What makes us Human? Part 3.

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Part 3. Transhumanism. A Theory of “Technosalvation”.

Opinion Piece

In the twenty-first century, the third big project of humankind will be to acquire for us divine
powers of creation and destruction, and upgrade Homo Sapiens to Homo deus … We want the
ability to re-engineer our bodies and minds in order, above all, to escape old age, death, misery,
but once we have it, who knows what else we might do with such ability? So we may well think
of the new human agenda as consisting really of one project (with many branches) attaining
divinity.1Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (London: Vintage, 2017),
pp. 53–54. cited in Gallaher, Brandon (2019). Godmanhood vs Mangodhood: An Eastern Orthodox Response to Transhumanism. Studies in Christian Ethics 32 (2):200-215.

Yuval Noah Harari,

This quotation from Harari explains the ideology underlying “technological transhumanism” (sometimes referred to as techno-humanism, technoscience, or H+) as a utopian vision created by employing elements of the biotech explosion: including genetics, robotics, cybernetics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and neuropharmacology.

Julian Huxley is credited with having used the word “transhumanism” for the first time in New Bottles for New Wine (1957)(Now is that ever plagiarising ideas from the Holy Bible?), where he wrote: “The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself – not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way – but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.”2 Huxley, J. (1957), New Bottles for New Wine. London: Chatto & Windus. quoted in Bostrom, Nick (2005). A history of transhumanist thought. _Journal of Evolution and Technology_ 14 (1):7. Nick Bostrom and David Pearce, founded The World Transhumanist Association in early 1998, ibid p15.

It is important to note that his definition discusses a new (version of an old) religion otherwise why use the term belief? It is arguable that he diverges with the modern transhumanists in that; in transcending himself, man will return the value of man, (“man remaining man”) and will not “transform” into something else, as seems the goal in the more recent discussions on the subject. In today’s verbiage he could be described as a bioconservative, 3This is not, however, the route for which cultural conservatives have so far opted. Instead, they have gravitated towards transhumanism’s opposite, bioconservatism, which opposes the use of technology to expand human capacities or to modify aspects of our biological nature. People drawn to bioconservatism come from groups that traditionally have had little in common. Right‐wing religious conservatives and left‐wing environmentalists and anti‐globalists have found common causes, for example in their opposition to the genetic modification of humans”. (Bostrom 2005: 23) (arguably, something of a progressivist slur word since the expected antithesis to bioconservatism, bioliberalism is not called that, but transhumanism in the modern sense) which would indicate a desire to retain human qualities.

The transhuman project can be defined from a Christian perspective as: “the goal of self-directed human evolution by means of science and technology” Checketts (2020)4Checketts, Levi. “HOMO GUBERNATOR AS A TEILHARDIAN-CATHOLIC RESPONSE TO TRANSHUMANISM.” Religious Transhumanism and Its Critics, 2020. However it may be easier to understand technological Transhumanism expressed as a “formula” rather than a worded definition. Although this is paradoxically more vague, one can ascribe finer meaning to the words once one has understood the “equation”.

Thomas Molnar, writes: “Humanism, contrary to the accepted stereotype, is not the advocacy of an easy-going, benevolent, and serene attitude towards the ultimate questions, a synonym for tolerance of all points of view, it is a militant stance in the name of an absolute, called man. In ages like ours, when the meaning of religion is fading and confused, humanism appears as a fundamental and original position, agreeable to common sense and arising spontaneously from the most natural of all insights…Humanism is, consequently, a religious view, more precisely an idolatrous view insofar as it does not deny God like materialism, or a personal God like pantheism, only identifies ‘god’ with generic man, and more vulgarly, with mankind.”5Thomas Molnar, Theists and Atheists: A Typology of Non-Belief, Religion and Reason
18 (The Hague: Mouton, 1980), 62. quoted in Estes, Douglas. “Sin and the Cyborg: On the (Im) Peccability of the Posthuman.” Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology, 2019.

Nick Bostrom credits Max More with the modern definition of transhumanism (Bostrom 2005: 15) which More articulates as: “Philosophies of life (such as extropian perspectives) that seek the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology, guided by life- promoting principles and values.” (More 1990)6More, M. (2013). The Philosophy of Transhumanism. In The Transhumanist Reader (eds M. More and N. Vita-More).  available at https://www.humanityplus.org/philsophy-of-transhumanism More continues:

According to the Transhumanist FAQ (Various 2003), transhumanism is: The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. A corollary definition (also from the FAQ) focuses on the activity rather than the content of transhumanism: The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies .

