Support the IEET




The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.



Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:


Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view




whats new at ieet

Brain, Mind, and the Structure of Reality

Hughes, Vita-More, de Grey, Roux @ TransVision 2014

How America’s Obsession With Bad Birth Control Hurts and Even Kills Women

A decade of uncertainty in nanoscale science and engineering

Longevity Gene Therapy – Updated Projects

Does Religion Cause More Harm than Good? Brits Say Yes. Here’s Why They May be Right.


ieet books

Virtually Human: The Promise—-and the Peril—-of Digital Immortality
Author
Martine Rothblatt


comments

Peter Wicks on 'Pastor-Turned-Atheist Coaches Secular Church Start-Ups' (Nov 21, 2014)

instamatic on 'Pastor-Turned-Atheist Coaches Secular Church Start-Ups' (Nov 20, 2014)

Peter Wicks on 'Pastor-Turned-Atheist Coaches Secular Church Start-Ups' (Nov 20, 2014)

instamatic on 'Pastor-Turned-Atheist Coaches Secular Church Start-Ups' (Nov 20, 2014)

Michael Nuschke on 'What is Technoprogressivism?' (Nov 19, 2014)

@andy00778 on 'Does Religion Cause More Harm than Good? Brits Say Yes. Here’s Why They May be Right.' (Nov 19, 2014)

Peter Wicks on 'Pastor-Turned-Atheist Coaches Secular Church Start-Ups' (Nov 19, 2014)







Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List



JET

Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month


Does Religion Cause More Harm than Good? Brits Say Yes. Here’s Why They May be Right.
Nov 18, 2014
(18190) Hits
(1) Comments

Why Running Simulations May Mean the End is Near
Nov 3, 2014
(17222) Hits
(13) Comments

2040’s America will be like 1840’s Britain, with robots?
Oct 26, 2014
(14371) Hits
(33) Comments

Decentralized Money: Bitcoin 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0
Nov 10, 2014
(8445) Hits
(1) Comments



IEET > Vision > Futurism > Contributors > Rick Searle

Print Email permalink (40) Comments (10327) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


The Dangers of Religious Rhetoric to the Trans-humanist Project


Rick Searle
By Rick Searle
Ethical Technology

Posted: Jan 21, 2013

When I saw that  the scientist and science-fiction novelist, David Brin, had given a talk at a recent Singularity Summit with the intriguing title “So you want to make gods?  Now why would that bother anybody? my hopes for the current intellectual debate between science and religion and between rival versions of our human future were instantly raised.

Thomas_Cole_-_Expulsion_from_the_Garden_of_Eden

Here was a noted singularitarian, I thought, who might raise questions about how the framing of the philosophy surrounding the Singularity was not only alienating to persons of more traditional religious sentiments, but threatened to give rise to a 21st century version of the culture wars that would make current debates over teaching evolution in schools or the much more charged disputes over abortion look quaint, and that could ultimately derail us from many of the technological achievements that lie seemingly just over the horizon which promise to vastly improve and even transform the human condition.

Upon listening to Brin’s lecture those hopes were dashed.

Brin’s lecture is a seemingly lite talk to a friendly audience punctuated by jokes some of them lame, and therefore charming, but his topic is serious indeed. He defines the real purpose of his audience to be “would be god-makers” “indeed some of you want to become gods” and admonishes them to avoid the fate of their predecessors such as Giordano Bruno of being burned at the stake.

The suggestion Brin makes for  how singularitarians are to avoid the fate of Bruno, a way to prevent the conflict between religion and science seem, at first, like humanistic and common sense advice: Rather than outright rejection and even ridicule of the religious, singularitarians are admonished to actually understand the religious views of their would be opponents and especially the cultural keystone of their religious texts.

Yet the purpose of such understanding soon becomes clear.  Knowledge of the Bible, in the eyes of Brin, should give singularitarians the ability to reframe their objectives in Christian terms. Brin lays out some examples to explain his meaning. His suggestion that the mythological Adam’s first act of naming things defines the purpose of humankind as a co-creator with God is an interesting and probably largely non-controversial one. It’s when he steps into the larger Biblical narrative that things get tricky.

Brin finds the seeming justification for the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden to be particularly potent for singularitarians:

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. Genesis 3:22 King James Bible


Brin thinks this passage can be used as a Biblical justification for the singularitarian aim of personal immortality and god-like powers. The debate he thinks is not over “can we?”, but merely a matter of “when should we?” attain these ultimate ends.

The other Biblical passage Brin thinks singularitarians can use to their advantage in their debate with Christians is found in the story of the Tower of Babel.  

And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.  Genesis 11:6 King James Bible

As in the story of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Brin thinks the story of the Tower of Babel can be used to illustrate that human beings, according to Christianity’s  own scriptures, have innately god-like powers. What the debate between singularitarians and Christians is, therefore, largely a matter of when and how human beings reach their full God-given potential.

Much of Brin’s lecture is animated by an awareness of the current conflict between science and religion. He constructs a wider historical context to explain this current tension.  For him, new ideas and technologies have the effect of destabilizing hierarchy, and have always given rise in the past to a counter-revolution supported and egged on by counter-revolutionary oligarchs. The United States is experiencing another one of these oligarchic putsches as evidenced in books such as The Republican War on Science. Brin thinks that Fermi’s Paradox or the “silence” of the universe, the seeming lack of intelligent civilizations other than our own might be a consequence of the fact that counter-revolutionaries or “grouches” tend to win their struggle with the forces of progress. His hope is that our time has come and that this is the moment where those allied under the banner of progress might win.

