Tag Archive | ethics

Elon Musk and Ethics

I read a biography on Elon Musk awhile back. It was fascinating. He seems like a super smart, super driven, and genuinely concerned individual. Though, I clearly don’t know Musk or his motives.

I was troubled, however, recently when I watched a progress update about Neuralink. Neuralink is a company that has Elon Musk as one of its founders and is “developing implantable brain–machine interfaces.” Neuralink is working to invent “new technologies that will expand our abilities, our community, and our world.”

In the video update, Musk said he is concerned with our “species.” He speaks of “what we [humanity] would want.” He was presuming about the “sum of our collective will.” He talked about “the future of the earth” being “controlled by the combined will of the people.”

It reminded me of something perceptive C.S. Lewis said:

“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under the omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” 

It seems to me that Musk and his team have good intentions but an ethicist was eerily absent on the panel. And they spoke of such things as erasing fear and pain. One of the guys on the panel said he’d like to study consciousness and simultaneously dismissed all writings on consciousness in the last thousand years.[1] That was very concerning to me. To sweep away a whole history of thought on a subject, even one as confusing as consciousness, in a mere fleeting moment is concerning. It speaks to the panelist’s pride and unreasonableness. As well as to what Lewis referred to as chronological snobbery

One can have knowledge and intellect and be absent of wisdom. And history teaches us that science, even good science with good goals, can bring about terrible things. We can see this by looking at the origin of the Nobel Prize.

Briefly, Alfred Nobel was refereed to as the “merchant of death.” Among his inventions was dynamite. “Merchant of death” was not the reputation he wanted. So he funded the Nobel Prize in order to change his legacy.

Nobel’s intention was not to be a “merchant of death” but nevertheless his technology of dynamite led to the death of many. Technology itself is not wicked, but sometimes those who wield it are not wise and sometimes they are wicked and use technology in devastating ways.

Also, concerning is that Musk seems to be a naturalist and determinist.[2] He talks about what the collective will of the world is. That, to me, is concerning. Especially from someone that believes they are doing good and yet, at the same time, have no basis for believing in the concept of good.

As amazing as Elon Musk is, in a lot of ways, he and his programs need ethics, and I would argue transcultural and transtemporal ethics.

My kids in my home need reminded and held to the transcultural norm of love and truth and if they don’t follow those norms my house is in unrest. How much more Musk and Neuralink?!


[1] He said, ““There’s a lot of really silly philosophy that’s been written about [consciousness] over the last thousand years.”

[2] Musk said, “The universe started out… hydrogen and then after a long time… well, what seems like a long time to us, that hydrogen became sentient. It gradually got more complex… We’re basically, you know, hydrogen evolved. Um, and somewhere along the way that hydrogen started talking and thought it was conscious” (See the 51:46 timestamp in Neuralink Progress Update, Summer 2020). If we are merely evolved hydrogen that think we’re conscious, how can we possibly make sense of our world? Is not then everything random? How can we trust our minds? That’s akin to trusting a random paint splash to relay truth. They’re both random chance processes with no real significance.

Rule #1: God is first, so make sure He’s first in your life.

“And God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:1-3).

For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be looking at rules, the Ten Commandments. Yeah! Just what everyone wants to look at! Rules! I’m sure you’re giddy with delight.

Maybe not.

Rules often have a bad reputation. They have for me in the past. Let me ask you though, have you heard of Thomas the Train? Thomas was a train. A blue train to be exact, and a happy train most of the time. But Thomas wanted to be free. He wanted to be free from the restrictions of the train track. He was unhappy because wanted to roam in the open countryside.

One day he got fed up. He made a break for it. He was going to go off the restrictive tracks once and for all! He was going to know freedom.

So, he did. He went of the tracks. He was finally free from the railroad tracks!

What do you think Thomas’ “freedom” was like?…

It was crushing. Literally, crushing. He couldn’t move. He was stuck.

He was somewhere where he wasn’t meant to be. 

We often have…

Concern about Rules

We don’t like rules. But rules are good. Have you ever played the card game Mao? It’s a game with unspoken rules. It’s really hard to play because you don’t know the rules but get penalized when you break them. Rules are good because they keep things the way they’re supposed to be kept. They keep Thomas on the tracks so that he is free to come and go, free to be what he is supposed to be. It’s also good to know the rules so you’re not “penalized” for something you didn’t know.

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Why do Black Lives & LGBTQ+ Lives Matter?

Why do black lives and LGBTQ+ lives matter? This is an important question because some people have views that don’t support the idea of lives mattering. For example, Charles Darwin, the most famous proponent of evolution titled his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle of Life.  And in his book, The Decent of Man, he says,

“The Western nations of Europe… now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilization…. The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.”

Does a strict Darwinian view of the world lead to all lives mattering? It does not appear so. That’s why this question is important. Why do black lives and LGTBQ+ lives matter?

