Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Life has a natural order which must be respected in order to achieve happiness. Most conservatives agree to that. Men and women are naturally different. Children are naturally different from adults. Suffering and death are a natural part of life, and we should be skeptical of any utopian scheme that wishes to circumvent them.
I concede all that. Yet in conceding that, I cannot help but conclude that my own existence is deeply unnatural. Let me explain.
Without the intervention of modern medicine, I would have died several times over in childhood. If you asked me whether Mother Nature intended me to be alive, the only reasonable answer I could come up with is “No”. Moreover, I’m a third-generation unnatural: the child of a child who would have died in childhood without heroic medical intervention. I married a man who has robust good health, but it’s likely that our children (should we manage to have any) will be fourth-generation unnaturals.
Moreover, asthma — the most obvious (though not the only) problem that should have caused my childhood death — intensifies with each successive generation. My siblings were luckier, some not having asthma at all. But when children with asthma are rescued from death and survive to reproduce, is it any surprise when future generations are born with worse asthma? Moreover, wouldn’t we expect similar results to hold for any heritable malady that used to kill people off before they reproduced but now — thanks to modern technology — doesn’t have to? What, if anything, does that mean for humanity as a whole?
Now, many asthmatics are highly intelligent and productive people. That is, productive if they can keep the asthma and its many comorbidities under control. Thanks to modern pharmacology, many can. Regardless, asthma is inherently an impediment to productivity and even life itself. Attempting to live a productive life with severe asthma these days involves all sorts of artificial manipulation, from consumption of artificial hormones to injecting yourself with mouse antibodies raised in hamster cells. Sometimes, even that is insufficient.
Wait, back up a sec. Injecting yourself with mouse-hamster antibodies in order to become more productive? Isn’t that sort of like transhumanism?
Well, is it?
Or what if — instead of injecting themselves with the mouse-hamster antibodies — asthmatics could inject themselves with a virus that infected their DNA with genes to express those antibodies? Would deliberately changing their DNA in this way make asthmatics any less human?
So often on Ricochet, we talk about natural-versus-unnatural in the context of death or reproduction; but if this divide is important at the endpoints of life, isn’t it more important in its midst? Where do we draw the line between natural and unnatural survival, between natural and unnatural functioning? And is it any surprise that — to unnaturals like me — the line already seems pathologically blurred? Is it any surprise that we unnaturals who respect traditionalist arguments for natural human boundaries also feel alienated from those boundaries?
What about you? Are you an unnatural, too? Has that changed your conception of what “natural” means, or if “natural” means anything at all?
Image Credit: DeviantArt user ThE-UnKO-LeMa.