The questions which gnawed at me after listening to Brin’s speech was whether or not his prescriptions really offered a path to diminishing the conflict between religion and science or were they merely a means to its further exacerbation?
The problem, I think, is that however brilliant a physicists and novelists Brin might be he is a rather poor religious scholar and even worse as a historian, political scientist or sociologist.

Part of the problem here stems from the fact that Brin appears less interested in opening up a dialogue between the singularitarians and other religious communities than he is at training them in his terms verbal “judo” so as to be able to neutralize and proselytize to their most vociferous theological opponents- fundamentalist Christians. The whole thing put me in mind of how the early Jesuits were taught to argue their non-Catholic opponents into the ground.  Be that as it may, the Christianity that Brin deals with is of a literalist sort in which stories such as the expulsion from the Garden of Eden or the Tower of Babel are to be taken as the actual word of God. But this literalism is primarily a feature of some versions of Protestantism not Christianity as a whole.

The idea that the book of Genesis is literally true is not the teaching of the Catholic, Anglican, or large parts of the Orthodox Church the three of which make up the bulk of Christians world-wide. Quoting scripture back at these groups won’t get a singularitarian  anywhere. Rather, they would likely find themselves in the discussion they should be having, a heated philosophical discussion over humankind’s role and place in the universe and where the very idea of “becoming a god” is ridiculous in the sense that God is understood in non-corporal, indefinable way, indeed as something that is sometimes more akin to our notion of “nothing” than it is to anything else we can speak of.  The story Karen Armstrong tells in her 2009, The Case for God.

The result of framing the singularitarian argument on literalist terms may result in the alienation of what should be considered more pro-science Christian groups who are much less interested in aligning the views and goals of science with those found directly in the Bible than in finding a way to navigate through our technologically evolving society in a way that keeps the essence of their particular culture of religious practice and the beliefs found in their ethical perspective developed over millenia intact.

If Brin goes astray in terms of his understanding of religion he misses even more essential elements when viewed through the eyes on an historian. He seems to think that doctrinal disputes over the meaning of religious text are less dangerous than disputes between different and non-communicating systems of belief, but that’s not what history shows. Protestants and Christians murdered one another for centuries even when the basic outlines of their interpretations of the Bible were essentially the same. Today, it seems not a month goes by without some report of Sunni-Muslim on Shia-Muslim violence or vice versa. Once the initial shock for Christian fundamentalist of singularitarians quoting the Bible wears off, fundamentalists seem likely to be incensed that they are stealing “their” book, for a quite alien purpose.

It’s not just that Brin’s historical understanding of inter/intra-religious conflict is a little off, it’s that he perpetuates the myth of eternal conflict between science and religion in the supposed name of putting an end to it. The myth of the conflict between science and religion that includes the sad tale of the visionary Giordano Bruno whose fate Brin wants his listeners to avoid, dates no later than the late 19th century created by staunch secularists such as Robert Ingersoll and John William Draper. (Karen Armstrong, The Case for God, pp. 251-252)

Yes, it is true that the kinds of naturalistic explanations that constitute modern science emerged first within the context of the democratic city-states of ancient Greece, but if one takes the case of the biggest most important martyr for the freedom of thought in history, Socrates, as of any importance one sees that science and democracy are not partners that are of necessity glued to the hip. The relationship between science, democracy, and oligarchy in the early modern period is also complex and ambiguous.

Take the case of perhaps the most famous case of religions assault on religion- Galileo. The moons which Galileo discovered orbiting around Jupiter are known today as the Galilean moons. As was pointed out by Michael Nielsen, (@27 min) what is less widely known is that Galileo initially named them the medicean moons after his very oligarchic patrons in the Medici family.

Battles over science in the early modern period are better seen as conflicts between oligarchic groups rather than a conflict where science stood in the support of democratizing forces that oligarchs sought to contain. Science indeed benefited from this competition and some, such as Paul A. David, argue that the scientific revolution would have been unlikely without the kinds of elaborate forms of patronage by the wealthy of scientific experiments and more importantly- mass publication.

The “new science” that emerged in the early modern period did not necessarily give rise to liberation narratives either. Newton’s cosmology was used in England to justify the rule of the “higher” over the “lower” orders, just as the court of France’s Sun-king had its nobles placed in well defined “orbits” “circling” around their sovereign. (Karen Armstrong, The Case for God,  p. 216)

Brin’s history and his read of current and near future political and social development seems to be almost Marxist in the sense that the pursuit of scientific knowledge and technological advancement will inevitably lead to further democratization. Such a “faith” I believe to be dangerous. If science and technology prove to be democratizing forces it will be because we have chosen to make them so, but a backlash is indeed possible. Such a “counter-revolution” can most likely be averted not by technologists taking on yet more religious language and concepts and proselytizing to the non-converted. Rather, we can escape this fate by putting some distance between the religious rhetoric of singularitarians and those who believe in the liberating and humanist potential of emerging technologies. For if transhumanists frame their goals to be the extension of the healthy human lifespan to the longest length possible and the increase of available intelligence, both human and artificial, so as to navigate and solve the problems of our complex societies almost everyone would assent. Whereas if transhumanists continue to be dragged into fights with the religious over goals such as “immortality”, “becoming gods” or “building gods”(an idea that makes as much sense as saying you were going to build the Tao or design Goodness)  we might find ourselves in the 21st century version of a religious war.


