IEET > Rights > Vision > Bioculture > Contributors > Lincoln Cannon > FreeThought
Integrate Your Ideology
Lincoln Cannon   Apr 14, 2012   Ethical Technology  

You’re right, and you want everyone else to know it. Maybe everyone should be a Transhumanist like you, but there’s a problem: they don’t see things the way you do. So what do you do? You might try telling them that they’re stupid, evil or ugly. When that doesn’t work, try integrating.

Professionally, I’m a software engineer, Internet marketer and information technologist, with extensive experience leading technical teams in development and integration of web, mobile and management information systems. To integrate systems, we write software that knows how to connect with each of the systems and share information among them. Integrated systems leverage each other’s strengths and increase the total value of ownership. Without integration software, the systems must act independently, sometimes duplicating efforts, and often forcing users to waste time on unnecessary work.

For example, suppose you have a system that monitors the performance of computers on your network and alerts you when the performance of a computer degrades. Suppose also that you have another system that can remotely control any computer on the network. Before the two are integrated, whenever the first system alerts you of a problem, you must note the name of the computer, open a console for the second system, search for the poorly performing computer, and finally take control to remedy problems. However, subsequent to integrating the systems, you can click on a link in the alert from the first system and immediately take control of the poorly performing computer in the console of the second system, without error-prone notes or time-consuming searches.

Of course, integrations can be complex and messy. Sometimes data in one system doesn’t map well into the other system. Sometimes integrators make poor implementation decisions. Always, integrators can improve integrations as they become increasingly familiar with the systems they’re integrating. Yet, despite limitations, integrations can increase productivity and provide substantial value over time.

Human ideologies are information systems. As software helps us act sensibly within an environment of networked computers, ideologies help us act sensibly in our complex world. Although far richer than software, ideologies are still systems of interrelated symbols, codes, laws, words, and so forth. Also like software, which often relies on integrations to share information, ideologies are often unable to exchange ideas without assistance from an additional integrating or syncretizing ideology.

An example of an integrating ideology, and the one I am most familiar with, is Mormon Transhumanism. Mormon Transhumanism can serve as an integration between two powerful ideologies: Judeo-Christian religion and Enlightenment philosophy that gave rise to modern science. Mormon Transhumanism can readily map symbols from each of these ideologies into symbols in the other. For example, through Mormon Transhumanist interpretations, the God of Judeo-Christian religion may map into Enlightenment philosophy as a creative and compassionate posthumanity, and the Enlightenment philosophy expectation of dramatic increases in human knowledge and power may map into Judeo-Christian religion as the Millennium.

As expressed by Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith:

“One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may … If a skillful mechanic, in taking a welding heat, uses borax, alum, etc, and succeeds in welding together iron or steel more perfectly than any other mechanic, is he not deserving of praise? And if by the principles of truth I succeed in uniting men of all denominations in the bonds of love, shall I not have attained a good object?”

Mormonism is, on principle, an integrating ideology; and Mormon Transhumanism illustrates the relative ease with which Mormons may combine religion and science, gaining the benefits we experience and perceive in each, and more: religious zeal for engineering a better world.

If you advocate an ideology, Transhumanism or otherwise, think about integrating with others. If you don’t, you’ll gain fewer adherents. They already have ideologies that overlap with yours, and it’ll be extra work to use your ideology even where its unique. If you do integrate, you’ll increase the total value of both ideologies, for them and for you.

Lincoln Cannon is a technologist and philosopher, and leading advocate of technological evolution and postsecular religion. He is a founder, board member, and former president of the Mormon Transhumanist Association. He is a founder and advisor of the Christian Transhumanist Association. And he formulated the New God Argument, a logical argument for faith in God that is popular among religious Transhumanists.


Strong points. Joseph Smith, the LDS founder, integrated his revelations and commands with the Biblical symbols and beliefs of his 19th Century American community with impressive success.

Transhumanism and LDS theololgy share many nodes conducive to integration, including exaltation, atonement, resurrection, community building, and theosis. Brilliant!

This is a very insightful post.
It serves two very important roles as well. The first is that it provides a way to welcome people who have a religious and/or spiritual bent without asking them to choose between their culture/values/history and their intelligence. For many people, science and faith are consonant. Admonitions that atheism is the only acceptable path to the future unnecessarily create tension and mistrust.
Secondly, for some religious/spiritual people, emerging technologies may cause them to question their preconceived beliefs. This may cause unnecessary harm or pain, which is surely not the intent of increasing knowledge. The integrative approach allows the core “truths” of some faiths to map to emerging knowledge, perhaps reducing fear and knee-jerk rejection of both science and emerging technologies.

Great article, and it may point the way for people to move information from the “sacred” file to the regular file in their brains. I am referencing a study which showed that sacred ideas such as religious and morals are stored differently in the brain than other kinds of information.

I agree that this is a great article, but I wish to challenge the assumption that one’s worldview must necessarily be integrated, coherent, consistent, complete, etc.

As (unrelated) example, I believe in _both_ personal freedom and social fairness.

It is _very_ difficult to combine these two in an integrated political ideology, but so what? I prefer believing in them separately rather than giving one up, and I hope we will find a way to integrate them if we keep trying. Same with science and religion.

