Resurrecting the Dead

Scientists aim to keep the brain alive separate from the body

A cousin emailed me a news clip about the latest research on reviving dead pig brains. Yale’s BrainEx experiments offer the possibility of keeping much of the brain alive separate from the body.

That drastic procedure performed on humans ― which no scientific review board would currently approve ― is exactly what Italian “head transplant” surgeon Sergio Canavero wants to do someday. He and Chinese surgeon Xiaoping Ren are developing a plan to transplant a human head — right down to neck bolts for electricity. They have already performed the procedure on mice, rats, and a dog, all of which survived the surgery and even regained some motor function.

Major ethical and moral hurdles remain. Despite our current scientific limitations, it’s not too early to consider the ethics of reviving consciousness in a disembodied brain, and to question if brain transplants should ever be allowed.

All of which casts shades of a Frankenstein laboratory with a horrifying monster demanding another electrical charge, or an energizing playmate, before going on an unstoppable rampage.

I responded to my cousin’s email. “Hey. This could someday be a solution to someone wanting to change gender. Instead of going through months of hormone treatments and surgical alterations, he or she would need only a head transplant.”

“You’re right,” he said.

“Wealthy man willing to pay for recently deceased young female body.”

“That ad would be a head-turner,” he joked.

“Then there’s Ted Williams’s head cryonically preserved at -325° F. His children arranged it so that someday they can be with him again as a family.”

“‘Experience heaven on earth, reunite with your deceased father,’” he mused.

“Just think of all the possibilities. After Ted’s head is attached to a super athlete’s body, he would come back to break the record of his 0.406 single-season batting average. We’d have to rededicate Ted Williams Freeway.

“Or, can you imagine the prophecies and revelations from Einstein’s brain, now sliced and diced in laboratory jars but regenerated by stem cells, then linked to IBM’s Watson?” I speculated.

“Only the very rich could afford a deep freeze for $200,000, not counting the staggering future cost of transplant surgery. But they’d forever rule the world. How would society ever deal with that?” he worried.

The pig brain revival at Yale University raises questions about the foggy line between life and death, as well as the dizzying social implications if it’s applied to human beings. Could death become such a blurry issue that families aren’t willing to part with their loved ones’ viable remaining organs while they wait to see whether the brain might be revived? The organ transplant industry would shrivel and many patients waiting for an organ transplant would die.

Or, what if the hope of meeting your loved ones in heaven gets replaced by a physical reunion? If you have enough money, bring Daddy back from the dead. Only the poor would have to yearn for a family reunion in the Afterlife.

It’s possible that godlike acts of science may someday launch a stunning challenge to Christianity by raising the dead from their tombs. By then, with its device-assisted replications, Science will have mythologized Christ’s miracles.

Only those believers in Christ raised from the spiritually dead will be able to weather that storm.

 

Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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