Rick Searle, an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET, is a writer and educator living the very non-technological Amish country of central Pennsylvania along with his two young daughters. He is an adjunct professor of political science and history for Delaware Valley College and works for the PA Distance Learning Project.
Print Email permalink (40) Comments (10328) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


COMMENTS


I watched this presentation also, and thought it one of the better on offer? It’s here at IEET also..
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/brin20130116


“If science and technology prove to be democratizing forces it will be because we have chosen to make them so, but a backlash is indeed possible. Such a “counter-revolution” can most likely be averted not by technologists taking on yet more religious language and concepts and proselytizing to the non-converted. Rather, we can escape this fate by putting some distance between the religious rhetoric of singularitarians and those who believe in the liberating and humanist potential of emerging technologies.”

Democracy is what we make it yes, so when faced with a debate is it not better to wrestle with both the differences and similarities of opposing philosophies, rather than abstain from argument? What would Socrates do? Light a firestorm and watch it burn in the square no doubt? Yet there are more gentle means of persuasion, in promoting the rationality of successes reaped by science especially where healthcare and longevity are concerned, as you quite rightly indicate below.

“For if transhumanists frame their goals to be the extension of the healthy human lifespan to the longest length possible and the increase of available intelligence, both human and artificial, so as to navigate and solve the problems of our complex societies almost everyone would assent.”

I would like to believe so also, but since the global fallout from the 2008 economic crash, we are now seeing the deconstruction and bankruptcy of the welfare state through determined persuasion and justification for austerity, and with conservative politicians now convincing us all that healthcare, pensions and the welfare state are no longer sustainable, when the opportunity arises for radical change in social philosophy to reinforce a sustainable future for all, and a very “religious” ethic and charitable opportunity this could be too?

Is this just coincidence? Ask yourself what parties have interest in the continuing disparity between rich and poor? What dangers lie in wait for those if the “incremental” singularity does show true promise of an egalitarian future for Humanity? The Plutocrat who fears “rate of change” will no doubt do their very best to obstruct change, and may even collude with like minded religious powers to obstruct change? Am thinking political interest and priority in spending and earning monies promoting global conflicts over and above the provision and contingency for national economic recession and growing mass unemployment, healthcare and poverty?


“Whereas if transhumanists continue to be dragged into fights with the religious over goals such as “immortality”, “becoming gods” or “building gods”(an idea that makes as much sense as saying you were going to build the Tao or design Goodness)  we might find ourselves in the 21st century version of a religious war.”

Religious impasse but not war? Religion = Spirituality + Politics. And all religions have employed and utilised the promise of an “after life” or eternal existence as the ultimate “pay off” in exchange for conformism and the promotion of Orthodoxy. This clever political mass manipulation has had great value across all religious philosophies, and has been successful to unify and promote not only conflict, but peaceful coexistence in societies also, even to date. Without hope and faith, (in some thing), societies would fall into decadence extremely swiftly? Yet science is in a position soon to now offer the same or similar as this promise of “more” life and perhaps even an after life? Why not prostelyze regarding these possibilities, or really we should say persuade?

Indeed Transhumanists should promote the argument for longevity in the face of obstruction by fundamentalist religious thinking, and there is no better argument in convincing peoples that the future is what we can make it, and that the unification behind science is not a betrayal of religious identity and that science can be compatible with religious philosophy?

I would say that the book of Genesis carries more weight for promoting Transhumanism than the tale of Prometheus?


From Fascism to freedom..

Genesis 3
The Fall

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

16 To the woman he said,

  “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
  with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
  and he will rule over you.”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

  “Cursed is the ground because of you;
  through painful toil you will eat food from it
  all the days of your life.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
  and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your brow
  you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
  since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
  and to dust you will return.”

>> http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+3&version=NIV


http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/4835

 





ps..

“Brin finds the seeming justification for the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden to be particularly potent for singularitarians:

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. Genesis 3:22 King James Bible”

It was eating from the “Tree of knowledge” which was prohibited and that which so angered God, and thus supposedly doomed man to mortality?


“The other Biblical passage Brin thinks singularitarians can use to their advantage in their debate with Christians is found in the story of the Tower of Babel. 

And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.  Genesis 11:6 King James Bible”

My understanding of David Brin’s focus on this quote, was a positivist call for unification of future goals and uplift for Humanity, and aided in using the sanction professed in the quote?

Whether either carries weight is arguable, but no less pertinent?





Thank you for your extensive response to my post- Cyngus.

All good questions, let me respond to at least some:

“What would Socrates do?” I think he would ask of the of the singularitarians:

“What is a god?” and “What is mortality/immortality?”

And this is another one of those elements to singularitarians’ religious rhetoric that is frustrating to me. They seem fundamentally unaware that they’ve ripped their core goals from Christianity- and a particularly simple minded version of Christianity at that- which sees “God” as an engineer on steroids and immortality as the survival into eternity of some ethereal thing called the self. In this sense of dogmatic beliefs they are very much a religion.

