In my biweekly First Things column, I point out the decidedly religious characteristics of transhumanism. From, “The Materialists’ Rapture:”
Transhumanism is becoming the world’s newest religion, offering adherents the kind of hope once within the exclusive province of faith—and without the humbling concept of an omnipotent God to whom one owes prayer and thanksgiving. No need for divine forgiveness. No karmic debts to be paid by reincarnation. No need to believe in any reality beyond the strictly material universe.
I note, for example, that the transhumanist Singularity is much like the Christian concept of Rapture.
But more fundamentally, transhumanism offers a materialistic replacement for the psychic damage caused when religious belief is lost or evaporates. Indeed, it strikes me that the Singularity is a materialistic echo of the eschatological belief of some Christians in a pending “Rapture.” Consider:
- The Rapture and the Singularity are both supposed to occur at a specific moment in time.
- The Rapture and the Singularity ultimately lead to death’s final defeat.
- The Rapture heralds an Edenic age of peace and harmony for believers, lived in the “new Jerusalem.” So too the Singularity, albeit right here on terra firma.
- The Rapture brings an end to all suffering for believers, as does the Singularity. Indeed, the ultimate goal of transhumanism is to banish suffering and want from the experience of materialistic life.
- Raptured Christians expect to receive “glorified” bodies that are both real and immortal. Kurzweil’s promise of “non biological bodies” seems like a similar concept.
Transhumanism has terrible problems with its ethics. But I understand the appeal. For those who believe in nothing but molecules, it offers an alternative to oblivion.