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.
We’re excited to be associated with you, Bruce! Thanks.
It’s good to be included.
Here at M*, we permabloggers often refer to ourselves as Transcendant Humans. I hope the TransHumanists will find themselves at home with our base…
Thanks, Rameumptom. I like Transcendent Humans.
I have believed in many of the points of the transhumanist movement for quite some time. Here is a post I just published (prompted by your post), but which I wrote some time ago:
I’ll be interested to learn more about the Mormon Transhumanist Association.
Hi Bryce. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the MTA, or direct you to someone who can. Check out the link from our home page to the Sunstone article on Mormon Transhumanism, or watch the video embedded on the home page. Those will probably help. You’re also invited to join the association, which you can do at this link: http://transfigurism.org/pages/join/join/
Am I the only one who finds this disturbing?
No, Agellius, I do too. Pretty much everything about transhumanism is horrible.
To me, I should add. No offense to the rest of y’all.
“Horrible” is a curiously strong word. Christian fundamentalists and militant atheists use words like that to describe Mormonism. Why is Transhumanism horrible?
For what it’s worth, Adam, your writing would, in at least some instances, reaonate with Transhumanists: http://www.jrganymede.com/2012/09/21/thats-why-were-here/
Thank goodness! Of course if anyone did I figured it would be you.
If our bodies are temples, then is the body of a Transhumanist the Tower of Babel? That’s my concern…
Temple = Create sacred space for Heaven to descend to Earth.
Tower of Babel= an attempt to build our own way from Earth to Heaven.
MC, temples are built by humans, cleaned and maintained by humans, remodeled by humans, expanded and enhanced by humans, according to whatever wisdom and inspiration we might have. The scriptures talk of building boats and cities that lead to the promised land or that ascend to heaven. Babel is not in the building itself; Babel is in the intent and manner of building:
The same is true for our bodies, which should be temples. Nephi called physical death an “awful monster”. Jesus told the three Nephite disciples that they were more blessed for desiring to continue the work without ever dying. Joseph and Brigham spoke of ordinances of transfiguration and resurrection that we would learn and perform for each other. We have got to learn how to be Gods ourselves, as Joseph put, and not just any kind of Gods, but specifically Christs, saviors, the Church of the Firstborn, begotten children of God, after the pattern of Jesus, doing the works we read that he did, and according to his invitation to be one with him and God: consoling the sad, healing the sick, and raising the dead. The work of God is to bring about the immortality and eternal life of humanity. We are called to participate in that work.
Transhumanism is the ethical use of technology to expand human abilities. You probably wear clothes and brush your teeth. You may wear glasses. Perhaps you’ve engaged in weight training. How about medical procedures to repair or enhance your body? Don’t forget that phone you’re carrying around, or the complex technological civilization that enables almost everything you do from day to day. You, with the rest of us, are a Transhuman, a human in transition to something beyond human, taking control of our own evolution. Of course, we have and likely will yet make some bad decisions along the way, and some of those potential bad decisions have serious risks associated with them. Transhumanism is not just about being a Transhuman. It’s not just about simple cheerleading for technology. Rather, it’s about recognizing both the opportunities and the risks that accelerating technological change presents to us, and then seeking to mitigate the risks while pursuing the opportunities.
Mormon Transhumanists see the opportunities as nothing less than those prophesied by Joseph Smith when he spoke of the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times: “A time to come in the which anothing shall be withheld, whether there be bone God or many cgods, they shall be manifest.” We also see the risks as nothing less than those prophesied by the ancient prophets when they spoke of the end times: “when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.” With such perspective, we feel pressed to share, to invite others to see, and perhaps make a positive difference. Hopefully, as Nineveh evaded destruction despite the negative prophecies of Jonah, we too may evade the negative prophecies associated with the end times, fully or even to some extent, as we rise to the occasion and make use of the means God has given us, including our scientific knowledge and technological endowments.
MC, this recording of a talk by Terryl Givens at the 2010 Transhumanism and Spirituality Conference may also interest you:
“As man is, God once was; as God is man may be.”
That takes effort on our part. Heaven won’t descend to Earth on its own. We must work to bring it down, to “learn to be gods ourselves,” to call down the powers of heaven, to pray and open that conduit, to serve in the priesthood, to do the work of ordinances, to lift up the poor and needy, and the feeble knees. Otherwise, we are no better off than the Protestant idea of salvation by grace alone.
I perceive there is much we can do to work our way back to the tree of life, one hand hold at a time on that iron rod, and it is only Christ that makes it all possible. Without Christ, such work would all be in vain. It is we who must bring down Zion and establish her in our midst. Nearly every time that the heavens have opened to man, it is because man has instigated it. If we do our part, heaven will its part.
I see much in Transhumanism that is compatible with the gospel. Do we not believe in a “posthuman” future for us, where we will live in a very different form than we do today, and in a very different type of world? Could not God be considered a posthuman? He is certainly not mortal like we are. Transhumanists believe that a posthuman is a hypothetical future being “whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards.” Indeed, we don’t refer to God often as a mere human, but as an exalted human, a glorified and resurrected human, an immortal and eternal human, a human who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, a human whose glory Joseph thought would catch the very trees on fire at the First Vision. He is not simply human, and hence we don’t call him human, but God.
As for ourselves, Transhumanists believe that we are currently in a stage of being transhuman, “the point at which the human being begins surpassing his or her own limitations but is still recognizable as a human person or similar.” We believe that we hold the priesthood today, which we define as nothing other than the authority and power of God himself, delegated to man. Does a priesthood holder surpass their pre-priesthood abilities and limitations? Has our average life expectancy tripled in the last 200 years? Can we cure diseases, infirmities, and ailments today that were once thought impossible to cure? Much of this has happened since the Restoration of the gospel; I believe there is an unmistakable link there.
There are perhaps other parts of Transhumanism that are not compatible with the gospel. Hence the Mormon Transhumanist Association.
… enjoyed your post, Bryce. Thanks.
Furthermore, we are building Zion, not the Tower of Babel. We are building a community, a city which we’ll call the New Jerusalem and a temple complex even with 24 temples. These will be of one heart and one mind, where no poor dwell among us. Our welfare efforts are geared such that we are doing our utmost best to completely eradicate disease and suffering, poverty and death. These things fit within transhumanism, albeit from a Mormon perspective.
“Our welfare efforts are geared such that we are doing our utmost best to completely eradicate disease and suffering, poverty and death.”
I don’t really believe that our welfare efforts are intended, let alone able, to “completely eradicate” suffering. Or death, for that matter. A world without suffering would violate the principle that there must be opposition in all things.
And while I agree with Mr. Cannon that “Babel is in the intent and manner of building,” I am not persuaded that Transhumanism differs from Babel in those respects. The Tower of Babel was an attempt to scale Heaven from below in a naturalistic manner, as usurpers, in a sense. Rather than seek communion with God on His terms and in His prescribed way, the People of Babel refused to wait in the Lord’s due time to obtain His presence. I see the same tendency in Transhumanism.
“Has our average life expectancy tripled in the last 200 years? Can we cure diseases, infirmities, and ailments today that were once thought impossible to cure?”
All of those are good things. Did any of them render us less “human”? If not, then what need is there for Transhumanism? There is a strain of argument that the man who approves of steroids and bionic limbs for cancer patients and amputees must, perforce, approve of steroids and bionic limbs for all. I do not accept this argument, which I find sophistic.
Finally, why does a cell phone make me “transhuman” any more than the printing press made Luther “transhuman”?
MC, thanks for replying.
I agree that the elimination of suffering should not be the goal, but rather radical flourishing in creativity and compassion (exaltation) should be the goal. The only way to eliminate suffering is to eliminate life. In any case, this is a controversial issue among Transhumanists. If the subject interests you, I recommend the philosopher, David Pearce:
I also agree that some Transhumanists have an intent and manner of building that is more like Babel than Zion. That, however, is not essential to Transhumanism. It’s a matter of individuals, and as there are Mormons that disagree with each other, there are Transhumanists that disagree with each other, of course.
You mention that a factor in your assessment of Babel versus Zion is whether a person is seeking communion by waiting for God. I strongly disagree with this idea for reasons ranging from practical to theological. On the practical side, it’s self defeating not to act as best we can to make our minds, bodies, relations and world better. On the theological side, the scriptures clearly and repeatedly teach that we should not wait for God to do everything, but rather we should make use of the means God has provided to work out our salvation.
You also ask about what makes us human or transhuman. Humanity is evolving, as it has been for a long time. In one sense, evolution makes all species trans-species. However, humanity is a special case due to technology, which did indeed begin long ago, passed through the printing press, and presently manifests itself in smart phones and such. Technology has increasingly enabled us to take control of our own evolution; and, given current trends, is set to be the dominate factor in the future of human evolution. No longer will our environment and anatomies be the principle factors, but our communities and minds will become the principle factors. Luther was a transhuman, you and I are transhumans, as all humans have been to an increasing and accelerating degree as our technology has emerged and progressed. That, however, is less interesting than whether we’re Transhumanists, whether we recognize the accelerating pace of change, the risks and opportunities, and pursue the opportunities while mitigating the risks, and generally embracing an optimistic attitude regarding our future evolution beyond historical human norms. The opposite attitude is that of the bioconservatives, who I welcome as interlocutors, but with whom I certainly disagree.
A major part of my interest in Transhumanism is that it seems to be an etension of two basic principles to their logical conclusions: 1) man is of the race of gods and can grow into the divine; and 2) this is and should be an active rather than passive process.
If those are true, then I think we’re falling into error just as much if we wait for God to exalt us as if we seek exaltation independent of His grace and guidance. I don’t want to make light of the dangers of hubris, but since the invention of the plow (or before?), technology has changed humanity in radical ways, both socially and physically, and for the most part I’m really a fan of those changes.
So (to put my tongue firmly in my cheek), when it comes to erring too far on the side of passively waiting or actively changing, I guess I would rather be guilty of building the Tower than of sitting on the Couch of Babel.
… Couch of Babel!
… or Thrones of Babel, as Captain Moroni might have called them:
“Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain.”
We try to elimate suffering in so many instances. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t. Where we can’t, we try to alleviate it, to bear one another’s burdens. You are right, MC, that we will never be able to eliminate suffering. I believe we should always try to — we don’t let people suffer just so that they can suffer — but we also will recognize that we will be imperfect. How does the saying go? It’s better to aim for infinity and miss, than…
Mormonism is beautiful in this regard. We believe in an earth that is pained, in a God that weeps, a God that condescends — the same earth that shall be celestialized and the same Gods who live in everlasting burnings.
Transhuman Mormonism, or Mormon Transhumanism seems to me to be both looking beyond the mark, and a little bit navel-gazing. Both are things I’m a bit ashamed to have engaged in.
But then, most of the Bloggernacle consists of looking beyond the mark and navel-gazing. And again, I’ve done my share in a lot of comments over the years.
This post reminds me that I need to pay more attention to the basics: faith/repentance/baptism(covenant-making)/gift-of-the-Holy-Ghost/endure-to-the-end/callings/prayer/scripture-reading/service/genealogy/get-out-of-debt/etc.
@Bruce N: I admire your support of the gospel in the ‘nacle, etc., etc. I have always perceived you, and still do, as pro-gospel and pro-church, a good orthodox stand-up guy, much like Geoff B. But many of your posts do tend to looking-beyond-the-mark and navel-gazing. And “tend” is probably not a strong enough word. 🙂
Within a year or two of joining the church, a brother in the church, who is also a Mason, put out a feeler (not an actual invitation, since they aren’t supposed to proselyte) to me sort of inviting me to check out Masonry.
With daily scripture reading, reading the whole Ensign, Sunday School lesson reading assignment, EQ lesson reading assignment, home teaching, callings, genealogy research, temple attendance, etc., 20 hours a year listening/watching General conference (3 2-hours sessions on Saturday, 2 2-hour sessions on Sunday, 2x/year), I asked “Why?”
I didn’t even have time for Institute classes.
I don’t think the church needs another “helper” or auxiliary organization. Especially an unofficial one. I can see YM/YW, Seminary and Scouting for the youth. I can see Institute for college age and older.
I can see how active LDS may also want to be Masons, if they are not already involved in non-church-afilliated social or sports or hobby organizations.
But this Transhuman thing gives me the creeps. It’s as if someone is trying to add to the gospel.
Even if certain precepts/concepts are true, we have enough to do with the canonized scripture, official magazines (Ensign/Liahona), official sunday lesson material, temple ordinances, and what I call “current priorities/assignments” that are repeated over the pulpit in recent general conference. Those should have our focus, and should be fulfilled before we do any “gospel add-ons”.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t have recreations or hobbies or outside interests.
But I think this Transhuman thing is too much of a “gospel add-on”. It also reminds me too much of Dialogue and Sunstone, which also give me the creeps.
I’m also reminded that within the church framework, “Advance Gospel Doctrine” is not a class. It’s taught one-on-one by the Holy Ghost. The texts are the scriptures. The lectures are the temple endowment ceremony.
Certain advanced topics may be gleaned from General Conference talks, but like the scriptures, the advanced topics are to be discerned by implication/inference and reading between the lines, and confirmed by the Holy Ghost.
Many of the heated discussions in the Bloggernacle come from ‘advanced topics’. And in some of those cases, it looks like the Spirit may have revealed something to someone, and they try to publicly share it with someone who hasn’t discovered that same thing, or had it revealed to them yet. Therefore the other party is unable to receive it.