Another of your excellent questions:

Yet science is in a position soon to now offer the same or similar as this promise of “more” life and perhaps even an after life? Why not prostelyze regarding these possibilities, or really we should say persuade?

Part of the reason I find the Singularity Movement somewhat more dangerous than your typical religion or political movement is its technological element. Well before or perhaps even with no intention of converting the majority of humanity or persuading us that their objectives are places we all should go, they are pursuing taking us there anyway through technology. This has some interesting analogies with religious conquest or mass political ideologies, but it’s the first time that I can think of that a movement - sets its sights on creating both a “metaphysical” and a technological reality at the same time….

I think politically we’re close to on the same page in terms of the need for society to care for its poor and elderly. As to the condition of the latter, I do not think anything is lost if we turn attention away from talk of making human beings “immortal”- something that may take a very long time to achieve, if ever-
and focus on the practical, obtainable, and largely uncontroversial goal of extending the human life span and much more importantly the QOL of the elderly. To the extent that those over 65 are considered valuable, productive citizens far in advance of the today’s retirement age the problem of the sustainability of entitlement systems will solve itself.

 





“Protestants and Christians murdered one another for centuries even when the basic outlines of their interpretations of the Bible were essentially the same. “
I think you meant Protestants and Catholics; both claimed to be Christians. The relevant factor isn’t really their supposed proximity within the theistic memeplex but the politics at play. In this case, the fact that Protestants wanted to be able to disseminate bibles in the local dialect, whereas the Catholics wanted to keep it as Latin. This has nothing to do with scripture and everything to do with the centralization of power: keeping it Latin means that the clergy retain the power of interpretation and thus shepherding of their flock. The question of copyright comes into play as well, but I digress… you can read more here: http://falkvinge.net/2011/02/02/history-of-copyright-part-2-tudoric-feud/

The notion of advocating for transhumanist ends by appealing to biblical passages is absurd and counterproductive. The kinds of fundamentalists for whom this form of argument would supposedly be appealing believe these passages not for cognitive reasons but emotional ones, namely the appeal to a low openness to experience and high fear of change and the unknown. The appeal does nothing to sway these low-level impulses and lends credibility to something that does not deserve to be taken seriously.





“They seem fundamentally unaware that they’ve ripped their core goals from Christianity”
The only sense that these goals are “ripped from” Christianity (and whatever Pagan traditions Christianity ripped these from) is that Christianity came earlier in history. The goals of increasing our lifespan and various abilities stretch back into prehistory and in no way depend on the false metaphysics of religion to be valid or attainable. It’s unsurprising that religion was first to articulate these goals because the fantastic pictures it painted was the only way we thought we had of attaining them.

” it’s the first time that I can think of that a movement - sets its sights on creating both a “metaphysical” and a technological reality at the same time”
There isn’t anything really metaphysically novel to singularitarianism with respect to mainstream physicalism/materialism, as it’s merely an extrapolation from the Copernican principle to the conclusion that creating sapience on non-carbon substrates is possible. The notion that we “should” do this is a question of ethics and not ontology.





SHaGGGz:

Thanks for pointing out the typo- correction made.

I disagree with you that the European religious wars had nothing to do with doctrinal disputes. Salvation through Grace vs Salvation through works, Catholics reliance on religious icons vs Protestant iconoclasticism, the nature of the Eucharist- were all major points of theological contention which, yes, were highly overlaid and in many ways inseparable from political power struggles. It was the merging of theological disputes with political ones that made the situation so explosive.

I think singulatarianism is largely incomprehensible without a literalist Christian genealogy. It makes no sense in a Buddhist or Hindu context to say that you are going to make individual human beings immortal when the self is an illusion and the whole goal is to get off of the wheel.

I have no opposition to building AIs superior to human capacities so long as it is for human benefit, but I do take issue with calling them “gods” or saying the objective is to create gods which is both galling and I think ridiculous.

At least we agree on one thing: Brin’s suggestion that sigulatarians make use fundamentalist language is absurd.   





Sure, you can point to ostensible doctrinal pretexts for the disputes. I guess I meant to say that that’s not what they were “really"about. Call me cynical, but I think it’s the realist interpretation of most human affairs.

I still don’t follow your line of reasoning that it’s “largely incomprehensible without a literalist Christian genealogy.” The Buddhist context, that is in agreement with the emerging eliminativist picture of neurology, has much more substantive agreement with the singularitarian notion of substrate-independent minds than some vague similarities between a Christian notion of heaven and eliminating human biological senescence.

Again, I reiterate the fact that just because it may have some similarities with these earlier human ideologies says nothing about logically depending on them. These are merely historical accidents, perhaps of use to certain segments of the population in helping them assimilate these radical concepts into something more familiar.





@SHaGGGz re “The notion of advocating for transhumanist ends by appealing to biblical passages is absurd and counterproductive. The kinds of fundamentalists for whom this form of argument would supposedly be appealing believe these passages not for cognitive reasons but emotional ones, namely the appeal to a low openness to experience and high fear of change and the unknown. The appeal does nothing to sway these low-level impulses and lends credibility to something that does not deserve to be taken seriously.”

Not all who take the Bible seriously are fundamentalists. Most are simple and honest folks who find hope and happiness in the Bible. Insult them if you like, but they are the majority of your fellow human beings.

