The First Church of Transhumanism

It is always interesting – and scary – to check out the transhumanist websites. Go ahead: Google the term transhumanism. First up you will find the World Transhumanist Association. There will also be well over 2 million other hits that come up in this search.

But the WTA will do for starters. So just what is transhumanism? Well it means what the term implies: going beyond the merely human. Or as the WTA website says, “We support the development of and access to new technologies that enable everyone to enjoy better minds, better bodies and better lives. In other words, we want people to be better than well.” Sounds pretty good, on first reading. But it is not all as rosy as it first appears.

Indeed, some might still ask, what is wrong with all this? Well, there is nothing wrong, as such, with wanting to live longer and healthier lives. But that is not all that the transhumanists are on about. Consider some of the principles listed in the Transhumanist Declaration (revised, 2002):

“3) Transhumanists think that by being generally open and embracing of new technology we have a better chance of turning it to our advantage than if we try to ban or prohibit it..”

“(4) Transhumanists advocate the moral right for those who so wish to use technology to extend their mental and physical (including reproductive) capacities and to improve their control over their own lives. We seek personal growth beyond our current biological limitations.”

“(7) Transhumanism advocates the well-being of all sentience (whether in artificial intellects, humans, posthumans, or non- human animals) and encompasses many principles of modern humanism.”

This is done primarily by embracing any and all forms of the new technologies, especially biotechnologies, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and so on. In other words, the transhumanists seem to have almost no qualms about all the controversial technologies of the day, be it human cloning, genetic engineering, embryo research and experimentation, xenotransplantation, transgenesis, etc.

Abortion is obviously fully acceptable. This is what the WTA site say about abortion and related issues: “Transhumanists stand shoulder to shoulder with those who want to ensure the full protection of women’s and reproductive rights, including the right of women to use conceptive, contraceptive, reproductive and germinal choice technologies.”

What this is all about is the quest for immortality. Indeed, there is an article on the WTA website about the “6th International Immortalist Forum in Kiev” held recently. And it is a worldview that seeks immortality apart from God. This is what it says in its statement on values: “Transhumanism has roots in secular humanist thinking, yet is more radical in that it promotes not only traditional means of improving human nature, such as education and cultural refinement, but also direct application of medicine and technology to overcome some of our basic biological limits.”

The aim is really for posthumanism, to go beyond the merely human, onto something bigger and better: “Transhumanists view human nature as a work-in-progress, a half-baked beginning that we can learn to remold in desirable ways. Current humanity need not be the endpoint of evolution. Transhumanists hope that by responsible use of science, technology, and other rational means we shall eventually manage to become posthuman, beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have.”

And how is this achieved? “The enhancement options being discussed include radical extension of human health-span, eradication of disease, elimination of unnecessary suffering, and augmentation of human intellectual, physical, and emotional capacities. Other transhumanist themes include space colonization and the possibility of creating superintelligent machines, along with other potential developments that could profoundly alter the human condition. The ambit is not limited to gadgets and medicine, but encompasses also economic, social, institutional designs, cultural development, and psychological skills and techniques.”

So what does all this entail? We can get more insight into this movement by an assessment of a recent transhumanist conference. The Transvision 2007 conference was just held in Chicago, and Ronald Bailey went along. Writing in Reason magazine, he gives us more information as to what the transhumanists are looking forward to. He begins with the vision of Marvin Minsky, an artificial intelligence guru who heads up MIT’s Media Lab. He said that “we could solve any population problem by uploading the minds of 10 billion people and running them on a computer that occupies a few cubic meters and costs only a few hundred dollars to run.” Talk about a space-saving device! Why didn’t we think of that before?

But wait, there’s more: “Second Life’s Philip Rosedale began by asking how many people had tried the virtual reality world. About half the audience raised their hands. Rosedale said that he created Second Life because he was inspired by the idea that ‘we could make a better world inside a computer’.” Evidently for many transhumanists, artificial life is greatly to be preferred to actual human existence.

“The final speaker was inventor and self-acknowledged transhumanist Ray Kurzweil, who argues that ‘The Singularity is Near.’ The singularity is a metaphorical social event horizon in which accelerating technological trends so change society that it is impossible to forecast what the world will really be like. Kurzweill believes that humanity will accelerate itself to utopia (immortality, ubiquitous AI, nanotech abundance) in the next 20 to 30 years. For example, he noted that average life expectancy increases by about 3 months every year. Kurzweil then claimed that longevity trends are accelerating so fast that the life expectancy will increase more than one year for each year that passes in about 15 years. In other words, if you can hang on another 15 years, your life expectancy could be indefinitely long. He projects that by 2030, AI will be ubiquitous, and most humans will be physically melded to information and other technologies. Kurzweil argued that we must reject the fundamentalist desire to define humanity by its limitations.”

This is all very utopian alright. As I mentioned earlier, this is ultimately about one thing: achieving human immortality. Now if you are a secular humanist, and a philosophical naturalist, as it seems most transhumanists are, you can see why this is such an important and urgent quest. If life ends at the grave, and that’s it, then sure, we may all want to extend this current life by any means possible. But that is the whole problem. Being based on a secular humanist worldview, transhumanism has the whole concept of life and immortality messed up.

The truth is, life extension is already a current reality. Indeed, we will all live forever. But there are just two destinies after the grave, and only one of those we should be striving for. The means to eternal life was accomplished by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. He is the only one who makes a way for us to enjoy an eternal relationship with a loving, heavenly father. Reject that provision, and we instead face an eternal destiny separated from God, and all his love and goodness.

The choice is ours, and there are no other means to obtain this glorious eternal life. Indeed, two attempts recorded early in Scripture met with failure and were roundly condemned. When our first parents fell, they fell by listening to the lie of the enemy: “you will not die, you will become like God”.

And at the tower of Babel, mankind sought to reach to the heavens, also seeking immortality and a divine status. The biblical record makes it clear how God feels about such man-made attempts to become divine and achieve immortality.

Thus transhumanism is really not so new after all, but simply a recent variation of a very old, and a very mistaken, humanist attempt to kick God out of his heaven and take his place. But such attempts will always fail. There is only one God in this universe, and we are not it. And genuine life extension is only possible on his terms, not ours.

