Our Posthuman Future – Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution
By Francis Fukuyama
Profile Books, 2003.
A disturbing orange cover, with a picture of what looks like a conveyer belt full of robotic looking babies stretching into infinity, possibly delayed my reading of this brilliant book. Its publication date accidentally synchronised with the birth of my own children and perhaps I was too involved in the real thing to have the time to read about biotechnology and its impact on humanity; well I am glad I finally have. Francis Fukuyama likes to invoke the heavy hitters of philosophy right off and Nietzsche’s ominous quotes are littered throughout at chapter beginnings, I suppose it is called getting your attention. Fukuyama weaves around all over the place a bit at first, delineating things by way of reference to George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, before settling down and finding his stride. These two books were the two poles of possible fears for Fukuyama’s American baby boomer generation, representing the futuristic totalitarian IT nightmare in the former and the more creepy biotechnological nirvana in the latter. We have of course now arrived into a world where, both the technologies featured in these two books are part of our reality, and the author goes on throughout his book to show, that it is the biotechnological possibilities of which we have most to fear.
He classifies biotechnology into three major parts: Neuropharmacology; Genetic Engineering; and Lifespan Extension. Beginning with Neuropharmacology Fukuyama paints a vivid picture of now, in our Western urban worlds, with facts about the prevalence of antidepressant drug use through Prozac and its many SSRI cousins, and even more disturbingly the massive use of Ritalin being prescribed for our children. We are deeply involved in mind and behaviour control on a societal level through our complacent acceptance of these drugs. Doctors are prescribing antidepressants and amphetamines to men, women and children at an alarming rate. Why is this happening? Why has something like ADHD suddenly gone from not existing at all to enormous levels within our communities? Fukuyama does not take a moralistic tone in his discussion about this but brings the facts and their ramifications into sharp focus. There are various forces at work within these situations: our expectations regarding happiness are very different now to twenty or thirty years ago and our reliance on medical science has been consistently encouraged by governments and the pharmaceutical industry during the last few decades. Economically we are all expected to provide maximum levels of productivity, whether you are a mother or a teacher, we do not have the same amount of time to devote to the care of our children in many cases and we therefore expect our children to be more cooperative at school and at home. When they are not we now classify them as deficient in attention and drug them.
At the same time, as we are officially giving happy pills to a substantial percentage of our population, we are condemning and prosecuting another large section as illegal drug users. You can see the strange hypocrisy in this fact, as Fukuyama points out the similarities, chemically speaking, between many of these drugs, like Ecstasy and the SSRI’s, and that Speed is an amphetamine like Ritalin. It is these fine lines of demarcation within our societies, defining what neuropharmacology is really for, that this book explores. Drugs are OK if we are sick but are bad if merely for pleasure and that certain levels of unhappiness then become sickness (depression), as do certain levels of not paying enough attention (ADHD). Who is deciding the points on the scale? Doctors and the medical industry? Don’t they have a vested interest in all these matters and indeed a trillion dollar interest in pharmacology? A lot of what this book is about, is asking who in our Western civilised worlds should be making these decisions for society and is it really OK to let the market decide? Being an American, Francis Fukuyama is living in the nation, which has the most avaristic culture in the world, especially around technological developments; as we have seen in the IT industry. He postulates that we as a world need to think about the consequences of these biotechnological developments and legislate for them; for our own protection.
Moving on to Genetic Engineering, and the myriad of biotechnological challenges we now and in the very near future face, Fukuyama shepherds in Dolly the Sheep and its obvious pointer to human cloning. Human cloning is currently banned in most countries and faces a huge amount of legal discussion, as to the rights of a clone within our societies. The whole genetic question raises the unholy spectre of Eugenics and the Nazis experiments on the weak and their racially judged inferiors. It was not only in Germany and Japan, where these ghastly experiments went on, scientists in the US in a Jewish hospital infected the chronically ill with cancer cells, in another case it was mentally retarded children with hepatitis and the more famous case (they made a movie about it) of 400 black men, many of whom were purposely not treated for syphilis with available medication to record the diseases progression. Fukuyama’s book indicates that this whole racial genetic argument is still very much alive in the US and that the nurture versus nature questions splits the sciences down the middle on political grounds. He states that the Left have always come down on the side of environmental factors affecting intelligence levels within races – not enough to eat so the brain doesn’t develop – where the Right have been firmly on the side of white people being genetically superior in terms of intelligence. Reading all this myself I wondered about the tests being utilised in all this so called intelligence testing, the criteria for intelligence and how it is judged? Scientists, politicians and bureaucrats all testing on the basis of their own preconceived ideas about what it is to be intelligent in a predominantly white Anglo Saxon culture. And even beyond questions of race what is intelligence anyway, is it IQ or Emotional Intelligence or Spiritual Intelligence?