Also, when was the last time that you did something “for cognitive reasons”?

I think never. “High level” cognitive tools are a latecomer at the evolutionary party, and all the food has been already eaten by the guests who arrived earlier. We are motivated by what you call “low-level impulses,” and we must just face the facts and acknowledge this.





@Giulio: You’re right, our actions are fundamentally driven by emotion. What I meant to say was that elucidating the philosophical mechanisms at play in the biblical verses in question and explaining how they are reconcilable with the aims of transhumanism is unlikely to work when the strong emotions these aims evoke are radically at odds with the relatively conservative predispositions of the kind of people who would place that level of importance in scriptural passages.





“@Giulio: You’re right, our actions are fundamentally driven by emotion. What I meant to say was that elucidating the philosophical mechanisms at play in the biblical verses in question and explaining how they are reconcilable with the aims of transhumanism is unlikely to work when the strong emotions these aims evoke are radically at odds with the relatively conservative predispositions of the kind of people who would place that level of importance in scriptural passages.”

But this is precisely why these passages should be used in arguments when facing irrational emotional loyalty and doctrinal tradition, and although I would not myself necessarily wish to draw out arguments to the point of conflict or contention, they may be useful.

I would say there is a strong “western” connection between enlightenment ethics and Christian ethics and ideology pertaining to immortality, (or more precisely fear of death?)

Both “uploaders” and Abrahamic faiths are selling the same ideal, namely immortality, so there is much room for agreement.. eventually, but only with the more open minded of traditional religions?

Indeed what does all this matter to a Buddhist? Not much? So although the philosophies pertaining to reductionism and substrate independant minds may be close, there will most likely be less traditional Buddhists that would contemplate the usefulness of such enterprise? Although the dalai lama has not denied the potential for a machine to be a conscious and self-reflexive entity?

Hinduism, in my opinion, is much more open to all possibilities, especially longevity and even immortality, because this philosophy does not exclude the possibility of mortals becoming devas or immortals, (all things and transformations as possible through the grace of eternal and impartial potential - the judgment and ethics of such belongs to the minds and jurisdiction of men).

 





@Cyngus:

“Both “uploaders” and Abrahamic faiths are selling the same ideal, namely immortality, so there is much room for agreement.. eventually, but only with the more open minded of traditional religions?”

Why are they selling the same idea? Because singularitarians have inherited these memes directly from the legacy Christian culture in which they emerged. They are not the inevitable natural outcome of human beings thinking about death and immortality, but of them asking and answering these questions in a very particular way.

Why is that important?

@ShaGGGZ

“Again, I reiterate the fact that just because it may have some similarities with these earlier human ideologies says nothing about logically depending on them.”

Perhaps, but the Singularity movement including the “apocalyptic”
event of the Singularity itself has a lot of echoes with another secular movement that claimed to be a scientific prediction of future trends and predicted a paradise at the end of history- namely Marxism, which again was merely a secular, materialistic, “realists” version of Christian eschatology.  This is important because the future projected by Marx was wrong and the blind faith in its “scientific credentials lead to an unnecessary amount of human suffering had its proponents been aware of the provisional nature of their theory and its origin in a non-scientific domains.

I wish singularitarians would develop such historical consciousness and avoid the pitfalls of blind faith. 





@ Rick?

Have I not said and supported this view twice now? Yes, western enlightenment memes are founded predominantly from Christian traditions?

Fear of death was, is, and will be, the prime mover for ideals concerning longevity, and beyond, towards finally overcoming mortal death?

I sense some deep-seated animosity regarding singultarians, (and no, I don’t regard myself as such, if that is not already clear enough?) I do believe that mind uploading will be possible however, and at very least I hope it will be possible?

Now, let’s get to the crux of the matter?

Immortality yes or no? If not why not?





@Cyngus

Finally!

What do mean by immortality?





This article strikes me as deeply ironic. To make the irony plainer, we could title it “The Dangers of Transhumanism to the Humanity+ Project”. Many Transhumanists resist acknowledging the communal esthetics that provoke them, and instead pretend Transhumanism to be somehow meaningful without resort to anything except science, technology, ethics and politics—all interpreted secularly, of course! Yet there’s an art to Transhumanism, a spirit, and, at its most communally provocative, even a religion to Transhumanism. Meaning, vision-making, forth-telling, and such do not come from science, technology, ethics or politics in themselves. To find the source of meaning, we must look deeper into ourselves, and more broadly into each other. Religion is not a danger to Transhumanism. Fundamentalist religion and consistent anti-religion are dangers to everything worth worrying about.





@Lincoln Cannon:

Believe it or not, I am in complete agreement with the spirit of your statement.





Good to know. Thanks, Rick.





@Rick Searle:
“I wish singularitarians would develop such historical consciousness and avoid the pitfalls of blind faith. “
Sure, there are elements in the singularitarian crowd that gush with ecstatic prophecies at the inevitability of utopia stemming from the developments in question. But your seeming insistence that this is definitive of the movement focuses on one particular subset of something that is more broad and diverse. Even the poster boy Ray Kurzweil, has repeatedly acknowledged that these developments will not be without issues and challenges, and that humanity has “better than even” odds of making it alive through this century. These are not the words of a blindly faithful utopian.