Max More.7ibid

Bostrom claims that “Transhumanism has roots in rational humanism.” (Bostrom 2005: 3) and recounts FM 2030’s (formerly F. M. Esfandiary) description that a “transhuman is a “transitional human,”(FM‐2030 1989)8FM‐2030 (1989), Are you a transhuman?: monitoring and stimulating your personal rate of growth in a rapidly changing world. New York, NY: Warner Books. someone who by virtue of their technology usage, cultural values, and lifestyle constitutes an evolutionary link to the coming era of posthumanity.” (Bostrom 2005: 3) 9Bostrom, Nick (2005). A history of transhumanist thought. p.3.He continues “The signs that FM saw as indicative of transhuman status included prostheses, plastic surgery, intensive use of telecommunications, a cosmopolitan outlook and a globetrotting lifestyle, androgyny, mediated reproduction (such as in vitro fertilization), absence of religious belief, and a rejection of traditional family values”. 10 ibid p. 7. Here an unmistakable connection with left wing politics of wokism is evident and qualifiable more precisely as Techno-wokism or Techno- SJW-ism (Social Justice Warrior-ism), inasmuch as there exists a perceivable sharing of certain overlapping values.

Denial of this political stance can be rebutted by examining how Esfandiary buttresses his position in his “biopolitical” statement: “Who are the new revolutionaries of our time? They are the geneticists, biologists, physicists, cryonologists, biotechnologists, nuclear scientists, cosmologists, radio astronomers, cosmonauts, social scientists, youth corps volunteers, internationalists, humanists, science‐fiction writers, normative thinkers, inventors… They and others are revolutionizing the human condition in a fundamental way. Their achievements and goals go far beyond the most radical ideologies of the Old Order.11 Esfandiary, F. M. (1970), Optimism one; the emerging radicalism. New York: Norton quoted in Bostrom, Nick (2005). A history of transhumanist thought. p. 13.

James Hughes, categorises five main strands of transhumanism: “extropian libertarianism, the liberal democratic World Transhumanist Association/Humanity +, Singularitarian millennialism, religious transhumanism, and radical democratic transhumanism or technoprogressivism.” Hughes (2012) 12James Hughes, “The Politics of Transhumanism,” Zygon: Religion of Journal and Science 47, no. 4 (December 2012): 758. quoted in Checketts, Levi. “HOMO GUBERNATOR AS A TEILHARDIAN-CATHOLIC RESPONSE TO TRANSHUMANISM.” Religious Transhumanism and Its Critics, 2020 p.4. Checketts writes “Transhumanism, therefore, exists as a spectrum of philosophical and technoscientific projects, with some advocating for restrained and gradual enhancements of humanity on a large level, and others advocating for radical morphological freedom for those who can afford it.” Checketts (2020) p. 4.

Before moving on to the term “posthuman” an exploration of the term “singularity” merits Investigation. The use of the term “singularity” is attributed to Stanislav Ulam writing an article about the life and accomplishments of John von Neumann. “One conversation centered on the ever-accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which  human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” Ulam, (1958) 13Ulam, S. (1958), ʺJohn von Neumann 1903‐1957ʺ, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (May).

The term was elaborated into the “technological singularity” conceived by the science fiction author and and post-humanist advocate, Vernor Vinge, in 1983. He uses the words to refer to the event horizon that he prognosticates will arise once an intelligence emerges that is greater than that of human intelligence.

Ray Kurzweil (inventor, entrepreneur, futurist, and author) and others have ran with the idea and hypothesised that the convergence of AI, nanotechnology, robotics, and genetic engineering will soon manufacture and assemble “posthuman beings” that will transform and transcend the human being into the posthuman one. 14Kurzweil Ray. 2000. The Age of Spiritual Machines : When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. New York: Penguin Books. and Kurzweil Ray. 2005. The Singularity Is near : When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking.The objective in both of Kurzweil’s books (The Age of Spiritual Machines : When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence and The Singularity Is near : When Humans Transcend Biology) and according to his interpretation of transhumanism, is for humans to surpass their biological and intellectual limitations.

