Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

What do Transhumanism and Marxism Have in Common?


Scientism is often conflated with science, either explicitly, or implicitly by scientism ideologues masking as objective science commentators. But the two are mirror opposites: Science is a method of objectively obtaining and applying material facts and information. The former espouses a subjective world view using the pretense that science has the capacity to tell us right from wrong, the ethical from the unethical, best from worst, etc. Or to put it another way, scientism is the pilot fish and science is the shark.

Over at the Weekly Standard, Peter Augustine Lawler has a good article on scientism vs. the humanities. Along the way, he notes that both Marxism and transhumanism are examples of scientism. From, “Defending the Humanities:”

Scientism is a comprehensive, one-dimensional explanatory scheme of all that exists. It is, as some say, a “worldview,� an ideology, an aggressive and empirically sketchy effort to dispel all doubt from the world in the service of conscious manipulation in the service of wisdom. Scientism​�​as an ideology​�​attempts to obliterate its rivals, discrediting all other claims for truth. So scientism aims to destroy the humanities. Not only that, it aims to destroy much of what is distinctively human in each of us as a self-interpreting being. 

Consider that the most destructive form of scientism so far has been Marxism. But anyone with eyes to see fears the emergence of newly tyrannical forms of scientism as the foundation of technological solutionism. No one can deny, for example, that the movement known as transhumanism aims at “the abolition of man,� at the overcoming of the distinction between man and machine on pretty much the machine’s terms. Every competent scientist and humanist knows it will never achieve its goal, as Marxism never achieved anything like the “communism as the end of history” Marx fancifully described. But humanists are right to fear what can be lost on an ideological mission impossible.

I would add a few additional commonalities to the nexus: Both are utterly materialistic. Both reject human exceptionalism. Both claim to be based on eliminating suffering. Both seek to supplant religion as conveyors of meaning and purpose. Both are particularly antagonistic toward orthodox Christianity. And perhaps most dangerously, both are stridently Utopian.

I don’t believe that transhumanists will ever create a truly post human species. It is the values that underlie the movement that require opposition, not the dim prospects of its actual implementation. 



Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review