Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis
Futuristic and sci-fi human android portrait with pcb metallic skin and binary code green background. AI, IT, technology, robotics, science, transhumanism 3D rendering illustration concepts.
Futuristic and sci-fi human android portrait with pcb metallic skin and binary code green background. AI, IT, technology, robotics, science, transhumanism 3D rendering illustration concepts.
Transhumanism Adobe Stock licensed

Transhumanism as a Cool New Secular Religion

It includes such ventures as endowing plants — via genetic engineering — with the capacity for human-like thought and giving them rights…

In a recent Living in the Solution podcast with otolaryngologist and broadcaster Elaina George at Liberty Talk radio, Wesley J. Smith, lawyer and host of the Humanize podcast at Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism tackled the question of “Can You be a Christian and Believe in Transhumanism?” (June 4, 2022) Transhumanism or H+, as it is sometimes called, is a movement to create immortality through new biotechnology or merger with artificial intelligence (AI). In the first portion of the podcast, which we covered last Sunday, they talked about the way being a human, a computer, or an animal is viewed by transhumanists as all just a choice now, thanks to new technology. In this portion, we look at the religious elements in transhumanism:

A partial transcript and notes follow.

Dr. Elaina George

Dr. Elaina George: It’s interesting how they use words. Like humanism is supposed to be about humanity, when in actuality, it’s not. It’s about destroying humanity. This Christian bent to it, it’s the antithesis of what God is, because if God made us in his image, then we don’t need all these other things to help us be better. We are perfect in our imperfect way, right? But our pursuit is to be one with God and to love each other and to actually do things on earth that help people. I don’t hear anything, you’re right, about helping people. It’s all about the individual and themselves and their pursuits.

Wesley Smith: Yeah, it’s me, me, I, I. It also lacks the concept of, for example, sin and repentance and humility, the need for divine forgiveness, which is certainly a Christian dogma — the value of redemptive suffering and eternal salvation. None of that is in transhumanism, because it’s a materialistic mindset…

Note: There is a Christian Transhumanism Association, formed about eight years ago, whose mission, stated this year, is as follows: “ A theological mission, to explain how science and technology fit into the purpose of Christ and of God. A faith-renewing and revitalizing mission, to show how the future can renew our faith. A technological mission, to advocate the ethical vision of Christ for science and technology.” It offers a blog and a podcast. The inspirational quotes section opens with a number of comments by Church of England bishop N. T. Wright, including “God will download our software onto his hardware until the time he gives us new hardware to run the software again for ourselves.”

Wesley Smith: So this idea of the Singularity we discussed in the last segment is almost akin to the idea of the Second Coming [of Christ]. It’s an eschatological look into the future, only instead of looking to God, transhumanists look to technology. Whatever Jesus might have stood for, he would never had said your salvation comes from technology…

It’s a utopian mindset. I even sometimes when I’m talking with religious audiences like this one, I’ll say it’s really a Tower of Babel mind set.

Note: In the account in Genesis, Chapter 11, 1–9, the Babylonians decide to build a tower high enough to reach heaven. But the project is never finished because heaven breaks up their common language into separate languages and they all disperse. Such towers certainly existed, as the video clip from the Smithsonian below shows. But there is little more information about them. They are seen today as a testament to human striving irrespective of whether it is a wise use of resources or not.

Dr. Elaina George: So when you have a conversation with these guys and you bring out the fact that it’s a false paradigm, what kind of pushback do you get? Can they defend their thesis? I never find that they really can when you question them.

Wesley Smith: Well, if they’re calling themselves Christian transhumanists, it’s very difficult. But the materialists, Zoltan Istvan … if you really want to see how radical this is, listen to my interview with Zoltan Istvan on Humanize. He doesn’t pull his punches. He doesn’t pretend to be what he’s not, and he’s also kind of funny.

For example, in 2016, he ran for president on the Transhumanist party ticket. But he got international headlines, including in the UK and Europe and throughout the United States because he redesigned the bus and made it look like a coffin. He ran on the plank that he was going not defeat death.