The horrors of rational fascistic science have lodged in the cultural consciousness and so there is a justifiable amount of fear around Genetic Engineering. In contrast to this are the things we now can do about diseases and conditions like cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome, which are now being screened for with preimplantation genetic diagnosis. The extension of this will be designer babies, where technology again offers the graduation from avoidance of sickness to ideas of perfection. Introducing questions of who will be able to afford it and will this become the province of the rich, thus increasing the gulf between the haves and have nots? The author emphasises again that governments must play their part in making sure that genetic engineering does not disadvantage the already disadvantaged within our communities; and goes further to suggest that it could indeed be a technology used to improve things for these sections of the community. Fukuyama recommends international bodies for the guidance of biotechnology and offers the examples in the nuclear industry as proof of possible efficacy in this regard. The dangers of the nuclear industry (as seen by the crisis currently in Japan) are, I think he is inferring, on par with the dangers inherent in the biotechnology sphere.
Francis Fukuyama talks a lot about what it means to be human and the essential qualities of humanness. He invokes Aristotle and a whole pantheon of philosophers and moral judges in answering this question. In the end I think he comes down on the side of feeling, that it is our human feelings which define us as human. So we have the harsh and hostile world of Darwinian evolution and the men in white lab coats on one hand and the subjective consciousness of the feeling world on the other, his book may be an informed cry for help. An Achtung before it is too late and we have sold our humanness for bigger boobs, and smarter and taller, better looking kids. Stem cell therapy and the use of research involving embryos are or have been hot topics recently, with governments voting on legislation, and often doing so as votes of conscience rather than on party policy grounds. The ability to grow new cells and possibly limbs and other organs for the sick versus the rights of the unborn. This takes us back to abortion and how that is still used in many Eastern countries as a genetic engineering tool in favour of males over females in the human species. Abortion is a very volatile topic in the US especially, and anything to do with it opens up that great religious divide and debate. The genetic engineering argument embraces the scientist’s pragmatic view that if we are terminating unwanted pregnancies, and also if there are extra embryos left over from IVF, then we should be using these for embryonic stem cell research. Against this we have the Right To Life religious organisations and also non-religious anti-biotechnology groups, who see this work as a corruption of the rights of the individual, which opens the question – at what age do we become human?
The third part of this whole dilemma, according to Fukuyama, is science’s work in prolonging our life expectancies. The twentieth century has seen the life expectancies raised in women from 46.3 and men from 48.3, in the US in 1900, to that of 79.9 for women and 74.2 for men in the year 2000. The author points out, when you combine this with falling birth rates in most Western countries we are now facing a rapidly changing age demographic, meaning that fewer young people will be supporting many more older and infirm people in our communities and economies. In addition to the well publicised affect this will have on social security systems, there will be further ramifications with a growing divide internationally, with developing nations with higher birth rates having younger population demographics; more angry young men. Fukuyama posits that the US will have a decidedly older and more feminine population, as women live longer, and that this will contrast politically with their dealings with these young countries (I think it more likely to be a good thing as grandma is less likely to bomb people). Our Posthuman Future goes onto list many of the possible scenarios related to these population and demographic shifts related to life span extension, and in particular talks about our attitudes to the elderly, facing challenges; when we are forced to care for them on mass and they are taking our jobs – (which the baby boomers have been doing for years in Australia LOL). Fukuyama spells out the medical facts about prolonging life spans and that quality of life experience will not necessarily accompany this extension; and that our cultural worshipping of youth is very much about sexual reproductivity. Lives lived for the majority of years as aged, and non-reproductively, will present clear cultural and psychological challenges for the participants and for all those around them. Medical science is taking us all down this path because nobody really wants to die and wants to see their parents die, and euthanasia is feared by many within our societies. We do and will need to have these discussions about death and what it means to have a life, beyond the ‘hands off’ and keep everything alive for as long as possible, which is the current position of governments and medical science. I think we as a community will have to grow up and religions will need to pull their heads out of the sands of two millennia ago – which is when their religious texts were written.