It’s like the GA’s have often advised: when you receive an insight into something from the Holy Ghost, often times you’re not supposed to share it with others. It is for your edification.
Hi Bookslinger. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ll try to respond without looking beyond the mark, which is not always easy.
You used the expression, “looking beyond the mark”, which comes from the Book of Mormon, where it’s applied as a criticism of ancient Jews. Some have interpreted the criticism to mean that complexity is bad, but that interpretation fails to account for the text, which claims the ancient Jews despised plainness and desired that which they could not understand. Plainness is clearness, which is not necessarily simplicity. If we desire simplicity when plainness requires complexity then we desire that which we cannot understand. If we don’t want to be as these ancient Jews, we should desire understanding through plainness, with or without simplicity. Simplicity is sometimes bad. Complexity is not always bad.
This criticism from the Book of Mormon is applicable to us today. The scriptures admonish us to ask questions, but some shelve questions. The scriptures encourage us to know mysteries, but some disparage mysteries. The scriptures encourage us to have reasons, but some ignore reasons. Evidently, some of us desire that which we cannot understand. It’s not those who ask questions, know mysteries, or have reasons. Those are at least looking for the mark, if not at it. Rather, it’s those who shelve questions, disparage mysteries, and ignore reasons that are looking beyond the mark, intentionally. Like the ancient Jews criticized by the Book of Mormon, those of us today who look beyond the mark receive that which we cannot understand, and we revel in it! “I don’t understand the Atonement, but I know it’s true!”
You also used the expression “navel-gazing”, which suggests arrogance. Like plainness, arrogance can be found in both complexity and simplicity. Consider another criticism offered by the Book of Mormon, this time of Gentiles who, in an appeal to the basics, say, “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.” Yet the Book of Mormon criticizes them as foolish for thinking that the words or the work of God are ever finished, and for thinking that God doesn’t give words to everyone. It would be simple for God to limit words and works to one person at one place and time, but it would also be arrogant to suppose such uniqueness. The First Presidency clearly rejected such uniqueness in 1978: “The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals … We believe that God has given and will give to all peoples sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation.” Given such an endorsement, it would be arrogant to assume that Transhumanists have no part in the word and work of God.
You mention Masonry as an example of the superfluous. It seems unlikely that Joseph Smith would have agreed with that assessment, given that he was a Mason and felt inspired to incorporate aspects of Masonry into Mormonism. I’m not a Mason myself, but I welcome the opportunities I have to interact with Masons, particularly those who are fellow Mormons, because I revere Joseph Smith, and I anticipate learning more about how he was inspired as I learn more about Masonry.
Some ancient Jews wouldn’t have had time for Transhumanism or Masonry. They wouldn’t have had time for Mormonism. They were too busy with sacrifices, burnt offerings, oblations, new moons, sabbaths, calling of assemblies, solemn meetings, and appointed feasts. Of course, Isaiah says God wasn’t too happy about that. Despite their many prayers, their hands were full of blood. They needed to “learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
For me, Mormon Transhumanism is not an add-on, helper or auxiliary. It’s not merely socializing, recreation or a hobby. Mormon Transhumanism is my religion, and note this carefully please: the “Transhumanism” is not an addition or subtraction, but rather a clarification. “Transhumanism” describes the kind of religion I believe Mormonism to be: Mormonism is and always has been a Transhumanism. I wish I didn’t feel the need for the clarification. I wish I didn’t feel as if some Mormons are trying to make our religion into just another Christian sect. I wish I didn’t feel as if some non-Mormons are assuming that our religion is just another Christian sect. I wish I didn’t feel stereotyped into supernaturalism, dogmatism, irrationalism, or fundamentalism. I wish I felt sufficient calling myself a “Mormon”. Unfortunately, in some cases, I don’t. In some cases, a clarification is needed, and “Transhumanism” does the job.
I’m not alone. The Mormon Transhumanist Association includes many members who would tell you that Transhumanism helped them claim or reclaim their identity as Mormons. Some would also tell you that the Mormon Transhumanist Association was a principal factor in their decision to join or rejoin the LDS Church. Others, although not identifying as Mormons, will tell you that the Mormon Transhumanist Association has helped them find a spirituality that had eluded them, in some cases for whole lifetimes. This is edification. This is praiseworthy.
Well, I can’t claim to be much of an expert on transhumanism, but from what I’ve read, it seems quite comaptible with the Gospel to me. Indeed, I would even argue that, in a certain sense, perhaps it is the essence of the Gospel itself – or at least, they have similar aims and goals. The Gospel strives to “make bad men good and good men better”, and exaltation is the destination of the grand journey that is the Plan of Salvation. I don’t see anything in transhumanism that contradicts this – indeed, the Gospel and transhumanism appear to share the same basic goal – the improvement of the human species. Moses 1:39 teaches us: “This is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”. I see this as the work and the glory of transhumanism also, and it ought to be the work and glory of every one of us as well. I don’t see the Church as the sole organisation through which God carries out His work and glory. Orson F Whitney taught “God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people. … We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.” I’m not suggesting the MTA is not Mormon, but I do think that this shows that doing God’s work, building up the kingdom and establishing Zion can involve us being involved in more organisations than simply the LDS Church.
Transhumanism is a counterfeit of the gospel, trying to accomplish theoretically gospel means through illicit ends. Spiritual problems must have spiritual solutions. Transcending humanity is not something that can be done mechanically, which is what transhumanism offers.
Further, Mormonism accepts that the limits and struggles of mortality are part of the plan, whereas transhumanism rejects these parts of our natural progression.
Mormonism teaches that deification comes through ordinances, community, and the atonement of Christ. Transhumanism aspires to deification through technology.
Mormonism teaches that death is necessary for fallen creatures, and that immortality in a fallen state is a form of damnation. Transhumanism seeks immortality in a fallen state.
Mormonism teaches that the body is a great gift and that the human form is in the image of God. Transhumanism aspires to free the mind from the body through “downloading” and other means and convert the body into a property. Transhumanism aspires to move beyond the human form.
Transhumanism is one form of the abomination of desolations.
The rejection of ‘supernaturalism’ is telling, I think.
“The rejection of ‘supernaturalism’ is telling, I think.”
Is it? To worship God, do we have to remain ignorant of the how and the why? It seems to me that God wants us to increase in knowledge and understanding, not to merely worship His greatness. He wants us to become as He is, and that requires that we come to know as He knows. When we make that step in any small way, the “supernatural” disappears and becomes natural.
I can’t believe in a God of the gaps, who only exists where my understanding cannot reach.
One of the greatest teachings on truth that we have is about its undivided nature, that it is one great whole. So to say that spiritual problems require spiritual solutions is to divide knowledge into artificial parts and portions, valuing one piece of truth above others.
That’s someting I try not to do.
“Spiritual problems must have spiritual solutions.”
That’s fine except that there are many more problems than spiritual ones in the world, and the Church is very much involved in those problems. There is much that is physical, technological, and temporal about the work of the gospel, before we get to the spiritual. There is a body that clothes our spirit, and much work must be done in lifting up that flesh before the particulars of the spiritual can even be addressed. This is why we have the welfare program, and international humanitarian aid. We are lifting people up, helping them reach a state where they can learn the gospel.
I perceive Transhumanism, more particularly Mormon Transhumanism, in a completely different way than a “counterfeit of the gospel,” or “abomination of desolations.” I see it as a recognition of who we really are, gods in embryo. And if that is so, then what we are capable of is so much more than we typically think, or that the world typically thinks (i.e. that we are simply a species of animal, and no more). I see it as complimentary to the gospel.
The Church uses technology to bring about its purposes. It is the very inventions of electricity, the train, car and airplane travel, the printing press, computers, the Internet, satellite transmission, cell phones, medicine, etc. that enable us to share the gospel with the world. In fact, much has been said by Church leaders to the tune that these inventions were developed for the primary purpose of enabling the gospel to roll forth. It is interesting to note that many of the advancements that Transhumanism notes, have occurred since about the year 1800. Some point to 1820, or 1830. I think the connections to the Restoration of the gospel are not coincidence. It is the Restoration that has opened the door, and brought about a tremendous enlightenment and spiritual awakening in the world, and provided the technological progress we’ve seen occur, helping bring us back into God’s presence in some very literal ways (temple construction, etc.). The morning breaks, the shadows flee! The dawning of a brighter day, majestic rises on the world. The clouds of error disappear, before the rays of truth divine; the glory bursting from afar, wide o’er the nations soon will shine (The Morning Breaks, Hymn #1). This majesty of the Restoration, the glory of it, has affected every particle of the world, and will continue to do so, raising us up to new heights unimaginable before.
If it is the Restoration that has filled the world with God’s glory such that we’ve been able to invent all of these wonderful new technologies to help the work go forward, I think it would be a shame to discount all of that, or ignore it. I think Mormon Transhumanism acknowledges those blessings, and seeks to advance the cause of it, “what more can we do?”
The limits and struggles of mortality may be part of the plan, but the gospel message of Jesus Christ is that we can overcome those limits and struggles, that we can abolish them. And how is that gospel preached? It is by technology, and physical means primarily, after which the Spirit testifies of the truth. It is through technology that much suffering, disease, death, hardship, sadness, despair, evil, waste, and dreariness are swept from the world. God has given us these marvelous technologies to bring about his gospel purposes, and in however small a measure, the ultimate potential of man. Mormon Transhumanism recognizes that fact.
Consider these quote from Elder Holland:
“Transhumanism aspires to move beyond the human form.” As I noted above, we typically don’t call God human, simply because he is much, much more advanced than we are. He lives a very different kind of life than we do as mortals in the flesh. If we were to compare, side-by-side, what we are compared with what God is, it is a stretch to still call him human by the world’s standards. Yes, he still has the same parts and primary functions, but that is, perhaps, why so many in the world have such a hard time with our belief that we believe God is an exalted man. It is wholly unthinkable to them to think of God as such. The scriptures teach us that through the gospel we become “new creatures” (Mosiah 27:26; 2 Cor. 5:17). Yes, we are still human, but are fundamentally different in many ways, even physical ways. We are taught that through adoption into the house of Israel, the very blood coursing through our veins is changed, our countenances are changed. We receive a very visible light to some, even as we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. These are all physical changes that make us much more than what we once were.
Consider C.S. Lewis:
I do not believe in supernaturalism, or forces beyond which we can understand. Yes, there are forces beyond which we can currently understand, but it will only be a matter of time until we do understand them. Apostles of the Lord have taught that miracles are wrought by scientific processes, by natural law, but many are those which we currently don’t understand, not that we can’t understand them. That point is key. Everything we observe in nature can be explained by scientific means. I love this quote by Elder Talmage:
Note, we recognize the operation of powers “transcending our present human understanding.” In the future, our understanding will grow, and those things which appear supernatural now, will become common and matter-of-fact.
There are certainly aspects of Transhumanism that are not compatible with the gospel, but I like concept that we are in this work together with God, rather than on the sidelines.
“trying to accomplish theoretically gospel means through illicit ends”. I’m guessing you mean accompliching gospel ends through illicit means – correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t know if that’s possible. If someone is seeking the immortality and eternal life of man, they are performing God’s work and glory. I don’t know if the way they do that is of much importance.
“Spiritual problems must have spiritual solutions”. I think one of the most fundamental doctrines of Mormonism is the fact that there are no purely “spiritual” problems, because our spirits and our bodies are so intertwined that they both affect each other. I don’t know that there are any purely spiritual problems, or physical problems, or spiritual solutions, or physical solutions. There is a reason that we can only attain fulness of joy when our spirits and bodies are united, and why God says that He gives no commandment to us that is purely temporal.
Regarding “The rejection of ‘supernaturalism’ is telling”, basically what Andrew C says.
Supernaturalism is the converse of naturalism, the belief that everything can be reduced to chemistry and physics. Believing that consciousness and love and math and truth and righteousness are real is a form of supernaturalism. So is believing in spirits, and miracles.
Really, the attempt to create much daylight between Mormons and conventional Christians on these subjects lacks much credibility.
C.S. Lewis, Miracles, is a good starting point.
Of course you can have illicit means to spiritual ends. I’m surprised that anyone would argue otherwise. Is the Tower of Babel no longer taught in seminary? If not, so be it, but even so it was already brought up in this very thread. We also have the story of the pre-mortal council where Satan proposed having everybody be righteous and return to God by taking away their freedom.
Now, you may argue that Satan’s plan wouldn’t work, that the means would NOT have achieved the end. And you’d be right. But same with transhumanism. Extending your life and downloading your consciousness to a genetically engineered 20-ft flying sea bear and linking you 24/7 into some kind of internet consciousness and making you much smarter and allowing you to tweak your own brain chemistry to control your personality, none of that brings you one iota closer to Godhood. There are no apps that can substitutes for prayer, baptism, agency, marriage, and Jesus Christ. A hunter-gatherer in a world lit only by fire is not any further from Godhood than we are, and we are not further from Godhood than John Q. Singularity.
Using technology when it is at hand in a disciplined way is no more transhumanism than charity for the poor is marxism. You don’t need a totalizing anti-human ideology to look up your genealogy on the web or set reminders of your goals on your phone or to cure someone of disease.
The idea that building a temple and serving God there is akin to merely “waiting” for Him to do everything is silly. It is also preposterous and slanderous to suggest that Mormons are sitting on a “Couch of Babel” when they merely emulate the life of Jesus and follow his commandments, relying on Him to resurrect them without the assistance of a techno-bodysuit a la Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
“The rejection of ‘supernaturalism’ is telling, I think.”