[1321 words]

50 Replies to “The First Church of Transhumanism”

  1. Until a “god,” whatever that means, comes along to conquer death to everyone’s satisfaction, transhumanists will continue to look for reality-based solutions to the problem.
    Mark Plus

  2. Thanks Mark

    But God has come along and conquered death, in the person of his son, Jesus Christ. Christ’s resurrection from the grave means that the way is opened for all of us to follow suit. But you are right, it is not to “everyone’s satisfaction”. People insist on playing God, denying the reality of the one true God, and pretending that they are God. But every human attempt at finding immortality in this world will come to nothing. The only way to eternal life with God is found through faith in Christ.

    I am afraid it is the secular humanist that is the one not dealing with reality-based solutions here. I encourage you to read the gospel accounts, and examine the evidence for yourself.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. It’s silly for Mark and associates to insist that death be conquered to their satisfaction, when they don’t specify the criteria that would meet that satisfaction.
    Michael Watts

  4. Thank you Bill for another interesting posting. I scanned some transhumanist websites and was not impressed with their message. I firmly believe that one of the key elements to personal happiness is acceptance of who we are and what we are. For me this includes personal growth within my biological limitations. Non-acceptance of my own personal limits would create for me a life of endless quest for the unattainable and misery at the present given that I must always seek to improve my current condition. I cannot imagine a more pitiful way for anyone to spend their life.
    Frank Norros

  5. Thanks Frank
    Yes, learning to live with limitations is essential. It is one of the major differences between us and God: he is limitless but we are limited. But if we do things God’s way, the limits we face are not restrictive, and indeed, are for our own good. Indeed, imagine Stalin living to be 600 years old, or multiple clones of Saddam, or even Paris Hilton for that matter!
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  6. Sound’s like what the Nazi’s tried to do with experimentation on humans and eugenetics , ‘a bolder and better super race’.

    The transhumanists don’t seem to have a capacity to learn from history. Attempts at utopia’s such as Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany became nightmares, not paradises.

    Technology can be equally a curse than a blessing, depending on the hearts and morals of those using it.

    I can see good reason why God limited human life-span after Noah. He simply got sick of the human individual’s capacity for evil.

    Lennard Caldwell

  7. Dear Mark, practical human solutions have been tried and found wanting. Mankind poses a threat not just to the natural world but to civilisation as a whole. This has already been rehearsed in the twentieth century with millions suffering from the effects of man-made ideologies like communism and fascism; two world wars; the materialistic experiments of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-tung and now Kim Jong Il; the genocide and exterminations of millions of people; the continuing threat of nuclear holocaust from countries like Iran, the disintegration of family and community life; the man-made genetic and biological disorders; the wholesale destruction of millions of unborn babies; the huge rise in sexually transmitted diseases, mental and emotional disorders; the threat to our climate and natural environment; a society dependent on drugs; and an increasingly nihilistic, mindlessly violent, callous and lawless younger generation – the list is endless.
    David Skinner, UK

  8. I think Mr. Muehlenberg’s examination of transhumanism has several misconceptions. These are probably impossible to clear up given the ideological stance Mr. Muehlenberg has assumed.

    However I do wonder what he and the others here would think of those who identify themselves as Christian transhumanists? Are they deluded? Or have they avoided the misconceptions on both sides and found a way to reconcile two ideologies that aren’t as inflexible or as far apart as some would imagine.

    James J. Kilroy

  9. Thanks James

    But I don’t recall labelling anyone in this article as deluded. Can there be Christian transhumanists? Yes, in the sense that there are also those who claim to be Christian Marxists, Christian postmodernists, Christian anarchists, and so on. But the real question is whether a biblical worldview can be fully aligned with these various isms. The truth claims of biblical Christianity do not always readily cohere with other worldviews, and often differ in fundamental areas.

    As I mentioned in this post, many transhumanists also strongly insist upon secular humanism. I would argue it is pretty difficult to be both a biblical Christian, affirming such things as God, the supernatural, sin, the uniqueness of Christ, and judgement to come, and a secular humanist, who would deny these beliefs.

    So it all depends on how one understands and defines his or her version of both transhumanism and Christianity.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  10. Mr. Muehlenberg is creating a false dichotomy between christian religion and transhumanism. Having been raised by upper-middle class parents in America, I was raised in the version of christianity called the protestant work ethic. This is the version of chrstianity that helped to create America and make it what it is today. This is the version of christianity that promotes achievement, innovation, human creativity, and self-reliance. Transhumanism is the logical outgrowth of the protestant work ethic because the values of the two are identical.

    Mr. Muehlenberg, I consider your version of christianity to be significantly different from both the protestant work ethic I was raised in as well as the transhumanism that I am into today. Your concept is far more fatalistic than mine and places much less emphasis on self-reliance and doing it yourself. Is it no likely that “god” would not have created us with the capacity to dream big if it did not intend for us to act on them? One does not create a sentient being, then seek to hobble it with limitations. This is completely unethical in my book. We have gone to war over less.

    We have the mind to create whatever future we seek to create. If we can dream it, we can conceive it. If we can conceive it, we can achieve it. We are transhumanists because we seek to create our own future as the independent free agents that we choose to be. Transhumanism is the ultimate manifestation of the values which America is based on. It is a philosphy for those of us for who the word “impossible” does not exist in our vocabularies.

    Your fatalistic version of religion has no legitimate basis in modern technological society. It is obsolete.


  11. Thanks Kurt

    One thing we do know about transhumanists: they are not very good at following instructions. You were supposed to give a full name here, as per my blog rules. But I will let you in this time.

    The Protestant work ethic is not a version of Christianity. It is true that the Judeo-Christian worldview led to much progress in the West, and that the Protestant work ethic, as Tawney, Weber and others have sought to document, did, at least in part, lead to the rise of modern capitalism. And yes, Biblical Christianity has resulted in much of the progress and success of Western civilisation. Sociologist Rodney Stark is but the latest to document the tremendous contributions which Christianity has made to a better life on planet earth. But Christianity is not to be reduced to, or conflated with, mere progress.

    Indeed, it is secular Enlightenment thinking, not biblical Christianity, that places unwarranted faith in human ability, with an overly optimistic and naïve belief in progress without any limitations.

