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…
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).
Dr. Elaina George: I think transhumanism seems to be the next wave of things that are hip and now … As a Christian, is it something that we should even consider?
Wesley Smith: Well, it depends on which transhumanists are talking. Most transhumanists are atheists and are quite open about that. It’s certainly a materialistic world movement. It’s a materialistic social movement.
There are a few, relatively few, transhumanists who claim to be Christian transhumanists — which is an oxymoron. You can no more be a Christian transhumanist than a Christian Buddhist or a Christian Muslim. These are just incompatible worldviews. If people really want to learn the truth about transhumanism, having people who claim to be Christian transhumanists describe it doesn’t get to the bottom of what the transhumanist movement is really about. You have to go to the primary sources.
I would recommend to people who don’t want a really highbrow view but somebody who writes in a more colloquial and popular way, Zoltan Istvan, who’s probably the most prominent popularizer of transhumanism. He’s very clear that this is materialism, that it seems to create immortality, not in the eternal sense of eternal as the Christians believe, but here in the material world.
Note: Here is an excerpt from an interview with Istvan at HuffPost (July 6, 2016):
C. JoyBell C.: Are we all headed to a transhumanist future, anyway? Let’s put it like this, whether I like it or not, am I headed towards a future where artificial intelligence will look just like any other human being, and where robots will be taking over the economy?
Zoltan: Yes, I think we’re all headed to a transhumanist world. Of course some won’t want to join, but it’s sort of like the internet. If you don’t use the internet, then you are missing out on a major piece of the new world. Transhumanism will be like that. Without upgrading your bodies, you’ll be totally left behind, both intellectually and physically. Can you imagine if you’re the only one in 50 years who doesn’t have a bionic eye that can stream media info into your brain, see 100 miles clearly, and also see 90% of the light spectrum (gases, microbes, etc)? The normal human eye sees just 1% of the universe.
C. JoyBell C.: Who are transhumanists? I know that you are an atheist, but I am also aware of the fact that transhumanists can be theists, spiritual, or even religious! To what extent would you say, are all people welcome to become a transhumanist?
Zoltan: I think all people will eventually be transhuman. And I think all people will give up their fundamental religious beliefs to be more reason-based. However, spirituality will continue, and perhaps grow with technology. Beliefs will change from a divine man looking over the Earth, to super AI intelligence or science. The change will be slow, though. People are afraid to give up their core beliefs.
Dr. Elaina George: The fact isn’t that they’re trying to bring us into this atheist mindset. It’s very world-dominated, earth-related. Earth is now considered to be more important than humans in that system. Is this the same Gaia kind of mindset, but expanded to try to pull people in?
Wesley Smith: Other things that are happening at the same time as transhumanism, like the Gaia hypothesis that says that Earth is a living entity, there’s the radical environmental nature rights movement that is actually succeeding in creating “rights” for nature, which we can talk about if you’d like.
Transhumanism has a different goal. Its goal is what it calls H+, meaning more than human. The idea here is that human beings are not good enough. So what transhumanists wish to do is create what they call a post-human future, meaning they want to recreate human beings into something else. It’s eugenics. It’s pure eugenics: Recreate human beings into more than we are now, not by, for example, improving technology so that our abilities improve or our performances improve, but by actually changing the nature of our species.
Immortality as the transhumanist’s chief goal
Wesley Smith: If one becomes an atheist or is a pure materialist and you think that … we’re all nothing but carbon molecules, well, that leads to a lot of hopelessness, doesn’t it? Because there’s nothing beyond death except obliteration. Life isn’t even really anything except a chemical reaction that perceives itself, I suppose, as existing.
That leads to nihilism, and one of the things that transhumanism seeks to do is fill that hole where God used to be. It seeks to create hope with the idea that one can obtain immortality, perhaps not eternal life in the sense that forever and ever, beyond what we can measure, but certainly indefinitely. They believe, like Ponce de Leon, in the Fountain of Youth?