People CAN be manipulated using their buzz words but ultimately;

Science is the only way to verify information.

Dogma is dogma.

.. and we can define the ultimate pursuit of all human activities regardless of beliefs about reality

Integration is a deference to the future of what we should be addressing right now - the truth.

Maintaining lies for the purpose of integration has a cost.

I can’t help but feel that our brief exchange contributed to the inspiration for this thoughtful post. I liked your statement, “Human ideologies are information systems.” I can relate to that. I also agree, from a non-religious, academic and cultural perspective, that “Mormonism is, on principle, an integrating ideology”. Integrating is of great importance to me as well. In my blog Evolving Minds Want To Know… I attempt to bridge the gap of language, culture and ideologies between believers and non-believers. This requires refining the ability to detach the ego from the outcome, which is always a challenge.

I don’t know how I feel about Transhumanism but it does seem that first-world countries have momentum for moving in that direction, and people need to be aware.

In my perception of reality, shaped by my lived experience and higher education, I accept that change is constant and that truth exist only in the moment. I believe that anything is possible and that, ultimately, all things are possible. The moment, however, is all that I am certain of, and I enjoy knowing that much.

Thanks for an intelligent read as well as the comments of your readers.

Abolitionist, I would argue that science is not the only way to verify information. It is one way of checking a small amount of the information that surrounds us. There are many things that are not verifiable by science. You can’t produce an equation that proves that someone loves their wife. You can’t predict that this person will fall in love with that person with 100% accuracy. You can’t take one person’s experience of a relationship and repeat it. It is not just relationships, but experience of beauty and many other parts of the world.

You are also confusing ideology with dogma. For instance you are being dogmatic about science being superior. It is a fixed position that doesn’t allow for argument or the possibility of value outside of that position. It is a value judgement stated as TRUTH.

Ideology is the functional way that we understand social realities. Religions are in some ways a subset of ideology, but more like an overlap in a Venn diagram. Ideologies become problematic when they become dogmatic, but that isn’t limited to religions.

What Lincoln is saying is that if we make what we believe a part of how we live, then we will all be better off.

Pastor Alex :

What you have related to me has been debated already in philosophy ;

There’s no evidence that there are things in the world that cannot be potentially observed by science.

It’s human nature to try to fill in the blanks where there are gaps in our understanding and abilities but that doesn’t prove dualism is true.

Those examples you listed amount to technical limitations and semantics. Love is a vague word like god that is rarely defined yet used frequently in culture - can you define what you mean by these things and get everyone to accept your definition?

Truth is truth regardless of opinion, it is observable to all who have the ability to observe. That is science.

Dogma is proclaiming opinion to be truth, it may be true that you have those beliefs but that doesn’t mean your beliefs are true.

Abolitionist, science is about repeatability, predictability and understanding process. That is the essential definition of the scientific process. My questions about loving relationship is not irrelevant because you can’t define the word. There are a great many scientific discoveries that have resulted in the need for new language or to use old language differently. Quantum mechanics comes to mind as an example.

The point is that relationships can be studied and some of the processes understood. Still the reality of love between people can not be predicted, repeated or defined. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

BTW I am not a dualist. I believe that the material universe that we so assiduously study is a chimera. Matter doesn’t exist, there is only energy and information. The universe is more like a thought than a thing. That doesn’t invalidate physical science, but it does recognize the limits of pure materialism.

Myself, I don’t care for the limitation of labels that others attempt to put on me. I am not religious but am also not an atheist. I responsibly use the term “belief” to describe my point of view, knowing that I can’t prove it. For example, I believe in our unlimited, human potential. However, I recognize that our potential can be limited by our beliefs. Science has limited itself by its beliefs as well. Scientific belief about the physical world has impeded progress as well as contributed to it. Einstein, a hero of mine, slowed the progress toward quantum physics with his beliefs about how the universe worked, for example.

That said, I continue to submit to the limited mind, that just because a thing is not understood, or is not proven to the satisfaction of a skeptic, doesn’t make it untrue. It makes it unknown. Science is the ideal example. It continues to attempt to understand and define physical existence. And, science has continually proven itself wrong in its quest for understanding. I get that atheists believe that this ongoing modification of “truth” is the reason they think they are more rational than the rest of us. But I consider this certainty to be a limitation.

It is obvious that science has been wrong more that it’s been right and will continue to be so, since there is, in fact, too much we cannot prove—yet. It’s not just the existence of God, which in my way of thinking is an issue of semantics more than ideology in the world today. To state that all of natural reality is of “God Substance” is similar to the ideology of God itself. This relationship is repeatable by science, which we only recently could observe and better understand. It is a fact that all things in the material world are CREATIONS of mankind. Thus is it wrong to state that Man is to the material world what God is to the physical world? Creators?

Before Nanoscience was “discovered” it was “unbelievable” that a thing could be invisible, for example. You can argue that the thing is still there but our perception of it is gone. Science fiction continues to become reality in today’s technological world. To those who don’t know any better our advancements would seem god-like. That’s how I see our own perception of reality: we constantly evolve our understanding. As we evolve, we understand more, only to be surprised once more. But proof? I don’t know if that’s even relevant in a fluid existence. Defining Truth is like trying to hold the ocean in your hand.

