Saturday, July 2, 2011

Minds, Bodies, Machines and Souls

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.  
                                                                                     Genesis 2:7 KJV

da Vinci’s Last Supper
In the course of their meal, having taken and blessed the bread, he broke it and gave it to them. Then he said, Take, this is my body.  Mark 14:22 The Message
Western thought has struggled to integrate our minds and bodies.  Leonardo da Vinci became the personification of this integration as inventor and artist.  Now, we have come to a new depth of integration of machines, bodies and our minds.  The recent PBS Newshour looked at bionic research and we are confronted with some amazing responses to disability and limb loss - Bionic Bodies
How can we understand the implications of what we make and how it alters who we are?  Two recent and different responses give some important answers.
Ann Patchett in her recent novel, State of Wonder,  explores unintended consequences of fertility research in the Amazon.  It is a complicated story that tells a cautious tale of acting on our abilities to make new compounds.  
Allen Verhey in his recent book, Nature and Altering It, addresses the underlying assumptions about who we are in relationship to the the science and technology that have changed our worlds.   He uncovers the mythos that surround the ethos of our scientific endeavors.
The question then is not so much whether we make new tools and use them, it is more about the unintended results and how we become the “machines” that we make.  There are many examples and some with names like “da Vinci".
My summary is that our science and technology are not what is at stake, but our souls.  What we make and our bodies are not who we are.  So now, the task is too find ways of asking more hard questions about a world that we are creating and the bodies that we are altering.  

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