Imagine you are at your eye doctor’s office and she says to you, “(Your name), we live in truly remarkable times. I have to tell you about this new technology that has been made available to the doctors here at South County Eye Care.”
You’re hesitant, but you decide to humor her: “Go on.”
“Well, it involves a procedure. We can remove one of your eyes—you choose which—and replace it with a bionic eye that looks identical in every way to the one we remove.”
You think, “Ouch.” But then you think, “Like the Six-Million Dollar Man? That’s kinda bad ass…”
She goes on, “This bionic eye will give you the ability to see perfectly at one hundred yards. In fact, you could put a book upright on one goal-line and read it from the other… and, by the way, the procedure is cheap and painless.”
Do you go ahead with the surgery?
Let’s modify the abilities of the bionic eye a bit and see if your response changes at all. What if the doctor said, “Well, actually your eyesight would be considerably better. The techs we have are highly confident that you would have perfect vision at a thousand yards, not one hundred.”
Change your answer? Such a move would certainly improve your bird-watching skills…
Then she drops this bomb, “and for an extra hundred dollars, we could throw in a toggle for x-ray and infrared vision, as well.”
What about now?
The final permutation of the thought experiment would go like this: The doctor turns to you and says, “Just one more thing. If you choose to go forward with any version of this technology (100yd vision, 1000yd vision, and/or x-ray vision), I would be forced to offer this technology to every one of my clients. If you say no, then I’ll take this tech off the market and no one will get it.”
I have used this little exercise with my theology students as a way to press home how Christians can/should think about embodiment. The test tries to uncover the reasons why we feel it is okay to have certain modifications done to our bodies, but not others. The 100yd eyesight is not too far removed from Lasik procedures, and quite honestly, may be well within our reach in the next 20 years or so. Most students are gung-ho for this version: call it Lee Majors Lite. However, as capability increases it seems that we proportionally lose something vital to who we are as humans, and even first-year theology students can recognize it. It’s Coke without the fizz. Selleck without the ‘stache.
The final version of the thought experiment is where the axe inevitably drops. Abilities are great for me, but in your hands, they make me nervous. After all, I trust my ability to use this technology in a moral, reasonable way (good luck with that)…but you, I cannot trust you with this temptation.
I call this thought experiment, “Eagle Eye.” I ran it by the boys at Virtue in the Wasteland—Dan in particular—and this is what he had to say. His response rings true at a deep, foundational level…whether we acknowledge it or not, bodily integrity matters. To see too much is to violate.
But I want to take this a step further…
To see too much is to reject our humanness. Such an “achievement” would entangle us in a post-Enlightenment worldview, one that essentially holds that the only thing preventing us from true greatness (or, better yet, true god-ness) is the limitations of our physical being. Accompanying this belief is a corollary…that the human form is simply a collection of parts. If we tune the parts just right, if we switch out the obsolete features of my body, if we upgrade our systems, then we will have transcended the human condition of misery and abject loneliness.
“To see too much is to reject our humanness.”
Watching a person who can run a 100m dash in 9.6 seconds is remarkable, even astounding. You might cheer in the stands and say, “What an athlete!” But if, in the same race, a sprinter ran the same distance in 3.6 seconds, my guess is that you’d react with some alarm and confusion, perhaps even fear or revulsion. Why? Because this extraordinary act is clearly defying what it means to be a human creature—something is not right here. Something is not human here.
I’m beginning to get why the people of the Gerasenes region pleaded with Jesus to leave the area after he exorcised Legion.
I often find myself returning time and time again to one simple fact about Jesus: he had a body. The fullness of God in helpless babe… The Christian creeds, from the very first creed in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, have affirmed the bodily death and resurrection of Christ. His resurrection was neither spiritual nor intellectual—it was an affirmation of embodiment. God redeemed the material, the creaturely. He, once again, can call the human life “very good.”
If the material is so valuable that God gave Jesus a resurrected body of flesh and blood, why are we so intent on by-passing, modifying, transforming, upgrading, reshaping, breaking, building, rejecting, and/or destroying it?
© Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.