A century from now, were you and I to see it, I think we would exclaim, like Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “O brave new world that has such men in it!”
And I worry that those men will not be religious universalists embracing the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, or humanists embracing the brotherhood of man absent God, or Matt Ridley-like democratic and cooperative globalists with ethical moorings, but cyborgs with rather narrow loyalties, enhanced by both the manipulation of their genomes and by robotics, with little stake in the survival or thriving of the mass of naturals (that is, humans like you and me), and rapidly displacing us.
A century from now, natural humans may be the new Neanderthals, our habitat relentlessly being eaten by a new, more lithe and clever species born of the crown jewel of Enlightenment humanism: science.
At that point, Enlightenment humanism will be no more able to save us from this Frankenstein–either philosophically or pragmatically–than, say, intellectual Neanderthals could have saved their species by an assertion of Neanderthalism (the universal brotherhood and rationality of Neanderthals).
Instead, my guess is that a survival-of-the-fittest Darwinian logic will trump atheist humanism.
In this sense, Tea Party suburbanites, urban progressives, evangelicals, conservative Muslims, environmentalists, and secular humanists are all in the same boat: they’re fighting, from different vantages and for different reasons, the blind Moloch that is, in ever more accelerating fashion, eating the human world and usurping the direction of history.
We’ve been in serious intellectual trouble from the day that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in 1859. Fundamentalist religionists don’t articulate it well, but their unsettled intuition about evolution is correct. In discovering that species possess no fixity, Darwin necessarily arrived at the fact that the human species has no fixity, that it can be changed. And over the next century, scientists with different tribal loyalties will race to change it. And religion and humanism will be impotent to stop this new race to make new human beings.
For a sense of the dilemmas heading our way (and in some instances already here), below is Michael Sandel, author of a book on the ethics of human genetic selection, in discussion with two other academics.