Very, especially in concert with the fact that a very substantial portion of the Mormon Transhumanist organization professes disbelief in God.
If resurrection/exaltation is to be accomplished through medical technology, why is our resurrection to be so much less “supernatural” than that of Jesus and the resurrected saints who walked around Jerusalem the very same day?
I was afraid my “Couch of Babel” comment would cause offense, and I apologize. I was trying to get at the feeling I have that we should pursue truth as best as our passions, interests, and the schooling of the Spirit can direct us. I expect that this will be in different directions for different people, and we don’t all NEED to follow the same course.
I hope you will note, though, that I was responding to the accusation that we, as Mormon Transhumanists, were building the Tower of Babel. Am I critical of Mormons (or anyone) who is actively engaged in gathering as much truth into his life as he can? Absolutely not. Am I critical of anyone who decides that, because something is hard, unfamiliar, unexpected, or uncomfortable, they will consign it to the realm of “mystery” or “apostasy”? Yes, most especially if I’m the one who does so.
If you thoughtfully disagree with what I believe, then I respect you and your search for truth. I hope I will listen to your concerns and let them moderate my enthusiasm for any dehumanizing applications of technology. I hope we will never forget poetry and charity–but if they die, it won’t be because of techno-bodysuits or planting our consciousness into twenty-foot-flying-sea-bear. It will be because of selfishness and pride, just as it has always been.
I am not one to shy away from uncomfortable truth. But there is uncomfortable, and there is . . . less than divine methods for pursuing truth.
To intimate that escaping humanity, one of God’s greatest gifts to us, will bring us closer to Him is . . . an unfortunate direction in which to pursue truth.
And pardon the ellipses, but I had to search for the kindest phraseology I could.
I have to add one more thing. Everything that I have understood from the explanations here leads me to conclude that the MTA movement is an attempt to circumvent the Atonement.
And that is not in keeping with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is sometimes so difficult to see how untruths can be couched cleverly in a warm bath of gloriously divine understanding. But the best way to administer poison is in a person’s favorite dish. This, Satan and his minions know well.
“Of course you can have illicit means to spiritual ends.”
I think themormonbrit meant that “all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil… every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God” (Moroni 7:12, 16).
“But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him” (Moroni 7:17).
So if something is leading us towards God, helping us do good, to serve our fellow man, helping us follow God’s commandments to love Him with all our heart and our neighbor, then we stand a reasonably good chance to believe that it comes from God, and not the devil.
“…pre-mortal council where Satan proposed having everybody be righteous and return to God by taking away their freedom.”
I perceive this is incorrect, yet widely believed. Satan didn’t propose that we all be righteous to return to God. If that were the case, then we would have obeyed the Father, and all would have been well. No, Satan wanted us to be able to do whatever we pleased, and have no accountability for it. How this destroyed agency is another discussion (primarily because it breaks the laws of justice). But there is nothing in the scriptures or the prophets that says Satan wanted us all to be perfectly righteous. I don’t believe that was his plan.
As with many things, taking it to extremes is usually wrong, and false. Transhumanism taken to extremes, where we all become cyborgs, is wrong. There is a balance and moderation in all things, passions which should be kept within certain limits.
No, we can’t substitute prayer, baptism, agency, marriage, and Christ for an app. But what would an early Saint have thought of the scriptures as an app (i.e. Gospel Library)? No longer do you need to hold the physical paper bound book of scripture. You can hold it all in the palm of your hand, and access any of it instantly wherever you are, not to mention finding things in it in an instant. My stake president noted that in his interactions with General Authorities, that they love their smartphones and tablets. Elder Perry loves his iPad. It facilitates the gospel; it doesn’t hinder it.
What would you think if the Church instituted a method of submitting names for the temple prayer rolls electronically, from user accounts through LDS.org? Or better yet, direct from the Gospel Library app, or another? Instead of going to the temple to write it down on a slip of paper inserted into a wooden box, or using a telephone to call it in (the horror), you could sit down at a computer, or even through your smartphone, and submit the names of those people who you are worried about, who are sick and afflicted, so that we might pray for them in our temples. Would that be evil? Or would that help the work move forward? Would more people in dire straights be remembered in our prayer? When the temple endowment was first presented in video form, there were probably many in shock at the very thought. How could we possibly substitute real people for a pre-recorded projection on a screen? Yet, it helps to move the work forward today, with 139 temples and counting. The manpower required to keep a temple operational is reduced significantly by using new technologies.
Do you believe that in a hunter-gatherer society lit only by fire that the work of the restored gospel could occur? I don’t. Not at all. The gospel must be preached in every land, nation, kindred, tongue, and people, and that isn’t happening when we use flint to start fires. The work of God has advanced significantly since the advent of technologies within the last 200 years. It wouldn’t be anywhere near it is today without them.
I’m not sure that the resurrection will be accomplished through medical technology. But it will be accomplished through natural law, and means that we simply do not understand today. But God understands them. The super in supernatural comes from our inability to understand the means by which the process operates. Once we understand the “diversities of operations” (D&C 46:16), it will not seem super anymore, and we will have moved that much closer to God, and in understanding his ways.
I think there is much confusion about Transhumanism, or more particularly Mormon Transhumanism, is about. It is not about “escaping humanity.” It is about realizing who it is we really are, and what we can become, and what is our role in all of that.
“the MTA movement is an attempt to circumvent the Atonement”
That is a profound statement. How does technological advancement to enhance who we are, sometimes in fundamental ways, circumvent the Atonement? Please elaborate.
How is it about that, Bryce? Because I don’t see it.
Then perhaps you don’t understand the MTA.
Well, the reason it gives me that impression is because it seems to be about reaching “full human potential” through technology and science. Yet, there is only one way to reach our full potential, and God has already outlined it for us.
Science is a fun toy, and a great learning experience. But it isn’t immortality, and never will be, let alone eternal life.
Mindful that I don’t claim to understand Mormon theology, and certainly don’t mean to argue against it, I hope I can offer this observation, as an outsider, without offending anyone.
It seems to me the ideas expressed here are the inevitable result of combining modern philosophies with the Mormon religion. For example, if there is no objective human nature, then it’s hard to see why there should be anything wrong with trying to alter or improve human nature. If nature evolves blindly, due to unconscious processes, indifferent to good or evil, then what could be wrong with altering it via conscious processes with the specific intention of doing good?
This in contrast to traditional philosophies which held that natures have objective existence; and traditional Christian religions which have adopted those philosophies, which have held that human nature is sacred because created by God, and therefore that nature should guide us in our behavior, rather than we guiding it; i.e. in following our nature, we follow God. But who are we following if we alter our own nature?
I don’t make this argument in favor of traditional religions against the Mormon religion, since it appears that some Mormons in this thread agree, more or less, with this line of thought, which I assume therefore is not foreign to Mormonism.
Perhaps not. I’m inviting you to explain it, since you seem to be more familiar with it.
I think the point that is perhaps not understood is that God is the Supreme Scientist. He does all his work through physical means, and by natural laws. There isn’t anything mystical, immaterial, or incomprehensible about it. That is what the trinitarians perceive God as being. It is the religion of the creeds, the incomprehensible, unknowable God. Those things we don’t understand about God is because we have not the knowledge he has. See the quote from Elder James E. Talmage above, from Jesus The Christ.
If eternal life is to know God–to understand Him, to be like Him–than that requires an understanding of the laws that govern His existence. As science is one way of seeking to understand those laws, I find it much more than a fun toy.
A great learning experience? Absolutely.
“I’m not sure that the resurrection will be accomplished through medical technology. But it will be accomplished through natural law, and means that we simply do not understand today.”
But the ancient saints didn’t need to experiment on their bodies with technology in order to receive resurrection/exaltation. God did that just fine without their help, natural law or no. Which suggests that you can’t use “we need to discover the natural laws of resurrection in order to bring it about” as an argument for all kinds of “unnatural” augmentations to the human form.
I think I understand where the “Mormon Transhumanist” impulse starts, at least. An intelligent young man has a hard time squaring all of these supernatural miracles in the scriptures with what he has learned of the natural world in his textbooks, and this is way of reconciling them. Fine. But the jump from there to “we should try to use technology to transcend our humanity” is just several logical leaps too far. If you want your brain enhancing pills, go ahead and say so, but it has nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as set forth in the scriptures.
“If eternal life is to know God–to understand Him, to be like Him–than that requires an understanding of the laws that govern His existence. As science is one way of seeking to understand those laws, I find it much more than a fun toy.”
A straw man, no? Who has attacked the pursuit of learning about the laws of nature? Science as knowledge is morally neutral, perhaps even a moral good, but it’s the application that matters. It’s not fair to argue for your preferred application of scientific knowledge by characterizing those who disagree with your preference as being anti-knowledge.
I think you’ll find this interesting:
Yes, very interesting, thanks.
Note MC, I didn’t say we needed to discover the natural laws of the resurrection in order to bring it about. God can do what he will. But rest assured, we will be taught someday, whether in this life or the next, the keys and orders of resurrection. The same pertains to creation. Prophets have foretold this.
Not too long ago, someone woke up with the thought that eyeglasses were a very strange unnatural augmentation to the human form; I mean it really messes up the look of someone’s face, and does not leave man with their natural unaltered eyesight. More recently someone woke up with the thought that a contact lens on someone’s eye was an awfully unnatural augmentation to the human form. I mean, we weren’t born with contact lenses, were we? Even more recent, someone woke up with the thought that lasik was terribly unnatural. Cutting into the flesh of the eye is so invasive! Not to mention those technologies that are being developed today in which surgical implants are giving sight back to the blind, or hearing to the deaf. Do these fit into “‘unnatural’ augmentations to the human form”?
Brigham Young once taught:
Some readers here might find this apropos and interesting:
A 29-year-old woman born deaf hears herself for the first time, via a hearing implant:
Yes, God works through natural means. And yes, science is a way for us to discover those means. You are seeming to say that the ultimate end of science is complete understanding of God. But God has already outlined how to know Him; through the Atonement. NOT through science.
I think that the pursuit of science is a good thing, but not in order to transcend humanity and reach the divine. As previously mentioned, that is exactly what those who built the Tower of Babel believed: that through their own efforts, they could reach heaven. There is only one way to reach heaven, through Christ.
The divine can be seen in natural laws, but not achieved through them. Even if we were able to perform all the technological actions outlined in all the explanation above, we would still be no closer to understanding God. I think that we will find, when we pass beyond this life and meet Him again, that we already understand physical laws far better than we do now.
We don’t need to learn natural laws HERE in order to understand Him, we already know them. That is WHY we are here. We have learned all we can about God’s laws, natural and spiritual (which are, in the end, the same thing,) and now we are here to see if we can follow them, if we can choose good without full understanding.
This life is a time to prepare to meet God again. Pursuing science is a worthy endeavor because it flexes our muscles, and can teach us humility as we begin to understand a small portion of the glories of heaven. Not because we can earn our way closer to Him through it.
This transhumanism is a cart-before-the-horse fallacy.
It wouldn’t matter, except I can see clearly that believing this is the path to divinity is a distraction that siphons energy away from the true Source of transcendence. This is not my first encounter with mysticism. Dressing it up in a scientific smock doesn’t change the underlying motivations and concepts.
“Not too long ago, someone woke up with…”
I don’t know any of these people; I’m a little skeptical that they exist in any meaningful numbers. When was the great anti-eyeglass backlash?
And as I said before, favoring the use of corrective eyeglasses simply isn’t the same as favoring, say, replacement of natural eyes with bionic implants that allow x-ray and telescpic vision. If my son wanted to “correct” his 20/20 vision with Lasik, I would tell him no, that they eyes God gave him are working exactly as designed.
Now imagine that the little girl isn’t deaf, and the implant isn’t meant to correct her deafness, but to give her the ability to hear conversations from 5 miles away. Now the video isn’t heart-warming, but creepy. Why mess with a perfectly functional body?
You see the difference, right? At the very least, you understand why others might see a difference, don’t you?
“But God has already outlined how to know Him; through the Atonement. NOT through science.”
The gospel IS science. Science IS the gospel. All truth is encompassed in the gospel, and that includes science. Let’s turn to Brigham Young again:
How about Orson Pratt:
I think we have a long ways to go before we understand the natural laws that God works with. A long, LONG ways. It’s been said that it will take us eons of time after this life before we will reach our exaltations. What will we be doing during that time? Being taught.
“but to give her the ability to hear conversations from 5 miles away.”
No, I prefer to hear conversations from the other side of the world, on my cell phone.
“If my son wanted to ‘correct’ his 20/20 vision with Lasik, I would tell him no, that they eyes God gave him are working exactly as designed.”
I see. Would you prevent him from using eyeglasses or contact lenses too?
“Would you prevent him from using eyeglasses or contact lenses too?”
With 20/20 vision, to use either of those enhancements would be bizarre, and I do not encourage my kids to do bizarre things, except for amusement.
“No, I prefer to hear conversations from the other side of the world, on my cell phone.”
So do I! So does almost everyone else in the world, despite the fact that they do not wish to become god-like 20-foot sea bears (to use Adam’s phrase; will someone with artistic abilities please make a mock-up of this?) If “transhumanism” is merely the use of technology for all the reasons that everyone already wants to use it, then it doesn’t amount to much. And if it goes much beyond those purposes, it’s a bizarre doctrine that isn’t justified by any of the scriptures cited in this thread.
