(This post was reprinted in Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, May 22, 2018)
Transhumanism is an intellectual movement that aims to transform and improve the human condition by developing and making available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physiological, and moral functioning. Transhumanists argue that humanity in its current form represents an early phase of its evolutionary development. A common transhumanist thesis is that humans may eventually transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities that they will have become godlike or posthuman. Notably, this includes defeating the limitation imposed by death.
Now many claim that transhumanism is just another religion. But is this true?
While transhumanists want some of the same things that religious believers do such as infinite being, infinite consciousness, and infinite bliss, religion and transhumanism are dissimilar in important ways. Whereas religious beliefs are often superstitious and implausible, both an affront to the intellect and an insult of our best scientific knowledge, transhumanists want to replace the delusions of popular religions and use science and technology to transform reality.
There is little similarity between imaging there is a mansion in the sky populated by angels and gods on the one hand and creating a heaven on earth and minds as powerful as gods on the other. In other words, there is a great difference between saying that unicorns exist and using biotechnology to create them. The first is fantasy, the second an engineering project. (Although transhumanism may be more compatible with some form of process theology or other more sophisticated versions of religion.)
Others object to transhumanism because they worry about the risks associated with the project. But there is no risk-free way to proceed into the future and if we are to survive and flourish we must augment our moral and intellectual faculties. We either evolve, or we will all die. And no help will come from the gods. They are either imaginary or just don’t care, as an honest evaluation of history readily reveals.