Yes, the advancement of exponentially advancing technologies can lead to a situation whose profundity can be interpreted as being comparable to Christian eschatology, and that the desire to create “immortal gods” (read non-senescent substrate independent minds) is comparable to Christian conceptions of heaven. So what? The technology that enables these deep-seated human desires predates Christianity both historically and logically. Look at Japanese culture, which is very insular and resistant to outside influence, and how it has produced much of the prominent existing transhumanist fiction, such as Ghost in the Shell and countless others. The notion that we never would’ve seen the potential to satisfy these deep-seated desires through technology had we not had a particular brand of bronze-age mythology to analogize it to is patently absurd.

“To find the source of meaning, we must look deeper into ourselves, and more broadly into each other. Religion is not a danger to Transhumanism.”
A tired refrain, defining “religion” to mean anything from which humans derive profound emotional value and meaning. This is disingenuous as within the context of anti-religion, this is not the sort of religion anti-theists rail against. Rather, it is the dogmatic insistence that a particular received wisdom is the ultimate arbiter of value and reality, and any countervailing evidence is wrong. This is obviously not the sort of “religion” that is advocated by Lincoln, Giulio, and other “theists” I’ve seen advocate for religion here, who, when pressed, have diluted the term to a sterile philosophy that makes no falsifiable claims, and is thus not the object of anti-religious fervor and rhetoric.

This horse died a long time ago, guys, just let it rot in peace.





The latter quote above was @Lincoln, btw.





@ShaGGz

I admit- the horse is dead but I’ll kick the corpse at least one last time.

On Kurzweil- well, the 21st century ends with either human immortality and god-like super intelligence(s) or the destruction of the species. Sounds pretty Manichean to me.

Acknowledging that an at least vocal group of the singularity crowd has these assumptions is one thing, but what I think, respectfully neither you nor “CygusX1” follow up with is the conclusion that these deeply held assumptions might on that account be very partial and ultimately wrong.

And I apologize for being such an ass in harping on the point.

I just wish before we choose a destination we have a discussion of where exactly we are headed . To just carelessly use religious language without any broad discussion on what the terms mean, indeed without establishing where such religious language is and is not appropriate, where it might lead to unnecessary conflict, or where it might be helpful to deciding the question of what the future of humanity or “post-humanity” is which means actually talking and arguing not conversions through sleight of hand ala Brin.

This horse ain’t getting up again.





SHaGGGz, I don’t recognize “sterile” and “diluted” as even remotely accurate descriptors of my religion. Here are some related thoughts: http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2012/06/post-secularism-and-resurrecting-god.html





@Rick: Which “deeply held assumptions” would those be?
The “horse” comment was aimed more at the weasely use of the term “religion” in the way I’ve outlined above, not you.
I’m not a particularly big fan of language describing us as “becoming gods” through this technology either.

@Lincoln: It is sterile in the sense that it doesn’t offer falsified empirical or regressive moral claims, and diluted in the sense that the meaning of the term “religion” has been expanded to such an extent that Richard Dawkins, myself and other anti-theist bogeymen fit under its umbrella.





SHaGGGz, religion is not ethics or epistemics, except indirectly. Religion is applied esthetics, and as such its primary function is not to make falsifiable empirical or regressive moral claims, although its secondary function is to influence both of those, as does all esthetics. If you’ve decided that “religion” applies only to fundamentalists then my definition would seem diluted, but your definition doesn’t sufficiently account for the phenomenon, the actual functions that which we’ve actually called “religion” in its full breadth and depth throughout human history.





@Lincoln: Yes, terms like “religion” and “God” have been used very broadly throughout human history, such as Einstein claiming that “God does not play dice.” However, seeing as how such loose use of language is easily hijacked, as it has been by historical revisionists to claim that Einstein was advocating something that he absolutely was not, you can understand my sense of unease about this. Common people understand “religion” to mean a certain thing, closer to my more restricted definition than your nearly-all-encompassing one, which is how such revisionism and other similar subterfuge is enabled in the first place. I submit that we all benefit from language of greater precision, that doesn’t enable the statement that Dawkins is a theist.





SHaGGGz, that’s just it. We do NOT all benefit from narrowing “religion” to religious fundamentalism.





@Lincoln: I’m not advocating that, merely advocating restricting it to the point of preventing the absurdities I outline above.





SHaGGGz, I’m almost okay with that, although you’ll have a lot of trouble explaining how your posthuman projections and provocative esthetics do not function as Gods and religions. The atheists and anti-religious have as many problems to respond to as do the dogmatic theists and fundamentalist religious.





@Lincoln: Gods: the intelligences in question are not God in the monotheistic sense as they did not create existence itself, and are not gods in the polytheistic sense as they do not fit within a pantheon that confers special exemptions to physical law).
Religions: no claim is made of possessing received wisdom that is absolutely true regardless of countervailing evidence.





SHaGGGz, remember you’re talking to a Mormon. We reject the idea that anything whatsoever created existence itself, and yet we care a great deal about both God (singular) and Gods (plural) that create in the sense of organizing (rather than creating from nothing, which we think nonsensical). We also reject the idea that anything has special exemptions to law, physical or otherwise, and perceived exemptions are just evidence that we have more to learn. We also reject the notion that we should ignore evidence, or that faith should ever be irrational (even if we happen to ignore evidence or embrace irrationally in practice). This is not sterile or diluted Mormonism; most educated Mormons will tell you the same. Your definition of “religion” has to account for us, as well as a bunch of other bona fide religions that don’t square with the historically dominant forms of Christianity, on which basis you seem to be restricting your definitions.





