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IEET > Vision > CyborgBuddha > Staff > J. Hughes

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On The Compatibility of Religion and Transhumanism


J. Hughes
By J. Hughes
Global Spiral 8(2)

Posted: Apr 1, 2007

On April 16 I spoke in Tempe Arizona at a seminar on “Transhumanism and the Concept of Human Nature,” which is part of a four year exploration of Transhumanism and Religion there funded by the Templeton Foundation. My paper got a little out of hand and became a short book: “The Compatibility of Religious and Transhumanist Views of Metaphysics, Suffering, Virtue and Transcendence in an Enhanced Future” (PDF - Slides - Audio Part1 - Audio Part 2), and has now been published by the Global Spiral, the Templeton-funded Metanexus Institute journal. Any comments welcome.

Abstract: Transhumanism – the proposition that human beings should use technology to transcend the limitations of the body and brain – is a product of the Enlightenment humanist tradition. As a consequence most avowed transhumanists are secular, and many religious are skeptical or hostile towards the transhumanist project. However there are also many religious transhumanists who find the project of human enhancement at least consistent with, and sometimes a fulfillment of, their metaphysics, soteriologies and eschatologies. Transhumanism appears to be especially compatible with religious traditions that emphasize human agency and evolution to a transcendent state, such as Buddhism, or that have incorporated Enlightenment values, such as liberal Christianity. But elements of the transhumanist worldview and enhancement technologies are compatible with one element or another of most world faiths, even the most fundamentalist. We can thus expect that human enhancement technologies will be adopted creatively into the theologies of groups within all the world’s faiths, producing many flavors of “trans-spirituality.”

Download the PDF - Slides - Audio Part1 - Audio Part 2


James Hughes Ph.D., the Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, is a bioethicist and sociologist who serves as the Associate Provost for Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning for the University of Massachusetts Boston. He is author of Citizen Cyborg and is working on a second book tentatively titled Cyborg Buddha. From 1999-2011 he produced the syndicated weekly radio program, Changesurfer Radio. (Subscribe to the J. Hughes RSS feed)
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