The question that I ask is this: If something was previously believed to be impossible and then later found to be possible, was it ever truly impossible in the first place? Or was it just a limitation of our perception?

Pastor Alex;

“Reality of love” - you just said that love cannot be defined and that it exists - how do you know it exists if you cannot define it first? If you could observe love, how would you know that you were observing it without first defining it?

Love is a word with many different meanings to different people, many times people use it without knowing what the other person thinks it means.


Why do you claim that science is a fixed position?

You were justifying beliefs as truth saying that science isn’t the only way to verify things.

So how do you propose that religious theories have been verified?

Do you think that religious truths are not verifiable by science but can still be true?

Is it because you believe that religious truths are beyond our ability to observe?

If so, how do you know that you have verified them?

Good questions, Abolitionist.

I don’t need to define things to know they exist, so I don’t have a problem stating categorically that love exists. In fact it is more real than many things that we can define like money for instance.

In terms of defining the word and communication, you are confusing the word with the reality.

I don’t claim science is a fixed position. I stated the scientific method. Science is important, and I very much enjoy the learning I do around the subject. But I do recognize that it is limited. Any scientist will tell you the same. The people who want science to explain everything are the ones who don’t quite understand what it is about.

Religious truth is verified by changed lives. When people’s faith makes a permanent change in how they interact with the world, it suggests that there is something to that religion. Some religious claims are verifiable. Look at the neuroscience of meditation for instance. Prayer and meditation as disciplines work to change the way our brains function.

There are religious claims that are beyond the ability of science to verify or falsify. That doesn’t make them untrue, just not the domain of
science. I don’t believe because it is beyond science. I just have no interest in using science to try to justify my faith. That doesn’t mean that science is a challenge to faith. The things that science tends to disprove are marginal to faith at best.

Faith isn’t about certainty, faith is about living with doubt. I don’t verify the things I believe. I live them.

Pastor Alex :

You are shrugging the issue - how can you identify something if you haven’t an idea of what it is first?

how would you recognize love if you haven’t defined it first?

(describe in your own words how you would know if you were in love)

Of course the truth is that you have unconscious ideas about what the word love means, based upon cultural memes.


Just because something has an effect doesn’t necessarily mean that religious truths are verified. meditation has positive effects, but that doesn’t prove the theory of reincarnation and emancipation through the noble eight fold path for example.

Also, a peaceful feeling during prayer doesn’t mean that you will go to heaven when you die.

Science demands a more rigorous process of verification than faith requires, which is why faith is so prevalent in the absence of information.

A lack of ability to verify something doesn’t mean it exists or is true, nor that a theory can or cannot be verified.

To say that science cannot verify something (to say that it is inherently impossible to do so) - is dualism.

If you say that our abilities are limited in this matter, everyone agrees. If you say that it is inherently impossible to verify or disprove religious theories, that is dualism.

It’s interesting to note that the philosophy of dualism was created after the belief in god had been planted in culture, it was an excuse for the inability to offer any evidence for the existence of god. “well you can’t see god because he is beyond the material world - he is inherently immeasurable”

Science can provide information about why some religious practices have effects - it removes superstition and beliefs and replaces them with reliable information that is observable and empowering.

how does ‘living’ your beliefs prove that they are true if you are not using a process of objectifying and verifying something?

are you just being less rigorous about your scientific approach than a neuroscientist or sociologist?

If you were to tell someone to ‘love your neighbor’ what exactly does that mean?

How can you tell someone something that you haven’t defined yourself?

Abolitionist, we identify a great many things without defining them. Love is only one example. Beauty, friendship, consciousness etc are all discussed freely without spending much time trying to define them.

Describing something in my own words doesn’t constitute a definition. It takes broad agreement. Yes there are cultural assumptions about love, but they are sometimes quite different across cultures.

Science demands a different process of verification than religion; that doesn’t invalidate religion. Religion was around first, so dualism was invented to allow science space to exist. There is evidence for the spiritual name of human beings right from the beginning, archeologically speaking.

I’m not interested in what happens after death, I’m interested in what happens now. Meditation and prayer make us more empathetic, following the eight fold path will make me a better person, as will loving my neighbour, or working for justice.

Religion isn’t science, so the conversation is different. It isn’t about proving anything, in spite of what you might see on TV. It is about living in a particular relationship to God, myself and the world. It isn’t my job to prove that God exists.

I have to be somewhere. I will be back with my concept of loving my neighbour later.

Pastor Alex :

You’re still dodging the question :

How can you know if you are observing something if you haven’t defined it first?

How would you know if you were seeing the color red if no one taught you first that the word red was association with that specific wavelength of light?

Just because people commonly use a word without thinking about it doesn’t mean that they are communicating accurately or understanding each other.

The point of asking you to define is so that you will understand that a definition is required to provide understanding.

Much of what we do is sub-conscious, which is proven by science - but there is still information which can be studied and observed objectively.