Linear consciousness is the only element of personhood and is viewed as an Epiphenomenon. 15 [A] secondary phenomenon accompanying another and caused by itspecifically a secondary mental phenomenon that is caused by and accompanies a physical phenomenon but has no causal influence itself, “Epiphenomenon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphenomenon. Accessed 25 Aug. 2022. The essential nature of a human being, is reduced to information patterns and data stored in the brain. Kurzweil describes patternism: “We can ‘go beyond’ the ‘ordinary’ powers of the material world through the power of patterns. Although I have been called a materialist, I regard myself as a ‘patternist’. It’s through the emergent powers of the pattern that we transcend”(Kurzweil, 2005, p. 388).16 (Kurzweil, 2005, p. 388) quoted in Steinhart, Eric. (2020). Theurgy and Transhumanism. Revista Archai. e02905. 10.14195/1984-249X_29_5.

Our bodies are considered simple biological hardware, where organisms are the substrate where ‘biochemical algorithms’ can carry out their functions. Electronic and biochemical algorithms share the same mathematical laws eliminating the contrast between machine and biological entity, allowing them to merge. Harari (2017) p. 428. 17Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (London: Vintage, 2017), p. 428.cited in Gallaher, Brandon (2019). Godmanhood vs Mangodhood: An Eastern Orthodox Response to Transhumanism. Studies in Christian Ethics 32 (2):203.‘[T]he idea that organisms are algorithms, and that giraffes, tomatoes and human beings are just different methods for processing data’. Harari (2017) p. 42918Harari, Homo Deus, p. 429 quoted in Brandon, Godmanhood vs Mangodhood p. 203. It would seem that creation, and indeed life itself, is just ‘dataprocessing’.19Harari, Homo Deus, p. 462 quoted in Brandon, Godmanhood vs Mangodhood p. 203.

“When transhumanists argue that our bodies can be uploaded to machines (Kurzweil, 2005, ch. 4), they mean that the abstract form of your body can be implemented by silicon. Human animals can be realized in electricity and silicon just as they can be realized in organic chemistry. But the belief in substrate independence is just the belief that the forms can be separated from their material realizations. It is precisely because our bodies have mathematical forms that they can be transformed into superhuman cyborg bodies,robotic bodies, and energetic bodies.They can be changed into godlike robots, or godlike animals made entirely of immaterial bits of information.” Steinhart, (2020) p. 5. 20Steinhart, Eric. (2020). Theurgy and Transhumanism. Revista Archai. p. 5. e02905. 10.14195/1984-249X_29_5.

The masters of technology will even use hybridity to create new life forms: “Cyberspace allowed the
technocracy to rethink salvation and what it means to be human; properly envisioned, cyberspace
created a powerful new human–machine hybrid”21Geraci, Robert. 2010. Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality. p.12 New York: Oxford University Press. quoted in Pugh, Jeffrey C. 2017. “The Disappearing Human: Gnostic Dreams in a Transhumanist World” Religions 8, no. 5: 81. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8050081

Robert Geraci.

Bainbridge’s conception would have human beings transmogrify from carnal corporeality into packets of information or data able to travel throughout the universe taking on new forms. Bainbridge (2014)22Bainbridge, William Sims. 2014. Progress toward Cyberimmortality. In The Scientific Conquest of Death. Buenos Aires: Libros en Red, pp. 107–22.In direct contrast Brent Waters writes: “Word made flesh and not flesh transformed into data that is ultimately salvific.” Waters (2011)23Brent Waters, “Whose Salvation? Which Eschatology? Transhumanism and Christianity as Contending Salvific Religions” in Cole-Turner, Transhumanism and Transcendence, 171.Biblically, the trans(formed)human would represent a regression.24 “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. (Psalms 139:14 [KJV]).