Well, the media are suckers for that kind of thing, and so he got a lot of attention, and I think he got a lot of adherents. But again, if you’re an atheist or you’re a materialist and you think that with death comes total; obliteration, you’re going to be attracted, perhaps, to a movement that says, “Well, there is hope in technology, that technology will be your savior.” It’s just not Christian.

Dr. Elaina George: … How do they [Christian transhumanists] get to the point that they can just negate the tenets of the gospel? It’s really pretty… It’s opposite of what you’ve learned as a Christian. Are they saying that God made technology, so therefore… How do they make that jump over that chasm? It’s pretty huge to me.

Wesley Smith: That with technology, we’re kind of partnering with God in making a better world. That kind of thing. But again, the idea of Christian transhumanism is a subset of the larger movement, which is, for the most part, the leading lives of the movement are very clear that it’s an atheistic, or at least a materialistic approach.

There’s also, by the way, for Christians, a tremendous interview that just knocked me out of my chair with Joni Eareckson Tada, the quadriplegic Christian apologist and disability rights activist who gives wheelchairs to the third world. Joni and Friends is her organization. For people who are Christians, it is one of the most powerful Christian testimonies I’ve ever heard.

Dr. Elaina George: On your blog, you mentioned the “Nones.” … I’m seeing there’s numbers of people who are less affiliated with any religion at all. Is that part of how this transhumanism movement is being fed?

Wesley Smith: Well, those are the people who the transhumanists are approaching. Nones are people — particularly young people — who reject faith and have no faith. Some are agnostic, some are atheist, some, I suppose, pursue New Age or whatever it might be. Of course, this is a fertile field for transhumanism … If you’ve given up the idea that there’s more to life than what we experience here and if you give up on the idea that how you live here will matter after you’re gone, then there’s a major vacuum that is left.

I believe we’re moving from a post-Christian world to an anti-Christian world. At least in the west, being Christian is now going to be something that comes at a cost, as opposed to, say, 100 years ago where it was actually the expectation. So a lot of people who might not have actually been Christians would at least go through the motions, because that was the reigning cultural paradigm. We now see anti-Christianity on the rise …

Note: A just-released Gallup poll found that only 81% of Americas say the believe in God, down from 87% in 2017 and the lowest so far since 1944. “The groups with the largest declines are also the groups that are currently least likely to believe in God, including liberals (62%), young adults (68%) and Democrats (72%). Belief in God is highest among political conservatives (94%) and Republicans (92%), reflecting that religiosity is a major determinant of political divisions in the U.S.” – Gallup (June 17, 2022)

Wesley Smith: There’s a difference between transhumanism and Christianity. They could not be more contradictory. Transhumanism is materialistic. Christianity is theistic. Transhumanism is utopian and utopianism never works well because it says that the ends justify the means. In fact, some of the things that you’ll hear Zoltan Istvan say — if you listen to that interview — are authoritarian, because the ends justify the means. Christianity sees the world as fallen, and that’s more realistic. Transhumanism perceives immortality as something that can be achieved by men.

Obviously Christianity identifies eternal salvation as the mercy of a loving God, and so for different eschatologies, different value systems, and so forth. So one can be a Christian, and as a secondary matter, really believe in harnessing technology to improve the world. Those are not mutually exclusive at all. But one cannot be a Christian transhumanist, because that’s a worldview …

Dr. Elaina George: Now there’s something called the Transhumanist Bill of Rights…

Wesley Smith

Wesley Smith: Transhumanists don’t just say, “I wish we were eternal,” and leave it at that. They’re actually planning for this future world:

“As used in this Transhumanist Bill of Rights, the term ‘sentient entities’ encompasses one, human beings, including genetically modified human beings.” We haven’t gotten into that, but transhumanists also want to genetically engineer your progeny so that the progeny have the attributes that they think are important, which of course takes away free will from the progeny, because you’re forcing them by the sheer power of genetics to have certain attributes when that’s just, to me, usurpation of the role of a parent.

