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  • The New Trans Challenge

    Posted in
    March 23, 2018
    According to transhumanism, what is the chief problem with humanity? It is human finitude. Unlike the Bible, which anchors the fall of man in our moral rebellion against our glorious Creator, transhumanism sees human limitedness and physical frailty as the main problems to be overcome. Our determination of human normalcy (what is expected of the human experience in terms of physiological performance, cognitive abilities, and life-span) has not kept up with the modern technological and scientific advances. We need technologically, biologically, and ethically, to get with the program. To state the contrast again, whereas the Bible sees the problem as a broken relationship with God (a moral issue), transhumanism locates the problem with our limitedness or being (an ontological issue).

    We all, in our own way, and according to our own worldviews, long for redemption. This search for redemption touches us, though in different ways. Our search for personal and global redemption takes the form of several familiar questions: What is wrong with our world? What requires saving? Who will do the saving? and What does this saving look like? The Western abandonment of Christianity doesn’t eliminate this longing for salvation, it simply redirects it according to non-Christian standards.

    One of the latest challenges posed to the biblical worldview is that of transhumanism. For some time now, many of us have been vaguely familiar with the worldview, mostly through movies and television. Stanley Kubrick’s film Artificial Intelligence (2001), Her (2013), Elysium (2013), and Ex Machina (2014) all contain transhumanist ideology.

    Though the movement denies being a lifestyle, a self-help guide, or even a religion[1], we must beyond the superficial to really understand the movement. From a theological perspective, transhumanism is, in fact, a cosmology, a post-secular oneist view of anthropology (the doctrine of humanity), harmatiology (the doctrine of sin), soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), and even an eschatology (the doctrine of the last things, especially addressing the question of where is history finally going).

    Transhumanism is a diverse movement with roots in rational humanism[2] and numerous other sources, as Michael Graham  has so well documented in his piece “The Roots of Transhumanism.”[3]

    What is transhumanism?

     It’s always helpful to define major terms, and with a mouthful like transhumanism we need to know precisely what the term conveys. Thankfully its advocates have been extraordinarily clear in self-defining their movement, its motivations, and its proposed solutions for mankind’s problems.

    Terms. Originally, a transhumanist is simply someone who advocates transhumanism.[4] A “transhuman” refers to an intermediary form between the human and the posthuman.[5] According to one transhumanist website:

    The etymology of the term “transhuman” goes back to the futurist FM-2030 (also known as F. M. Estfandiary), who introduced it as shorthand for “transitional human”. Calling transhumans the “earliest manifestation of new evolutionary beings,” FM maintained that signs of transhumanity 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 beliefs, and a rejection of traditional family values. However, FM’s diagnostics are of dubious validity.[6]

    The point of the “trans” in transhumanism is that we are moving (transitioning) toward something greater. Advocates of the movement point to our growing dependence on smart phones/watches, wearable bio-monitors, and other tech that enhances human experience. All of this was unthinkable to our grandparents and their parents before them. These days we regularly hear of “regenerative medicine, stem cell therapies, smart prosthetics, genetic engineering, nanomedicine, cryonics, nootropics, [and] neuropharmacology”[7] But why stop there?

    Many transhumanists….yearn to reach intellectual heights as far above any current human genius as humans are above other primates; to be resistant to disease and impervious to aging; to have unlimited youth and vigor; to exercise control over their own desires, moods, and mental states; to be able to avoid feeling tired, hateful, or irritated about petty things; to have an increased capacity for pleasure, love, artistic appreciation, and serenity; to experience novel states of consciousness that current human brains cannot access. [8]

    Though the movement is far from mainstream, its numbers are growing.  One transhumanist organization, Humanity+, claims to have approximately 6000 followers. These numbers include both members and newsletter subscribers. Furthermore, Humanity+ bills itself as an international nonprofit membership organization with followers from over 100 countries. Humanity+ adopted the Transhumanist Declaration, a the result of a joint effort between members of Extropy Institute, World Transhumanist Association, and other transhumanist groups worldwide.

    Transhumanism as Cosmology

     Transhumanism must be recognized for what it is, a rival and alternatives to biblical teaching. Let’s briefly examine the major doctrines of transhumanism.

     Transhumanist anthropology

    Back in 1990, Max Moore taught that transhumanism was a tool of evolution, a philosophy that aims to accelerate the development of “intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology, guided by life-promoting principles and values.” [9] On Whatistranshumanism.org it is admitted that “The human desire to acquire posthuman attributes is as ancient as the human species itself.”[10] The great irony in this is its twisted truth. Humanity has in fact been seeking “posthuman” attributes since the Garden of Eden, when Satan first uttered to Eve “You will be as God” (Gen. 3:5)

    How is this “transhumanizing” to be accomplished? By “making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.”[11]A biblical view of humanity sees the human race as created good, fallen, and in Christ is redeemed, morally renewed, and on its way to permanent glorification in the New Heavens and Earth. Christians look at humanity now and see, apart from the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, a rebellious image-bearer of God. Transhumanists likewise do not see humans as what they should be. “The human species in its current form does not represent the end of our development but rather a comparatively early phase.”[12] And whereas Christians see the cultural mandate to wisely steward creation as coming from God (Gen. 1:28), transhumanism sees this in terms of technological mastery over our environment:

