On the face of it, it seems to be very unChristian. I mean God has created us as we are and so how could we contemplate humans being enhanced. We are made in the image of God why would we want to move beyond that. Although of course that is a massive category error - image does not mean physical image - it's not that God looks like a human being but that we are made to love, to be in relationship, community, to engage and to be like God. Human nature is most human when it is divine. (So much to unpack there...)
But you only need to go to a historical tomb or burial site to realise that humanity is evolving still - we're growing taller, fatter, different. Our brains do different things nowadays. Indeed, we are made to adapt and that's why humanity can survive in both extreme heat and extreme cold, in extreme drought and extreme wet. Humans are always enhancing themselves.
We have glasses and hearing aids, prosthetic limbs and plastic surgery. Indeed, we go further these days with gastric and cardiac implants. We lop off pieces of the brain in extreme cases of brain-centred illness. Some of us were our computers and for others they might as well be glued to our palms in any case. Most people recognise that in a few years, we will have implanted chips (see Susan Greenfield's awful 2121 for one view, or Cory Doctorow's Rapture of the Nerds for another, or even his Little Brother (downloadable free from here) for a third...you do know he co-edits Boing Boing, yes???). Google Glass will soon be Google ContactLens and then Google RetinaInplant.
Are we not made to change, adapt, be enhanced. If God has created us with the ability to co-create, perhaps transhumanism is a God-given gift for us. Although I can see the comments on how awful this would be!
I was sorry not to be at Greenbelt to hear the talk between Chris Powell, Luke Mason, Steve Fuller and Sarah Chan. I've downloaded it and along with reading the Transhumanist Reader at the moment, I'm going to have a list and come back to this theme. Hence this is a just a starter for ten.
Ahhh...must see the TedTalks on Transhumanism too...
I thought I'd close by giving you the Transhumanist Manifesto...interesting stuff. If Christianity is about life in all its fullness (John 10:10), perhaps there is much more to talk about here...
- Humanity stands to be profoundly affected by science and technology in the future. We envision the possibility of broadening human potential by overcoming aging, cognitive shortcomings, involuntary suffering, and our confinement to planet Earth.
- We believe that humanity’s potential is still mostly unrealized. There are possible scenarios that lead to wonderful and exceedingly worthwhile enhanced human conditions.
- We recognize that humanity faces serious risks, especially from the misuse of new technologies. There are possible realistic scenarios that lead to the loss of most, or even all, of what we hold valuable. Some of these scenarios are drastic, others are subtle. Although all progress is change, not all change is progress.
- Research effort needs to be invested into understanding these prospects. We need to carefully deliberate how best to reduce risks and expedite beneficial applications. We also need forums where people can constructively discuss what should be done, and a social order where responsible decisions can be implemented.
- Reduction of existential risks, and development of means for the preservation of life and health, the alleviation of grave suffering, and the improvement of human foresight and wisdom should be pursued as urgent priorities, and heavily funded.
- Policy making ought to be guided by responsible and inclusive moral vision, taking seriously both opportunities and risks, respecting autonomy and individual rights, and showing solidarity with and concern for the interests and dignity of all people around the globe. We must also consider our moral responsibilities towards generations that will exist in the future.
- We advocate the well-being of all sentience, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise.
- We favour allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they enable their lives. This includes use of techniques that may be developed to assist memory, concentration, and mental energy; life extension therapies; reproductive choice technologies; cryonics procedures; and many other possible human modification and enhancement technologies.
The Transhumanist Declaration was originally crafted in 1998 by an international group of authors: Doug Baily, Anders Sandberg, Gustavo Alves, Max More, Holger Wagner, Natasha Vita-More, Eugene Leitl, Bernie Staring, David Pearce, Bill Fantegrossi, den Otter, Ralf Fletcher, Kathryn Aegis, Tom Morrow, Alexander Chislenko, Lee Daniel Crocker, Darren Reynolds, Keith Elis, Thom Quinn, Mikhail Sverdlov, Arjen Kamphuis, Shane Spaulding, and Nick Bostrom. This Transhumanist Declaration has been modified over the years by several authors and organizations. It was adopted by the Humanity+ Board in March, 2009.
p.s. Max More, "The Philosophy of Transhumanism" in Tranhumanism Reader, p.8:
"Since rationalism is an approach to acquiring knowledge and says nothing about the content of knowledge, it is possible in principle for a transhumanist to hold some religious beliefs. And some do. The content of soem religious beliefs is easier to reconcile with transhumanism than the content of others. Christian transhumanists, while not completely unknown, are very rare (and I know of none who are fundamentalists, and such a combination would surely indicate deep confusion)...Those with strong religious views tended to regard transhumanism as competing with their beliefs."