The gospel is not science. The gospel is the Atonement, which encompasses all truth. Tigers are cats, but cats are not tigers.
You are setting up a straw man. I am not saying that scientific truth is not encompassed by the gospel. I’m saying that scientific truth is not a path to salvation. There is only one path, and it is in and through the Savior, Jesus Christ.
You are, of course, free to believe how you wish. It is clear you already think that you are in the right, and are very resistant to understanding how others are incredibly wary of this path you have chosen for yourself. But I have given my warning, and I will let it stand there.
I think the point that is perhaps not understood is that God is the Supreme Scientist.
I don’t agree. Science is primarily a process of inquiry into natural laws using experiment. Why would God need to inquire into natural laws? Surely he knows them already.
He does all his work through physical means, and by natural laws.
I couldn’t disagree more. I’m not even sure what ‘unnatural laws’ would be, but if by that you just mean that there is a divine order in the universe which God does not arbitrarily alter according to some inscrutable whim, so that miracles that violate physics are really part of some deeper order, than I agree. But many, even most, informed conventional Christians would agree too. Again, see C.S. Lewis on miracles.
But as for your assertion that God does everything through physical means . . . ? stuff. Thought isn’t physical, neither are feelings, neither is will, neither is truth, neither is love, but surely God is not foreign to all of those? God is Spirit. Not just spirit, but still spirit.
There isn’t anything mystical, immaterial, or incomprehensible about it. That is what the trinitarians perceive God as being. It is the religion of the creeds, the incomprehensible, unknowable God. Those things we don’t understand about God is because we have not the knowledge he has. See the quote from Elder James E. Talmage above, from Jesus The Christ.
There is no necessary connection between this Mormon trope and your argument that we should use technology to pass beyond being human.
Flying god-like 20-ft. seabears.
I wonder if partly we’re arguing semantics. To some, ‘transhumanism’ just appears to mean, ‘hey, we should use science and technology, including to correct defects and stuff.’ ‘Yay, science!’
To others of us, like me, transhumanism means a desire to move away from being human, including a denial that there is a human nature or at least that there is a human nature that we shouldn’t try to alter if we will it, and above all a desire to overcome being mortal using technical means. Otherwise there would be nothing ‘trans’ about the humanism, as far as I can see.
I would be interested in whether Bryce Haymond, e.g., agrees with that definition of transhumanism. If not, then we’re just talking past each other. If he does, then I ask if he agrees with those principles? If he doesn’t, are those some of the aspects of transhumanism that he admits are troubling?
But then I would also ask why try to salvage the transhuman label at all? If I agree that we want everyone to return to heaven, but think Satan went too far in suggesting that we make it mandatory or that we abolish good and evil to do it, I don’t call myself a Mormon Satanist.
“If I agree that we want everyone to return to heaven, but think Satan went too far in suggesting that we make it mandatory or that we abolish good and evil to do it, I don’t call myself a Mormon Satanist.”
I’m going to start a group of LDS locomotive punctuality enthusiasts and call it “Mormon Nazism.”*
*It’s not Godwin’s Law if you’re joking.
I’m going to start a group of LDS eaters of manflesh and call it Mormon Cannibalism.
Wait, I think I messed up the joke.
MC, so I guess binoculars and telescopes and microscopes are right out? How about anti-depressants? Genetically modified crops? Penicillin?
What if we seek God’s direction in the use of science — in other words, what if Mormon transhumanism differs from secular transhumanism precisely in its acknowledgment of God? There are substantive reasons why there is a *Mormon* Transhumanist Association, not just Mormons advocating secular transhumanism.
I cannot take a position on all of the ins and outs of the various arguments here, but I agree with Bryce that God is indeed the ultimate scientist. (This may mean different things to different people, but this is how my puny brain has come to understand Heavenly Father’s feelings on science). I am still waiting to understand and hear more about the MTA before coming to any final conclusions on the whole issue of Transhumanism in general.
Nothing like a little Mormon Transsophism to make a not at all irrelevant point.
Reading through the whole discussion, and having debated a number of these points with myself and with others, I think Adam G.’s observation is correct that we are partly arguing semantics. There are Mormon Transhumanists who hold beliefs exactly like the “anti”-Mormon Transhumanist beliefs expressed here–i.e. that technology will not accomplish the resurrection, that the Atonement is the only way to Godhood, etc. They appreciate the ethical approach to new technology that the MTA takes, and find like-minded people that help them to follow God’s plan for them in better ways than they were accomplishing without belonging to the MTA.
My experience with Mormon Transhumanists is that many members join in an attempt to emulate their prophet heroes. Some of us long for the doctrinal adventurousness that characterized the LDS church in the mid 19th century, and hold with Joseph Smith in believing that no man was ever damned for believing too much, but rather for believing too little. We admire Brigham Young for keeping Orson Pratt in the high councils of the church despite Orson Pratt’s public disagreements with Brigham Young over doctrines–because Brigham knew Brother Pratt was Mormon through and through.
Many of us know we are likely wrong in parts of our understanding. We repeatedly ask ourselves the question of whether we are building Zion or the tower of Babel, and hope not to be on the couch of either. We sincerely strive to follow modern prophets. We think these Transhumanist ideals help us do it better, but don’t hold them more dear than our covenants. Mormon Transhumanists differ widely in their understandings of both Mormonism and Transhumanism, but they are undoubtedly good society.
You guys totally left me in the dust with comments. So I haven’t kept up.
But I do want to say a thing or two.
First of all, the whole modern scientific concept of “physicality” is not what you might expect. If you are trying to think of “physical” in only the sense of “matter as we commonly think of it” then that sort of “matter” makes up some very small % of reality. “Dark Matter” makes up the bulk of it (as we currently know reality anyhow.)
In reality, we’ve been forced to rethink “physical” in terms of “forces.” The think that allows two particles to interact with each other is that they both have forces (the 5 basic forces of physics — so far) that allow them to interact. Dark Matter is a type of “matter” that *only* interacts with our matter via 1 force – gravity. Therefore it is still “matter” to us but of a different sort.
Theoretically, it’s possible to for there to be particles that in no way interact with our matter, but interact with each other. It could surround us even now and we’d have no way of knowing because our instruments utilize the 5 forces. So is this matter then? (If it existed that is.) To us, no. But to the scientists living in that universe, it is matter and we are not matter.
Based on this hypothetical example, the fact is that if spirits in any way interact with us — and clearly they must — then they are a type of matter. Period. For to be ‘matter’ merely means ‘it can interact with us via forces of some sort.’ (Perhaps a yet undiscovered 6th force?)
Obviously, everything I just said is just wild speculation, of course. It’s not meant to advance any sort of doctrine, but just to explain the problem inherent in trying to even define what matter even is.
Also, I’d like to say that there are two threads within Mormonism about how God interacts with reality. In one thread, God creates the physical forces and presumably creates all laws. Thus he is above such forces and laws in some indescribable way. In the other thread, God is the master of such forces, which in fact define God. (They are a description of God, if you will.) But God is defined by such laws as much as we are. He is the master of them, however, and so had no limits. (It would take a special sort of law for there to be no limits. So we’re just assuming that is the case.)
My impression is that the first thread is currently the majority view and the second thread the minority view. However, the two thoughts have lived side by side for so long that we’ve intermingled them without really realizing that they aren’t compatible views if taken to their logical conclusions. So we intermix the language of both and don’t realize we’re doing it. Therefore, disentangling them (even using quotes from prophets) probably is impossible at this time. So both sides can find support for their position.
Because of this, I do not personally find it all that useful to argue a side on this. I’m not even sure we know enough to really come to grips with what either thread really would mean. I sometimes think of God via the first thread and sometimes via the second thread.
For those that know me well, you know I have very strong materialistic leanings. But they are considerably less then 100% precisely because it’s obvious to me that we’re still flapping in the dark over issues like this. The real reason I tend to speak in terms of materialistic language is because frankly I understand that language whereas I can’t figure out how to even put a non-materialistic sentence together without it essentially becoming a contradiction. (Which doesn’t mean it’s wrong, and might just mean I’m flapping in the dark at the moment.)
I find the concept of a partnership with God to be thoroughly Mormon. I find the Transhumanist ideas about it to be wild speculation. So long as it’s never marked as more then wild speculation, I have no issue with it.
Adam and I have been talking off line about whether or not Transhumanism is sufficient to define God at this time. The short answer is — absolutely not. All Transhumanist ideas that I am aware of still require a Theist faith-based leap, just like all religions, to get off the ground. So Transhumanism is more an attempt to be descriptive than prescriptive. When handled in a way I’m comfortable with, it says something more like “God would want us to to use our science and technology to help others and to make progress, using our morality of course, because that is what science’s real purpose is.”
Personally, I like the idea that perhaps God intends for us to partner with him via our science and that our science is actually a tool in how we will come to know God. I can’t really find definitive support for that idea anywhere, but I’m only suggesting it as wild speculation anyhow. And as a speculation, I find it useful to me personally right now.
In my review of Parallels and Convergence, I called Transhumanism “The right sort of poppycock” (well, I call the book that.) Go read my review of that book and it explains my feeling pretty well. I am prepared to see Mormon Transhumanism as a possibly legitimate sort of speculation worthy of some discussion.
However, keep in mind that my science and computing posts that the MTA will be receiving on their feed are not specifically Transhumanist, but rather will just be of interest to Transhumanist.
I’ve already invited JeffG to openly (but respectfully) criticize my posts. JeffG is a smart guy, so I think he’ll do well at that. It’s not an advance of ultimate truth of doctrine, it’s a post to discuss. Nothing more. If I do my job well (and I think I have) then it will correctly explain what we do currently know or think we know via our best science. And it will explain why we think we know it. From there, criticism is the heart of good science.
Bruce: I think science is to God is like I am to my five-year-old daughter counting on her fingers in order to add. It’s a necessary thing for her position in life, but she will eventually come to understand addition well enough that she can discard it altogether. Not the most graceful analogy, but useful. It’s not a partnership with God as much as it’s training wheels.
Science is a tool to understand the natural world God has given us from our limited ability to explore it, not really to come to know and become like God Himself. It exercises our minds, lets us play with this world we have been given.
A much more useful tool by which to know Him is to understand the Atonement and charity. The natural world is a beautiful gift, science lets us explore and honor that gift. But thinking that it can in ANY meaningful way make us like God by surgically altering our bodies to enhance them beyond natural capacity smacks of the same kind of thinking that led to eugenics.
And THERE is Godwin’s law for you.
I, for one, work hard to keep from labeling myself. All too often, I see people love one idea or other from some group, become part of that group, and then after surrounding themselves with the like-minded members of that group, begin swallowing poisonous concepts by degrees until they are fully indoctrinated. It is a frightening process to see friends and loved ones fall prey to error because they don’t assiduously parse out truth. Labeling oneself with any kind of “-ist,” or “-an,” any label other than “disciple of Christ,” breaks down barriers that help us discern truth. We see it all the time online in various LDS groups.
The Book of Mormon itself warns repeatedly about what happens when people, even Church members, categorize themselves into “-ites.”
I see no benefit (other than a feeling of bonhomie and safety,) in aligning myself with any ideological group outside of the Church, but much potential harm.
Does anyone else see the tremendous irony of our conversation here?
We are communicating with each other from the vast reaches of the world through a medium that was unknown to most of humanity just 20 years ago. We type on a keyboard with our fingers, which depressions send electrical impulses through copper or other metallic wiring to a processing unit made of silicone (read synthetic resin). Through a vast jungle of billions of microscopic transistors, or a maze of etched pathways, the processor is able to make heads and tales of what our fingers type. Spinning discs of magnetic alloys capture the information in patterns of zeroes and ones (01001101 01010100 01000001), for recall later. The electrical impulses are recombined, transformed, converted, and relayed again through another series of electrical wires, or even light signals through fiber optic cords, to another set of transistor jungles which speed the signals through their vast array of gates to understand the information, and to know what to do with it. This process repeats itself many times over, perhaps dozens of times, sending the signals through perhaps billions of miles of wires and circuitry. Once it reaches its destination, the signal is recombined, transformed, converted, and sent again as a different set of electrical impulses from a silicone transistor brain through another cable to a screen, where the complex pattern of signals are transformed again to power either electrons fired from a cathode ray tube at a fluorescent surface, or more recently light up a pattern of millions of light emitting diodes, in patterns of red, blue, and green, which mix to create a rainbow of 16.7 million new colors, shapes, figures, even letters, words, and sentences. Through these miracles we now understand, and can break down into their constituent parts, I can type on my keyboard here, and you all can read it on your screens there, wherever you may be in the whole of the planet Earth (not to mention our communication with rovers on Mars). And how long does this gargantuan process take? A matter of milliseconds.
Now, if you had presented this scenario to a peasant from the 12th century, they would have thought that you were a demigod. The fact is that we have enhanced our existence far beyond our natural capacities, and these innovations are catapulting our society, and even the gospel, into new heights unimaginable before. One of the responsibilities of the MTA, and even transhumanism in general, is to recognize the pitfalls of this new technology, such as eugenics, and the morality, ethics, and responsibilities we have towards it as it develops. It is clear that technology of any type can be used for evil purposes. Even the printing press made that clear. It is up to us, and following the teachings from the prophets, seers, and revelators of God, to try to determine what is right and wrong when new technologies emerge that we have never encountered before in human history, and how we might use them to draw us closer to God, and not separate us further from Him.
