Salvation is within us.

Ever since the human mind was first able to hope, we have yearned for those we care about who are blind to be able to see.  Desperate to escape our helplessness, our hope became prayer to the same god who made our loved ones blind.  Yet god only ever ignored the pleas, dispensing blindness to those we love but never, ever curing it.  Why conceive of blindness if you’re only going to cure it, right?  If you wanted everybody to see, why create blindness in the first place?

But now humans are making those strides, using science to thumb our noses at the maladies conceived by the almighty.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the first treatment to give limited vision to people who are blind, involving a technology called the artificial retina.

The device allows people with a certain type of blindness to detect crosswalks on the street, the presence of people or cars, and sometimes even large numbers or letters. The approval of the system marks a milestone in a new frontier in vision research, a field in which scientists are making strides with gene therapy, optogenetics, stem cells and other strategies.

“This is just the beginning,” said Grace Shen, a director of the retinal diseases program at the National Eye Institute, which helped finance the artificial retina research and is supporting many other blindness therapy projects. “We have a lot of exciting things sitting in the wings.”

Of course, god doesn’t exist, so we’re not really defying him.  Instead, we are asserting ourselves against a universe indifferent to our suffering.  This is how we stake our claim in the cosmos – by insisting that the well-being of our species matters, and that we’re going to use our minds to bend the machinations of this pitiless universe to serve our interests.

Humanity can do some dumb stuff (religion), but it’s capable of so much.  I think this is what offends me most about religion – it’s such an affront to our potential.  When we stop waiting on god to show himself and take matters into our own hands, we really are amazing.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Ian

    This is great, just makes me feel better for the world. Thanks for posting it.

  • invivoMark

    Something about this makes me curious.

    Is it possible a blind person would be resistant to getting this device? I’m thinking particularly of those with congenital blindness. They have come to know the world by other senses. Every object, every location is known by its touch, texture, and acoustics. Most of them are much more in tune with the senses that they have, to the point that they can navigate the world outside just fine, when any sighted person would be hopelessly lost.

    Obviously, an ability to see would bring a degree of independence to the blind – shopping by themselves, exploring new locations, navigating crosswalks that don’t have buzzers, etc. But I would also imagine that a blind person would retain a strong preference for using sound and feel as their primary sources of information about the world, and I wonder if a blind person might want to, at times, turn off the visual sense they would get from the device. The extraneous information could be an unwanted distraction, or might even cause severe mental fatigue.

    Is my thinking completely insane? Does anyone know a blind person who might or might not agree with what I wrote?

    To be sure, I’m immensely hopeful about this new technology, and I’m immeasurably proud to belong to a society that can help its own to overcome their disabilities.

    • Azkyroth

      I’m sure they exist – I know there are deaf communities resistant to cochlear implants – but since no one is proposing forcibly installing them…

      • invivoMark

        Again, I’m extremely glad that we’ve got this thing now that can allow blind people to see. I just wonder if the developers have thought to include an off switch.

  • UsingReason

    Damn the government for spending $100 million in grant money on this, blind people made the choice to be blind, why should they need the government funds to help them now? Obama is an evil overlord trying to control us all, don’t let them implant you!!!!!!!!!!!

  • John Horstman

    In other exciting news, there’s this revolutionary bionic hand. Yahweh may not heal amputees, but we humans are doing our damnedest.