Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Good Man (not a good transhuman)

Captain America is morally problematic.  That's been covered well by Rebecca Taylor: briefly in "Why I am not a fan of Captain America" and more extensively in "E. Christian Brugger on Transhumanism in Captain America".

Let's accept that point and look instead at something Dr. Erskine says to him in Captain America: The First Avenger:

"Whatever happens tomorrow you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man."

What would Steve say if confronted with accusations of immoral transhumanism -- of unnecessary genetic tampering? He's an intelligent guy. (Being unfamiliar with modern-day technology doesn't make you stupid. People in centuries prior weren't dumber than us because they didn't have iPhones.)  He could grapple with the arguments, and he could come to the correct moral conclusion. That said, would he regret the choice he made? He may or may not. He can't deny that Captain America has done good, but he may understand very well that you can't do evil to get a good result. In that case, he'd be in similar moral circumstances to someone that's willingly been sterilized or had an abortion; he may not be able to undo the past, but he can decide to make moral choices moving forward. "I'm trans-human now, and I can't take that back. Where do I go from here?"

If we must assume the best of a former sinner that repents--whether its of adultery, theft, murder, or anything else--then we should assume the best of a former sinner that repents of transhuman alteration. If he repents and confesses, then he's not a sinner now. He sinned to some degree when he volunteered to be altered, but he isn't sinning simply by existing now in that altered state. The post-abortive woman is not sinning now by walking around as a post-abortive woman. There is always a way forward.

Does Dr. Erskine's request apply only to the transhuman Captain? Certainly not. He implies something very true--and very easily overlooked--that goodness is more important than intelligence, beauty, or strength. (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin challenges parents on this point in his video through Prager University: "What Did Your Parents Most Want You to Be?") He may be making Captain America powerful, but he cannot make him good. That is the real difference between Captain America and the Red Skull, between Iron Man and Iron Monger, between the Hulk and the Abomination. Do they take what they have (from good means or evil) and make good choices or wicked ones?

Dr. Erskine also recognizes that the good man, not the perfect soldier, is who Steve Rogers is. His physical state or mental state does not connote the state of his soul. The person with an 80 IQ that seeks for God will get to Heaven, while the 163 IQ that doesn't repent of mortal sin will not. A wicked but powerful Red Skull is weaker where it really counts than a physically-inferior Steve Rogers.  No, we're not just souls riding around in bodies; we also are our bodies. However, "self" does not spring solely (soully?) from our physical or mental limitation. That is not the "me" on which I'll be judged, in the end.

More on this coming soon, when we'll talk about goodness and power in the Avengers.

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