People refuse to participate in science because they seek comfort - comfort provided by culture and belief systems. Religion cannot and does not solve the problems it attempts to address and should stand aside and allow for scientists to work towards solving the inherent and enduring problems of humanity. It will take time, but religion has had its shot.

Social science, psychology, and neuroscience can and do provide better solutions and understanding about the problems of life - and the gap between what religion does and what science can do is increasing exponentially.

Are you feeling this and thus feel the need to come here to try to slow down science with your disdain for progress in understanding nature - while favoring old cultural memes for comfort?

Tempibones ;

Einstein didn’t slow progress by proposing a theory, humans slow progress. science - the process of creating and testing theories is not the problem.

The problem is the dogmatic tendencies of the human mind.

I knew the colour red because that was the name on the crayon. I didn’t know about wavelengths of light until several years later.

If you read my posts you will see that I am not about slowing science down. I agree that science is accomplishing more and more of what religion used to do. What that means is that religion will need to adapt to new reality, just as it always has.

If you think science is being unnecessarily slowed by religion, you’ve never attended or read about a scientist presenting a new or unpopular theory. Remember the first person to suggest the possibility of global warming was laughed and ostracized until others started to find similar evidence. People whose archeological research contradicts the accepted understanding of the timeline of human migration in the Americas are also scorned. Scientists are as slow to give up their understanding of the world as anyone else.


The uncertainty principle -

Everyone has beliefs. It’s not a bad thing; it’s human.

There seems to be, at times, in this thread a misunderstanding that does a disservice to the original post. Neither science nor religion are, in and of themselves, ideologies.  Each has ideological components, but not homogeneous ones.
The issue is not the scientific method. The issue is the meaning we make of it. Do we believe that the scientific method is a method whereby we can learn about the natural world, or do we believe it is itself an ideology?
In science, one ideology may be based on open sharing, free exchange of information and dialog. This would inform us toward viewing gene fragments as part of the commons. In religion, one ideology may be for unity and inclusiveness and would resist religious regulation in a secular society.
Within science, a competing ideology may be for the privatization of research or biological determinism. It would favor strong patent rights and licensing rights. In religion, a comparative ideology my be a belief in an elect few, prosperity gospel and a violent and punishing God. It might result in legislation that seeks to dismantle safety nets.
The point that this article makes is that integrating our religious and Enlightenment philosophies helps us deal with the complex ethical issues that arise from emerging technologies. It is not to say we must all be religious or we must all be atheistic. It is saying that for people who do hold theological beliefs, we can merge those beliefs in pursuit of a creative and compassionate future.

Yes religious doctrine (solutions through beliefs rather than actual solutions that are scientifically verifiable) does prevent people from seeking solutions through science.

For example, the doctrine of the afterlife prevents people from focusing on a cure for aging.

The doctrine of life as a proving grounds for your free-willed soul, with consequent rewards or punishment after death - prevents people from seeking an end to involuntary suffering.

Beliefs and theories are different from dogma - whereby faith in theories is valued over the scientific process.

@Dorothy re “It is not to say we must all be religious or we must all be atheistic. It is saying that for people who do hold theological beliefs, we can merge those beliefs in pursuit of a creative and compassionate future.”

Well said. And some persons find that religion and science can be mutually reinforcing.

@Abolitionist - you make the unwarranted assumption that [religious doctrine = solutions through belief (rather than science). This is not the attitude of religious scientists. On the contrary, they wear their believer hat in the church and their scientist hat in the lab, and find the “aesthetic layer” provided by religion a powerful motivator for their science.

I think the key here is the following from Abolitionist’s first comment on this thread: “Maintaining lies for the purpose of integration has a cost.”

Lincoln makes an excellent case for integration (albeit heavily and unconvincingly biased towards Mormonism), and I only half agree with Giulio’s caveat. Sometimes it is necessary to believe in two conflicting theories (such as general relativity vs quantum theory), but this is because we haven’t learnt how to integrate them, and thus find the limits of applicability, not because integration shouldn’t be an eventual aim. It is possible to integrate personal freedom and social fairness and thus maximise both, provided we don’t take either to silly extremes.

But we need to make sure we are integrating *quality*. Just as Lincoln, in his capacity as software engineer, would not want to integrate an excellent system with a mediocre one, so we should not seek to integrate evidence-based worldviews with beliefs that stand in contradiction to evidence (i.e. what Abolitionist calls “lies”).

For example, to me it is clear - and has been for a long time - that Alex is, as Abolitionist suggests, taking comfort in the belief systems provided by his religion. Whether that counts as “slowing down science” is another matter, but the tendency to raise “love” to some kind of sacred level, beyond human comprehension, when in fact the various forms of love (once properly defined) are entirely amenable to scientific inquiry, is indeed an example of the kind of scientific blind spot that arises when we take comfort in religious beliefs. And Abolitionist is also spot on in citing the disincentive it provides to deal with real problems in the real world, as we put our faith instead in religious fantasies about the afterlife, second coming and so on.

