Monday, May 18, 2015

The Technology of Miracles

(Artist: Matt Briney)

Growing up, the man who lived just down the hall from me was a talented spine surgeon. As an academic and devout Mormon, he continually interjected his work with religion and vice versa. I recall him being decorated with awards for medical achievements and the occasional colleague referring to him as an outlier. To me, he was just Dad.

Combining science and religion has been quite natural for me. I remember conversations around the dinner table filled with speculations concerning the creation of the earth or trying to understand how time is relevant to God. I remember my father explaining how characters in the scriptures were afflicted with very real medical conditions and going into great detail about them to contextualize the stories from the Bible.

Watching my father heal people for a living certainly put into perspective our responsibility to help one another. I’ve been able to meet many of his patients over the years. One little girl in particular suffered from a severe injury to the aorta in her leg as an infant that impaired its ability to grow. The injury resulted in a leg length discrepancy and required an ilizarov, a somewhat painful leg lengthening apparatus that is surgically screwed into the leg using tension rods. I was a few years older than her and struggled to understand how happy and optimistic she was despite this large metal device screwed into her leg. It looked terribly painful, but here she was jumping on my trampoline with me.

I asked my father a lot of questions about her. I remember him talking about how someday people would look back on his work, orthopedic surgery, and scoff at the rudimentary, risky, and barbaric nature of the practice of slicing the human body open to go in and fix it manually. I remember asking him, “If it’s so horrible, why do you do it?”

He shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly and replied, “Because we have to do the best we can with the tools we have. It’s not perfect, but we can’t stand by and do nothing.”

He continued, “Someday we’ll be able to heal the body without cutting people open. We will be able to heal the body from the inside out with pills you can swallow.”

As a young girl, I didn’t think much of what he said until now.

We currently have elementary tools to work with, but they still surpass the primitive technologies available to our ancestors. We can and will create more sophisticated tools as time goes by, because we can’t stand by and do nothing. Healing each other is not only possible, it’s our responsibility.

The scriptures are glittered with supernatural miracles that couldn’t be explained with the knowledge, tools, and technology of that time period. However, what was once a miracle has now become medical. What was once inexplicable is becoming reasonable through technology.

It’s not only appropriate, but also a Christian’s duty to continue to immerse themselves as the body of Christ. It’s fitting to emulate those we worship. Medical technology is simply a tool we can use to improve humanity and take on the name of Christ.

In Mark we read about “a certain woman, which had an issue of blood”. Menometrorrhagia and anemia are now highly treatable conditions allowing women to live long, active lives.

It was said that “the lame [would] walk”, but with advancements in bionic limbs the lame are not only walking they are running, climbing, and dancing. Surgeons are also using new techniques to help patients overcome paralysis.

Lepers are cleansed” and cured with triple combination antibiotics.

Psalms states, “He maketh the barren woman […] a joyful mother.” With advancements in IVF and uterine transplants we are creating miracles for parents all over the world.

A miracle is “an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws. Such an event may be attributed to a supernatural being(s).” These examples were once considered miracles, however, are they no longer miraculous because of our sophisticated medicinal applications?

I must contest that science and miracles are not in direct contradiction to one another, but are simply a cohesive, evolutionary process as we strive to help each other have a better human experience. If we can share in the astonishing miracles laid forth in scripture, what else are we capable of? Corinthians reads, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

Collectively, humanity has become quite “super” in our medical and technological advancements and yet still extremely “natural” in our yearnings for life. After all, what is more natural than our primal instinct to survive, or live? What is the essence of Transhumanism if not the technology of miracles?

After all, we can’t stand by and do nothing.

*Published at The Transfigurist on Monday, May 18, 2015

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Spaceship Earth

(Artist: Frances Gunn)

Our family makes frequent trips to Epcot. It’s one of the perks of living 15 minutes away from Walt Disney World. Among the many fantastic attractions in Epcot’s Future World® is Spaceship Earth. It’s one of our favorites, not just because of the awe inspiring architecture of the gigantic geometric sphere, but, for me, there is an important message that is so beautifully delivered through the narrator, Judy Dench.

“Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed through the universe of time; and for a brief moment we have been among its passengers. But where are we going? And what kind of future will we discover there? Surprisingly, the answers lie in our past. Since the dawn of recorded history, we’ve been inventing the future one step at a time. So let’s travel back in time together. I’ll show you how our ancestors create the world we know today, and then it will be your turn to create the world of tomorrow.”

The future is quite literally in our hands, just as it was in the hands of our ancestors. Our choices are not insignificant to the future even if the effects aren’t easily seen.

Did the sentient beings who first recorded their knowledge on cave walls know that they began paving the way of communications for future tribes and civilizations? Did the Egyptians know when they invented papyrus that they were creating a technology that would shape the course of humanity? Did they know that paper would lead us to an industrial revolution where we would learn to press, print, share, and distribute our knowledge with each other? Did they know books would take us to a digital space of limitless possibilities? Did those primitive beings know scribbling drawings on rocks would lead their posterity to a technological era of instant global communications?

My hunch says they didn’t. Even so, that doesn’t make their seemingly insignificant contribution of cave drawings any less essential to the future of our species. We are the children of cave people, but also the children of Creators—built from the intelligence, technology, and compassion of our ancestors. We are the children of Gods.

The future isn’t just tomorrow. The future is in our past. The future is in our present. And more importantly, the future is in our hands. The hands of Creators. The hands of gods.