Francis Fukuyama, being an American and working in the US education system, as the Professor of International Political Economy at John Hopkins University, in my opinion shies away from stressing the very large part that the free market in our capitalist economy plays in this. Despite the fact that the overall message of his book is that we need impartial democratic government bodies policing biotechnology, I still think the author misses out on emphasising the fact, that we as a society leave a great deal of medical science in the hands of a market intent on making as much money as possible out of whatever situation they find or create. Our democratically elected representatives in government are too dependent on popular decisions and election campaign dollars from the pharmaceutical industry. Our scientists are equally dependent on private enterprise funded research grants and even the scientific journals, which publish the reports, are dependent on big pharma advertising dollars. If we value the dollar over everything else how will we ever get any impartiality in any decision making body and if every government department is only potentially lasting four or five years how can we carry out any far reaching legislation?
This is a really worthwhile and enjoyable book to read, drawing on our great Western philosophical canon to pose many of the questions, we as a society face in regard to the biotechnological revolution.
Eco Living Magazine presents:
Heading: A Calling To Heal
Theta Healing Understanding Miracles.
You may have become aware of a new type of healing name with a Greek linguistic origin – Theta. What does the word Theta mean? It is the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet and more recently has been adapted by western neuroscience to name one of the deep brain wave states or rhythms. Theta brain waves are known to be associated with aspects of deep sleep, learning and spatial navigation. It is thought that when the brain is in its Theta rhythm, it is accessing deeply stored information involving the hippocampus (home of our instinctive emotional beliefs), and conveying these to the cerebral cortex (our rational operating thoughts).
Research into these brain wave states has observed that we move into Theta rhythms quite often, at various times throughout the day and in particular when meditating or in a moment of focussed reverie. I spoke with Mark Anthony, Australia’s leading Theta Healing instructor; about its origins and what it has done for him personally and how it has transformed his life.
Sudha- Mark I understand that Theta Healing’s founder Vianna Stibal, is an intuitive naturopath and massage therapist who is based in the United States?
Mark – Yes, Vianna discovered Theta Healing through healing her own cancer. She realised that the states she invoked during her intuitive readings were Theta brain wave rhythms and that these could be utilised to facilitate healing in others. Since that initial breakthrough of awareness, she has healed and trained thousands of people worldwide and Theta Healing has spread like wildfire across the globe.
Sudha- So what actually happens? How and why do the processes involved in Theta Healing work?
Mark -The original process, which Vianna Stibal called the Orian technique, was based on her early intuitive reading work and involved a visualised technique, which included a body scan, and sending her awareness out through the crown chakra, (top of the head) and communicating with God or the creator consciousness. Once in communion with the higher consciousness, she would seek answers for the condition to be healed, and/or request that the person be healed. Vianna healed her own bone cancer and then found herself healing many people from all over the world.
Sudha- I understand that she sought a scientific basis for the healing process, and with the help of a physicist, conducted some electroencephalographic tests, which determined that she was correct and that the brain waves detected were in the 4-8 Hz range (indicating the Theta rhythm).
Mark- Yes through her earlier contact with the study of hypnosis, Vianna was aware that our brains operate on a Theta rhythm when we are in a hypnotic state, and she thought that this was most likely what was happening when she was reading. It was found through those tests that both healer and patient were in the Theta brain wave state during the process. Her work then moved to another level entirely, through the challenge of a client who did not completely respond to the healing process. In this instance, Vianna’s communion with the God consciousness led her to the understanding that our DNA chromosome makeup was not fixed, but actually responded to Theta Healing – and this was the beginning of her work now known as DNA Activation. In practice, this involves the introduction of new supportive belief system that are instantly reproduced in our cellular reality This work has dramatically expanded the healing reach of Theta Healing, as thousands of people have been trained in this approach with incredible results – facilitating the healing, and saving the lives of people all over the world.
Sudha – The science around Theta brain wave rhythms shows them to be one of several characteristic electroencephalogram wave forms associated with various states of sleep and wakefulness. When seen in this form, they are between 4 and 8 Hz, and involve many neurons firing synchronously – in the hippocampus and through the cortex. Theta activity can be observed in adults during some sleep states, and in states of quiet focus, for example meditation. These rhythms are also involved with spatial navigation and some forms of memory and learning, especially in the temporal lobes. Theta-frequency activity is also manifested during some short term memory tasks.