@Lincoln: I’m going to assume that you repudiate all of the historical errors in factuality and morality that has been attributed to your religion as committed by “MINOs” per the No True Scotsman line of reasoning…
Well then, what distinguishes what you believe from physicalism devoid of religious imagery and rhetoric? What is your basis for belief in this?





SHaGGGz ... so many red herrings in so little space. Whether you or anyone else likes or trusts my religion or not, it remains a religion for which you must account, authentically, in your definition of “religion”, if you’re to make any reasonable appeal to an objective definition.

That aside, what distinguishes a bunch of particles from imagery and rhetoric? Everything that matters, even to those whose imagery and rhetoric focuses on “particles”.





@Lincoln: I am trying to account, authentically, for your religion. Your blanket dismissal of my assertions as “red herrings” does little to advance understanding, as does your rhetorical bouncing back of a question in response to mine. Phrased differently, what distinguishes your metaphysical beliefs from those of Dawkins?





Sorry to interject folks, (see it as opportunity for a breather) ;0]


@ Ric.. I mean Rick, (sorry slightly dyslexic)

I think you are having a giggle with us, there are so many contradictions in your statements, and you avoid every relevant question, either because (1) You do not wish to answer, or more relevantly (2) You have no answers. So you don’t like singultarian’s, yeah, so?

“I just wish before we choose a destination we have a discussion of where exactly we are headed . To just carelessly use religious language without any broad discussion on what the terms mean, indeed without establishing where such religious language is and is not appropriate, where it might lead to unnecessary conflict, or where it might be helpful to deciding the question of what the future of humanity or “post-humanity” is which means actually talking and arguing not conversions through sleight of hand ala Brin.”

So where are we headed Rick? What is your opinion? Does immortality, perpetual existence figure anywhere in your vision, (no, not just your name etched on a brass plate for all time)? If it does, I say to you that you are indeed a closet Christian.. QED!

I’m sure you know this, but let me spell it out, so you have no excuses to blame Mr. Brin - interpretation is the key here.. focus?

1. God creates everything, the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve.
2. God plants trees and provides food for our eternal couple to want of nothing.
3. God plants a special tree in the centre of the garden with a big sign “Hands Off!”
4. God emphasises that he does not want his “children” to disobey him and eat of the tree, (of knowledge!)
5. Eve meets snake, snake talks! Yadda.. yadda…yadda Fruit gets eaten, God gets angry, and “spitefully” condemns Adam and Eve and all descendants to mortal suffering and miseries.

Now, the popular “re-interpretation”, (non-singultarian), pertains.. “what kind of a Father, God of love and compassion etc would do this to his own children?” If God did not contemplate the possibility that apples would be eaten then he should not have planted it there? So it was a test? “what kind of a Father, God of love and compassion etc would test his own children like this and then punish them eternally for the discretion?”

Conclusion.. time to move on dear Christians, (and others), and realise that through the grace of what not(?) Humanity has invented some dam fine drugs to overcome disease and suffering and is heading for some even bigger technological ideals. Science is not evil, it is our friend, (plus, and if you are still not convinced, we could not possibly manipulate energy and forms without the sanction of the one and only true God, of love.. if you are still having difficulties and inner struggles with the loyalty thing?)

@ SHaGGGz..

” This horse died a long time ago, guys, just let it rot in peace.”

The Horse is not dead nor dying despite all the atheist kicking, this is a delusion. Religion, (Spirituality + politics), ain’t ever gonna die, because Humans lurve to polarise and differentiate, and divide into two, and contemplate and speculate, and oppose doctrinal oppression. In short, to argue against old ideas and stories and replace with new ones, or at least new interpretations of the old ones.

* Ref “The Old Ones” (deep voice) “STOS “What are little girls made of?” circa 1967


“This is obviously not the sort of “religion” that is advocated by Lincoln, Giulio, and other “theists” I’ve seen advocate for religion here, who, when pressed, have diluted the term to a sterile philosophy that makes no falsifiable claims, and is thus not the object of anti-religious fervor and rhetoric.”

Hmm..(arguable) For traditional religions, reinterpretation of ancient texts is not only necessary, it is vital for survival and evolution in contemporary societies and for their future existence? We should view this as a plus yes? Scholars and prophets past and present know this to be true, and there have been many past reinterpretations of ancient texts.. the buck stops with, “this text is the original and was handed to me by God”.. Still not impossible with a Quantum interpretation of the physical Universe and mind, (man makes God makes man makes God ad infinitum timeline etc) Yet I agree “holy” unlikely, so strikethrough? (although there appears yet still some “emotional needs and questions” to be satisfied and answered, “where did the bible come from daddy?” - pesky kids!)

There is no dilution necessary where all the “good” bits from ancient texts and stories are scrutinised for wisdom and reinterpreted for relevance through their story telling. This is called removing the relevant ethics and philosophy and ontological, meta-physical, quantum speculation from the doctrinal rules and regulations and antiquated nonsensical rituals of old?