I’ll make one caveat, though, in a nod to our more religious-minded interlocutors. Beliefs, in my view, serve three purposes: to provide an accurate model of the world, to provide a sound basis for action, and to make us feel good. Science, by which we mean application of the scientific method (actual scientists are not always very good at it, as Alex has pointed out), is THE way to serve the first purpose. No ifs or buts. But it’s not always the best way to serve the other two. And that’s important. We don’t want to have a wonderfully accurate worldview only to find we are too depressed or paralysed by analysis to do anything constructive with it. As Lincoln has expressed it previously, we also need our beliefs to “invoke the strenuous mood”.

Furthermore, while simplification, approximation and supplementation by unfalsifiable beliefs are all legitimate and essential ways to turn a dour scientific worldview into more operational, motivational and uplifting one, I believe we can generally do this without resorting to beliefs that stand in stark contradiction of the evidence, whether we are talking intelligent design or silly beliefs about love. Focus especially on positive, self-fulfilling beliefs, like, “Today is going to be a GREAT day!”

Further-furthermore, I’ve nothing against “silly beliefs about love” in the contents of Paul McCartney songs, rom coms and pillow talk. But to make a whole religion out of them? Be careful. Then it really can blind you to more useful knowledge about such matters.

Occam’s Razor might suggest it is Social Club (or Culture Club, a la Boy George and his ‘Church Of the Poison Mind’). Here’s some Bob Dylan poetry offering a clue:

“While some on principles baptized
To strict party platforms ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God Bless him.”

Thanks for the comments and feedback! You’ve shared much that I agree with. I’ll provide some additional thoughts in areas where we’re perhaps seeing things differently.

Giulio, I don’t think we need a single system, but I do think we need integrations between our systems. The amount of integration will depend on our evolving needs and wants. For some systems at some times, it may be enough to be able to open the windows for both systems on a single screen, so to speak.

Abolitionist, different systems provide their users different vcalue propositions. For some, the user interface is the value proposition. Is it lying or manipulative to allow users to use the user interface they like from one system to access the power of another system that has a user interface that confuses them? In other cases, the value proposition arises from a system’s events, API, or database. We can design integrations to leverage the strengths of different systems in different ways and to different extents. I don’t see lying or manipulation in this. I see practicality. It’s worth pointing out that, when it comes to epistemics, I’m neither an absolutist nor a relativist. Rather, I’m a contextualist. Truth is what works in a given context, with the most objective context being the ever broader and deeper context. Objectivity is not a negation of subjectivity, but rather an abstraction across or sharing of subjectivity.

Abolitionist, you also make the important point that science can potentially observe everything. In practice, I also trust that to be true, both for moral and practical reasons. However, also for moral and practical reasons, I can’t wait around for science to provide all the answers. Science is not and never will be complete. There will always be a need for faith, not of the willfully ignorant sort, but rather of the dynamic sort: faith seeking understanding. You contend that truth is truth regardless of opinion, but I challenge that you have no evidence for that. You cannot prove you’re not dreaming, hallucinating, simulating, etc. You know not in the absolute sense, but only in the confident sense, that you can induct future experience from memory of past experience. Keep Hume in mind. Remember Bishop Berkeley. I love science! Thank God for religion!

Pastor Alex, instead of denying the existence of matter, how about understanding matter in terms of information. We can reconcile materialism and idealism in a form of radical empiricism.

Tempibones, although innumerable hypotheses have been and often are wrong, I don’t think it makes sense to say that science has been or is wrong. Science is an epistemic method, and despite all the wrong hypotheses that are essential to its progress, it has proven itself by far the most successful epistemic method available to us.

Abolutionist, I’ll contend that we can’t meaningfully differentiate between scientific truths and religious truths. You mention yourself that truth is truth. So long as we don’t go absolutist and dogmatic about the content of that truth, I’m with you. Science is an epistemic method available to religion, and religion should take advantage of that. There’s no necessary conflict, although many of us choose to insist on conflicts.

Pastor Alex, while I agree that living with doubt is a practical skill to develop and unavoidable in the broadest sense, I don’t think we should celebrate ignorance or assume there’s anything absolutely unknowable. Faith is valuable because it empowers us to pursue knowledge, which in turn strengthens our faith for the ongoing pursuit.

Abolutionist, whether we’ll go to heaven when we die might depend on more than discovery. Faith is about more than discovery. It is only about discovery to the extent our target already exists, and it’s about creation to the extent our target doesn’t already exist. To avoid succombing to fatalism, we should acknowledge that an important kind of truth depends on our faith. On the other hand, I agree with you that science should be used to combat superstition. We need not be superstitious to be religious. In fact, I’ll contend that we SHOULD not be superstitious to be religious. Only bad forms of religion (of which there are plenty) result from superstition.

Abolutionist, you claim that religion should stand aside and allow science to solve humanity’s problems? On what grounds? Do you have scientific evidence that religion SHOULD stand aside? Do you have scientific evidence that science SHOULD step in? However you might answer these questions, ask yourself again: do you have scientific evidence of the underlying assumptions? In the end, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find a level where the answer is “no”. At that point, you must rely on something else. You must rely on ethics or values, and then when you start digging deeper into those, you’ll find they rely on esthetics. Certainly, our minds are providing epistemic feedback loops on our hearts, but something deep inside is moving us. Call it inspiration. Call it instinct. Call it art. Call it will to power. Call it love. I’m happy to debate all of that, but it is not science today. Tomorrow more of it will be science, and the day after that even more of it will be science, but life will never wait. God will never wait. Those who would wait will be pressed by those who will not. What are you living for? What are you creating? In the end, it’s not just technology that will empower us, but rather it’s vision coupled with technology that will empower us, and then it will be compassion (cooperation, integration, or whatever you want to call it) coupled with technology that will perpetuate that power.