    One could say that manipulating nature is an important part of what civilization and human intelligence is all about; we have been doing it since the invention of the wheel. Alternatively, one could say that since we are part of nature, everything we do and create is in a sense natural too.[13]

    Transhumanist harmatiology and soteriology

     According to transhumanism what is the chief problem with humanity? It is human finitude. Unlike the Bible, which anchors the fall of man in our moral rebellion against our glorious Creator, transhumanism sees human limitedness and physical frailty as the main problems to be overcome. Our determination of human normalcy (what is expected of the human experience in terms of physiological performance, cognitive abilities, and life-span) has not kept up with the modern technological and scientific advances. We need technologically, biologically, and ethically, to get with the program. To state the contrast again, whereas the Bible sees the problem as a broken relationship with God (a moral issue), transhumanism locates the problem with our limitedness or being (an ontological issue).

    Salvation is offered through “radical technological modifications” [14] which would include “advocates the use of technologies that intervene with human physiology including nanotechnology, nanomedicine, biotechnology, genetic engineering, stem cell cloning, and transgenesis.”[15] This kind of extreme human updating is a must because the steps required to take us to the posthuman phase of development are too profound to be achievable by merely altering some aspect of psychological theory or the way we think about ourselves.”[16]

     Transhumanist eschatology

    The endgame for transhumanism, is the attainment of post-human status. Reaching this may mean jettisoning our “bodies altogether and live as information patterns on vast super-fast computer networks. [17]  Once thinks of the 2014 film Transcendence to get an idea of what this could look like. Here we would reach a point in (post)human history where “death shall be no more” (Cf. Rev. 21:4). This would mean that “possible future beings” might very well be “no longer unambiguously human by our current standards”[18] or even that “The boundaries between posthuman minds may not be as sharply defined as those between humans”[19] Here we run into a common Oneist theme, not merely blurring the distinct between God and creation, but also the blurring of distinctions within creation.

    The Twoist Alternative

    All this makes for a new kind of secularized Gnosticism in which the integrity of our bodily existence is relativized, a mere obstacle in the way of our truest redemption, a liberation for the limitation of creatureliness. But, as the church father Irenaeus (approx. 130-202 AD) taught against the Gnostics of his day, creaturely limitedness is not a bad thing, not something to be overcome by transcending the body. It was God’s idea. It was his design to determine humanity’s” allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26) and to call it all “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

    In theological language, the fall is ethical, not metaphysical. Once a transcendent-yet-personal Creator God is rejected (as in all Oneist systems), the problems of human experience are always found in some aspect or principle of the finite universe. But since in the Bible, the most ultimate reality is a Person (God), we learn that what is broken isn’t our created nature as humans, it’s our relationship with God. A focus on the wrong problem leads to a wrong solution. Biblical truth also affirms that the frailty of our bodies and the entropy of our world signal a need for transformation. As Paul put it, the creation (which certainly includes us) has been “subjected to futility,” and that it creation groans (Rom. 8:22-24). On this, Christianity and tranhumanism agree: The breakdown of our bodies signals the need for newness, a transcending of our current state.

    But unlike transhumanism, and in line with the radical approach of Paul himself, Christians see our physical breakdown as a sign, a signal of humanity’s estrangement from our Creator. Falleness, not finitude, is what needs transcending, and that will only come about by Spirit’s final comic revealing of the sons of God­­- those who belong to God by adoption through the reconciling work of Jesus Christ.

     

    [1] “What is Transhumanism?” found at http://whatistranshumanism.org/#what-is-a-transhuman

    Accessed 9/917

    [2] “What is Transhumanism?,” found at https://christandpopculture.com/the-coming-ethical-conundrums-of-transhumanism/  Accessed 9/917

    [3] http://read.christandpopculture.com/issue/57219067ada6e22ac9d18359/for_the_humans_and_transhumans_among_us

    [4] “What is Transhumanism?,” found at http://whatistranshumanism.org/#what-is-a-transhuman

    accessed 9/917

    [5] “What is Transhumanism?,” found at http://whatistranshumanism.org/#what-is-a-transhuman

    accessed 9/917

    [6] “What is Transhumanism?,” found at http://whatistranshumanism.org/#what-is-a-transhuman

    accessed 9/917

    [7] http://humanityplus.org/about/mission/. Accessed 9/917

    [8] What is Transhumanism?,” found at http://whatistranshumanism.org/#what-is-a-posthuman accessed 9/917

    [9] “What is Transhumanism?,” found at whatistranshumanism.org accessed 9/9/17

    [10] “What is Transhumanism?,” found at http://whatistranshumanism.org/#what-are-the-philosophical-and-cultural-antecedents-of-transhumanism Accessed 9/917

    [11] “What is Transhumanism?,” found at whatistranshumanism.org accessed 9/9/17

    [12] Ibid.

    [13] “What is Transhumanism?,” found at http://whatistranshumanism.org/#isnt-this-tampering-with-nature

    Accessed 9/917

    [14] “What is Transhumanism?,” found at http://whatistranshumanism.org/#what-is-a-posthuman accessed 9/917

    [15] http://humanityplus.org/about/mission/. Accessed 9/917

    [16] “What is Transhumanism?”

    [17] Ibid.

    [18] Ibid.

    [19] Ibid.