It’s a technology-worshiping enterprise. They believe that technology will be able to reach a point called the the Singularity in which the improvements in capacities of artificial intelligence and other technologies will become so magnified that there will be a crescendo of unstoppable changes that will lead to corporeal eternal life, if you will.
Just for an example, one of the major emphases is that they will be able to upload their minds into computers, and so they can live indefinitely in cyberspace, perhaps even blending their consciousnesses with other transhumanists.
Note: Transhumanist inventor Ray Kurzweil outlined just such a vision at COSM 2019:
“For computers, “Even the very best human is just another notch to pass,” he told the COSM Technology Summit”
“In the 2030s, he explained, we will connect the top layer of our neocortex to the last layer of the cloud (as in cloud computing) to connect our biological intelligence to non-biological intelligence. ‘Our intelligence will then be a combination of our biological and non-biological intelligence.’ The Singularity. We will become apps of our smart computers.”News, “Tech pioneer Ray Kurzweil: We will merge with computers by 2045” at Mind Matters News (October 30, 2019)
Wesley Smith: I poke them in a good natured way, but I want people to understand that’s not reality… Let’s say you could take your mind and create a software program so that if a computer had a stimulus that the “Dr. George” software would react as you would, right?
If you fall in love, there’s not only the mental aspect, there’s the emotional aspect. There’s the physical changes in your system, the adrenaline that might shoot, and so forth. So they’re really reducing life into something less than it actually is. But let’s assume you could actually do that, because I tell them, “Look, that software program would not be you. It would be a software program that would mimic your reactions. You would still be you, or if you were dead, you would still be dead. It’s not eternal life. It’s not anything but a software program, if you could do that.”
Another idea they have is, “Okay, well, let’s cut off my head today if I die, and cryogenically freeze it. Then later when we can attach human minds to computers or AI machines, then we can bring me back.” Well, good luck with that. I think a frozen head’s going to be a frozen head.
Another approach, which I think is potentially really exploitive, if you could do it in terms of the technology, is to make human clones of yourself and use these clones as sources of new organs and new tissues and kind of repair kits. Now the problem with that is that human cloning has already been accomplished. They have created human cloned embryos and kept them going for a week or two. They did not try to implant them to bring them to birth or gestate them into the fetal stage, but it’s quite possible, just like Dolly the sheep eventually was born — which was a clone — that someday you could actually have human clones born or human clones gestating in artificial wombs. Not yet, but perhaps someday.
So the idea that you would create another human being for the purpose of exploiting it for its parts is, to me, profoundly wrong and immoral, because a human clone embryo and a human clone fetus would be a human fetus and a human embryo, right? A human clone baby would be a human baby.
If researchers haven’t got anywhere with human cloning, it is not for lack of trying …
Wesley Smith: So these are the things that they talk about, and they actually have a lot of symposia. They write books and so forth.
So that’s the first goal of transhumanism, a form of immortality. The second goal is personal recreationism. In fact, before the immortality stuff started, back when I started following transhumanism 15 or 20 years ago or so, this was actually the primary goal. Now we’d call it a secondary goal.
The idea is that they want to make themselves extraordinary without doing anything, with no effort. In other words, if we could tweak a gene or use a brain implant or find some means of changing our physicality — so I’d have the strength of Superman or the eyesight of a hawk — I could recreate myself into the image that I want. It’s a totally solipsistic idea.
Often what transhumanists want is to improve intelligence, because to transhumanists, many of them, intelligence is the highest human value. I always respond by saying, “Wait a second. I think love is the highest human value.” In fact, you rarely hear or see transhumanists talk about love, except perhaps in the carnal sense.
It is about this kind of self-obsession to make oneself better, but not actually doing the work that might have to build character, to exercise or whatever it might be to improve yourself. And, of course, the idea that if I want to grow a tail, I can grow a tail. I can become part man, part bat — whatever it might be — is incredibly solipsistic and basically almost a denial of community.
Dr. Elaina George: I think that’s a great synopsis of it, an overview. It lacks soul. It lacks depth.
(What it doesn’t lack just now is popularity.)
Next: Transhumanism as a cool new secular religion
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.
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)
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.