I see your point and I think you make a lot of good points.
However, I will not be renouncing the self-label of “capitalist” any time soon. 😉
Then again… if the second comming is tomorrow… maybe I will…
I would add that anything that draws us closer to God, in fact, makes us more like Him.
“MC, so I guess binoculars and telescopes and microscopes are right out? How about anti-depressants? Genetically modified crops? Penicillin?”
Try pointing out ANYTHING I said that would even imply I am against those things before you set up that straw man.
“I would add that anything that draws us closer to God, in fact, makes us more like Him.”
A building that goes all the way to the sky would bring us closer, no?
Just kidding, I actually agree with you, but I just don’t believe that any of the “improvements” in the human form advocated by Transhumanists would bring us closer to God.
MC said “any of the “improvements” in the human form advocated by Transhumanists would bring us closer to God”
Keep in mind that the word any was used. My guess is that you were exaggerating on that and you really meant something more like this:
“I’ve read several sorts of improvements that certain types of transhumanists think are good and they sound horrific to me, though there are likely others that fall within the realm of what I would find acceptable and just good sense uses of science.”
And if you really meant something more like this, it sounds pretty fair and probably pretty accurate to me. I’m not interested in giving up my humanity and becoming the Borg.
However, on a somewhat tangential note, I did love Greg Egan’s hard SF book, Diaspora. And I would actually recommend it as good wonderland sort of fun. It’s about life inside (and outside) a “Polis” which is a virtual city with virtual citizens. They can leave their world and come to ours via putting their programs into robots. Not much in terms of characterization, I’m afraid, but the real character is the various wonderland-like scientific leaps through the looking glass to see what he can come up with. For example, I am still intrigued at the possiblity of “Star Striders” which are intelligent beings that live in outerspace spread out so far that their “bodies” (made only of light, now mind you) take up light years, so they can’t interact with humans (or robots) because their thoughts take so long to finish. Fun stuff!
Yes, I agree. That is why it is useful to have organizations such as the MTA to help us with all the moral and ethical implications of this technology, and to discuss them in a gospel perspective. As has been noted, there is a difference between the MTA and secular transhumanism. Perhaps the MTA can help other transhumanists, and society in general, understand better the moral (and thus gospel) implications of some of their propositions. What are those things and technologies which actually help bring us closer to God, and become more like Him.
I’m pretty sure a “traditional” Christian would point to this thread as evidence of everything that is wrong with Mormonism. Our “collapse of sacred distance” that preaches that God is ontologically the same as us, which gives rise to the claim that Mormonism is arguably “atheistic” in a sense.
One thing I see in those rejecting transhumanism is they seem to be treating technology and spirituality as a zero-sum game. If one enhances one’s body via technological means, it must come at the expense of the power of the Atonement. I think this is pretty silly, and it is not what I understand transhumanists to be saying.
On the other hand, if God is God simply because he’s done all the right things to arrive at that point, God probably shouldn’t the be-all-end-all of our worship; he is merely a catalyst to help us to arrive at some degree of perfection. Under this view, maybe we don’t even technically “need” God to accomplish a great deal of the perfecting and exalting process.
“I’ve read several sorts of improvements that certain types of transhumanists think are good and they sound horrific to me, though others fall within the realm of what I would find acceptable and just good sense uses of science.”
No, that’s not what I’m saying. Remedies are good. Improvements are bad. Like I said, anabolic steroids are fine for those with diseases that attack their muscle mass. They are not fine for the 90-lb weakling who thinks he’s be more god-like with a higher bench press number.
Bruce writes, “I did love Greg Egan’s hard SF book, Diaspora. And I would actually recommend it as good wonderland sort of fun.”
That sounds good, I’m going to check it out.
It is a conundrum. I think most Mormons reciprocally view “traditional” Christians in an atheistic light as well. An incomprehensible, unknowable, inhuman, immaterial God is not one that I can come to know, grow to love, develop a relationship with, and ultimately emulate in any sense. How can I follow the example of one who is not like me? Why would I follow the commandments of one who does not know me and my kind of life, who cannot succor me having experienced what I have? Why would a being like that be merciful at all, unless we were pets of a sort? Why worship something that I could never meet, live with, or even understand? Such a being does not seem like a worship-able God to me, and doesn’t reflect the God of the scriptures. Indeed, an immaterial God does not seem to even exist in any reality that is familiar to us. It becomes a real problem for “traditional” Christians to explain what Christ was if not God in human flesh, and what the resurrection means.
As far as “needing” God, we absolutely do. God is the great Exemplar, Teacher, and most importantly Savior and Redeemer. We couldn’t arrive at any degree of perfection without God leading the way, and saving us when we trip up.
I’m not sure the difference between remedies and improvements is obvious to me.
That 90 lb weakling probably had something go wrong with his glands at a young age or age wrong or the like. Offering him a chance in the future to no longer be a 90 lb weakling (if such medical technology both existed and could be used safely) would not be something I’d hold back from him. There is no bold line between remedies and improvements.
In fact, I’d argue that immunization is arguably an improvement to the immune system and not a remedy of any sort.
We’ve been scientifically ‘improving’ ourselves for centuries now. We are nothing like our past ancestors in certain physical ways. We’re bigger, stronger, even smarter. And it’s due to the fact that we have greater knowledge and use it to improve things like our food supply in such a way that we grow differently. Is that a remedy or an improvement? I can’t really say.
Agellius, you’ll like it! Just don’t take it seriously.
“We’ve been scientifically ‘improving’ ourselves for centuries now. We are nothing like our past ancestors in certain physical ways.”
Indeed! Which is why our life expectancy has tripled in the last 200 years. Would you rather live to age 25, or 75? This is the difference that technology has made. This isn’t a remedy, but an improvement, an enhancement of what it is to be human. We have grown and extended our humanity through such means, in leaps and bounds.
Bruce, if you liked Diaspora, you should read Tad Williams’ Otherland series. It has mature content, but wowza!
One could make the argument that the prototypical or archetypal human, the ideal form of man, is not how we are like today in our fallen mortal state, but as God is like, in his immortal exalted state. He is the perfect form of a human. In that sense, we are not making ourselves more than we should be by seeking to advance or improve, but chipping away at the carnal man to become who we truly are, and only by God can we do it. He provided the plan for that very reason, for us to become like He is, and live the kind of life that He does. We were made in the image and likeness of God, but our human form today is not as it could or perhaps should be. It was patterned after Him only.
I have to hand it to you. Considering that you are not a Transhumanist and have a strong conservative and faithful reptuation, you’ve done a fantastic job of offering faithful ways to rethink their beliefs. I’ve never really thought of a lot of these things.
For me, it’s more like “Hey, I like Star Trek, Star Wars, and Diaspora…” Transhumanist like this stuff and want to see it real some day? Cool! There are Mormon Transhumanists! Cooler!
It doesn’t really go that much deeper. 😛
I’m not that worried about the spiritual implications of these Diaspora-type technologies because a) they are probably just fiction, b) maybe they are real, I don’t know, c) If they are real and God ends up using them, then I don’t care what my current feelings about them are about them — I’ll adopt them, d) if they are real and not God’s, then I’m sure we’ll have sufficient warning from prophets centuries beforehand.
It’s hard for me to get as worked up about this as some of you are. This is, without a doubt, still the realm of fiction. So we can imagine digitizing ourselves into the Tron world as something horrific where ageless programs take over and trap us there, or we can imagine it in a way that seems more natural to us (like Diaspora’s Eden like view of the future — well, until the big explosion happens.)
It’s all just imagination right now. I don’t blame you all that are imagining it horrifically, but I’d suggest that it’s still just imagination all the same and thus not really worth getting worked up about until it actually starts to become real and can be assessed in a realistic manner and not just within the limits of our imaginations (if it ever even does become real, which it may not.) So relax, guys. It’s meant to be fun right now. Don’t take it so seriously.
If God is a Borg, I’ll change my mind about the Borg by then. If not, then I’ll kill all Borg by changing the resonnance of my phaser frequency on a rotating basis. But until I actually see a real Borg, it doesn’t really matter what I think.
Just added it to my wish list. Thanks for the recommendation!
In response to Bryce (85):
“An incomprehensible, unknowable, inhuman, immaterial God is not one that I can come to know, grow to love, develop a relationship with, and ultimately emulate in any sense. How can I follow the example of one who is not like me?”
But… we believe God became man. Surely you knew that.
“Why would I follow the commandments of one who does not know me and my kind of life, who cannot succor me having experienced what I have?”
You think traditional Christians believe God doesn’t know us or our kind of life? But God knows everything! How could he not know us or our kind of life?
“Why would a being like that be merciful at all, unless we were pets of a sort?”
Why shouldn’t he be merciful?
“Why worship something that I could never meet, live with, or even understand?”
Millions have met him, and *everyone* lives with him, whether they realize it or not. As far as understanding, we don’t understand God completely, but for that matter I don’t understand my wife completely. Or myself.
“It becomes a real problem for “traditional” Christians to explain what Christ was if not God in human flesh, and what the resurrection means.”
Why “not God in human flesh”? We do believe Christ was God in human flesh. Where are you getting your notions of what traditional Christians believe?! : )
Resistance is futile! 😉
“But… we believe God became man. Surely you knew that.”
Yes, but is he still man?
“How could he not know us or our kind of life?”
If God is not ontologically or physiologically like us, then it is difficult to understand how he could truly know us. How can one truly and completely empathize with something that is wholly different than them? God condescended below all things so that he might succor us in our infirmities, so he could truly understand us (Alma 7:12). Moreover, I perceive we can become one with God, God’s ultimate purpose, wherein all things are shared except our physical beings, and wherein empathy and love reach perfection.
Why even speak of God as a “him” if he is not biologically, physiologically, anthropomorphically, or ontologically like a human, let alone male? Wouldn’t it be more descriptive to describe God as an “it”? Why would God prefer to be addressed as a mere human would? And wouldn’t that be confusing? Why do the scriptures describe God as a human, with all the parts and passions that a man would have, if he is not a man?
Pardon the language, as I know of no other better way to describe it, but was Christ a fleshy puppet for the immaterial God, or did God actually become a man in Christ (or was he man always, just in a different form)? If it is the former, then why the resurrection? I’d like to understand the traditional Christian view, if you could help me understand it better.
In response to Bruce (91):
As creepy as they sound, in reality, I think the idea of “tak[ing] control of our own evolution” is impossible, as also the idea that technology is “set to be the dominate [sic] factor in the future of human evolution”. Adding technology to human bodies is not evolution of the human species. That’s just human beings doing stuff to their bodies.
But modifying our bodies, I think is something that we should do only with extreme trepidation, if ever, given that God designed our bodies and made them to be temples of the Holy Spirit. Then again, I’m not sure, in Mormon theology, the extent to which it is believed that God actually designed our bodies, as opposed to inheriting the design from his ancestors as we do(?).
By the way, do the people who think it’s a great idea to modify our bodies, help evolution along, make ourselves “better, stronger, faster”, etc., via manmade technology, think that God has a modified body incorporating various types of artificial technology? I don’t know whether anyone has said one way or the other.
“There is no bold line between remedies and improvements.”
Nor is there a bold line between confidence and arrogance, between sexual attraction and lust, or between modesty and prudishness. But that doesn’t mean we ignore that there are differences between those things and that they matter. I’d be happy to debate about what constitutes an attempt to artificially improve the human form and what is a remedy or merely a good health practice. But the fact that such a debate exists does not extinguish the distinction.
If I fix an undiserable aspect of a babies DNA, how is that NOT evolution?
And what part of ‘speculative fiction’ didn’t you understand? 😛 Doesn’t make much sense to advance theories based on it.
Okay, here is my theory. God is something like the Ether in space that fills the whole of space and it thus everywhere present and upholds the whole universe. Since He can interact with everything simultaneously, He clearly has a “body” (see my comment about physicality) and thus is physical. But His “body” extends to hyperspace where there are no distances and that is why God can communicate and be aware of anything in the universe instantaneously.
I hereby now offer this, my Mormon Hypothesis, for everyone’s consideration and criticism.
Are you making the argument that to discuss the topic like is happening here is necessarily being ignorant that there are differences? If not, that I’m not sure there is an argument here.
“By the way, do the people who think it’s a great idea to modify our bodies, help evolution along, make ourselves ‘better, stronger, faster’, etc., via manmade technology, think that God has a modified body incorporating various types of artificial technology?”
If by “artificial technology” you mean a being that organizes matter, using a perfect knowledge of natural laws, for practical purposes and applications, then I would say yes.
“Are you making the argument that to discuss the topic like is happening here is necessarily being ignorant that there are differences? If not, that I’m not sure there is an argument here.”
First of all, if you read the comments, it is quite clear that many commenters do, in fact, deny that there is a meaningful difference between, say, getting laser surgery with 20/20 vision and taking Penicillin. So I don’t think I’m attacking a straw man here.
As I said before, if “Transhumanism” means “all that stuff that everyone already favors using technology to do, like cure diseases and communicate globally,” then it’s a redundancy. I assume that Transhumanists, even Mormon Transhumanists, do not intend to be redundant, but actually wish to push the envelope on what is an acceptable alteration of the human form. And that’s not an envelope I think ought to be pushed much beyond the currently prevailing consensus, which I find far more palatable than these aspirations of self-exaltation through technology.
Bruce, I don’t think the idea that we should transcend our mortal state through technology is just speculative fun. I take it seriously, because it IS serious, and insidious. And chock-full of hubris.
