Transhumanism: Humanity 2.0?

It’s the theme of many movies and books: becoming more than human.  This is called transhumanism, the desire to become posthuman.  It’s also called humanity 2.0, mankind upgraded; this is biotechnology’s striving to mesh computers, brains, and DNA.  Think cyborgs, cryonics, and uploading a person’s “self” from his body to a computer.   Transhumanists want to give people a chance to develop or evolve beyond human limits.

Matthew Eppinette discusses this topic in his helpful essay, “Human 2.0: Transhumanism as a Cultural Trend” (in Everyday Theology).  Eppinette gives a good summary and theological critique of this movement, and in doing so, he nicely explains that scientific and technological advances are not the only reason for this rise of transhumanism.  What else explains this trend?

“Scientific developments have set only part of the stage for transhumanism; philosophical and cultural trends such as individualism and postmodernism also contribute.”

Individualism is the idea that one’s own needs, interests, and desires are more important than those of others or of any larger group or community.  In our culture, this emphasis on individuality has, in many ways, become a radical personal autonomy under which each person is a law unto himself or herself.”

“The term ‘postmodernism’ is used in a variety of ways, most of which encompass the idea that any kind of universal story or metanarrative is at best suspect and more likely a tool of manipulation or control.  Postmodernity thus rejects traditional religious views and values, favoring – in conjunction with individualism, personal constructions of origins, ethics, and eschatology.”

Epinnette then notes how technology, individualism, and postmodernism intersect in the current desire to be “better than well.”  That is, much like the 20th century eugenics movement (improving humanity through careful breeding), today people seek to be better than well through performance enhancing drugs, plastic surgery, and the transhuman desire to mesh man and computer/machine.

This is quite a detailed and lengthy discussion, but Eppinnette ends the article well by giving a theological Christian critique of the transhuman desire.  For example, humanity’s biggest problem is not being human; the biggest problem is sin.  The answer is not transcending humanity, but the removal of transgression through God’s gift of his Son.  Since God created man in his image, humans (including their bodies!) have dignity.  Happiness and meaning are not found in some transhuman cyborg state – they are found only in Christ.  As Christians we do not want to discard or move beyond the body; we long to have it renewed and glorified when Jesus returns.  The list goes on.

If you’re interested in this topic (transhumanism), a topic that many movies and books highlight, and you want a Christian critique and response to it, read Epinnette’s article: “Humanity 2.0: Transhumanism as a Cultural Trend” in Everyday Theology.

shane lems

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