The term “posthuman” was coined by the postmodern theorist Ihab Hassan in an article entitled “Prometheus as Performer: Towards a Posthumanist Culture?” 25Ihab Hassan, “Prometheus As Performer: Toward a Posthumanist Culture?” The Georgia Review 31, no. 4 (1977):In short, Posthuman would be defined as the “resultant being” once the transhumanist objectives have been achieved.26 Cole-Turner Ronald. 2011. Transhumanism and Transcendence : Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Enhancement. Washington D.C: Georgetown University Press.A description of posthumanism is given by Douglas Estes as: “the belief that once the transhumanist evolution is complete, humanity will be so different from its past that it will cease to be human (and the way I use the term here, in its transhumanist sense, is in contrast to other uses of the term in other areas of philosophy). Estes 2019. 27Estes, Douglas. “Sin and the Cyborg: On the (Im) Peccability of the Posthuman.” Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology, 2019.

Donna Haraway, the author of A Cyborg Manifesto (published in 1985 in the Socialist Review [US]), has depicted the cyborg as a “contemporary cultural metaphor …..Haraway’s cyborg is not merely transhuman, but posthuman, as a rejection and a reconfiguration of the values of the traditional humanist subject.”(Bolter. 2016) Ferrando explains that the posthuman is inclusive of feminism, homosexuality and others things that “humanism” tends to exclude. (Ferrando, “Humans, Cyborgs, Posthumans”)28 Ferrando, Francesca. “Humans, Cyborgs, Posthumans,” filmed December 2012 in New York, New York. TED video, 18:39, http://www.theposthuman.org/ see also Ferrando, Francesca (2013). “Posthumanism, Transhumanism, Antihumanism, Metahumanism, and New Materialisms: Differences and Relations” (PDF). ExistenzISSN 1932-1066

Posthumanism describes a political stance that shares values with wokism : “Above all, posthumanism opposes the essentialism that it finds in the traditional interpretive practices of the humanities. It is joined in this opposition by poststructuralism, postmodernism, postcolonial studies, feminist studies, and cultural studies, all of which have gained ground in humanities departments in recent decades.” (Bolter. 2016)29 Bolter, J.D. (2016). Posthumanism. In The International Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Philosophy (eds K.B. Jensen, E.W. Rothenbuhler, J.D. Pooley and R.T. Craig).  https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118766804.wbiect220

One cannot be blamed for conveying the idea that transhumanism expresses a kind of kindred spirit with the Nietzschean idea of the Übermensch (an Over-human) “Man is something that shall be overcome” 30Friedrich Nietzsche, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Zarathustra’s Prologue, part 3 – 4 The chilling question then is: who will be considered the Untermensch (Sub-human, as you can’t have one without the other as history unequivocally demonstrates) and what will be their fate? (Revelation 13:7, 16:6) For the transhumanist, Übermensch is the anticipated means of liberation and transformation.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

(II Corinthians 13:14 [ASV])

