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.