“Two, cyborgs, three, digital intelligences, four, intellectually enhanced previously non-sentient animals.” So one of the things that transhumanists really believe in is that they’re going to somehow use these technologies to eliminate suffering, including in the animal world. I attended a transhumanist conference where somebody actually said, “We’re going to take all the predators and put them up into cyberspace, and then all of the herbivores won’t have to suffer predation.”
So they’re talking about taking non-sentient animals and elevating their capacities so that they are rational, which would be wrong.

“Any species of plant or animal which as been enhanced to possess the capacity for intelligent thought.” So this is the kind of Never Never Land that these people live in, and they spend their time obsessing about because otherwise, there would be this idea of hopelessness.

Again, “Article one, all sentient entities are entitled to pursue any and all rights within this document to the degree that they deem desirable.” They put a lot of effort into this. The idea is that they’re going to be able to engineer themselves and engage in all kinds of these technological approaches — and that to impede them would be the same thing as impeding freedom of speech.

They say, for example, “All sentient entities shall be granted equal and total aspect to any universal right to life. All sentient entities are created free and equal in dignity and life,” but they’re also supporting of abortion…

Dr. Elaina George: There doesn’t seem to be any conversation about consequences, is there?

Wesley Smith: No, they don’t talk about consequences except of not pursuing transhumanism, because the consequence in their view — at least the people who are mainstream, which are materialists — is obliteration after death and old age. Age is something we all — and I’m certainly learning — have to deal with as we grow older. They look at aging as unnatural, when of course it’s quite the opposite.

Dr. Elaina George: How interesting. From what you’re describing, it’s based in fear, as opposed to based in love. It’s a complete different mind set. That whole brain of empathy turns off, doesn’t it? When you’re living in fear, it’s about you first, everybody second.

Next: Why giving “human rights” to artificial intelligence is a bad idea

Here is a partial transcript of the first portion of the interview, with notes and links:

Transhumanism: Human, computer, animal — all just a choice now… AI and Big Biotech spawn the hope (in some) of merging with a computer or with a bat, maybe… Wesley Smith talks with Dr. Elaina George about the new secular religion of Transhumanism or H+ — immortality without tears for atheists — if it’s even possible.



Here are all three segments of the discussion between Elaina George and Wesley Smith:

Transhumanism: Human, computer, animal — all just a choice now… AI and Big Biotech spawn the hope (in some) of merging with a computer or with a bat, maybe… Wesley Smith talks with Dr. Elaina George about the new secular religion of Transhumanism or H+ — immortality without tears for atheists — if it’s even possible.

Transhumanism as a cool new secular religion It includes such ventures as endowing plants — via genetic engineering — with the capacity for human-like thought… The very nature of transhumanism — there is no God and humans are not unique — makes authoritarianism in pursuit of power easier to justify.

and

Why giving “human rights” to artificial intelligence is a bad idea. It’s especially bad, as Elaina George and Wesley Smith discuss at Living in the Solution, when we don’t always give them to other humans. Utopia? George and Smith note that, far from programming itself for fairness, AI takes on the biases of programmers. It doesn’t “get virtuous” on its own.

You may also wish to read: The impossibility of Christian transhumanism. Transhumanists seek the right not only to manipulate their own bodies but also those of their children, including mind clones, monoparent children, or benevolent AI. One cannot be a “Christian transhumanist.” Transhumanism has become a religion and the two religions simply cannot occupy the same space. (Wesley J. Smith)

and

A Great Reset historian muses on what to do with “useless” people. Transhumanist Yuval Noah Harari, a key advisor to the World Economic Forum, thinks free will is “dangerous” and a “myth.” It’s not clear that, given his intense, dramatic focus on “useless,” “meaningless,” and “worthless” people, Harari is far off from totalitarianism.


Mind Matters News

Breaking and noteworthy news from the exciting world of natural and artificial intelligence at MindMatters.ai.

Transhumanism as a Cool New Secular Religion