Presentation on theme: "WHAT MAKES A PERSON? THEOLOGICAL ISSUES RAISED BY TRANSHUMANISM Harry Walton PhD Candidate Albertus Conference 2013."— Presentation transcript:
WHAT MAKES A PERSON? THEOLOGICAL ISSUES RAISED BY TRANSHUMANISM Harry Walton PhD Candidate Albertus Conference 2013
WHAT IS TRANSHUMANISM? It is based on the premise that the human species in its current form does not represent the end of our development but rather a comparatively early phase. “… the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NIV) By re-envisioning the human body as a work-in-progress, transhumanists reject the idea that physical limitations should separate people from their aspirations. Faith is placed in technology as the means by which humans can transcend the human condition. An international movement committed to improving the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies that can eliminate disease and disability, and also greatly enhance human mental and physical capacities. Over the hill at 25?
PPharmacology BBiotechnology NNanotechnology PProsthetics CComputer Integration Transcending the human condition via therapy and enhancement The Hayflick Limit Cognitive enhancers used by students Performance enhancers used by athletes Lance Armstrong – dope or pioneer? Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis
PPharmacology BBiotechnology NNanotechnology PProsthetics CComputer Integration Respirocyte Pillbox Maintenance-bot Jerry Jalava’s “thumb drive” Oscar Pistorius – South Africa’s “Blade Runner” Neil Harbisson – the cyborg with the ‘eyeborg’ Harbisson’s superhuman range of perception Jens Naumann’s brain-computer interface Matrix Style Mind Upload Cardiac Pacemaker Cochlear Implant Nanoscale A possible ‘posthuman’
Transhumanist discourse as… “…the adolescent speculations…[of] biologists and engineers intoxicated by science fiction.” - Jürgen Habermas The Future of Human Nature (2003, 15)
THERAPY VS. ENHANCEMENT IN THE CHRISTIAN MORAL TRADITION Technologies used for curative purposes generally fall within the logic of the Christian moral tradition. Pope John Paul II consistently supported technologies aimed at preventing disease and restoring health. Christ spent his time healing the afflicted, and Christians should emulate his example. Thumbs up from John Paul II
THE IMAGE OF GOD The Image of God might be… 1. Reflected in the rational human soul 2. Instantiated by our duties as stewards and co-creators 3. Reflected in the human physical form 4. Christological in essence Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:26-27 Can we enhance the image of God?
SALVATION IN CHRISTIANITY AND TRANSHUMANISM Theologically speaking, the proper destiny of human beings is to be glorified/divinized in Christ. This is the venerable doctrine of theosis or ‘deification’. “God became man that man might become god”
SALVATION IN CHRISTIANITY AND TRANSHUMANISM Both Christianity and Transhumanism share… Longing for Transformation Longing for Eden And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” - Genesis 3:22 Transhumanist ‘salvation’ might be seen as… An attempt at recreating Eden An attempt at turning humans into gods An attempt at immanentizing the eschaton An attempt at saving humanity from finitude and mortality
CONCLUSIONS TO DRAW? There are many similarities between Christianity and transhumanism. However, transhumanism presents a new challenge for theology in general and for ordinary Christians in particular. The task at hand is to remain creaturely in the face of technology. Theology must rise to the challenge of transhumanism if it is to remain relevant.