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The Moral Implications of Augmenting Humans

Supercomputer with brain-as-motherboard overlay,

[Originally published as part of Transhumanism]

Ethical Considerations

Currently, we do not possess the knowledge to create either technologically or genetically improved humans. Yet, these are the goals of many researchers. But should we be pursuing such goals? Should we be attempting to improve ourselves by genetic modification or technological augmentation?

Some might argue that genetic engineering should not be pursued at all. We have a genome that we inherited from our parents, which they inherited from theirs, and so on, back to Adam and Eve, who received their genome from God. Why should we tamper with what God created? On the other hand, due to the fall, DNA is not replicated perfectly. Errors have crept in. Would it be acceptable to correct those if we knew how to do it? Then again, some people argue that if we can use technology to improve the human condition, we should always pursue this. How we evaluate the morality of such issues will naturally flow out of our worldview.

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In the evolutionary worldview, there is nothing objectively wrong with modifying humans. The reason is simple: in the evolutionary view, there is nothing objectively wrong with anything. Objective morality cannot exist in the vacuum of a chance, non-designed universe. What happens in a chance universe simply happens; there is no right or wrong about it. If humans are nothing more than fizzing chemicals, there is no objective reason why we cannot seek to make those chemicals fizz differently.

It is not surprising that most advocates of transhumanism are evolutionists.

Biblically, human beings were designed and created by God. We were created for a purpose — to glorify him. The Lord also gave us dominion over the earth — to care for its creatures and use them constructively. God has given us some instructions that delineate how we are to behave. And we will ultimately be judged by God’s commandments. As such, we have an objective standard for right and wrong. That standard is God.

  • Right is that of which God approves: that which invokes His blessings.
  • Wrong is that of which God disapproves: that which invokes His wrath.

So, does God approve of genetic engineering, or does he disapprove of it? Or is the answer more nuanced? Namely, might God approve of some forms of genetic engineering and not others?

Of course, there is no explicit biblical commandment for or against genetic engineering. However, there are biblical principles that are universal. They pertain to all situations and therefore constrain what types of genetic experiments (if any) can be done and what the goal of genetic research should be.

The objective here is not to answer every possible ethical question in this category. Rather, our intention is to ground our thinking in Scripture. Biblical principles give us some basic guidelines by which to evaluate the ethics of any proposed genetic experimentation or modification. For God to fully approve of our actions in any area, what we do must be done:

  1. with the right method (1 John 5:3),
  2. with the right motives (Proverbs 16:2; Philippians 2:3),
  3. and with the right goal (Hebrews 12:1-2; John 6:27; James 4:4; Genesis 50:20).

Our method is right if it doesn’t violate any commandment or principle in Scripture (Deuteronomy 28:1,15). For example, any form of genetic manipulation that results in the avoidable death of a person is necessarily wrong (Exodus 20:13). Although absolute certainty is rarely achievable in science, genetic engineers must take extreme caution so that they minimize the possibility of harm to human beings.

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A person’s motivation can be either selfish or godly (1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Genesis 4:4-7; Matthew 6:1; James 4:3; Proverbs 21:27; Philippians 2:3). Are we pursuing genetic engineering for selfish gain or to accomplish something pleasing to God out of gratitude for salvation? The former motivation is wicked, and the latter is righteous.

The Goal: Alteration or Restoration?

The remaining constraint on what types of genetic engineering should be pursued may be the most disputed: the goal. What are we trying to accomplish? Is our goal something of which God would approve? One goal that we know God approves is the alleviation of disease.¹ Jesus healed the sick. So, this is obviously something that pleases God; healing the sick is good (Matthew 12:10–12). In healing the sick, Jesus was reversing one aspect of the curse. Christ restored people (in part) to the health they would have enjoyed if there had been no curse.²

Some diseases have a genetic component. They stem from mutations — errors in the DNA. Correcting such errors for the purpose of restoring health is a good and biblical goal. Genetic engineering for the purpose of restoring a person back to health is, therefore, a righteous goal.

When God made Adam and Eve, he said that they (along with everything else) were very good (Genesis 1:31). In their original state, Adam and Eve were exactly as God wanted them to be. Due to sin, we are no longer that way. We have fallen and cannot please God in our wicked state (Romans 8:8). It is, therefore, right to pursue a path of restoration. Spiritually, we need Christ to regenerate our hearts so that we desire to serve Him (Ezekiel 36:36). This is a restoration and is something that God approves (Luke 15:7).

Likewise, it is appropriate for us to attempt to reverse the physical effects of sin (death and disease) as much as is possible for us. If we can identify mutations that cause disease and are, therefore, a result of the curse, it is appropriate to attempt to repair that damage. This path is good because it attempts to come closer to the original very good state of creation. We will not fully achieve this goal, just as we will not succeed in becoming fully righteous in practice before glory. But the goal itself is good. And progress toward it is certainly possible.

Conversely, many secularists wish to alter human nature into something that God did not intend. One such goal is to increase intelligence. Imagine altering the genome to produce an enhanced cerebral cortex. Or imagine implanting technology in the brain that would allow direct, wireless access to the internet or to other technologies.³ What if the synapses of the brain could be replaced with synthetic microchips that perform the same function but much faster and never wear out? If similar replacements could be provided for the rest of the body, could humans be made immortal? Indeed, many transhumanism supporters imagine transforming humanity into super-intelligent, immortal beings — essentially gods.

These ideas very much appeal to our sin nature. We like the idea of having power and abilities that God never intended. But this is not something that is pleasing to God.4 If the temptation to become essentially a god sounds familiar, it should. It was the first temptation experienced by humanity and led to sin and the curse.


  1. This should not be taken to an unbiblical extreme. It is appropriate for us to attempt to alleviate disease and suffering as much as we can. It is also appropriate to ask God to heal the sick. However, in this fallen world, God can use disease and suffering to bring about good such as sanctification, patience, humility, and so on. Therefore, he does not always heal his people in this life. God sometimes allows bad things to happen in this world because he can bring a greater good from them (e.g. Genesis 50:20). That is his prerogative.
  2. Christ’s healing the sick was a partial reverse of the curse. He did not (at that time) restore them to the immortal state Adam and Eve originally possessed. A full reversal of the curse for God’s people is yet future (Revelation 22:3).
  3. There is nothing inherently wrong with using tools. The Bible mentions the use of tools approvingly. These do not alter the body in a way contrary to God’s design.
  4. God does provide right ways for a person to become smarter or more athletic. We can study to gain knowledge or exercise to gain physical strength. These methods work within God’s plan and are, therefore, right as long as the motivation and goal are also righteous.


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Dr. Jason Lisle portrait

Written by Dr. Jason Lisle

Dr. Jason Lisle is a Christian astrophysicist who researches issues pertaining to science and the Christian Faith. You can find his ministry at Biblical Science
Dr. Lisle double-majored in physics and astronomy with a minor in mathematics at Ohio Wesleyan University. He then went on to obtain a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. There, he used the SOHO spacecraft to analyze the surface of the sun, and made a number of interesting discoveries, including the detection of giant cell boundaries.
Since then, Lisle has worked in full-time apologetics ministry. He wrote a number of planetarium shows for the Creation Museum, including the popular “Created Cosmos.” Dr. Lisle has authored a number of best-selling books on the topic of creation, including: Taking Back Astronomy, Stargazer’s Guide to the Night Sky, the Ultimate Proof of Creation, Discerning Truth, and Understanding Genesis.

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