The thing is that even if we had perfect understanding of our universe, doesn’t mean we’d understand much of anything of God’s universe. We are in a fallen state, whatever else that means besides being separated from God. And if we are spending our time trying to transcend the mortal, fallen, limited world through technology, (Which is not the same thing as enablement. I, after all, have a bionic ear myself. “Fixing” is not “improving.”) rather than through Christ, we are most certainly stepping across a theological line that has grave implications.
Never even mind the awkward attempts to try to wrestle rationality or disjointed theology into the whole mess.
On second thought, scratch my whole theory. Upon further reflection I’ve decided it’s creepy and repugnant and no one in their right mind would believe it. So just forget it.
I’m staggered to hear that someone would have a universal objection to using LASIK to correct vision.
“that many commenters do, in fact, deny that there is a meaningful difference between, say, getting laser surgery with 20/20 vision and taking Penicillin. So I don’t think I’m attacking a straw man here.”
You’re right, I deny there is a meaningful difference between getting laser surgery and Penicillin.
If I am reading you correctly, you seem to have a logic like this in mind:
1. God intended us to have 20/20 vision — that is the norm and anyone less than that needs a remedy, but any more than that doesn’t.
2. Therefore getting surgery to to to 20/10 vision is an enhancement and an abomination before God’s intentions to us, but getting it when you have bad vision isn’t.
The whole of it relies upon the idea that God intended us to have 20/20 vision. I am not sure God particularly cares. I suspect 20/20 vision is mostly just a happenstance of our evolution, actually. And I suspect that given the right forward evolution and right nutrition, etc, that 20/20 could some day by quite inadequet to be part of human society.
What you seem to be missing is that you can’t know if getting surgery to go to 20/10 vision will *feel* unnatural by the time it becomes so safe and easy that people actually would bother to pay for it. By that point, who knows. YOu are therefore just leaping with imagination to conclusions that aren’t possible until we actually get there.
So there are genetic variations that give some people an “enhanced” sense of smell, superior vision or athletic ability or memory, strong resiliency to certain diseases, etc.
Does transhumanism distinguish between “better” and “perfect”? Is there a unanimous agreement on the definition of “perfection”? Is “perfect” defined as the maximum level a human might achieve “naturally”? Are there certain enhancements that would be considered unethical or crossing the line?
“the idea that we should transcend our mortal state through technology”
SR, I’m going to have to ask clarifying questions. I’m sorry. But I can’t really understand what you are getting at.
What I’m not clear on is why this seems spiritually insidious to you, given that it’s all fiction right now.
After reading your comment, I have in mind three possibilities. That or else I’m missing your point entirely.
1. You falsely think scanning yourself into a computer (or some other type of lengthening of life technology) is really a form of immortality by itself, therefore you object to finding immortality without God. (While we do call such things “immortality” in fact living for a billion or even a trillion years is still quite finite and thus not immortality. Such technologies would not create immortality.)
2. You object to fantasizing about stuff like this because it’s not real and should not be treated as real because fantasizing about unreal things is spiritually damaging.
3. You are assuming it’s really possible to make such technologies, but it would be spiritually damaging to do so because your also assuming God objects to it, therefore it’s spiritually damaging because God objects to it.
I’ve got to be honest, if it’s #1, I think you’ve misunderstood what can actually be done with such a technology (assuming it’s even real at all.) Real immortality would take more than any techonology we can currently conceive.
If it’s #2, I would argue with you at all, as you might be right. But I’m not sure I’d agree either. It would have to be an agreement to disagree based on one’s personal interpretation and personal prayers and attempts to approach God. It is not clear to me that there is something wrong with such thoughts, even if just a fantasy. I suspect a great many things we assume to be true are fantasies — including all our scientific theories if in fact this is just a fallen world nothing like God’s actual world. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t proceed with science and all that can come out of it. Or even that God doesn’t want to teach us things through such fallen science.
If it’s #3, I’m not sure how I’d derive God’s will. Quoting that our bodies are a temple misses the point that when you scan yourself into a computer or do some other type of enhancement, you still have a body. (A virtual body is still a body, actually. There is no difference between a virtual body and a real body from the point of view of the virtual person, who is in fact a real person.)
Now maybe God included such concepts of bodies (virtual or robotic bodies) as temples, and maybe He didn’t. That isn’t something I can know without God telling us. And maybe, if such technologies actually came to exist, God would reveal an objection to them and maybe He won’t. That would be speculation at this point. But I’m not clear that there is a known answer at this time. So I’m not prepared to take either speculation (if the person sincerely holds it) and go after it. I’m prepare to let people believe what they want on such speculative subjects. I don’t even have an opinion of my own, to be honest. And am not likely to form such an opinion prior to such technologies actually existing.
So I’m fine with you honestly feeling its insidious. And I’m fine with you objecting to it for yourself. And I’m also fine with someone that thinks God would not object to ‘wait and see’ if such technologies actually come to exist and what God has to say about it then. I’m just not sure I have a basis for a judgment at this time.
“The thing is that even if we had perfect understanding of our universe, doesn’t mean we’d understand much of anything of God’s universe”
Update: this suggestions a #4:
#4 – you may or may not be able to scan yourself into a computer or lengthen life via such technologies, but it’s a waste of time because God does not intend for us to stay in mortality that long.
While this is certainly possible too, #4 is based on assumptions about God’s will that I’m not sure are known at this time either. I feel no obligation to assume it will go one way or the other at this time.
Guys, we’re all just speculating. I know it doesn’t feel that way. I know it feels like something is really at stake here. But it just isn’t true. It’s just speculation all the way around.
It should be obvious by now that I don’t really take this all that seriously. But if I get at kick out of it, then I do. And if others take it more seriously (perhaps even becoming their personal specualtions about God) then they do.
The LDS Church does not discourage personal speculations as far as I can tell. I would object whole heartedly if someone started to advance it as anything more than a speculation. But so long as it’s just a speculation, I simply do not see it as the slightest bit insidious.
If there is some Mormon Transhumanist out there that honestly believes that God is going to utilize the Singularity as the basis for the final resurrection (and has some wild scientific theory about how to over come both the second law of thermodynamics AND the law of Eternal Returns i.e. Poincare’s reoccurance theorem) then frankly, it seems a little weird to me, but I’m not going to call it insidious or object to it. So long as they keep it in mind as a speculation and don’t start trying to agitating for changing the Church to adopt it as doctrine. I’m just not feeling the ‘creepiness’ that you all feel over such a thing. But then I’m so comfortable with wild speculation (that is treated as speculation) so maybe I’m more adapted to such wild speculations.
Did you know that a Catholic priest blessed one of the first cryonics patient? This is the only actually existing Transhumanist technology that I know of and Catholics have already shown acceptance of it back in 1969.
A little creepy, yes.
“I suspect 20/20 vision is mostly just a happenstance of our evolution, actually. And I suspect that given the right forward evolution and right nutrition, etc, that 20/20 could some day by quite inadequet to be part of human society.”
Actually, the whole point of “20/20” vision is that you see at 20 feet what a normal, healthy person sees at 20 feet. So 20/20 could never be inadequate for human society.
“What you seem to be missing is that you can’t know if getting surgery to go to 20/10 vision will *feel* unnatural by the time it becomes so safe and easy that people actually would bother to pay for it.”
Not to be pedantic, but I actually have 20/10 vision naturally, and it doesn’t seem unnatural because it isn’t unnatural, it’s inborn. But if I went under the knife to get that level of vision it would be “unnatural” because of how it was obtained. In certain regions of Southern California, “normal” means botox and liposuction. It’s normal, but it’s not natural.
Do you not recognize any difference between a child who has plastic surgery to have a cleft palate corrected, and a woman who has a butt lift? If you do, then can you see the wisdom in the common sense rule of thumb I’m setting forth?
MC, first, I simply do not see a problem with a woman getting cosmetic surgery. So right there we’ve already parted ways, apparently.
Do it see it as the *same* as fixing a cleft chin?
I honestly honestly don’t care. Yes, I can see your point that one is ‘fixing something’ in some sense in a way that cosmetic surgery is not.
But I just can’t see why it matters in the slightest. It seems really odd to me that you think there is some spiritual dimension here. I do not believe that there is and I personally think you’re just being judgmental of the woman getting cosmetic surgery. Let her do it! You’re in no position to judge her. If you personally don’t want such surgery, I won’t judge you either over the fact that you choose not to.
I think I should tell you a story. I have good friend that is through and through orthodox Mormon. He started talking to me about how God was the master of the law of our universe.
I finally had to tell him that I believed God’s reality was different from ours. He freaked out because he was convinced his view was the “correct doctrine” and mine the “speculative one.”
Don’t assume there is a defintive doctrine on this subject. People grow up with differing ideas on this. I’m like you on this, personally. But it’s speculation either way.
It’s a cleft palate I referred to, not a cleft chin. No man in his right mind would correct a cleft chin.
“Yes, I can see your point that one is ‘fixing something’ in some sense in a way that cosmetic surgery is not.”
Good, this seems to me to be an obvious point that some people just won’t concede for argument purposes.
“It seems really odd to me that you think there is some spiritual dimension here.”
????????!!!!!!!! Are only Transhumanists allowed to see a spiritual dimension in the alteration the human form? Has the spiritual significance of changes to the human form not been the focus of this discussion? Does drinking and smoking have a spiritual dimension? What about body piercings and tattoos? How do you differentiate between those actions regarding our bodies that have a spiritual dimension, and those which do not?
“I do not believe that there is and I personally think you’re just being judgmental of the woman getting cosmetic surgery.”
Well, by that standard, you sound like you are “personally” a little judgmental about my judgmental judgment, no? Or is it possible to have a discussion about what actions are good or bad without being accused of “judging”?
“Let her do it!”
Never said I wouldn’t.
“You’re in no position to judge her.”
Nope, I sure am not, that’s God’s place. But since she’s a hypothetical woman, this accusation of “judging” is a bit ridiculous. If I hold a low opinion of Mormon Transhumanism, is that also “judgmental”? I do hold a low opinion of most forms of plastic surgery, which I find vain and unnatural. Gordon B. Hinckley seemed to have a low opinion of multitudinous body piercings. I don’t see how evaluating the desirability or general “rightness” of various actions makes either me or Pres. Hinckley judgmental.
In response to Bryce (94):
You write, “I’d like to understand the traditional Christian view, if you could help me understand it better.”
I would love that kind of a discussion, but not in this forum. Feel free to email me if you want. Click my name to go to my blog, then click the “Contact Me” tab.
“I’m staggered to hear that someone would have a universal objection to using LASIK to correct vision.”
NO ONE said this. Please stop projecting your preferred straw men into this discussion.
“You’re right, I deny there is a meaningful difference between getting laser surgery and Penicillin.”
That’s not what I said, I said “getting laser surgery with 20/20 vision and taking Penicillin.” As in, using laser surgery to improve upon already healthy vision. You seemed to understand this before, so I hope you’re not trying to elide the difference.
MC, re-reading what you stated earlier about LASIK, I see (heh) that I misunderstood what you were trying to say. My apologies.
That being said, I completely disagree that 20/20 vision is what God “intends” anymore than a 38-year-life span 1800 years ago was what God “intended”.
“Actually, the whole point of ’20/20′ vision is that you see at 20 feet what a normal, healthy person sees at 20 feet. So 20/20 could never be inadequate for human society.”
I sure hope that some day we can see better than a normal healthy person can at 20 feet today. Much better! If I could, I would prefer to be able to see 200 feet, or 2000 feet, as we see 20 feet today. What would that be 20/1? 20/0.001? I don’t know how this could be harmful to society, or to the gospel. What is God’s visual acuity?
When I first received my glasses, and again when I received my contacts for the first time, I could probably see at 20/10 or better. I could see every pebble on the road, and every leaf in the trees. It was absolutely wonderful. I could see things like I’ve never seen before. My perception was unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, quite literally. It was almost like a spiritual experience for me. Gradually the resolution wore off, and now with corrective lenses I see pretty much normally 20/20. Why would it be wrong to keep that 20/10 or better vision? Why would it be wrong to be able to see so much better, if there were no other side effects or harmful consequences? And yes, we need to study adverse effects. Drugs can give us a great high, but they are ultimately harmful to our bodies, and will kill us. But many of us take vitamins today, which have been shown to give us better health than otherwise.
It’s really a matter of resolution. Why is a resolution of 20/10 or 20/5 not as good or moral as 20/20? If we could give 20/5 to everyone on earth today, why not? Of course, you don’t have to. No one is being forced to get Lasik. But at some point, these things will become normative, and then it may be necessary to do them, in order to fit within the greater society (you must have corrective lenses to drive a car if your eyesight is beyond a certain threshold, otherwise you are endangering the lives of other motorists on the highway). You could live as a hermit in a lean-to in the forest, without phone, electricity, heating, air conditioning, plumbing, or running water, but you don’t. Why? What is it about these enhancements to humanity that are ok, while others are not?
What you seem to be proposing is that we shouldn’t use binoculars or microscopes or telescopes or even eyeglasses or contact lenses, because they are unnatural, and not inborn. We should view the stars and small objects with our natural, unaided eyes, because that is how we were born. Anything more or less than this is evil because it is unnatural? Do we need to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator, average for the human race, for it to be deemed natural? What makes a cleft palate any more unnatural or not inborn than a regular palate? People are born with both. If we only pursued those things which are “natural,” and status quo in our environment, we would make very little progress as a people, few things would be invented, and we might as well return to the Dark Ages, for their environment was “natural” to them.
