Two Cheers for Transhumanism?

In response to last week’s blog, someone asked about my view of transhumanism and how it relates to Genesis 6: 1-4, the mysterious passage about the ‘sons of God’ and the ‘Nephilim.’  While I claim no expertise in Old Testament interpretation, I am aware that there are several explanations of this passage.  As indicated by one source, the ‘sons of God’ could be angels, or royalty, or simply a reference to pious men (see The Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

Regardless of the identity of the sons of God or the Nephilim, perhaps the key verse to consider is Genesis 6:3, where the Lord declares, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal…” (Apparently, as a general rule of thumb, the average lifespan will be “a hundred and twenty years”).  In contrast to Scripture, a key tenet of transhumanism is the belief that human mortality may be optional and the only obstacle to immortality is inadequate technology.

As described by Celia DeaneDrummond and Peter Manley Scott in Future Perfect,

“The goal of transhumanism is to download the contents of human consciousness onto a vast computer network and… achieve a kind of disembodied yet intelligent immortality… This will constitute an evolutionary advance… that could lead to immortality – that is, immortal intelligent life in a machine that gets constant back-ups.”

Much could be said about transhumanism’s view of human nature and the advances in technology that give rise to utopian notions of humanity’s future.  But I find it worthy to note that transhumanists share an interest in a theme that is also central to the Christian faith – that our hope is in God’s gift of immortality through Jesus Christ!  As Paul writes, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (Romans 2:7, NIV).”  And again, “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’ (1 Corinthians 15:53).”

Two cheers for transhumanism?  Well, I think transhumanism is correct in observing that our bodies are defective and that immortality would be a good thing to achieve.  However, given that transhumanism’s presuppositions are not in line with Scripture (e.g., their view of human nature, the causes of human imperfection, and the nature of what happens at death), I view the movement as flawed.

*In next week’s blog, I will continue to examine some of the tenets of transhumanism.

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Chris King

My problem with this view of transhumanism (uploading our consciousnesses to a vast computer network) is that we would only exchange our biological bodies (that need constant maintenance and a kind of planned obsolescence) to mainframes that have a really similar kind of obsolescence that simply hinges on other factors (we won’t need food, but we will need computer parts and energy), so we can only achieve a kind of practical immortality this way. It seems good from the standpoint of our very much limited lifespan now, but after a generation grows up that can live a thousand years, or… Read more »