A New Kind of Eternal Life: The Growing Christian Transhumanism Movement

Friday, 14 August 2015 - 2:53PM
Weird Science
Genetic Engineering
Artificial Intelligence
Friday, 14 August 2015 - 2:53PM
A New Kind of Eternal Life: The Growing Christian Transhumanism Movement
Transhumanism, the movement which aims to use science fiction-esque methods such as brain uploading, cyborgism, and cryogenics to achieve immortality and/or a higher state of evolution, is strongly associated with atheism. Not only is there a strong emphasis on science, which is often considered to be at odds with religion to a certain extent, but this particular brand of science seems particularly opposed to the notion that God should have control over life and death. But according to transhumanist Micah Redding, there's a growing contingent of Christians in the transhumanist movement who are seeking a slightly different type of eternal life than the one touted in the Bible.

In a recent article for Motherboard, Redding, who is the executive director of the Christian Transhumanist Organization, claims that religion and transhumanism are much more compatible than most people believe, and that the Christian transhumanism movement is growing rapidly. He cited pastor Christopher Benek, who recently claimed that AI can potentially be saved by Jesus Christ:

Opening quote
"I don't see Christ's redemption limited to human beings," said Benek. "It's redemption to all of creation, even AI. If AI is autonomous, then we... should encourage it to participate in Christ's redemptive purposes in the world."
Closing quote


Redding claims that transhumanism and religion, particularly the Christian religion, are compatible with transhumanism because they both aim for transcendence (albeit different types) and center around values of compassion and self-sacrifice:

Opening quote
"I think Christians are uniquely placed to be ready for massively extended lifespans. We already have a view of what kind of mind you need," said Australian engineer Jonathan Gunnell. "Without [that] I can foresee the Singularity degenerating into civil war."
Closing quote


Opening quote
"Technology isn't going to solve all our problems, nor is technology going to advance forever at an exponential rate," said Geoffrey Miller, a 27-year-old graduate student and Catholic monastic. "But so what? Cochlear implants can help deaf kids hear and cybernetics can help lame men walk. That's good enough for me…that's my Christian transhumanism."
Closing quote


Redding also claimed that transhumanism provides forward-thinking Christians a means to integrate their religion into modern life and scientific advancement:

Opening quote
"For me, Christian Transhumanism is a way to support my faith without needing to give up reason," said Dorothy Deasy, a design researcher in Vancouver, Washington. "Christianity provides a way for society and culture to understand how to use the power of technology. Christ's mission was based on feeding, healing and teaching. Transhuman age technologies are providing tools to exponentially extend the reach of feeding, healing and teaching."
Closing quote


To be fair, it's not clear that the movement is really taking hold as anything more than a fringe sector of Christianity. Redding's primary justification for his claim that the movement is "growing" within the religion cited the existence of Christian Transhumanist Organization, but he also admitted that it's "smaller and newer" than the Mormon Transhumanist organization, which is nine years old and has 500 members. Considering how widespread Christianity is, this hardly counts as a foothold.

But the easier claim is that the Christian contingent is growing within the Transhumanism movement, at least enough that well-known transhumanists are noting the shift in demographic. Hank Pellissier, director of the Brighter Brains Institute and producer of a popular series of Transhumanist conferences, admitted that he's seen a much higher number of religious people at his conferences than he ever expected, especially since he's a staunch atheist himself:

Opening quote
"My initial reaction was probably amused curiosity," says Hank Pellissier, director of the Brighter Brains Institute, and producer of a popular series of Transhumanist conferences. "Later…I was angry about religious transhumanists. I was a militant atheist before I was a transhumanist, like many transhumanists are. [Now] I welcome them. If transhumanism presents itself as an atheist-only anti-religious club… this would be detrimental to transhumanism as a movement."
Closing quote
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