and protect them. I think this is the most horrible contradiction of the atheists.

  12. Wow. You really get your assumptions messed up, do you? Let’s start from the null hypothesis, that there is no god. On your previous post, we attempted to start from this premise, but I guess you forgot about that. Now, for my part, I don’t see a reason why I should posit that god exists. I only posit the existence of something that I have evidence for.

    Now, do atheists (we) want to be like gods? No, not at all. We simply refuse to believe in a human invention that we have no evidence for positing its existence.

    Now, is it about independence? No. Not at all. It is about free will, not independence. We all depend on each other for our own existence. I depend on the power company to deliver my electricity, I depend on the postal service, and yes, I depend on my parents for my higher education. That does not prevent me from being an atheist. An atheist does not claim to be superhuman and independent. That’s another one of your wrong assumptions. We simply refuse to be dependent on an invention of the human imagination.

    You say that the state laws are based from God’s laws. Let me flip it for you: what you call God’s laws are actually state or human laws, that some humans who have wild imaginations thought it would be great to attribute it to God.

    See, the way I see it, is that people who want to believe in God do so because they are afraid, because they are afraid that without some superhuman entity, they would feel unsafe in this world. Religion can be conceived as a defense mechanism. You’re in a sticky situation, what do you do? Invoke god and pray, because otherwise you’d feel powerless. Religion is just a mental trick we do to feel better. Some people decide that is beneficial for them, and so they believe. Some people like me don’t.

    Listen, as far as I can tell, you’re only here to troll my site. If you really think I am a horrible contradiction, then there are other sites on the Internet that are available for your perusal. I can even recommend a few for you. But from my perspective, you’re just here to disrupt. I find it interesting that you volitionally search my name and find this site, even checking multiple times if I have already replied. Believe me, I have a tracker, so I know. If you really wanted a calm discussion, you should have come out of your anonymity and gave yourself a name. I thought you’d do so eventually. But after several exchanges, I guess I was wrong. Hence, this discussion is over. I don’t need you to preach to me. That’s one thing I don’t understand with God believers. I live and let live. Believers on the other hand are so not content with that, instead, they go about their way trying to shove their beliefs into other people’s throats. Well sir, shove yours into someone else’s, not into mine. After all, as you said, I am a horrible contradiction, so why waste your time?