Actually, a lot of people. I completely share Massimo's and Alex SL's attitude that if we could feasibly improve everyone's bodies, minds and lifespans, that should be a no-brainer. But I think they've underestimated the degree to which this point is far from a no-brainer for the rest of the world. There are a surprising number of people whose reaction, when they are presented with the possibility of making humanity much healthier, smarter and longer-lived, is not “That would be great,” nor “That would be great, but it's infeasible,” nor even “That would be great, but it's too risky.” Their reaction is, “That would be terrible.”
Best-selling books aren't the only way this kind of thinking impacts the public. President George W. Bush's Council on Bioethics, which advised him from 2001-2009, was steeped in it. Harvard professor of political philosophy Michael J. Sandel served on the Council from 2002-2005 and penned an article in the Atlantic Monthly called “The Case Against Perfection,” in which he objected to genetic engineering on the grounds that, basically, it’s uppity. He argues that genetic engineering is “the ultimate expression of our resolve to see ourselves astride the world, the masters of our nature.” Better we should be bowing in submission than standing in mastery, Sandel feels. Mastery “threatens to banish our appreciation of life as a gift,” he warns, and submitting to forces outside our control “restrains our tendency toward hubris.”
By now you may have noticed a familiar ring to a lot of this language. The idea that it's virtuous to suffer, and to humbly surrender control of your own fate, is a cornerstone of Christian morality. Mother Teresa's Third World hospices were a grim case in point. They denied pain relief to their patients, not because Mother Teresa's mission couldn't afford morphine, but because she believed her patients' suffering was a good thing. "I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ," she said.
This is why transhumanism is most needed, from my perspective – to counter the astoundingly widespread attitude that suffering and 80-year-lifespans are good things that are worth preserving. That attitude may make sense conditional on certain peculiarly masochistic theologies, but the rest of us have no need to defer to it. It also may have been a comforting thing to tell ourselves back when we had no hope of remedying our situation, but that's not necessarily the case anymore.