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Blurring Lines
Mike Treder   Jul 29, 2009   Ethical Technology  

An article I posted here two days ago apparently gave an impression different from what I intended to convey. To begin with, the title (“Drawing Lines”) was poorly chosen, since it implies that I’m in favor of making sharp distinctions between what technoprogressives should and should not believe. The title was only meant to indicate the subject matter—i.e., whether such lines should be drawn—and not to suggest that they definitely ought to be.

So, in this entry I’ll take a slightly different approach to the issues and try to describe a somewhat more nuanced position.

Beginning again with the matter of religious belief…the concentric circles illustration could be interpreted to mean that atheism is the “best” or “most correct” attitude for technoprogressives to take, but that’s not what I wanted to express.

A better way to show the range of IEET positions on the topic might be a spectrum, like this:

Many, perhaps most, technoprogressives are atheists or agnostics. Some, however, are believers in a faith tradition, whether Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, or something else. Where lines might be drawn is when tenets of religious doctrine start to overrule science and reason, but it’s admittedly fuzzy.

Similarly on the question of anthropogenic climate change, there is no single “correct” way for technoprogressives to think. Most of us probably favor quick and rather dramatic action to combat global warming, although there are others who say it’s not that urgent, since emerging technologies soon will make the problems fairly easy to solve. As I stated before, however, anyone who would flatly deny the existence of global warming does not demonstrate the scientific reasoning to be taken seriously within our community.

By introducing a different topic, the probability and imminence of a Technological Singularity, we can see that there are some areas where our opinions cover the spectrum. Many technoprogressives expect an “intelligence explosion” and/or a rapid change discontinuity to occur during the present century, but how soon that might be and how certain they are about it is not well defined.

We’re open to discussion here about a full range of ethical, legal, and social questions raised by emerging technologies. Our preference is to approach such matters from a starting point of scientific rationality and political liberalism, and we’ll certainly make an effort to guide conversations in those directions.

Mike Treder is a former Managing Director of the IEET.


“As I stated before, however, anyone who would flatly deny the existence of global warming does not demonstrate the scientific reasoning to be taken seriously within our community.”

Which community? The community that “favor(s) quick and rather dramatic action to combat global warming?”
Are you a climatologist?

Glad you, um, blurred that up.  Still, I enjoy visiting here for the wild variety of viewpoints, all delivered under the banner of this basic idea that technological progress should be a transformative force for good in peoples’ lives.

I don’t disagree with your subjects for discussion as individual items.  But they are arbitrary.  I just don’t see no reason to play along with your litmus tests just so I can be a member of your exclusive Technoprogressive Club.

Hmm…. not bad you got me as Green all the way, but then it is rather broad shooting!

What troubles me somewhat about this whole site, (apart from a few places I have had chance to visit that is), is what appears to be a strong anti-religious attitude. Whilst I understand your organisations sentiments for this may be strong for your own reasons, (fear?) : not all religious followers are zealots. Not all religions follow the strong monism tenets strung out by the main parties Judaism-Christianity-Islam. These three stooges may hold the most responsibilities for our troubled social structures today, yet there are still many millions of folks out there that don’t sign up.

Yet what is most important is that all religions usually contain a strong grounding in humanity, ethics, and compassion : these are the more positive aspects that should be embraced and improved upon.

And lets not forget “the” most important player in the game : philosophy. This should be embraced wholly, and there are thousands of years to draw from. It is impossible to ignore the philosophical debate in any subject matter regarding humanity. Philosophy is a human trait, and we are all the children of a blend of philosophical thought that has arisen over the past three! Millennia.

In short you can be sure that any subject matter you have the inclination to discuss and peruse has already been discussed at least a million times before by a million peoples : and it does not just begin with the Ancient Greeks.

Ps. Just to make it absolutely clear, I deem myself to be “borderline” Agnostic, at present. I used to claim I was Atheist, but lets face it, who didn’t in their teen rebel years. Now I realise Atheism merely negates the existence of anything it does not wholly understand.

Frank Tipler : was he not an atheist also at some point?

The Scientific method does include the clause, (small print), that given the choice to “judge” whether a phenomena or entity, lifeforce, model of universal creation theory, God etc. may exist : we err on the side of caution.
It is logic that should dictate that since we cannot yet prove some thing does not exist, we must assume the possibility, and thus accept the beliefs of others, that they may exist.

“Still, I enjoy visiting here for the wild variety of viewpoints, all delivered under the banner of this basic idea that technological progress should be a transformative force for good in peoples’ lives.”

Here, here !!

my sentiments exactly


Why should religion receive a special pedestal to stand upon? Its no different than any other hypothesis on how the universe works, so why are we constantly forced to wear gloves when dealing with religion? Why don’t you tell the IEET that they have an anti-flat earth bias? Or an anti-flying saucer bias?

When religious claims are shown to be nonsense under the light of reality and scientific scrutiny there remains no reason for us to lend them any credence.

CygnusX1 asks: “Frank Tipler : was he not an atheist also at some point?”

“In the opening paragraph of Chapter XII: “The Omega Point and Christianity” of The Physics of Immortality, Tipler wrote the following:

To emphasize the scientific nature of the Omega Point Theory, let me state here that I am at present forced to consider myself an atheist, in the literal sense that I am not a theist. (A-theist means “not theist.”) I do not yet even believe in the Omega Point. The Omega Point Theory is a viable scientific theory of the future of the physical universe, but the only evidence in its favor at the moment is theoretical beauty, for there is as yet no confirming experimental evidence for it. Thus scientifically one is not compelled to accept it at the time of my writing these words. So I do not. Flew, among others, has in my opinion made a convincing case for the presumption of atheism. If the Omega Point Theory and all possible variations of it are disconfirmed, then I think atheism in the sense of Flew, Hume, Russell, and the other self-described atheists is the only rational alternative. But of course I also think the Omega Point Theory has a very good chance of being right, otherwise I would never have troubled to write this book. If the Omega Point Theory is confirmed, I shall then consider myself a theist.”

Tipler now considers himself a theist.

;0] @ veronica

My point exactly !

Although I understand that more scientific discussion should preside here over religious beliefs and ideas, my point is that you must not alienate the beliefs and discussion from “theists” and “non-theists” and philosophers alike. All have a valid and often interesting position and points to offer.

@ MikeC
If the IEET begin taking sly jabs at ufologists and “flat-earth peoples”, then I may just find time to stick up for these also! (for the moment it appears that they are getting off lightly?)

Regarding the Omega point
How do we know for sure that this has not already happened?
How can we be sure that we are not already living in a vast virtual simulation?
Is Frank Tipler a prophesier or simply a recipient of early counsel?

Note it may just be easier to be receptive to ideas that already exist, than be party to revelation of new ones : but then are there really any new ideas out there >>>

This is getting all a little too “matrixeee” for me, so I’ll leave it here.

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