You probably wonder what I think about cosmetic surgery. I think there are cases when it is perfectly reasonable that someone might want cosmetic surgery, to improve their appearance, which can also enhance their well-being and quality of life. There may be other cases when someone wants cosmetic surgery simply to look like a supermodel, to keep up with the Joneses, or to puff themselves up (quite literally!) over their peers. There is a difference in approach, and there is always a difference by case. Give an example! Ok. Someone with severe acne wants to take some Proactiv® steps, perhaps even surgery, to clear their complexion, so that they can have better chances at making friends and attracting someone of the opposite sex to get married. On the other hand, someone sees Gisele Bundchen on TV, and decides they want to look like them, so they decide they want all kinds of liposuction, breast augmentation, eye lifts, nip & tucks, etc. to change their appearance. You might say the person with acne has a problem, that it’s unnatural, but she was born that way, as are many other people, so that argument doesn’t really hold water. I think it’s a matter of degrees, our heart’s desires, and that there are bounds within which we need to keep our passions.
“But at some point, these things will become normative, and then it may be necessary to do them, in order to fit within the greater society (you must have corrective lenses to drive a car if your eyesight is beyond a certain threshold, otherwise you are endangering the lives of other motorists on the highway).”
This is precisely the sort of dystopia I’m arguing against, one in which “corrective” actions are necessary to keep up with everyone else’s alterations from the healthy state they were born in. I do not consider it a morally neutral state of affairs when a ballplayer is faced with the agonizing decision to take anabolic steroids when all of his competitors are doing so.
In response to Bruce (107):
“Did you know that a Catholic priest blessed one of the first cryonics patient? This is the only actually existing Transhumanist technology that I know of and Catholics have already shown acceptance of it back in 1969.”
All I can say is, Catholic priests have done all kinds of crazy stuff, especially in the 60s. The actions of one priest do not Catholic teaching make.
“This is precisely the sort of dystopia I’m arguing against, one in which ‘corrective’ actions are necessary to keep up with everyone else’s alterations from the healthy state they were born in.”
Then we’re already living in a dystopia, because corrective lenses are required by law to drive a car if your eyesight is poor. Should people with bad eyesight be allowed to drive? Or should they be required to get corrective lenses if they want that privilege? In any other society in history, you might have got along just fine with poor eyesight. But in our society, we have argued that driving is a good thing, and that in order to drive, your eyesight must be at a certain level. If that means you need corrective lenses, or corrective eye surgery, then that is your obligation for the privilege to drive.
Enhancements to our motorways in the future might have us travelling at 200 mph, or 400 mph (I’d get to work in a few seconds! Wahoo!), in which case our vision might be required to be 20/1. Is this a morally good or bad thing? Are self-driving cars a morally good or bad thing? Were cars meant to be driven by humans, or can they be driven by computers and machines? Most cars today are machines with computers on board already.
Would it have been better if the car had not been invented so that we would not be in this dystopia, or be confronted by it?
Is there any official doctrine against Cryonics? Probably not or the article would have mentioned it. So it’s actually a matter of conscious right now, probably
So a catholic priest blessed the only Transhumanist technology in existence that, by the way, includes such practices as chopping off a dead person’s head and freezing it so that you can connect it to a robotic body later.
Just saying 😉
MC says “Well, by that standard, you sound like you are “personally” a little judgmental about my judgmental judgment, no?”
If all you were saying was that *you personally* feel that way *for yourself*, but have no issue with the woman doing it (especially if she prays about it and feels right about it), than that would be one thing.
But it seems to me like you are saying that a woman that gets cosmetic surgery is at odds with God’s intentions for us all and there is no way God wants her to do it.
And if that is what you are saying, I’m right when I say that I am, without a doubt, accurately judging your judgments to be at odds with LDS teachings.
And while we’re at it, what about any of the other following situations:
1. A future 90 lb weakling can’t find a marriage partner and he really wishes to have a Temple Marriage. So he uses new technologies that safely and effectively cause his body to grow larger but without side effects (remember, it’s in the future)
2. A boy with average (i.e. 20/20) eye sight has dreamed of being a pilot with a new high tech plane. But to do it, you need 20/10 vision. So he goes and gets surgery so that he can fulfill his dream.
There is nothing inherently immoral about either of these. (For the sake of argument, assume they are Mormons and study out the decision, go to God and say they feel right about it, then seek confirmation and feel like they get it.)
If you personally prayed about these and felt wrong about them, I’d have no issue with you deciding to avoid both for yourself. And I’d not judge you in the slighest over a personl decision like that.
But you’ve not got an LDS leg to stand on if you think there is some sort of doctrine that that we are not to “enhance” ourselves and only use “remedies”. (The LDS approach to this would be “pray about it and use wisdom.”)
But there is an LDS doctrine we are not to judge others who seek personal answers to prayers and make decisions like this that are not at odds with any LDS Teachings. They are free to receive their own revelation and to follow it. And so are you. But it’s personal, you are not to decide if their revelations are “right” or not.
Because it’s none of our business, by the way. You do not know what God’s will is concerning these hypothetical or (in the case of cosmetic surgery) real people. And you aren’t even (from an LDS perspective) in a position to ask God about them and get an answer.
So, yes, we will not be having this discussion without a apropros discussion about proper types of judging of others, because it’s relevant now and you seem to have crossed the line to me by declaring your own doctrines that the Church does not hold.
Bruce, you are taking my own moral views and acting as though I condemned as apostates anyone who disagrees with them. Go back and look; I didn’t. I am no more accusing anyone of apostasy or declaring my views to be God’s will than someone who says, “I think people shouldn’t watch Glee because it promotes immorality.” What’s wrong with trying to debate bad, good, better, and best? Why would I want to answer all of your hypotheticals if you’re just going to accuse me of being “at odds with LDS teachings” unless I agree with you in every particular?
“But you’ve not got an LDS leg to stand on if you think there is some sort of doctrine that that we are not to “enhance” ourselves and only use “remedies”.”
I must be in Kansas, for straw men abound. Am I prohibited from making my own moral evaluations because there’s been no prophetic pronouncement on them. Boy oh boy, the MTA is in trouble, then…
If Transhumanism is such a great thing, its defenders should be glad to have others evaluate its moral merits, rather than resorting to the “You’re not the boss of me” defense.
“Am I prohibited from making my own moral evaluations because there’s been no prophetic pronouncement on them”
Why, yes, if you try to apply them to others beside yourself.
(I take “prohibited” here to not mean “I’m not allowed to do it” — because clearly you already have and no one stopped you. I take “prohibited” to mean “I can’t do it without someone correctly pointing out that I’m doing something morally questionable.”)
Also consider “my own moral evaluations” vs. “I am no more… declaring my views to be God’s will”
Well, actally a moral evaluation is a declaring of God’s will. How could it not be?
“I think people shouldn’t watch Glee because it promotes immorality”
This also is a declaring of God’s will, yes.
How can you not see the difference here, MC?
Without condemning or condoning Glee (I don’t watch it, so no opinion) I could at least understand the above statement as making sense from the stand point that the LDS Church *does in fact consider homosexuality a sin.* Therefore opining “I don’t think people should support Glee” at least has the virtue of being rationally derivable from an actual LDS Doctrine.
It’s so completely different in the case of life extension and cosmetic surgery.
There is no LDS doctrine you are basising this on. You’re not opining on how some LDS doctrine might best apply to the TV show Glee, you’re making up a brand new doctrine then opining on how it applies to a woman that gets cosmetic surgery.
How can you not see the difference here? There a much bigger difference here than between fixing a cleft chin and getting cosmetic surgery. (And as you pointed out, I was able to see the difference. Can you see the difference here?)
Pingback: I am Vincent Freeman, and How Transhumanism Hurts and Helps Me – Blackpool Creative with Bryce Haymond
I’ve continued some of my commentary on this subject over on my blog at BlackpoolCreative.com. I’d be interested in your thoughts:
“There is no LDS doctrine you are basising this on. You’re not opining on how some LDS doctrine might best apply to the TV show Glee, you’re making up a brand new doctrine then opining on how it applies to a woman that gets cosmetic surgery.”
Last I checked, vanity (which I already mentioned as the source of my distaste for cosmetic surgery) and an excessive focus on outward appearance are both condemned in the scriptures. Reasonable people may disagree on where one draws the line between vanity and merely trying to look nice. But to argue that no Church member could reasonably conclude, based on the scriptures, that one ought not go to great lengths to alter a perfectly healthy body for purposes of outward appearance, shows that you have no intention of understanding the opposing viewpoint. I notice that the Church’s own newspaper very irresponsibly invited members of the Church to blasphemously proclaim “God’s will” on this issue:
Our discussion has obviously turned into a discussion about the discussion, which is tiresome, so I’ll leave my last word and then go away.
You put up a post about Mormon Transhumanists, listing some of their “values”. I assume that when the MTA lists its “values,” which are in part based on their understanding of the scriptures, you do not assume that they are proclaiming their beliefs to be God’s word, or that they stand in judgment on all who disagree. I notice that you didn’t cry “STOP JUDGING!!” when some Transhumanists claimed that non-Transhumanist members were sitting on a “Couch of Babel”. Yet this is the preposterous standard you apply to me.
You cited this post as an example of “How to best invite greater dialogue on the Internet”. I’ve got a hint for you. If members disagree about how the gospel ought to be applied in daily life, you don’t “invite greater dialogue” by saying that everyone who disagrees with your particular take is “at odds with LDS teachings.” You are trying to shut down debate. If you only wanted people to say that the MTA was 100% compatible with how we interpret the scriptures, you could have saved us some time by saying so in the original post.
But it seems to me like you are saying that a woman that gets cosmetic surgery is at odds with God’s intentions for us all and there is no way God wants her to do it.
And if that is what you are saying, I’m right when I say that I am, without a doubt, accurately judging your judgments to be at odds with LDS teachings.
That’s not a tenable way of approaching revelation, IMHO. It means that we assume that every general moral principle is revealed to the Church as the whole and the only topics on which we don’t have a revelation are the ones on which there are no general rules.
But that would mean (1) that revelation is never withheld in response to wickedness, or predicated on righteousness, which clearly contradicts numerous scriptures and (2) that revelation was never premised on someone thinking to ask the question, which also contradicts a number of scriptures and historical experience.
In general, Church silence is not consent, only silence. The absence of revelation is not itself a revelation that an activity is permissible.
No, Adam, but in the Church silence is an understanding that you aren’t supposed to start claiming revelation as to what God’s will concerning others is on such a silent subject. So I guess the question is whether or not that now pertains to the discussion. Has MC’s position now reached the point where we are coming up with a new doctrine in public? I guess there is some room for debate over that, but that is my point of view. I do not see how establishing a moral divide between remedies vs. enhancments is not establishing a new doctrine that I’ve never heard of before. That is what I am taking exception to.
If someone saw it in, perhaps, a more general sense (he’s just publicly expressing his private opinions) I guess I could understand why they disagree with me over this. But that is how I read him, as going beyond merely expressing private opinions and into what God’s will is on a subject that is still unrevealed.
(Leaving room for your view, MC might be right that it is God’s will, but following my view might be wrong to express it in this way. So we could, theoretically, both be right.)
MC, please pay attention to an important point here.
You are expressing a moral divide between remedies and enhancements (whatever that means.) You expressed your moral opinion on the subject: remedies are okay, enhancements are morally questionable.
I then expressed my own moral opinion: that this is new doctrine and the Church has never taught that to the best of my ability, thus I took moral exception to creation of a public new doctrine.
You then felt that my view was wrong because you aren’t actually judging people (well, you are, but not eternally so) or shutting them down in some way, just expressing an opinion for dicussion. What is wrong with that?
But, of course, I feel exactly the same way about my opinion. But how do you perceive my opinion? As judging you and shutting you down. And it makes you angry.
Do you see the problem? I see no real solution to this problem but to accept that we are both have a right to our opinions, including opinions of other people’s opinions. And that neither of us is actually being “shut down” in some way.
You can bow out of the conversation as you please, of course. (And I, for one, aee no problem with that.) But I have enjoyed the conversation, for what it is worth. Feel free to clarify your position such that I can see how you look at it differently such that it is not a new public doctrine to you. Or just do your own post, of course. No hard feelings either way.
I’ve been impressed by some of Adam G’s writing, and I’m sure Adam G is more tactful in person, but separated as we are by the Internet, he’s comfortable invoking some good old fashioned demonization. Transhumanism is “a counterfeit of the gospel”, he claims, and “one form of the abomination of desolations”. Had he thrown in “Satanic”, he would have made explicit that which is already implicit in this tactic that religious fundamentalists have used for thousands of years to disparage ideas with which they disagree. I’m surprised by the hostility, and I’m disappointed by the demonizing, but maybe he was more interested in provoking a serious response than in the possibility that someone would take his demonization seriously. I hope that’s the case; and, hey, here I am responding, so the provocation worked!