Finally, I’ll add that as science should revel in revision, so religion should revel in revelation. Fundamentalism is hugely problematic and deeply immoral, both for science and religion. We always need better theories, and our myths (intended in the formal sense of the word) must always incorporate the best of our theories. Otherwise, we cannot fully empower the compassion and creation of our common aspirations.

“Call it will to power.”

This is where it becomes quite problematic, will to power is a double edged sword, sometimes in the literal sense. Since older folks appear to have no intention—none—of relinquishing their power, and since much of their power is based on outmoded claims, it does not look good at this time. So you might want to redouble your efforts to reach youths such as Christian C. (since his given name is Christian, it might be a sign from the Lord he will be more receptive in the future to transhumanism smile)
Youth have to be reached, no doubt about it, they are getting some truly bad advice from their elders today.

Intomorrow, I agree that there are all kinds of potential problems in persons’ wills and desires, but that’s where the real opportunities are also to be found. Power is not inherently good or evil. It’s just power. I trust that, over the long run, compassionate applications of power will perpetuate themselves best.

Who’s Christian C, and how do I contact him? I’d be happy to reach out.

Instead of integrating, try educating and providing scientific solutions rather than keeping people in the dark by manipulating their buzz words and human weaknesses.

Throughout history, we see religion falling away as science lights the way through repeatable and demonstrable objective truths.

Religion may be a helpful coping mechanism, but there are better solutions that do not lead to ideological addictions which can prevent progress.

Lincoln, you know perfectly well that religion has not solved humanity’s problems.

I’ll bet that every coping mechanism provided by religion available today, can be replaced by a scientific technique that isn’t tied to any religion. Can you name one that can’t be?

Actually science provides validation for the reason that we should use science to solve our problems - it is the ONLY way to accomplish what we all inherently desire;

To increase voluntary happiness, and avoid involuntary suffering.

Behavioral psychology has done a good job of teasing apart what our ultimate intentions are aside from beliefs about reality (like the existence of heaven and hell) and perceptions of self (we may sacrifice ourselves for something we identify with).

Science is needed to produce technological solutions, how do you expect to develop technology without science?

Abolitionist, whether you like it or not, the integration analogy works well. Of course, that doesn’t mean we should avoid fixing defects in and enhancing each of the integrated systems. These aren’t mutually exclusive efforts.

Also whether you like it or not, science is to a significant extent a product of religious faith, and religious faith has to a significant extent shaped the trajectory of our hypotheses and technological applications. You’re engaging an unnecessary scientism in your positions.

As I mentioned in my previous comment, I agree that there are no limits to the application of science. However, it’s simply naive to imagine that science can keep up with the pace of life. We must act according to our esthetics, and religion provides powerful esthetics that (when coupled with technology) will outcompete alternatives.


I didn’t say “science has been or is wrong” but I can see how a careless read of my post would give you that impression. I’ve learned what I need to know from this interaction. Thank you.

“religion provides powerful esthetics that (when coupled with technology) will outcompete alternatives.”

That strikes me as somewhat rash. Religion can and often does outcompete alternatives, but it can also lose out to such alternatives. Arguably it has been doing so, gradually, since the Enlightenment.

It’s not that I want to turn this into a(nother) pissing contest between the religious and the non-religious, but the idea that religion is always going to be the best way to provide the aesthetic framework needed to motivate us seems like a limiting belief to me, unless we redefine the word “religion” until it becomes practically meaningless.

Peter, as we’ve discussed before, I understand religion to be any ideology that provokes the strenuous mood, and we’ve plenty of evidence to suggest the strenuous mood is a good bet (all other things being equal).

Yes, we need to get strenuous from time to time. But do we necessarily need an “ideology” for that, let alone an ideology that fits the more commonly used definitions of “religion”?

In my case, I’ve basically made some decisions about how I want to live the rest of my life, which I hope to be very long, and for the rest I’m trying to bring scientific knowledge to bear to bring that about. That leads me to adopt certain beliefs as a basis for certain types of action and habits, some of which can be regarded as ritualistic and therefore somewhat “religious” in nature, but I would still consider it a stretch to say that I am adhering to a “religion”. Positive psychology is the closest thing I have to a religion these days, but I would describe it less as an ideology than as an evolving set of ideas aimed at bringing science to bear on the question of how to live happier and more meaningful lives. Is it really helpful to refer to that as a “religion”? I guess it depends somewhat on the context.

Peter, I’m happy to feel that you and I have much in common. Whatever you’re doing seems to work for you, and I wish only to express encouragement for that.

I know from personal experience the power of religion, and I would feel morally derelict if I did not advocate appropriate applications of that power.