    And biblical Christianity is not fatalistic, but realistic. It recognises that we are all fallen and finite, and that without God’s grace, we would make things even far worse than they are today. Secular humanism has a pretty dismal record of trying to create utopia on earth. Their grand schemes have all too often simply turned into bloodbaths. The coercive utopianism of Marxism is a major case in point.

    There will one day be a new heaven and new earth, but these can only be created by God, in his own way and his own time. Your insistence on there being no limits, that everything is possible, harks back to our first parents, when they sought to usurp the place of God. We have been paying a very heavy price ever since.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  12. Dear Kurt, Adolph Hitler would have thoroughly endorsed and seconded your statement. In the Genesis account Adam was in every way perfectly formed, more like a superman than ape – there was no need for him to self-identify or “improve” on God’s handiwork. Before the Fall Adam and Eve were indeed put in charge of the natural world so that God’s creativity and not their own would be glorified in whatever way they turned their hands. Since the fall, man has tried over and over again to make himself god, without realising the fatal trap: Man is finite; “he is not a sufficient integration point for himself“ (Schaeffer). He is not autonomous, free to do whatever he wants; he is a worshipping creature and, deny it though he may, is forced to connect to a power greater than himself. We worship either God or Satan. There are only two choices. Transhumanism sounds suspiciously like the demonic, social Darwinism of Dr Mengele, but under a different name.

    David Skinner, UK

  13. In the latest ‘Dr Who’ (I know it’s only a TV show) episode the human scientist in that stated that “He was going to redefine what it meant to be Human?”. He was chasing immortality. Unfortunately like most who want to live forever on earth and won’t accept God’s limits his experiment went wrong and he got turned into a selfish, live forever at any cost, type monster. Yes loving God, caring for others and living healthy lives is God’s plan but not until Jesus returns will all physical death and pain stop occurring.
    Lyle Hutchinson

  14. Eat your heart out Alvin Toffler. These ‘Transhumanists’ have something better than your ‘Future Shock!’ But if they don’t call it ‘shock’, what will they call it?

    But would anyone want to read it? Or, better for you Alvin, maybe the new horoscopes wouldn’t stay current long enough to get from the internet to the computer? Or will there be anything like ‘persons’ sitting in front of them to open the horoscopes anyway?

    But, I’m not getting it, am I?!

    Because ‘The Singularity is Near’, says Ray Kurzweil.

    Maybe then there will just be one entry on the Internet. One advantage would be cheaper rates for hook-up. Might still be worth a try!

    Then, wait a minute, Ray Kurzweil also predicts, ‘ … and most humans will be physically melded to information and other technologies’ … meaning we wouldn’t need computers, for the computer and the internet and you and I would be one … we would all be one.’!

    We can’t stop a new worldview popping up like this, but do we really need it? Where do Ray’s ideas really come from?

    And do we really need it when there is a worldview that ‘isn’t broke’. It’s just not being used enough as it was designed to be! But where it is being so used, it is providing the best answers to the Big Questions we all ask in this world we have so messed up.

    Thanks Bill and others who are pointing us to the answers available, and most especially to the One who is the Ultimate Answer to them all!

    ‘This One says things’ that are much more needful than the likes of what ‘Ray Kurzweil says’!

    For those interested, I’m personally finding John’s Gospel is a great place to find plentiful testimony to ‘the Word about this One’!

    Bernard Tibbs

  15. For forty years I was a nominal Christian and churchgoer that brought no results, and I sympathise with the transhumanists. Forty years ago I was shown the true message and was born again spiritually as Christ said. I discovered a real life, and I would say I have received the things the transhumanists are apparently looking for. History portrays the failure of human effort. Christ has shown us THE WAY. There are none so blind as rthose who will not see.
    Tom Wise

  16. This is a fascinating discussion about a subject I knew little about. However, transhumanism sounds uncomfortably like Huxley’s “Brave New World”, where everyone is happy but hardly anyone is truly human. Much of what we admire about humans has come precisely out of the limitations and sufferings transhumanists want to abolish. Think Solzshenitsyn or Dostoyesksky or “Wild Swans” for example, or even Beethoven.

    As a Christian, I applaud advances in science that prolong life and minimize suffering, but on condition that everyone gets to benefit and noone is sacrificed for the “greater good” without their consent. Too much recent experimentation violates this principle, as does abortion, which often amounts to one human being saying to another, you can’t have life because I’d be inconvenienced. This is the absolute antithesis of the Cross.

    As Christians we must insist that Jesus is not trying to spoil life, rather he came to give abundant life (John 10:10). Following him, laying down our lives for the world he came to save, is the greatest joy of all.

    Jon Newton

  17. Mark Plus, why would you want to conquer death when it is not an end but a beginning? The human eye sees a grave as an ending to living flesh. If I thought I was just made up of rotting muscle then I could not be so vain to keep it young. However my flesh gets its life because I am both flesh and spirit. I am first a spiritual being. Its the spirit that is immortal. It’s the spirit that lights up our life. So what’s all the fuss?
    We are all dying from the day we are born; we are born to die yet can live again when we recognise God’s destiny for us.
    Ilona Sturla

  18. to kurt, it is the denial of judeo/christian ethics that have made the US what it is today, a hotbed of poverty, (take a good look at the way a majority of folk live) pornography, respecting no one but the human ego always wanting bigger, better, more at any cost.
    The world wants disney classics, they outsell immediately yet we get dished up filth, cursing and countlessless other vices which is a great contrast to the movies of days gone by. Older cultures showed respect for the elderly; the Simpsons have convinced most that respect and honour are a big joke. Let’s see the Simpsons in the trenches – war kills, honour saves and a bit of humble pie does more good then arrogance and egoism.
    Ilona Sturla

  19. Hi Bill,

    Regarding a definition of transhumanism you said “Well it means what the term implies: going beyond the merely human”, but please note that ‘trans’ is Latin for to ‘traverse’, or ‘go across’. Hence, when we have the word Transylvania, it is made up of ‘trans’ (traverse) and ‘silva’ (forest).

    Keep up the good work brother.

