How do contraception, abortion, transgenderism and euthanasia fit in?

Paul Tuns

Editor’s Note: Part I appeared in the March edition of The Interim.

Technology, as the writer Sean Haylock points out in a 2017 essay in Crisis “is mechanistic (reductively focused on efficient causation), utilitarian (reasoning by a calculus and willing to treat persons as means to an end), and voluntaristic (taking the exercise of will as the measure of value).” He states that the premise of sexual liberation is a “mechanistic, utilitarian, and voluntaristic theory of the human,” and transhumanism “is this theory taken to its logical conclusion.” The difference, Haylock argued, is transhumanism’s technophilia – it’s unabashed embrace of future technology to achieve a permanent, albeit temporal, Nirvana.

Haylock says that liberalism, with its definition of the just and ethical community predicated upon individuals’ autonomy (from all others), leads naturally if not inevitably to the Sexual Revolution. The philosopher Robert P. George argues that the sexual-liberationist mode of liberalism is entangled with the modern notion of the self-body dualism, that human beings have a body but are a self and that they are – or can be – detached from one another. At its extreme, we see the transhumanist futurists who predict that human beings will be able to upload their minds to computers and live forever, defining human (and other life) solely by consciousness, and casting aside the critically important role of the human body. Transhumanism seeks to liberate mankind from the limits of the human body, an admittedly imperfect vessel that eventually breaks down and dies.

For the person who identifies as transgender, the presence of specific genitalia is a limitation to self-actualization in the same way that transhumanists see the entirety of the human body as an encumbrance that must be overcome. The self-body duality can be seen in the modern project to differentiate both sex/gender and mind/brain.

The English philosopher Roger Scruton, in his book On Human Nature, identifies a “trivializing science” that reduces humanity to material beings with instinctual urges as the primary culprit as to why mankind turned away from the idea that human beings are made in the image of God (Imago Dei), created to love God and others. This might be the unfortunate but inevitable result of studying humanity down to its base components of cells and atoms.

Most of the world’s great religions teach that self-mastery through discipline, sacrifice, faith, and love is the key to earthly happiness and, for Christians, the route to Heaven. (Of course, the transhumanist denies that there is any such thing as Heaven, and thus whatever life human beings have on earth is all there is for us; no wonder many want to live forever as machines.) For the transhumanist, happiness stems from mastery over nature, of which the human being is just one part; just as humanity can reroute streams and rivers to erect towns and cities, build arable land out of the sea to feed the population, and blow-up mountains to gather minerals needed for everything from cell phones to automobiles So, too, can human beings manipulate the body for its own purposes; manipulating the raw material of the body is merely a matter of desire and consent. In this way, transgenderism — the manipulation of the body through hormone treatment or surgical-alteration – is a crude precursor to the realization of the transhuman future. Transhumanist Martine Rothblatt calls transgenderism “the on-ramp to transhumanism.” (Rothblatt, a man who masquerades as a woman, is also a lawyer who wrote the first legal framework for transgender rights legislation.)

Indeed, liberalism taken to its logical transhumanist end has already led to many current social maladies: abortion and contraception (control over fertility), same-sex “marriage” (defining family in individualistic terms), transgenderism (overcoming one’s own biological sex), and euthanasia (control over the terms of one’s death). And if the writer Richard Pope is correct, that “insofar as you believe you will merge with a machine, you act more like one today,” there will emerge a dull conformity not only demanded by elites but adhered to by millions. The most obvious example is that of teenage girls on social media who filter their “selfies” to look more glamourous and, if that is not enough, resort to botox, surgery, and implants. While insisting on their independence, they aspire to “sameness,” looking more like whatever Kardashian is in vogue at the moment. The body dissociation peddled by the transgender industrial complex (schools, the medical establishment, pop culture) is mirrored by the messages to young people about the imperfections of their bodies by the beauty industry, social media, and mass media; both must be overcome, whether it is the incorrect anatomy that gets in the way of one’s perceived gender or the imperfect anatomy that gets in the way of chasing an unnatural ideal of physical beauty. In both cases, dissatisfaction with the natural realities of one’s body pushes the envelope of the mind-body duality.

The connection between eating disorders – unnatural and unhealthy responses to the self-perception of one’s bodily flaws – and transgenderism were exposed by journalist Abigail Shrier in her book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seduces our Daughters. She relates the story of one teenager whose anorexia morphed into gender dysphoria: “My goal went from diet pills to testosterone … From fantasies about slicing off my thigh fat to slicing off my breasts. I bound them with duct tape. I couldn’t breathe. It made me panic, but I felt brave.”

Artist Jennifer Bileck writes that transgenderism opens youth to “commercialization and experimentation for the engineering of our species’ evolution.”    

Bileck argues that transgenderism “grooms the public” to assess its “acceptance of biomedical intrusions that change how we see ourselves.” In other words, the (lucrative) technologizing of the human body that is so faddishly pushed by schools and corporations – the transgender mania of the present moment — is not an end in itself, but a weigh-station to even more radical experiments and, the transhumanists hope, human-machine mergers.

Bileck notes, however, “when sex is abolished as a meaningful category, so is humanity as we know it.” We lose our humanity long before we merge with machines. We lose our humanity when we erase the distinction between male and female, ignore their complementarity, and reduce sex to a purely recreational rather than potentially procreational act. We lose our humanity when the objectives of physical reality (for example, that the end result of a conjugal relationship might be a baby) are denied.

The feminist writer Mary Harrington recently wrote at Unherd about transhumanism, defining it as a “worldview in which ‘human nature’ has no specific cultural or political status. And in which it’s not just legitimate but morally necessary to use technology – especially biotechnology – to improve on that nature.” The phrase “not just legitimate but morally necessary” evinces the game: no dissent from the orthodoxy is permitted. “Not just legitimate but morally necessary” undergirds the current legal regimes around contraception (making it freely available, including to teenagers), abortion (protected by anti-free speech bubble zones), same-sex “marriage” (punishing dissenters from the novel practice), transgenderism (separating families from children who suffer gender dysphoria), and euthanasia (restricting conscience rights). Everyone must be swept up in the exciting possibilities of exceeding or transforming nature. Considering the intolerance toward those who refuse to celebrate these recent advances in technological escape, it is hard to imagine that the future envisioned by transhumanists will be the purview of merely those who embrace it and that whether by forceful nudge or compulsion, compliance with man-machine mergers will be widespread.

From artificial contraception to sex-reassignment surgeries, it would seem that we are already well into the age of transhumanism, defined as technological mastery over the human body. The question is not whether we will attain the man-machine merger transhumanists dream about, but whether we can recapture that which is truly human, with all our imperfections, to resist it. Any such a societal turnaround will take is a mass reorientating ourselves from a slavish devotion to the self to a selfless love of Something much greater than humanity.