@Peter re “an evolving set of ideas aimed at bringing science to bear on the question of how to live happier and more meaningful lives. Is it really helpful to refer to that as a “religion”? I guess it depends somewhat on the context.”

When “happier” mainly means having some fun drinking beer with friends, the R word is not too relevant. When “happier” means contemplating transcendent visions of the future cosmic adventures of our species, perhaps with a little role for ourselves to play, I think it is. For me, “happier” means both, so I apply a logical OR and use the term religion.

@Lincoln No argument with that: religion can indeed be powerful, I experienced it myself in the past (and perhaps will again in the future). I only wanted to point it that it will not necessarily outcompete other sources of uplift, i.e. ones that we don’t habitually refer to as “religion”, and that we should not necessarily call them religion just because they are fulfilling a similar purpose.

As for whether we should use the term “religion” to describe Giulio’s “contemplat[ion of] transcendent visions of the future cosmic adventures of our species, perhaps with a little role for ourselves to play”, I guess I don’t have very strong views. But I think it’s important also to recognise that between that and “drinking beer with friends” there is a whole gamut of other possibilities, ranging from short-term, transient pleasure (which can also, of course, include the spiritual high of a religious service) to the long-term satisfaction of living in harmony with one’s values (which might or might not include contemplation of transcendent visions of the future). Nor would I necessarily want to demean the person for whom drinking beer with friends plays essentially the same role as someone else going to church. Perhaps it’s mainly a difference of complexity?

“Who’s Christian C, and how do I contact him? I’d be happy to reach out.”

He has commented here many times, about 21 yrs old; lives in Simi Valley CA- probably busy with finals at college right now.
It would be best to contact him and or others of his age to offer them positions in the:
Special Counsel to the Transhumanist Junior Executive Assistant Vice Presidential Ambassador Officer Candidate Program smile

IMO, btw, ideology died when Communism died.

@Imtomorrow Has Communism really died, or merely evolved?

Communism died, but communism (small case ‘c’) is evolving.

Appoint me Liaison Plenipotentiary to the Transhumanist Politburo Extraordinary Peoples Commissars All Union Sub-Chairperson temporarily attached to the Counterrevolutionary Activities Advisory Board,

and will provide you with a more detailed response, Pete.

Consider yourself so appointed! smile

(PS Does this mean we are counnterrevolutionary now?)

So instead of helping someone find empowerment and educating them we should use their religion to get them to act as we think they should?

No, I prefer educating people and providing them with solutions that work and are objectively verifiable.

The though of manipulating people with their religion makes me feel uneasy and heavy.

Also, I think if they are better educated they will be more effective at accomplishing what they used religion for previously.

I really don’t see any need to use religion either, you can appeal to essential humanity and provide evidence.

If they have objections based upon religious ideologies, then you are forced to cater to their concerns if you want their support, but getting people to support scientific solutions that are safe and effective for what ails them usually isn’t that difficult.

There are very few cases of people who refuse medical treatments that they have seen to be effective and safe.

“getting people to support scientific solutions that are safe and effective for what ails them usually isn’t that difficult.”

I disagree. If you are talking about acute physical ailments, then yes, it is rare for people to refuse medical treatments that have been seen to be effective and safe. But many ailments are chronic rather than acute,  and many are mental rather than physical. And often there are no obvious medical treatments that are both effective and safe. In my experience it can be very difficult to get people to apply perfectly well-founded insights of behavioural psychology that would certainly help them if they did, either because they find such insights to abstract or “touchy-freely”, or precisely because they encroach on their pre-existing religious worldview.

I do agree that we should think twice before deliberately using someone’s religion to get them to act as we think they should, or as we would like them to. I prefer to be straight with people, so if I want them to act in a certain way I prefer to say so, and why, rather than trying to convince them that their religion requires them to do so. But it is also important to have some awareness of who is likely to be ready to embrace which idea. If someone is so committed to a religious worldview that they are unwilling to consider any idea that conflicts with it, then there is little point in insisting that they do so. And if there are aspects of that religious worldview that suggest they should be acting as we want them to, but they don’t seem to be aware of this, then I think it’s perfectly legitimate to point this out.

“If someone is so committed to a religious worldview that they are unwilling to consider any idea that conflicts with it, then there is little point in insisting that they do so.”

Yes, and sociology enters into it: might be better a given person is in a church praying and singing hymns, say, than for instance in a bar brawling; or in a garage stealing hubcaps.
I perceive houses of worship as DMZs, and quite pleasant neutral-zones—in fact the pleasantness supersedes the pretentiousness. Perhaps the only difference between Pastor Alex and I is he would not refer publicly to religion as necessary fiction, while to me ‘necessary fiction’ is two words which IMO best describe religion (besides escapism.. but you could have guessed that). Smart religious people need smart religion, dumb religious people need dumb religion; too bad they all cannot be the former yet be glad the former exist at all rather than merely the latter. Right, Pete?

This is not about manipulation. This is about using the strengths of both in an effective manner. Of course, if you don’t see strengths in one or the other, this won’t matter to you. However, persuading someone of the strengths of the other becomes easier after the integration.