    James Forsyth

  20. I’m currently teaching a student who is one of 30 elite chosen out of the whole of Europe to take part in a group which is involved in AI projects. He told me that amongst the subjects he has to study which include quantum mechanics, mathematics and technology, he also has to study philosophy, sociology and psychology. We talked about the next phase of science being to transport objects and people from one place to another (teletransportation, kind of like ‘beam me up Scotty’ type stuff); the creation of tiny insect-like robots to large robots, some of which can ‘clone themselves’ or in other words, build replicas of themselves and the vast range of functions they have. Some of these robots will have complex ’emotional’ reactions and even memories. But obviously at this stage not quite to the BladeRunner state yet. He told me of professors who went into catatonic states in front of computer screens where they had been sitting for hours of the day and into the night without sleep. I wondered why he had to learn such things as philosophy and sociology and then it dawned on me. It’s about creating acceptance in the scientists involved and in the public for some of the less desirable elements of this frontier. I think the things we’re about to see in nanotechnology and AI will be nothing we could have predicted. In order to create acceptance in the community, it will be necessary to break down the natural moral barriers we seem born with. But then again, we’re quite a long way down that slippery slope already.
    Dee Graf

  21. David Skinner,

    You are way out of line to compare transhumanism to Nazism. The Nazis advocated using government coercion to impose their concept of the “perfect” human on the rest of us, and set about murdering those of us who did not measure up. We transhumanists are almost all libertarians. We do not advocate government coercion for anything. Indeed, it is the critics of transhumanists are closer to the values of Nazism and Marxism that we are in that some of them advocate the use of government coercion against our ideas.

    Bill Muehlenberg,

    The evils of Marxism and Nazism were a result of government coercion, not the belief of free individuals wanting to create their own destiny on their own. How you or anyone else (like David above) can associate the creative impulses of free individuals with the horrors of Nazism and Communism is utterly incomprehensible to me. We are almost all libertarians, the precise opposite of Marxism and Nazism.

    Both of you guys are way out of line on this point.

    Aging is a medical condition, just like small pox or AIDS. The idea that two of these should be cured, but not the other, is also incomprehensible to me. We seek to cure it because aging sucks, just like having small pox and AIDS would suck. Any medical condition that reduces mental and physical efficacy sucks hard and is, therefor, something to overcome. Indeed, I believe in overcoming anything that sucks. Why I should place any value in a religion or ideology that would disagree with this seems utterly senseless to me.

    Why any religion, such as christianity, should have problems with people using their own brains and efforts to improve their lives and conditions, makes no sense to me. Transhumanism is simply a form of self-reliance. Self-reliance should always be promoted, not criticized. I maintain that your version of christianity is fatalistic, not realistic.

    I believe that radical life extension (and other developments of biotech and nanotech) are inevitable. Its only a question of when. I also believe that christianity will evolve (and the other religions) in such a manner as to accomodate these development, just as it accomodated the development of the printing press and the resulting conditions following the enlightment. I think christianity 200 years from now will bear very little resemblance to yours of today, just like modern-day U.S. christianity bears little resemblance to the catholic church during the inquisition.

    Human institutions, including religions, have a remarkable ability to adapt to changing conditions.

    Kurt Schoedel

  22. Thanks Kurt

    While coercive utopianism is not identical to transhumanim, both rest on the same foundation: secular humanism. As such, both are capable of doing great damage to humanity, all in the name of humanity.

    As I have said, there is nothing wrong with advances in medicine, technology, and so on. The problem comes when we argue that there are no limits, or should be no limits. There is always a cost to such arrogance.

    There is nothing wrong with thinking God’s thoughts after him, and applying the knowledge and wisdom he has given us to better the human situation. But this must be done with the help of God, not in opposition to him.

    And the Christian message remains unchanged over 2000 years, despite trendy theological revisionism. And at the heart of that message is that God exists, we are made in his image, yet are finite and fallen, and in need of a saviour. We cannot save ourselves.

    Getting right with our creator is our most important task, and it can only be achieved on his terms, not ours.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  23. Bill,

    It is not secular humanism that made Nazism and Communism so evil. It is monopoly-authoritarianism and the coercion that results from this that made these things so evil. Monopoly-authoritarianism is the root of all evil.

    Transhumanism, as an outgrowth of libertarianism, is based on the notion of society organized on decentralized networks of free individuals. Thus, we work to reduce as much as possible monopoly-authoritarianism and the resultant vertical hierarchial relationships that does lead to the horrors of Nazism and Communism.

    You seem to define “god” as an actual anthropomorphic being that exists as a separate entity. Sort of a cosmic version of “Big Brother”.

    I consider (as do most other people I know personally) this as a very childish definition of “god”. I think that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin came up with a concept of god which I can relate to far better. Frank Tipler has his “Omega Point” concept as well.

    Personally, I do not believe in religion at all. I think certain aspects of it, such as the protestant work ethic, are very useful and beneficial. But I simply do not relate to any of the currently existing religious memes at all. They just don’t do anything for me.

    Probably you are right in the sense that transhumanism is not compatible with your version of christianity. However, many christians I know personally have no problem with free individuals utilizing biotechnology to cure aging (SENS) as well as to increase personal functionality (such as cognitive) in general. This makes me think that your opinion of transhumanism is a minority one even among christian people. This would not surprise me, based on history.

    I think basing your oposition to transhumanism on religious arguments demonstrates to me a lack of confidence in the robustness of your religious meme. You see, the enlightment was largely a result of the invention of the Guttenburg printing press. This allowed for the dessimination of information that was formerly under the control of the existing monopoly authority at the time (catholic church). No doubt, many christians at the time were very much against Guttenberg’s invention. They may have feared that it would undermine and eventually lead to the extinguishment of christianity. Instead, the opposite occurred. Rather than disappearing, the then variant of christianity gave birth to daughter species of christianity, which became the various protestant groups. In other words, the christian meme mutated and adopted to accomodate itself to the changed conditions resulting from the enlightment. Rather than disappearing, the christian meme transformed itself and continued to grow in more varied, diverse forms.

    There is no doubt that the christian meme is robust and adaptable enough to be able to transform and accomodate itself to the changed conditions resulting from transhuman society. Guttenburg kicked off the first singularity (think of the enlightment and the industrial revolution as the first singularity). Transhuman tech such as radical life extension, intelligence increase, and the expansion into space will be the second singularity. If christianity can change and thrive in the first singularity, it can certainly do so for the second.

    I think your fears and opposition to transhumanism are completely groundless.