If we cut off our objective moral legs, we have no way to stand. If we say morality doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter. We can’t pick and choose. We can’t both say people are the way they are and have the desires they have and it’s fine and say it’s not okay for people to be certain ways and do certain things. That’s the crucial thing we need to consider.

Black lives matter. LGBTQ+ lives matter. White lives matter. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But why?

That is a super important question and one that sadly isn’t receiving a lot of sustained thought. Why do black lives matter? Why do lives matter at all? Where do we get this concept? Is it true? 

Jesus said, black lives matter.[1] Jesus said, LGBTQ+ lives matter. Jesus said, all lives matter.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38).

But does Jesus matter? And if He doesn’t on what basis then are we saying all these lives matter? This may seem like a stupid question. We just know all types of lives matter, right? But do we?

The common view that many have is Darwinian evolution, that we came from nothing and we are going to nothing; from purposelessness to purposelessness. Where is meaning, morality, and lives mattering to be found?[2] Is there a basis for human rights?

Also, did the Roman culture, in whose hands Jesus was murdered say, all lives matter?[3] Did Joseph Stalin say all lives matter? Did Friedrich Nietzsche? Did Adolf Hitler? Did Mao Zedong? Is it even possible to say all lives matter or any lives matter when the highest maximum is have it your way and do what’s right for you? Could it be that “just as long as no one gets hurt” has been trampled upon and obliterated by “you can do whatever you want”? Objective NormsIf God is dead, and we killed him, as Nietzsche said, what follows? Perhaps Nietzsche was right, perhaps that makes all things permissible? Each person doing what is right in their own eyes, whatever that might be. Who is anyone, who or what is God, to restrain? …We are who we are and we want what we want and that’s nobodies business, right?

How or where, then, do we get the concept of lives, any lives, ultimately mattering? The concept of lives mattering would be merely imaginary (a social construct). Perhaps good for America right now but not for all people at all times and places.

We can’t deconstruct everything and still have a basis which to say lives matter or to say that we must love others. We can’t both say we can do whatever we want and you can’t do certain things (like be racist or homophobic). 

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The Coronavirus and the Christian

How should Christians think about and respond to the coronavirus? Here are some initial thoughts…

Plague and the Problem of Evil

Christians see the world in a way that makes sense of the world. We have an understanding of why plagues and the problem of evil exist.

That leads us to acknowledge something else that’s super important to focus on: Jesus. Jesus did not leave us to our problems. He did not leave us to simply wallow in plagues. Instead, He Himself plunged headlong into our sorrow.

“The God of The Bible becomes completely human and hurts in every way that we do—from physical pain to social rejection, misunderstanding, hatred, violence, and death. He endures it all. And because he suffers all of this with us, he can empathize with our sorrow and pain. Even more amazingly, Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection are the avenues through which he overcomes all evil, pain, and misery and is able to offer us the promise that disappointment will give way to joy, brokenness to eternal healing, and evil to good. Because of Christ’s agony, death will die and life will live on forever.”[1]

Therefore, even in the midst of plague and the problem of evil we can point people to Jesus. We can point people to hope, no matter what happens. Therefore, Christian, continue to worship Christ as Lord and always be ready to tell everyone the reason you have hope even in the midst of the chaos of the curse and the coronavirus (1 Pet. 3:15).

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Moral Order

The world has a moral order. Many are unwilling to concede that truth, however. But the world functions as if that is the case. Let’s take my kid’s classroom as an example.

In my kid’s classroom there is a telos, or goal for which the students gather. There are also specific means that are employed to reach that end.

The whole education system is predicated upon the goals of teaching things that are deemed important for the betterment and healthy functioning of the individual student and society. Various means are employed to best meet those goals. There are subtle disagreements of course. For example, people have disagreements over the best forms of discipline. But there is overarching agreement across America.

Think of the quintessential school. Perhaps for you it’s John Adams High from Boy Meets World or maybe Bayside High School from Saved by the Bell. Regardless, there is a quintessential school. There is something that is aimed for, something that is ideal. Read More…

Is there a basis for Human Rights?

God’s existence and His revelation are necessary conditions for meaningful human rights. Christianity gives a firm foundation for human rights. Not only that, but Christianity has “the strongest possible resource for practicing sacrificial service, generosity, and peace-making. At the very heart of [Christianity’s] view of reality [is] a man who died for his enemies, praying for their forgiveness. Reflection on this could only lead to a radically different way of dealing with those who [are] different from them. It [means] they [could] not act in violence and oppression toward their opponents.”[1] Of course, that doesn’t mean that the ideal is always followed.
 
There have been Christians that have done very wicked things. There have also been many wicked things that have been done by atheists.[2] That, however, does not mean that all atheists are bad or even that atheism is wrong. As we will see below though, atheists do not finally have any basis for morality or human rights.
 