Adam G says Transhumanism is “trying to accomplish theoretically gospel means through illicit ends”. I don’t understand this criticism as written, so I’ll assume he meant that Transhumanism is “trying to accomplish theoretically gospel ends through illicit means”. The Gospel as described in Mormon scripture is faith, repentance and baptism in Christ. The means are faith, repentance and baptism. The end is Christ. Needless to say, there are innumerable interpretations of each of these principles and their interrelations, but the Book of Mormon does go so far as to condemn explicitly any attempt to establish more or less than these means and this end as Christ’s doctrine, so I’ll assume Adam G has nothing more or less in mind when referencing “the gospel”. Does Transhumanism propose Christ as end through any means other than faith, repentance and baptism? No. On one hand, most interpretations of Transhumanism have no more to say about Christ explicitly than does mathematics. On the other hand, most interpretations of Mormon Transhumanism (as well as most interpretations of Christian Transhumanism) embrace faith, repentance and baptism. Disagreement between Adam G and Mormon Transhumanists is not as likely to be found in whether we should embrace faith, repentance and baptism, but rather in how we interpret faith, repentance and baptism. Disagreement is perhaps also likely to be found in how we interpret Christ. Yet the presence or even the prevalence of such interpretive disagreement is not wholly introduced or resolved by adding Transhumanism to Mormonism. Mormons disagree in their interpretations of these principles whether they’re Transhumanists or not.
Adam G says that “spiritual problems must have spiritual solutions”, suggesting that Transhumanism proposes a non-spiritual solution to a spiritual problem. This suggestion is itself problematic for a couple reasons. First, while Transhumanists generally may disagree about whether Transhumanism can or should be spiritual, most Mormon Transhumanists affirm that Mormon Transhumanism is and should be spiritual. Adam G may not agree with Mormon Transhumanists on this matter, but such a disagreement should be regarded as controversial at best, at least until Adam G proposes some persuasive reasons to reject Mormon Transhumanists’ claims to spirituality. Second, many Mormons believe that spiritual problems must have both spiritual and physical solutions, reflecting Mormon scripture that repeatedly embraces an interdependence between spirituality and physicality. Adam G may not agree, but Mormon Transhumanists are well within Mormon norms when advocating that spiritual problems need both spiritual and physical solutions.
Adam G continues, “Transcending humanity is not something that can be done mechanically, which is what transhumanism offers.” This criticism of Transhumanism is a straw man, or perhaps a hollow plastic or cold metal man. Humanity’s earliest applications of technology to itself, reiteratively producing a humanity different (genetically and otherwise) than each previous humanity, were perhaps well described by the connotations of “mechanical”, but we’re passing (if we’ve not passed) that now. Our technology has become increasingly integrated with our lives, our identities and anatomies, our communities and environment. Boundaries are blurring between mechanical and organic, the rate of change continues to accelerate, and boundaries will blur between mechanical and spiritual. Humanity has already transcended itself through technology, and it will continue to do so. More importantly, though, particularly for a Mormon Transhumanist, is the question of whether and how humanity should continue to transcend itself in various ways. How should we continue applying technology to ourselves? This is a spiritual question that we should answer according to whatever wisdom and inspiration we might have, informed of our scientific knowledge, gathered through our technological power. When we answer that spiritual question, we should continue to act according to whatever wisdom and inspiration we might have, leveraging our scientific knowledge and technological power. Science and technology need not be degrading. They are no more nor less than extensions of our knowledge and power, which can be degrading, but can also be exalting. As knowledge and power are not inherently good or evil, so science and technology are not inherently good or evil. As increases in knowledge and power are necessary to becoming God, so advances in science and technology are necessary to becoming God. As increases in knowledge and power are not sufficient for becoming God, so advances in science and technology are not sufficient for becoming God. Most importantly, we must increase in charity, but even charity is not wholly independent of knowledge or power. They affect each other, and the same is true of the relation between charity, science and technology.
Adam G says, “Mormonism accepts that the limits and struggles of mortality are part of the plan, whereas transhumanism rejects these parts of our natural progression.” That assessment of Transhumanism is plainly inaccurate. Most Transhumanists see our present characteristics, including mortality, as the results of natural progression in complexity via evolution, cosmic and eventually biological, that began billions of years ago. Transhumanists, like others who embrace evolution, disagree among themselves regarding the predictability of evolution, but an accurate characterization of Transhumanism must account for the many Transhumanists who see almost an inevitability in our biological evolution and most Transhumanists who see an intentionality in our present evolution. It would be accurate to claim that most Transhumanists advocate overcoming present notions of death and suffering, but the question of whether limits and struggles are part of the plan is controversial among Transhumanists. Some Transhumanists think we can abolish suffering altogether. Others, such as I, think the notion of abolishing suffering is ultimately nonsensical apart from abolishing life, which is a bad idea. Some Transhumanists are with Adam G when he says that limits and struggles are part of the plan, and others are not.
Adam G says that “Mormonism teaches that deification comes through ordinances, community, and the atonement of Christ. Transhumanism aspires to deification through technology.” Most Mormon Transhumanists would agree with him that ordinances, community and the Atonement of Christ are among the means by which we may attain exaltation. Most would also contend that technology should be considered among the means. If Adam G were to contend that technology is not among the means, he would need to explain why Mormons use technology to facilitate and expedite their ordinances, strengthen their community, and evangelize the Atonement of Christ. He would need to explain why we emulate Jesus’ sacrifice through our technology-assisted service. If it’s not because technology is among the means of exaltation then I have no explanation.
Adam G claims, “Mormonism teaches that death is necessary for fallen creatures”. This is not true. Mormon scripture contains multiple stories of mortals that did not die. Mormonism teaches only that change is necessary, whether that change is death combined with resurrection or transfiguration. Adam G also claims “that immortality in a fallen state is a form of damnation”. With that I agree, but he continues, “Transhumanism seeks immortality in a fallen state.” I don’t now how Adam G interprets “fallen state”, and many Mormons and I interpret a “fallen state” as a morally degraded state. Given that understanding of “fallen state”, it’s hardly the case that Transhumanism is essentially about immortality in a fallen state. To the contrary, most Transhumanists are concerned with ethics, and even the enhancement of ethics, as an essential complement to increases in our knowledge and power. Adam G was probably intending to allude to the part of the story of the Garden of Eden when God separates Adam from the Tree of Life, noting that Adam should not be allowed to live forever in his sins. Adam G appears to be assuming that a gradual change from mortality to immortality would be bad in our present state of moral degradation because we’d then live forever in our sins, but there’s no logical incompatibility between a gradual change from mortality to immortality and an accompanying gradual change from moral degradation to moral sanctification.
Adam G says, “Mormonism teaches that the body is a great gift and that the human form is in the image of God. Transhumanism aspires to free the mind from the body through ‘downloading’ and other means and convert the body into a property. Transhumanism aspires to move beyond the human form.” Along with most Mormons, I share Adam’s esteem for the body, and I share his trust that humanity was created in the image of God. However, his characterizations of Transhumanism is too narrow and his characterization of Mormonism is too sparse. Despite Adam G’s claims, not all Transhumanists seek to negate the body or its form. Many are highly focused on radically extending biological life more or less as we now experience it. Some Transhumanists do focus elsewhere, but even those tend not to reject embodiment wholly because most Transhumanists are philosophical materialists (like Mormons). Adam G’s characterization of Mormonism is also too sparse because it fails to acknowledge the complexity of Mormon theology related to God’s embodiment. The Bible teaches that “God is not a man”, to which Joseph Smith responded that God is an “exalted man”. Within this contextual tension, Mormon scripture describes heavens above heavens, varying in glory, innumerable as the stars, and populated with persons whose bodies differ from each other, to such extents as “spirit” (still material) replacing blood. The possibility space of exalted humanity in comparison to present humanity is at least that of present humanity in comparison to embryonic humanity. What would you say to an embryo that claims to have been created in the image of humans?
Adam G expresses his opinion that “Supernaturalism is the converse of naturalism, the belief that everything can be reduced to chemistry and physics. Believing that consciousness and love and math and truth and righteousness are real is a form of supernaturalism. So is believing in spirits, and miracles.” Many books can be and have been written on the differences between naturalism and supernaturalism, and their relations to reductionism and holism, empiricism and rationalism, idealism and materialism. None of the books have proven or will prove that our experience is real, or not. Reality is posited, not proven, except within the context of a position. If that is supernaturalism then I’m a supernaturalist. However, most persons don’t use “supernaturalism” in this way. Most persons consider math and love to be natural, as most consider spirits and miracles to be supernatural. Apparently like Adam G, I reject the categorical divide. Also apparently like Adam G, I believe in spirits and miracles. However, where he describes math and love as supernatural like spirits and miracles, I describe spirits and miracles as natural like math and love. Our reasons would be interesting to explore, but it would be disingenuous for either of us to equivocate between our positions and typical applications of these categories.
… times up for today. I hope I’ve accurately presented Adam G. To the extent I haven’t, I apologize in advance.
“I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.” It’s impossible for every sin to be expressly prohibited by Church doctrine. The discussion we were having was whether dramatic alterations of one’s body for anything other than corrective purposes is morally correct. I believe that one may answer this question in the negative OR the positive without running afoul of LDS teachings. You said (although you seem to have backtracked some) that anyone taking my side in that debate is in violation of LDS doctrine, that the issue wasn’t even a proper one for discussion. It’s not that you have kept me from expressing my opinion. It’s that you declared the whole debate anathema. THAT’S what I mean by shutting down debate.
And with that I really am done.
MC, the declarations of anathema began with the demonization of Transhumanism.
I forgot to mention that transhumanism is Satanic.
No, Adam, but in the Church silence is an understanding that you aren’t supposed to start claiming revelation as to what God’s will concerning others is on such a silent subject.
No, because revelation is a claim to authority. But one could properly claim that reason, experience, and pre-existing revelation–which are all publicly available sources–*should* lead one to some generally-applicable principle that has not itself been revealed.
One could even just make a statement that some generally-applicable principle is correct, without providing reasons, as long as one doesn’t state that its generally applicable by way of revelation to oneself.
I don’t see MC claiming any revelation obligatory on the rest of us here.
Thanks for clarifying, Adam G. I’m interested in whether and how you respond when a christian fundamentalist characterizes Mormonism as Satanic. Thoughts?
I respond that they’re wrong.
How do you respond when people ask you the name of the fallacy that because some other people somewhere have used a term wrongly in some context, it must be used wrongly by someone else somewhere else in a different context?
Adam G, you’re wrong.
Well, you make a good case that perhaps we could interpret MC as merely talking about his own experience and therefore not claiming anything that amounts to new doctrine or revelation. So I’m prepared to accept that an intelligent person like yourself could read him that way.
Now let me explain why I do not read him that way. (At least not until his last comment, i.e. “I believe that one may answer this question in the negative OR the positive without running afoul of LDS teachings.”)
MC started out with what did seem to be a pretty straightforward position that could, perhaps, be credited to experience and non-theological in nature. For example, not replacing your eyes with mechanical telescopes. (Ick!)
But then he veered into a new realm establishing an idea that remedies were okay and enhancements were immoral. If it’s broken, you can fix it. If it’s not broken, then God intended you that way. Following his own new moral rule, he then questioned the inherent morality of cosmetic surgery (amongst other things.) (I keep trying to find where he says it could be answered either way, but I can’t find it. Perhaps I just missed it. It’s a long thread now.)
I am certainly not against him deciding that cosmetic surgery is not for himself. But I’ve known people whose lives were changed by cosmetic surgery for the better. People even placed high up in places of responsibility for the LDS Church. The idea that cosmetic surgery is immoral or that it is vain does not pass my life experience. I am on Bryce’s side here that it differs by person and individual circumstance.
Further, MCs basis for such a judgment does not seem to me to be life experience at all. (Again, perhaps I’m missing where it nuances this better.) In fact, if we take the 20/20 vision example, it’s an argument that seems more than just a little logically precarious to me. He is suggesting that if your eyesight is not 20/20, then Lasik is fine, because your eyes are “broken” and thus this is “remedy.” But if you have 20/20 vision, then getting Lasik to go to 20/10 would of necessity be immoral because “God intend you this way.” No where do I see his argument falling solely into what I’d see as an experiential category such as “20/20 vision is good enough for all purposes, so it’s unwise to get it to go to 20/10.” (Consider my own counter example here of someone that needs 20/10 vision to pursue a line of work. Made up, yes, but I think it squarely points out why there is no inherent moral bar here.)
But how are we coming up with the idea that 20/20 vision is “God’s intention?” In fact, if you are born with 20/80 vision, that is possibly because your genetics intended you to have 20/80 vision. The idea that 20/20 is “normal” is based on some sort of “average” that is not at all clear to me. It certainly can’t be a true “average” of all adult humans. Far too many I know need glasses, so the true average would be something far less then 20/20 I think. It’s probably an “average” more like “the average for people that do not need glasses” or maybe “the average before you reach the average age where you might need glasses” or something like that In any case, it’s as much a cultural idea as a biological one. It is therefore, already an enhancement, albeit one that is widely accepted culturally now as necessary to function in society.
In all, I do not see how MC’s rule is, as he seems to me to be presenting it, anything but an implicit claim to revelation. (Or maybe not even implicit.) This is not an experienced based point of view so much as a theological one rooted on certain assumptions about what God intends for us.
I think honest people can differ over this, but I would hope that you could see where I am coming from as much as I can see where you are coming from. There is, at least, room for concern here in MC’s approach worthy of discussion.
In any case, regardless of whether or not this is a theological claim (as I perceive it to be) or not, I feel it’s wrong either way. It simply goes too far when it tries to establish a non-Gospel rule to judge circumstances.
Again, I will go with Bryce’s suggestion, which is entirely rooted in a gospel-centric approach for personal judgment on these matters:
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