    Kurt Schoedel

  24. Dear Kurt, it is true that technology has incrementally advanced with one generation building on the knowledge its predecessors. Unfortunately this progress is not matched by a corresponding growth in personal maturity. In this regard, each human being has to start from scratch. Human nature remains as selfish and immature as it has since the year dot. Those who do manage to make progress in bringing their minds and emotions under some kind of control are the first to admit that this only reveals further debasement, defilement and defiance within the diseased human heart. We are children who have become blinded by dangerous technological toys. What use is it of becoming a god who can intervene directly in the creation and prolongation of life and in the manipulation of the planet Earth’s environment if at the same time we are emotional and spiritual pygmies? Kurt, take a long, hard look at planet earth. With all the technology that we have, things do not look rosy. Wars, pollution, increase in the gap between rich and poor, huge rises in sexually transmitted diseases, extinction of species, the dying of lakes and seas and the ever-present threat of nuclear holocaust all point to the future tribulations described in the book of Revelation. And to accuse Christians of being fatalists is errant nonsense; it was the Bible which made modern science possible. That which God created was good and man was given the task of looking after it – not taking over the wholesale re-ordering of the universe to the point of rewriting the laws that underlie it. We are not God; we are men made in the image of God.
    David Skinner, UK

  25. Bill, David and Kurt, I am interested to know how to trace the roots of the ideas behind such ‘-isms’ as ‘Transhumanism’ and ‘Coercive Utopianism’. Bill, you nominate ‘Secular Humanism’ as that ‘foundation’ (= ‘root’ here).

    What then are the roots of ‘Nazism’ and ‘Communism’?

    I once had the simple understanding that the latter two are Judaeo-Christian heresies, and therefore traceable to that ‘root’, albeit now dysfunctional branches or trunks.

    But again I believe that these two can be shown to be traceable first through ‘Humanism’ to ‘Judaeo-Christianism’.

    So going back in history, I am exploring the ‘common roots’ of ‘Humanism’ and ‘Judaeo-Christianism’.

    I picture the above relationships as I look at the ‘Eucalyptus nicolii’ growing in my front yard, that had co-dominant trunks, barked over to look like a common basal trunk. One of the trunks is growing heavenwards, vertically. The other had reached a point five metres up where it had separated and grown out over our house at an angle. Recent cyclonic winds threatened to bring it down on the house, and so the overhanging trunk, branches and foliage had to be removed.

    The question now is, which ‘-ism’ from those above, if any, is represented by the vertically ascendent growing tip of my ‘E. nicolii’?

    ‘Transhumanism’ is one that vies for that worldview position! Is that the direction in which our human future lies? Will it provide the overarching crown that spreads its branches over our world to provide shade and shelter for all?

    Or can it be shown that ‘Humanism’ has already been given the chop, and is coming crashing down, ‘Transhumanism’ with it?

    Or is ‘Judaeo-Christianism’ or ‘Islamism’ the dominant trunk?

    Which of these, or any others will withstand the current and future cyclonic tests of time?

    What occurs to me is that we in the West are becoming so distracted by the plethora of alternative worldviews, and their multiplying numbers of falsely grounded ideas, that we are neglecting to grow personally and corporately in developing the vast range of ideas, truthfully based in the many-jewelled attributes of Jehoveh Lord God’s character and his declared will for the world.

    In no way Bill am I am deriding your efforts in worldview discussions. Your humble, worshipful, personal relationship with this Jehoveh Lord God is a model I seek to emulate.

    My deep anguish of soul is for our postmodern Western church fellows who preach the “Judaeo-Christian Creed”, but who syncretise a mish-mash of practices coming out of contradictory worldview ideas … and are cataclysmically failing to appreciate the contradictions! And vast numbers of our young are not being fooled by this hypocrisy.

    How can we much more comprehensively bring back into our discourse, for example, the centrality of …
    * the character of the Triune God to morals and ethics?
    * the soul and spirit of the Son of Man to our psychology?
    * the purposes of the Kingdom of God to our politics, and …
    * the Divine-ordained human stewardship of heaven and earth’s resources to our economics?

    Bernard Tibbs

  26. I agree with most of what Bill is saying but think there is a greater challenge here. To condemn transhumanism as humanistic is pointless. Everything is humanist; that is to say the humanists will claim credit for every human endeavour worth doing. I believe that man will achieve many things and that Christians should be involved. The humanists can claim the future only if we leave it to them; and yes we are leaving it to them.
    Is mortality ordained by God? Yes. Is our short life span and morbidity ordained by God? No. Adam and Methuselah did not live 70 years. No they lived ~900 years. Can we reverse death? No. Can we stave it off; Yes. Why? Because you can’t evangelise a corpse. We have no indication that God condemns longevity itself, we don’t even know if aging is inevitable or just a disease. As we learn more about the morbidity of aging and its mortalities it seems more and more like a set of diseases that just happen to be very prevalent. Can the humanist find the cure and return humanity to the lifespan that Methuselah knew as normal. Probably not but Christian scientist might; only we would look. The pattern of ages in the genesis genealogies implies that the genes are there in all of us; they are just switched off. A Christian scientist with our prayers and money could find it.
    Who are the transhumanists? The vocal and public face are people advocating and researching the technologies. But behind that face are hundreds of people that are not the image of perfect humanity. These people are not able bodied individuals wanting to supersede the creative work of God. [Who? Most have never heard of him]
    They are the victims of many disorders: Cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, cancer, dwarfism, and war injuries. Yes there are those who are suffering from nothing more than obesity or flawed body perceptions. Or Dyslexia and dodgy knees like me. Yes the experimenters are often able-bodied but check their family details and it becomes much more obvious what drives them.
    The humanity they want to escape is not Gods wonderful creation it is the flawed errors of the evolutionary process. We as Christians know that God did not ordain paralysis and disability, Jesus cured them he did not walk away, it is the consequences of a fallen world. So is Malaria, small pox and TB. Is it ungodly to cure on class of disease and not another. We make an indefensible case for our selves by taking such stands.
    Christianity is fully compatible with all sorts of endeavours including Longevity, space colonization or even uploading. We need only call them to account if the process is unsafe in some way or if it is used as a tool for dictatorship of some kind. If it works and is safe for all including the unborn.
    In the stem cell debate we can stand proud because we saw a danger to the unborn and to clones. Remember it was not the danger ‘of clones’ that we saw but a danger to clones, twins created as a source of donor organs. Our stand was rewarded with huge advances in adult-stem cells. The lame now walk, adult-stem cell teeth are on the way and regrowing retinas may now be possible. Longevity well come out of this work because these adult stem cell are what allowed Methuselah to live as long as he did. They are also part of what made Adam potentially immortal. We still have lock in our genes and our cells; we may find the key.
    Will near immortal transhumanists prove any harder to evangelise than mortal ones? Are immortal people immune to Gods judgement and punishment? Will uploading prevent God from rapturing you? No. God is not stopped form acting by our meagre technologies.
    What technologies we use to stave off death are irrelevant assuming they are safe and harm no-one. If the choice for a profoundly disabled person was euthanasia or Up-loading, where would we stand? Is the human personality more than neurons and chemicals? If the pattern of neurons and chemical effects can be copied in a computer is the result human? We are quite close to doing insects and animals. Yes the interface with the real world, or things like Second Life does matter but its being worked on. If the human personality is more than neurons and chemicals; how portable is it, might God in his mercy allow it to be transferred. Why should it matter to him if your body is robotic. At the resurrection he can fix that little detail.
    Yes the transhumanists propose projects that would if implemented be risky. Is that grounds for opposing everything or grounds to step in with a safer way. If we are involved we have some say. God can use us to reach them, teach them, and yes, lead them. We have seen that with adult stem cells.
    That’s why I am in Second Life and study space colonisation. Not because they will save mankind [ they will help] but because we can’t win the game if we are not on the playing field! Wish me luck and pray that I will find there the equivalent of those adult stem cells.
    Wesley Bruce