Sudha – Mark I wonder if you would share with us a little of your own remarkable story?
Mark- I found myself at age 32 facing a life threatening disease and despite the best intentions of Australia’s world class medical system was not getting any better. It began with me feeling generally run down over a period of time and a visit to my holistic chiropractor. Unfortunately I came away with several fractured ribs and a cracked vertebra, which were not discovered until, after experiencing excruciating pain, I was sent for a bone scan by my local doctor. Following this I was wrongly diagnosed as suffering from low bone density, despite my years in the construction industry and playing heavy contact sport.
Sudha – It sounds like the beginning of a nightmare journey.
Mark – Yes it was, as this error was followed by another when I was misdiagnosed as having Tuberculosis (TB) and immediately hospitalised. However, all my tests for TB came back negative, many blood tests followed before the first of several fine needle biopsies under CT guidance were conducted. This involves an 18cm needle being repeatedly inserted into the spine in search of the right sample location. I was by this time under the care of several neurosurgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, cardio-thoracic surgeons and infectious disease doctors. These fine needle biopsies were unsuccessful and so the decision was taken to cut three holes in my side and insert a camera and take a sample of the infection.
Sudha – I imagine you would have been pretty frightened at this point.
Mark- Well, upon awakening I then had two tubes draining blood from me, as they had collapsed my lung for the procedure, and a third tube as a morphine drip – and a 25cm scar as a keepsake for my troubles. The good news was that I did not have cancer but the bad news was that they did not take a large enough sample to test for anything else. Repeating the operation was next on the agenda but “luckily” I had developed a fever, and medical protocol insisted that this be treated with antibiotics before surgery. After receiving a high dosage antibiotic for 6 weeks I was still found to have a blood infection level of 125 (normal rates are 0 – 15). Another fine needle biopsy followed before another course of high dosage antibiotics, and finally a correct diagnosis – Vertebral Osteomyelitis. This infection in the partially collapsed T6 and T7 vertebrae was potentially fatal and incapacitated me to the extent that I could not pick up a shopping bag, let alone my two year old daughter.
Sudha – I understand that it was at this time that you were given a copy of Vianna Stibal’s book “Go Up and Work With God.”
Mark- My naturopath recommended it and I seized upon it, sensing that the answers and the healing I had so desperately been seeking were right here. You know when you read something and you just know this is it! I did a bit of further research on the internet and registered for the next workshop. I did the Advanced Theta Healing seminar over that weekend and found that the pain in my back was completely gone.
Sudha – That must have been amazing after such a terrifying time. What happened to heal you?
Mark- During the Theta Healing processes new affirmative life beliefs were conveyed to me, whilst in the Theta state, which enabled me to replace the failing negative beliefs that were literally killing me. My Father passed away from a sudden heart attack when I was 16 and I was told to be strong for my mother. I subconsciously took this on as a reason not to be able to grieve, and I felt a great deal of pressure to get everything right from then on. Subconsciously, I carried feelings of resentment toward my father for leaving me and not teaching me all I had to learn from him. This created in my mind a lack of support, which was heightened, due to the fact that all my friend’s fathers were in the construction industry, and when they left school, they all went into their fathers businesses. I had to do it all on my own. These support issues manifested in my back, and the resentment I carried manifested into the infection. The first Theta Healing consultation I had, we worked on the issues about my father, which immediately eliminated a great deal of the pain I was feeling in my back. I was then able to see the support that I had in my life from my mother, brother, sisters and my wife. In fact I had so much support around me but was unable to see it due to my beliefs.
Sudha – Mark thank you so much for sharing your incredible life changing journey.
Mark – My pleasure.
Mark Anthony has since gone on to train directly with Vianna Stibal and to devote his life’s work to the facilitating and training of others in Theta Healing. He feels that the importance of this work lies in the empowering effect that it has on people to heal themselves, and that it is this paradigm shift which can transform humanity. Mark teaches all of Vianna’s courses around Australia including the Basic and Advanced Theta Healing and Intuitive Anatomy courses. www.thetahealing.net.au
©Eco Living Magazine.