Q: and what is wrong with that, are you saying that any living Human of the past was a dumb ass that knew nothing, had no wisdom to offer.. obviously not. Who was it that scribed the Golden rule then eh? Who was it? Who knows? Does it matter?

 





@Cygnus: What’s wrong with preserving the holy scriptures while deferring to their internal logic is a fundamental perversion of ethics, politics, and ontology. Namely, the notion that we exist and derive our value not from anything inherent in us as human beings, but because some divine dictator has decreed it thus. When this intellectually and morally abdicating axiom is what supports the human enterprise, the numerous horrors that arise, theistic and atheistic alike, should not surprise us.





“What’s wrong with preserving the holy scriptures while deferring to their internal logic is a fundamental perversion of ethics, politics, and ontology. “

The original scriptures, (if at all possible?), “must” be preserved for scrutiny and interpretation or all arguments, theist and atheist alike become moot!

An even earlier example, the Hinduism “Rig Veda”, perhaps the earliest of all known existing spiritual texts and that which derives the further existence of three supporting Vedas is the foundation of all Hinduism religious philosophies, some dozen divergent interpretations at very least. Yet all subsequent interpretations of these must refer to the original scriptural text to be accepted as relevant, else chaos would ensue and we could all make up our own versions of this original text?


“.. Namely, the notion that we exist and derive our value not from anything inherent in us as human beings, but because some divine dictator has decreed it thus.”

And this is what Rick is saying also.. I think?

But the reasoning is flawed, because it is precisely from things inherent in human beings that these texts are derived and interpreted, yes? So there is the understanding of the Human condition and Human wisdom to be discerned from these scriptures? So interpret away!

As Lincoln points out, I feel you underestimate theists in general for their intelligence and healthy scepticism. If you change your perspective, (view position), slightly, you may see that this healthy scepticism by Christians of books like Genesis are the key to the evolution of faiths like Christianity, and this is the goal and the motive for challenge that David Brin is attempting to communicate?

I do not take a position as to whether this is the purposeful coarse of action to take or not, I am indifferent. Yet when the debate arises, interpretation and scrutiny of original ancient texts is what is required for constructive argument and persuasion? Dismissal of other’s viewpoints leads to no debate and no progress at all?

 





This conversation is a train wreck.

@ CYNGUSX1:

“I think you are having a giggle with us, there are so many contradictions in your statements, and you avoid every relevant question, either because (1) You do not wish to answer, or more relevantly (2) You have no answers. So you don’t like singultarian’s, yeah, so?”

I’ll go with door #2. It would put me in good company, with the difference between us being at least I know that I do not know.

“So where are we headed Rick? What is your opinion? Does immortality, perpetual existence figure anywhere in your vision, (no, not just your name etched on a brass plate for all time)? If it does, I say to you that you are indeed a closet Christian.. QED!”

Where are we headed? Well, I don’t know. We’re all driving, so I suppose we decided.

Do I believe in personal immortality in what I take to be the literalist/Christian view that my core self survives beyond death?

Answer: No.

Do I think that personal immortality should be a goal?

Answer: Don’t know. We would have to define what this immortality was and put it up against other human goods to answer this question. This is related to:

@ShaGGZ:

“Rick: Which “deeply held assumptions” would those be?”

That is, what assumptions do sigulartarianism and literalists Christianity share?

As evidenced by this conversation almost all of them. But we could start with just 3. That the goal of personal immortality is in some sense the core longing of individual human beings, that this goal is sensible, and that obtaining such immortality would be good.





“As evidenced by this conversation almost all of them. But we could start with just 3. That the goal of personal immortality is in some sense the core longing of individual human beings, that this goal is sensible, and that obtaining such immortality would be good.”

Or.. that it is all down to fear of death.. yes I said it again, not want of immortality ala Religious rapture, but plain old “fear of death!” Ontology is the bottom line of enquiry?

Woo Woo! Springfield! All aboard

;0]

 





@CyngusX1:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA





@Rick: “That the goal of personal immortality is in some sense the core longing of individual human beings, that this goal is sensible, and that obtaining such immortality would be good.”
I don’t think that immortality itself is the core longing - a subtle distinction, much like that between happiness and flourishing. One enables the other, but is not itself the goal. Indefinite lifespan enables one to pursue all the joys, experiences and possibilities of life, but is not itself the goal. This open-ended, self-directed process is in contrast to the one offered by theistic religions, which is basically to embrace God’s divine love or whatever it is that He confers unto us that validates our existence.





@ShaGGGz

I think we need to have a discussion about what exactly this indefinite life-span might entail and its virtues or lack thereof. I hope to do a post at the IEET on immortality at some point and would appreciate your continued critical input when I post.





Sure.





YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Interview at Winter Intelligence/AGI 12 Oxford University

Previous entry: Disgrace in our winelands (African Futures Project)

HOME | ABOUT | FELLOWS | STAFF | EVENTS | SUPPORT  | CONTACT US
SECURING THE FUTURE | LONGER HEALTHIER LIFE | RIGHTS OF THE PERSON | ENVISIONING THE FUTURE
CYBORG BUDDHA PROJECT | AFRICAN FUTURES PROJECT | JOURNAL OF EVOLUTION AND TECHNOLOGY

RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @ ieet.org     phone: 860-297-2376