  27. Kurt,

    By my reading it appears that it is you that is way out of line.

    I too make a close comparison between transhumanism and Nazism. Nazism was the vehicle through which a particular utopian State would evolve. Like any new State imposed ideology, government coercion is required to imbed the concept, but once this has been achieved its own enertia will propel it forward.

    If you read Mein Kumpf you will see that Nazism was supposedly a libertarian movement. It would free the German people of foreign ideologies, a controlling press, foreign financial intervention, foreign controlled resources, a declining culture, falling morals and so on, all with the aim of creating the liberty needed to drive towards a cultural purity and the freedom to reach an inevitable utopian destiny. Indeed, then too the critics were seen as impediments, close minded fools unable to see the beauty of the Nazi vision.

    Contrary to your assertions Kurt, the 20th Century is littered with libertarian ideals that eventually spawned the most brutal and intolerant regimes.

    Furthermore, your supposition that transhumanism reflects the “belief of free individuals wanting to create their own destiny on their own” smacks of relativism. As for your statement that “transhumanism is simply a form of self-reliance”, that is absolute nonsense. Transhumanism requires reliance on new technology to supposedly improve the self. This is the very antithesis of “self-reliaince”.

    And finally, aging is not a “medical condition”, it is a natural process in line with the circular pattern of life. That you even use the term “evolve” is extraordinary! For even is you deny religion and adhere fully to the concept of evolution, then death is still required. It is required to discard the weak to allow for the propogation of the required adaptive gene.

    In short, your defence reinforces the crazy notion that transhumanism would lead to a scenario of the ‘strong’ (the human who has chosen to and could afford to use technology to endow himself with super attributes) and the ‘weak’ (those who for whatever reason have chosen not to, or been unable to, access the technology required for those super attributes).

    And you still think it doesn’t sound like Nazism?

    Frank Norros

  28. Thanks Kurt

    We are becoming repetitious here. But one last time: the heart of the gospel is that God exists, and we are not God. He is infinite while we are finite. And because of sin, we are also fallen. Thus there are limits imposed upon us by God because of our sin. This is the grace of God. The opening verses of Genesis 6, for example, make this case.

    Thus there are limits on humankind, and these limits are for our good. As I have said, there is nothing wrong with working toward helping mankind live longer, healthier and safer lives, but within limits. It is hubris and anti-God thinking to believe that we are limitless by ourselves, and can usurp God’s role.

    It is of course unsurprising that you prefer the gospel of de Chardin to the Biblical gospel. His theology makes no demands on us, and rejects the Biblical picture of sin and our need of a saviour. But that core gospel message will always be at the heart of Biblical Christianity, whether you fancy it or not.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  29. Thanks Bernard

    Agreed, except I would argue that secular humanism is not a Judeo-Christian heresy. It is the very antithesis of it. Theism is at the heart of Jewish and Christian beliefs, while atheism is at the heart of secular humanism. Thus it is not a branch or offshoot, but a diametrically opposed worldview.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  30. Thanks Wesley

    “Is our short life span and morbidity ordained by God? No.” But Gen. 6:3 may indicate otherwise. And the Christian transhumanists are in a sense on a par with the health and wealth gospellers, in that they hold to an over-realised eschatology. That is, they want to claim all of the Kingdom blessings and promises now, when in truth we are living between the times, and thus sickness and death are still a part of our common humanity, and always will be until Christ returns.

    Sure, we can work on these areas, but as I keep saying, within limits. It seems God is not keen about mere life extension. He is more concerned about life improvement – moral and spiritual. That is, being better people is more important than just living longer.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  31. But God has come along and conquered death, in the person of his son, Jesus Christ.

    Yeah, just like Santa Claus has conquered the problem of supplying all the world’s christian children with presents on christmas eve.

    People insist on playing God, denying the reality of the one true God, and pretending that they are God.

    People have to “play god,” as you say, because praying for stuff doesn’t work, so we have to work for it.

    But every human attempt at finding immortality in this world will come to nothing.

    The biotechnology revolution in the past few decades has given us powerful new tools and transformed our understanding of the problem. We already have laboratory models for deceleratating the aging process, so we have something tangible to start with.

    I encourage you to read the gospel accounts, and examine the evidence for yourself.

    I’ve read the bible, probably more thoroughly than you, and I have a marked-up four translation parallel edition to show for it. I don’t find the gospels persuasive in the least.

    Mark Plus

  32. Kurt, you say you are not religious. What about spirituality? How do you account for the need for a sense of belonging, identity, significance, security, peace, truth, dignity, beauty, righteousness, justice, holiness, forgiveness, integrity, hope and a heart that reaches out for deep, eternal and personal communication with another?

