A while back I reviewed a book called Parallels and Convergences: Mormon Thought and Engineering Vision. I enjoyed the book and was curious about the fact that several authors in the book were members of the Mormon Transhumanist Organization.
I had just learned about so-called “Transhumanists” a year or two earlier because I read a book called The Physics of Immortality. Essentially a “Transhumanism” is (from Wikipedia) “…an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.”
I had noticed that of all the Christian religions (and probably all religions, though I’m hardly qualified to judge) Mormonism had the most touch points with Transhumanism. (Though some significant differences as well.) So I’m shouldn’t be surprised to find that there was Mormon Transhumanist Association.
Well, to make a long story short, I suggested to Lincoln Cannon (the president of the association) that some of my posts might be of interest to the MTA. He sent me a list of their values, which I reproduce 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.
- Policymaking 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.
Sounds almost like science fiction, doesn’t it? Awesome, eh?
And here are a few extra ones specific to the Mormon version of Transhumanism.
Mormon Transhumanist Affirmation:
- We seek the spiritual and physical exaltation of individuals and their anatomies, as well as communities and their environments, according to their wills, desires and laws, to the extent they are not oppressive.
- We believe that scientific knowledge and technological power are among the means ordained of God to enable such exaltation, including realization of diverse prophetic visions of transfiguration, immortality, resurrection, renewal of this world, and the discovery and creation of worlds without end.
- We feel a duty to use science and technology according to wisdom and inspiration, to identify and prepare for risks and responsibilities associated with future advances, and to persuade others to do likewise.
And what does this association do? Here is their own answer to the question:
The Mormon Transhumanist Association shares news and blogs about the intersection of Mormonism with science and technology and Transhumanism with religion and spirituality. We engage as a community in discussions and conferences about prophetic vision, scientific discovery, technological innovation, as well as opportunities and risks in our rapidly changing world. We also act with common purpose on team projects to cure disease, and extend and enhance life.
This seems to be a diverse group. Despite the “Mormon” in the name, only 73% were LDS and only 73% were Theists. (I was curious how this was reconciled with the affirmation that “technological power are among the means ordained of God…” But then again, defining the boundary between Theism and Atheism is not always so clear-cut, as I wrote about here.
From now on my science and religion posts (and only those) will be picked up by the Mormon Transhumanist Association. So we might get a few new viewers or commenters on my science posts. I’ve been writing about how to best invite greater dialogue on the Internet and is my own gentle way to start to do that via our shared interest in science and technology.
To our new friends at the MTA, welcome to Millennial Star. (aka M*)
M* has a rightly deserved reputation as one of the most “conservative” (politically and religiously) Mormon blogs on the Internet. Because of that, we also have a very strict comment moderation policy that we do not allow attacks on LDS Church doctrine.
I have done a number of science posts here and will probably rerun some of the better ones for the new audience. I started reprinting my epistemology posts from Wheat and Tares and will finish up doing that soon.
But better yet, I have a few new posts planned about Turing Machines and the Turing Principle. The Turing Principle in particular, if true, has significant philosophical ramifications for all of science and religion.