"Odd but hopeful" is how C. Ben Mitchell, an assistant professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity International University, describes a coalition he's a part of. Feminists, environmentalists, and evangelicals—for different reasons—share the same concern about the potential of nanotechnology to alter the human species. Mitchell and C. Christopher Hook, author of this issue's cover story, strategize ways to prevent disaster with their strange bedfellows at the Institute for Bioethics and the Human Future at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Christianity Today associate editor Agnieszka Tennant talked with Mitchell about his ambivalence toward nanotechnology.
What does it mean to be human?
It's to be an imager of God. That term is not shorthand for capacities that humans possess, like reason, will, or awareness of self. Image of God is a status of being that we hold; it's ontological.
At what point might we be in danger of losing our humanity?
From conception through eternity human beings persist as human beings. It could only be through altering what it means to be an imager of God that you can alter what it means to be human.
I admit that I don't know entirely how or if one could alter the image of God, but I think that there are threats to that. I don't believe that everything that's important about being human goes on in the head. If, however, scientists could ever remove the brain and preserve the body, they will have violated the human. This may not mean that they have destroyed the human, of course.
Plenty of people attribute personhood status to nonhuman entities. It's already being done with apes and dolphins. At the same time, some question whether members of our species are in fact human persons—unborn ...1
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