    What gives you a sense of being alive ? Is it found in drugs, alcohol, madness, violence, pornography, sex, or is it found in other obsessions such as work and activity? I understand that one of the projects of the Singularity Institute of Artificial Intelligence is to eliminate anxiety. Does this mean that through drugs and brain surgery they will be able to eliminate the frustrations associated with not being able to satisfy the above spiritual (or, in your language irrational) needs, by drugs and brain surgery, so that society will run on a work force of docile Zombies – a kind of utopian slave labour? But who, Kurt, are going to be the ones controlling society? Who are the ones to define what constitutes a high standard of integrity and honesty; rationalist values; and maintain strict ethics? Who are the ones who, whilst denying that there are absolute values and morals, will impose their own set of moral absolutes?

    Kurt , know thy self. You are only a man

    David Skinner, UK

  33. Bill,

    I think the only thing you and I can agree on is that our respective memes are incompatible with each other. Fair enough. I can live with you. Can you live with me? The answer to this question also answers the question of just whose meme is closer to Naxism and communism than the other.

    Live and let live.

    Kurt Schoedel

  34. Thanks Kurt

    But assuming you are trying to be serious here, you show just how ludicrous your atheism is. Not only is the concept of memes just that, a concept, a philosophical construct, but your entire position is irrational and self-defeating. If all we do and believe is predetermined by our memes and genes, then that just happens to be the way it is. My memes make me a theist and your memes make you an anti-theist. So why in the world are you trying to convince anyone to be anything other than what their genes and memes have made them to be? With all due respect, given your worldview, you should just stop your pontificating and your vain – according to your system – attempt to evangelise me.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  35. Thanks Mark

    But might it be more accurate to say that you don’t want to find the gospels persuasive? As Jesus put it, “you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:40). It is not that the evidence is lacking, but that some refuse to believe. Thus I encourage you to go back to the gospels with an open mind.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  36. As a Christian, I still see no reason why a controlled and moral furthering of human health and life span should not be accomplished. After all, we already – thanks to our medical sectors – have attained longer than “natural” health and life spans. And who says you have to die to be a good Christian? The Kingdom of God is already at hand, where 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name. We already eradicate diseases – why not eradicate Death itself? Don´t make a virtue of a – in the long run – maybe unreal “necessity”! Some deathists use the German philosopher Heidegger to claim that we NEED Death in order to “live authentic lives”, because Death is a common condition that makes us realize our uniqueness. Well, what if it isn´t? Death conquered and deleted is mindboggling. Well, so is Christ and the Eternal Life that all Christians attain to…
    Lars Munk Sørensen, m.a. theol., Denmark

  37. Thanks Lars

    Yes, as I mentioned above we can improve health and human longevity to a point. But there are limits, which God himself seems to have set in place. Perfection in any sense will only be fully obtainable in the next life.

    The fuller answer can be found in the New Testament understanding of living between the times. The old age is still upon us, while the new age, ushered in by Christ, is breaking through. The Kingdom of God has been inaugurated, but is not yet fully realised. Thus we still face sin, sickness and death in this world. There is partial transformation, but the full realisation of the Kingdom only occurs when the King returns. I will soon be writing an article on all this.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  38. Hmmm… One should never try to mix religion with Transhumanism that easily… I am a Transhumanist (although I am NOT a humanist; my reasons are much more complex), and whenever it comes to religion and ethics, I think it like this: “If there is an omnipotent God, He has given the Humanity the intelligence, the abilities and the will to improve itself through technology, and overcome it’s physical/mental limitations… So what could be wrong in upgrading ourselves?”

  39. While I don’t agree with your point of view (and yes I’m a transhumanist), I have but one very simple question?

    What if I don’t want to live as “God’s” slave?

    Quite frankely the two so called dueling powers of good and evil sound like neither have a benevolant agenda and more ulteria motives of casting themselves in a postion as our masters. Through out teh cetuaries mankind kind has feared such “super-natural” beings and cowered.

    Now personally I’m an athiest but in the event I’m wrong, I think it’s time mankind stopped taking orders and free’d itself from the covert shackles that has kept it subserviant.

    Nicholas Kirkiridis

  40. Thanks Nicholas

    There are two responses to your question. First, you of course can choose to do whatever you like with your life. You can tell God to get lost and live as if he does not exist. God has made you with a free will, and he is gentleman enough to allow you to reject him. It is your choice, and you will have to live with the consequences of your choices.

    But second, Jesus made a really interesting statement in John 15:15: he said that he no longer calls his followers servants (slaves) but friends. God is not looking for slaves to follow him in fear and terror. Instead, God is looking for people to enter into a love relationship with him through his son Jesus. That is quite remarkable. Even though we have all turned our backs on God and gone our own selfish ways, he sent his son to die for us, taking our sins upon himself so that we might have a restored love relationship with him.

    Again, it is our choice. We can reject this love overture from God, and continue to wallow in our sin and selfishness, both now and for eternity, or we can accept his love gift to us, and enter into a love relationship with the creator of the universe. God has done all he can to make this possible. The rest is up to us. The ball is now in your court Nicholas.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  41. Dear Bill,

    In response to Lars Sorensen you write: “we can improve health and human longevity to a point. But there are limits, which God himself seems to have set in place.” I presume you mean that the family of interrelated phenomena that we call “aging” appears to proceed at the same rate in everyone, give or take a factor of at most two, and is universally fatal. But aging is typically fatal only following a long period of debilitation and suffering. Hence, is this limit one that God has made immutable, or is it one that He has simply made as a difficult but achievable test for us, to see whether we really have faith that He made us with the ability to alleviate suffering in this life (even if not to eliminate it completely)? It seems to me that the only way we can answer that question is to do as Lars suggests – try our best to postpone aging and see what happens – and that to do otherwise would be contrary to the parable of the Good Samaritan. The alternative – to seek ways to postpone or alleviate the suffering of aging without postponing aging itself – would be to close ourselves prematurely to the possibility that the suffering cannot be alleviated without postponing aging itself. Can you tell me where I’m going wrong?