That is encouraging. But one reason the attachment to ‘dumb’ religion can be viewed sympathetically is the reason one can understand rustics: they enjoy a different ambiance, a simpler one. It’s not that I dislike their religion and or lifestyle necessarily (though I would not want to be one of them) it is their generally far-Rightist politics. You wont find all that many tolerant vegetarian pacifists in a Baptist church, for example. And many other houses of worship.
When I moved to the Midwest the realisation dawned everything I had been told about America back east was nonsense; was told by all and sundry that America is a progressive land—it is not.
Perhaps radical conservative is closest to the mark..
and such does not primarily concern politics. Americans want change, but IMO they want to change things as painfully, ‘no pain, no gain’, as possible. They would accept transhumanism if it were framed in no pain, no gain terms. Perhaps Europeans might accept technoprogressive transhumanism; Americans want something more… ruggedly individualistic (radical conservative)... religion in America is generally based on no pain, no gain, tough-love, rugged individualism.
Mormons tend to be more genteel, Lincoln.


I’m not sure, in some respects I prefer the dumb religion. Alex wants to convince us that the Bible is really enlightening, rather than merely confused and in places downright unhelpful, if only we learn how to read it properly, while Lincoln wants to convince us that Mormonism is “on principle an integrating ideology”, making it “eas[y for] Mormons [to] combine religion and science” in order to “engineer[...] a better world”. Lincoln says that it would be “morally derelict” of him not to advocate “appropriate applications” of the power of religion, while Giulio prefers to use the term religion for the contemplation of transcendent visions of the future.

Me, I prefer to keep my religion separate from our more serious efforts to engineer a better world (if “engineering” is the right word, which I doubt) or to find more meaning in our lives. I really don’t have a problem (except perhaps with regard to fire safety) with a bunch of Greeks standing around holding candles in a crowded church while the priests chant Christos Anesti at the Easter Sunday mass. It’s even quite transcendent, in a bizarre kind of way. And the wonderful thing is that one doesn’t have the impression that any of them are taking it particularly seriously.

“Me, I prefer to keep my religion separate from our more serious efforts to engineer a better world (if ‘engineering’ is the right word, which I doubt) or to find more meaning in our lives.”

The simple fact that even at a technoprogressive blog we have to deal with the religious is in-our-faces evidence some of us underestimated the staying power of religion. Pete, when I first heard of transhumanism in ‘89, the notion that 23 years later we would be dealing so much with the religious was certainly predictable—but I never dreamed it was inevitable even though the evidence was overwhelming. You know how when we ignore our better judgment it comes back to haunt us? We get better advice from our better judgment than we do from our ‘betters’!
Just this morning at a meeting with volunteer coordinators, we were all seeing what we wanted to see. They told me I am obsessed with the violence of the ‘underclass’; I asked them how would they know what the situation is like from an office when they drive home at 5 PM into a different substrate than the poor live in. Everyone filters out reality more or less.
So then religion becomes comprehendable: the Darwinist world is filtered out, and the world is malleable in the mind. The Catholic and Mormon worldviews and lifestyles are quite pleasant and sophisticated, more pleasant—yet not more sophisticated- if sophistry is what one wants—than the Darwinisn world outside.
My gut feeling is we need the religious more than they need us. They could abandon any interest in transhumanism and live fulfilled lives. I cannot go back to being gullible, to ignoring the outside world; want to know exactly what is going on as forewarned is forearmed—can’t stand any wool being pulled over the eyes even if the outcome were to be more positive: am too suspicious for that.

I think we need to recognize the fact that religion also evolves and work to evolve it in a direction that will be helpful rather than harmful. It is possible that we will progress to the point where religion will be unnecessary, but given even atheist statements that border on statements of faith (just substitute science for God) and I fear it will be a long time.

As you mentioned, spending $100.00 per hour on a good psychiatrist may be no more efficacious than an hour in church with a decent choir and sermon.
But IMO the reason for accepting religion which immediately comes to mind is: the transhumanist needs the religious more than vice versa- the religious can relocate to spiritually-based intentional communities away from the cities; the transhumanist usually wants to remain in the city where the engine of the modern world is.

What is a transhumanist anyway? What draws me to this site is not a label but rather the fact that I have impression that some of the most important, future-oriented discussions are going on here. And also precisely that I can participate in the discussion wherever I might happen to be, as long as there is WiFi. I don’t insist on living in a city.

So I don’t think transhumanists really “need” the religious, but as Alex says we need to recognise the fact that religion evolves, and work to evolve it in a direction that will be helpful rather than harmful. And it is clear that the Alex’s, Lincolns and Dorothys of the world are going to be at the forefront of this effort, since (for whatever reason) they are drawn to their respective religions more than the likes of Intomorrow and myself.

Regarding atheist statements of faith and whether religion will eventually be unnecessary, Alex you might want to look (again?) at Kris Notaro’s “existential nihilist” article and the ensuing discussion. To me it is absolutely clear that we all need faith, of one sort or another.

YOUR COMMENT Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Future of relationships: changing views of Monogamy and Infidelity

Previous entry: Why Monogamy Is Ridiculous