Richard Wurmbrand who experienced ghastly torture at the hands of an atheistic government said,
“The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe. When a man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The communist torturers often said, ‘There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I heard one torturer say, ‘I thank God, in whom I do not believe, that I lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.’ He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.”[3] 
Scripture, on the other hand, clearly condemns injustice.[4] Scripture shows us that God loves justice and, conversely, hates injustice; He has compassion for those who suffer injustice—everywhere around the world; He judges and condemns those who perpetrate injustice; and He seeks active rescue for victims of injustice.[5] Much of secular society, however, does not have a reason to condemn injustice.

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A Few Thoughts On Genetic Engineering (part three)

The Need for Biblical Ethics

Many agree that “If we do adopt a policy of human genetic engineering, we ought to do so with extreme caution.”[1] I believe that a biblical and Christ exalting ethical system is necessary to provide bedrock convictions. Without the Bible we are left to our own devices, to do what is right in our own eyes.

The Bible does not address the subject of genetic engineering directly. You will not find “genetic modification” in a Bible concordance. The Bible does, however, provide foundational principals that are vital for us to consider and apply. The storyline of the Bible and of reality provides some very important insights.

First, in the beginning of the story of Scripture we see that God created everything, and He created it very good (Gen. 1:31). God is the Great Creator but we also see that we are made in His image and are also creative (Gen. 1:26-27). We also see from the fact that we are made in the image of God that all human life is precious and should be protected. This is where we get the concept of the sanctity of life. We also see from the beginning of Genesis that humans are called to subdue the earth, we are to reign under God as His vice-regents. So, we are to obey His will and bring blessing and flourishing to all we can.

This is important to remember when we consider gene editing because we learn a number of things. 1) God made us creative and made us to bring flourishing and blessing. 2) God also made us to obey Him, He is the Lord. We should never do anything that is outside of His will. 3) The fact that God is the Creator of all provides a basis for the reasonableness of the laws of science. We can make logical deductions and seek out God’s creative design because God has designed things in a reasonable way.

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A Few Thoughts On Genetic Engineering (part two)

Types of Genetic Engineering

As you read this, remember, “The best insurance against possible abuse is a well-informed public.”[1] So, with that in mind, let’s look at four types of genetic engineering.

First, and lest controversial, is somatic gene therapy.[2] The way I remember what somatic refers to is by remembering that soma is the Greek word for “body.” Somatic gene therapy involves the manipulation of gene cells within the body that are non-reproductive.[3] So somatic genes that are edited do not get passed on to future generations.

Second, germline gene therapy involves the genetic modification of the germline cells (eggs or sperm). So germline therapy changes the genetic make up of the individual and is thus carried on to future generations. That is one of the reasons that “No aspect of gene therapy is more highly charged than that of germline or germ-cell therapy.”[4] One of the questions that is important to ask regarding germline gene therapy is: “Will a ‘deleterious’ gene of today be considered a ‘deleterious’ gene tomorrow?”[5]

This discussion, I must remind you, is not some sci-fi dream, “Many assure that within our decade, depending upon the family and the circumstances, height, weight and even eye color will become elective.”[6]

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A Few Thoughts On Genetic Engineering (part one)

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 10.26.23 PMThe topic of genetic engineering makes me think of the movie Universal Soldier where the soldiers were genetically engineered to have superior strength and heal quickly. The Boys from Brazil is another movie that has genetic engineering as part of the plot. In this movie there are ninety-four clones made of Adolf Hitler and sent to different parts of the world. Examples of plot twists and possible plot twists could be multiplied. Those examples are all fictious.

What is not fictious, however, is the reality of genetic engineering. So we  must realistically consider genetic engineering and its ethical implications. Specialists from varied backgrounds agree. Take these examples:

Megan Best has said: “Genetics will have an important role in shaping society in the future because it increases our understanding of how disease occurs and how treatments work differently between individuals. It promises new ways to improve the health of the population.”[1] “Full of promise, full of challenges—we will all be involved in the genetic revolution before we know it.”[2]

George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, said in 2016 regarding genetic engineering that “It is urgent that citizens around the world inform themselves and participate in this rapidly moving set of decisions.”[3]

“Prominent voices in the genetic technology field believe that mankind is destined for a genetic divide that will yield a superior race or species to exercise dominion over an inferior subset of humanity. They speak of ‘self-directed evolution’ in which genetic technology is harnessed to immeasurably correct humanity—and then immeasurably enhance it. Correction is already underway. So much is possible: genetic therapies, embryo screening in cases of inherited disease and even modification of the genes responsible for adverse behaviors.”[4]

The way we think deeply matters. Adam S. Cohen says this in his essay, “Harvard’s Eugenics Era”: “There are… forward-looking reasons to revisit this dark moment in [Harvard’s] past. Biotechnical science has advanced to the brink of a new era of genetic possibilities. In the next few years, the headlines will be full of stories about gene-editing technology, genetic ‘solutions’ for a variety of human afflictions and frailties, and even ‘designer babies.”[5]

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