    Aubrey de Grey, Cambridge, UK

  42. Thanks Aubrey

    Those are some very good questions. But you may be somewhat confusing several separate issues here. Lars asked his question claiming to be a Christian, so I was there giving a biblical response to his comment. There are, it appears, biblical limitations placed on our lifespan. Genesis 6:3 and Hebrews 9:27 are possible texts which come to mind here. In our sinful, selfish, fallen state, to live forever would be a great evil, not a great good. It seems that God knows it best that we do not live forever in a state of rebellion and anti-God arrogance. As I have mentioned, we can have eternal life, but that comes by doing it God’s way (repenting of our sins and putting our faith in Christ), not our way.

    But it is a separate question to ask whether there are any biological or physiological limitations on human immortality. That is a scientific question (with ethical implications). It can become a biblical or theological question when we ask whether we should seek for such immortality.

    As to the relief of human suffering, there are again nuances which we need to consider from a biblical point of view. Because of the Fall, we all suffer and we all die. Suffering and death are inevitable in a sin-soaked world. Yet we are also called to work against the effects of the Fall. So we can work against the effects of sin in myriads of ways, including the relief of suffering and ill-health.

    But we are realistic (from a biblical point of view), knowing that until Christ returns, there will be no perfection on this earth. Jesus healed people, but they all eventually died. Even Lazarus presumably died, after being raised by Jesus. It is often Christians who have been at the forefront of setting up hospitals and working in health care fields, and so on. Yet we know that on this side of eternity we will only see imperfection, shortcomings and limited success in anything we undertake.

    There are some theological phrases for all this: it is called “living between the ages”, or the “already and not yet”. When Christ came the first time, he defeated Satan and his works. Yet until Christ comes again, there is still sin, suffering and death. The complete work of redemption awaits the Second Coming of Christ. Romans 8:18-21 lays this out clearly. So already the Kingdom of God has arrived (2000 years ago) but it is not yet fully realised (until he comes again). So we live between the ages. The old age (of sin, suffering and death) is still upon us, but the new age (of freedom, deliverance, and perfection) has dawned, and is awaiting its full and final realisation.

    So yes, we work for substantial, but not complete, progress in this world, knowing that all our efforts are limited. With the help of Christ, we work against all the effects of sin. But we are realistic, aware that in this life we continue to be fallen and finite. Those limitations can only be fully overcome when Christ returns and the New Heaven and New Earth are inaugurated.

    This is an important issue, so I may pen a whole article on this in the near future. Thanks for your comments.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  43. Dear Bill,
    I, too, am a Christian, and as such I, too, await the Second Coming of Christ. In the meantime, I hope that humans will continue the increasing of healthy lifespans we have achieved over the last many secles. The limitation of Death was due to the Fall and our sins – the goal is to regain Grace, and for that goal, God does not desire our physical death: Christ did that for us and thus took our sins upon Himself on the cross. True, we are not perfect like Christ was, but that is exactly the point: By adhering to Christ we receive Grace by the Faith given us in our baptism and our communions. Again, this doesn´t require us to die physically. So while we wait for the Second Coming, I prefer to do as Luke the doctor did (and Christ himself, who healed and resurrected). Alleviate suffering – and death can be a very long and painful suffering.
    Lars Munk Sørensen

  44. Thanks Lars

    I mentioned to Aubrey that an article needs to be written on how all this fits with living between the ages. That I have done and you can see it here:

    As I have said many times now, there is nothing wrong with doing all we can to alleviate suffering and to work for more healthy outcomes. But there are limits which God himself seems to have set in place. Grace may abound, but that does not mean the consequences of sin just disappear. The wages of sin is death. All have sinned and therefore all will die. Eternal life comes only by the work of Christ on the cross, not by human attempts at immortality.

    Sin still holds sway, and the consequences of sin – physical death in this life for all, and eternal spiritual death for those who reject the forgiveness offered by Christ – still apply to all of us. If you think humans now can somehow be exempt from physical death because of what Christ has done, you are seriously misreading the New Testament. No NT writer, or early Christian, held that position. Consider Philippians 1:12-30 and 2 Cor. 4:16-18 for starters.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  45. Phil 1, 21 ff: St. Paul wishes to die to join Christ – but given medical advances already implemented, we might live even longer to do Christian work in this life. Paul acknowledges the value of living the eartly life a while longer. If that precludes immortalism, does it also preclude, say, a 1000 years life extension? Many people of the Bible lived to a much riper old age than we do today – not just Methusaleh.
    2. Cor 4:16-18: Paul did not live in an age where life extension was yet possible to any greater degree than that of hygiene and nutrition: But does that rule out that we, too, should stay in the flesh in this earthly life, say, until the Second Coming?

    Seriously awaiting your biblical guidance, Lars Munk Sørensen, M. A. Theol., Denmark

  46. Thanks again Lars

    As I have said in various places in the post, I have no objection – nor does Scripture – to alleviating suffering, working for health and against disease, and helping us all have a better quality of life and better life expectancy. But Scripture seems to assume throughout that man must live with limits, at least in his fallen state.

    As soon as Adam and Eve fell into sin, they were banished from access to the Tree of Life. Living forever in a fallen, sin-soaked state was evidently something God did not take too kindly to. Genesis 6:3 might be a hint of out intended lifespan.

    Again, there is nothing wrong with working to extend life to some degree. But always we must keep in mind limitations which God himself seems to have imposed. Is 1000 years reasonable? I don’t know. That may be more of a scientific question (is it actually possible?) than a theological question.

    Sinful man always wants to live without limits. But limits are a good thing, not a bad thing. I have written on the quest for perfection and limitlessness here:
    And here:

    I quote Jewish philosopher and bioethicist Leon Kass in both of those articles. He is well worth reading on all this (see the related posts mentioned to the left of those articles). He rightly reminds us that the important thing is to live a good life, an ethical life, not necessarily a long life. After all, who wants to see Hitler or Stalin – or perhaps Paris Hilton or Britney Spears – living to be 1000?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  47. Thanks for your biblical guidance, Bill!
    Well, I don´t see Britney Spears living to be a 1000 at her going rate; and good riddance of Hitler and Stalin!

    God bless, Lars Munk Sørensen

  48. As I commented on something else yesterday, this looks like taking the visions of Asimov and Clarke as models for human development. At least Asimov was prepared to look at the possible downside of longevity and technology (Robots of Dawn, Caves of Steel, Naked Sun).

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