and Its Critics
Resources: Articles, Posts, Videos, Books
with Ted Peters
Religious transhumanism? What’s that?
Transhumanists do not accept what nature has given us: vulnerability to disease, poor impulse control, unavoidable aging, and a death sentence. “It is time to amend the human constitution.” It is time to get into human nature with screw drivers and wrenches and redesign Homo sapiens. It is time to board a train destined for techno-utopia.
Transhumanism–also known as Humanity Plus or H+– is a fast moving train pulling out of the station and heading toward human enhancement, superintelligence, radical life extension, cybernetic immortality, outer space, and arriving at its final destination: the post-human.
It’s not just about life extension. It’s about life expansion. According to The Transhumanist Manifesto, we can look forward to a radical enhancement in consciousness, intelligence, and all the body’s functions. Unless, of course, we decide to depart our body before it dies and live disembodied forever in the computer cloud.
This magnificent transformation will be accomplished by science and technology. Not by magic. Not by anything supernatural. Not by God. Rather, says the popular Israeli writer, Yuval Noah Harari, “Homo sapiens will attain divine powers…Scientists will upgrade into gods.”
Like Genghis Kahn conquering Eurasia, science with its ally technology seek to conquer religion and take religion’s spoils.
Religious Transhumanism? Should we convert?
Is it time for us to convert to a new religion? Instead of attending church, should we find our way to the laboratory with bread ‘n’ wine to worship the gods in their white lab coats? Should we pray to Artificial Intelligence to guide us? Should we sing hymns praising our cell phones, computers, and Apple Watches?
Along with two of my colleagues, Arvin Gouw and Brian Patrick Green, we began to ask critical questions about ten years ago. We birthed our now sleeping website, Theologians Testing Transhumanism. We asked: is H+ idolatrous? Are H+ advocates naïve about human nature? Will H+ end in a train wreck?
Yet, astoundingly, we noticed that numerous religious people are buying tickets on the H+ train. Why? A religious transhumanism seems like a bank manager welcoming the robbers in to take whatever they want. Religious transhumanism seems like a large-mouth black bass deliberately biting on the treble hook. This puzzled us. religious transhumanism seems oxymoronic.
Let me tender a possible explanation. In my own treatment of creation, I’ve long contended that the human being is a composite of soil and spirit. After all, in Genesis 2:7, God breathes into the soil the divine breath, and we become a living creature. ”
Then the Lord God formed a human of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and he became a living soul” [ז וַיִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם, עָפָר מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו, נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים; וַיְהִי הָאָדָם, לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה].
The soil roots us, grounds us. The breath of God draws us beyond ourselves toward the transcendent, the new, the infinite. The transhumanist vision injects extra oxygen into the divine breath within us. Perhaps H+ is already intrinsically religious.
One ethical feature found among some transhumanists is a commitment to the common good. I welcome this. Founding director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, Nick Bostrom, enjoins AI researchers to adopt “The Common Good Principle,” according to which “Superintelligence should be developed only for the benefit of all humanity and in the service of widely shared ethical ideals.”
In what follows, I will list a number of resources on religious transhumanism and its critics. Passengers buying tickets on the H+ train include an evangelical Christian, a Buddhist, a Unitarian Universalist, and a Mormon. Among those refusing to buy an H+ ticket are a Jewish scholar and a Lutheran, both of whom affirm the fragile human body as God’s gift to creation. Among those still fumbling with their wallets trying to make up their minds are a Roman Catholic and a Methodist.
What do you think?
Notes on Religious Transhumanism Max More, “A Letter to Mother Nature,” in The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on Science, Technology, and Philosophy of the Human Future, eds., Max More and Natasha Vita-More (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 20-13) 449.
 Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (New York: Harper, 2017) 97,98.
 Duke University theologian Norman Wirzba reminds us that we are through and through soil. “People cannot live or perform the various functions of a human life (like digest food or maintain an immunological system) apart from the trillions of microorganisms that reside in their bodies and in the soil….Creaturely life is grounded in the soil of this earth.” Norman Wirzba, This Sacred Life (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2021) 43.
 Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017) 312.
 Over the last decade or more, Tracy Trothen and Calvin Mercer have monitored the interaction between transhumanism and various religious concerns in a number of edited books and articles. Their most recent triumph is Ethics, Religion, and Spiritual Health: Intersections with Artificial Intelligence or Other Human Enhancement Technologies (MDPI 2022).
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