Featured Image: Photo by Risto Kokkonen on Unsplash

Footnotes

  • 1
    Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (London: Vintage, 2017),
    pp. 53–54. cited in Gallaher, Brandon (2019). Godmanhood vs Mangodhood: An Eastern Orthodox Response to Transhumanism. Studies in Christian Ethics 32 (2):200-215.
  • 2
    Huxley, J. (1957), New Bottles for New Wine. London: Chatto & Windus. quoted in Bostrom, Nick (2005). A history of transhumanist thought. _Journal of Evolution and Technology_ 14 (1):7. Nick Bostrom and David Pearce, founded The World Transhumanist Association in early 1998, ibid p15.
  • 3
    This is not, however, the route for which cultural conservatives have so far opted. Instead, they have gravitated towards transhumanism’s opposite, bioconservatism, which opposes the use of technology to expand human capacities or to modify aspects of our biological nature. People drawn to bioconservatism come from groups that traditionally have had little in common. Right‐wing religious conservatives and left‐wing environmentalists and anti‐globalists have found common causes, for example in their opposition to the genetic modification of humans”. (Bostrom 2005: 23)
  • 4
    Checketts, Levi. “HOMO GUBERNATOR AS A TEILHARDIAN-CATHOLIC RESPONSE TO TRANSHUMANISM.” Religious Transhumanism and Its Critics, 2020
  • 5
    Thomas Molnar, Theists and Atheists: A Typology of Non-Belief, Religion and Reason
    18 (The Hague: Mouton, 1980), 62. quoted in Estes, Douglas. “Sin and the Cyborg: On the (Im) Peccability of the Posthuman.” Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology, 2019.
  • 6
    More, M. (2013). The Philosophy of Transhumanism. In The Transhumanist Reader (eds M. More and N. Vita-More).  available at https://www.humanityplus.org/philsophy-of-transhumanism
  • 7
    ibid
  • 8
    FM‐2030 (1989), Are you a transhuman?: monitoring and stimulating your personal rate of growth in a rapidly changing world. New York, NY: Warner Books.
  • 9
    Bostrom, Nick (2005). A history of transhumanist thought. p.3.
  • 10
    ibid p. 7.
  • 11
    Esfandiary, F. M. (1970), Optimism one; the emerging radicalism. New York: Norton quoted in Bostrom, Nick (2005). A history of transhumanist thought. p. 13.
  • 12
    James Hughes, “The Politics of Transhumanism,” Zygon: Religion of Journal and Science 47, no. 4 (December 2012): 758. quoted in Checketts, Levi. “HOMO GUBERNATOR AS A TEILHARDIAN-CATHOLIC RESPONSE TO TRANSHUMANISM.” Religious Transhumanism and Its Critics, 2020 p.4.
  • 13
    Ulam, S. (1958), ʺJohn von Neumann 1903‐1957ʺ, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (May).
  • 14
    Kurzweil Ray. 2000. The Age of Spiritual Machines : When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. New York: Penguin Books. and Kurzweil Ray. 2005. The Singularity Is near : When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking.
  • 15
     [A] secondary phenomenon accompanying another and caused by itspecifically a secondary mental phenomenon that is caused by and accompanies a physical phenomenon but has no causal influence itself, “Epiphenomenon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphenomenon. Accessed 25 Aug. 2022.
  • 16
    (Kurzweil, 2005, p. 388) quoted in Steinhart, Eric. (2020). Theurgy and Transhumanism. Revista Archai. e02905. 10.14195/1984-249X_29_5.
  • 17
    Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (London: Vintage, 2017), p. 428.cited in Gallaher, Brandon (2019). Godmanhood vs Mangodhood: An Eastern Orthodox Response to Transhumanism. Studies in Christian Ethics 32 (2):203.
  • 18
    Harari, Homo Deus, p. 429 quoted in Brandon, Godmanhood vs Mangodhood p. 203.
  • 19
    Harari, Homo Deus, p. 462 quoted in Brandon, Godmanhood vs Mangodhood p. 203.
  • 20
    Steinhart, Eric. (2020). Theurgy and Transhumanism. Revista Archai. p. 5. e02905. 10.14195/1984-249X_29_5.
  • 21
    Geraci, Robert. 2010. Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality. p.12 New York: Oxford University Press. quoted in Pugh, Jeffrey C. 2017. “The Disappearing Human: Gnostic Dreams in a Transhumanist World” Religions 8, no. 5: 81. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8050081
  • 22
    Bainbridge, William Sims. 2014. Progress toward Cyberimmortality. In The Scientific Conquest of Death. Buenos Aires: Libros en Red, pp. 107–22.
  • 23
    Brent Waters, “Whose Salvation? Which Eschatology? Transhumanism and Christianity as Contending Salvific Religions” in Cole-Turner, Transhumanism and Transcendence, 171.
  • 24
    “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. (Psalms 139:14 [KJV]).
  • 25
    Ihab Hassan, “Prometheus As Performer: Toward a Posthumanist Culture?” The Georgia Review 31, no. 4 (1977):
  • 26
    Cole-Turner Ronald. 2011. Transhumanism and Transcendence : Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Enhancement. Washington D.C: Georgetown University Press.
  • 27
    Estes, Douglas. “Sin and the Cyborg: On the (Im) Peccability of the Posthuman.” Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology, 2019.
  • 28
    Ferrando, Francesca. “Humans, Cyborgs, Posthumans,” filmed December 2012 in New York, New York. TED video, 18:39, http://www.theposthuman.org/ see also Ferrando, Francesca (2013). “Posthumanism, Transhumanism, Antihumanism, Metahumanism, and New Materialisms: Differences and Relations” (PDF). ExistenzISSN 1932-1066
  • 29
    Bolter, J.D. (2016). Posthumanism. In The International Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Philosophy (eds K.B. Jensen, E.W. Rothenbuhler, J.D. Pooley and R.T. Craig).  https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118766804.wbiect220
  • 30
    Friedrich Nietzsche, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Zarathustra’s Prologue, part 3 – 4

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