Transhumanism makes two core promises. First, humans will soon acquire heightened capacities, not through deep prayer, meditation, or personal discipline, but merely by taking a pill, engineering our DNA, or otherwise harnessing medical science and technology to transcend normal physical limitations. More compellingly, transhumanism promises that adherents will soon experience, if not eternal life, then at least indefinite existence – in this world, not the next – through the wonders of applied science.
This is where transhumanism becomes truly eschatological. Transhumanist prophets anticipate a coming neo-salvific event known as the “Singularity” – a point in human history when the crescendo of scientific advances become unstoppable, enabling transhumanists to recreate themselves in their own image. Want to have the eyesight of a hawk? Edit in a few genes. Want to raise your IQ? Try a brain implant. Want to look like a walrus? Well, why not? Different strokes for different folks, don’t you know?
Most importantly, in the post-Singularity world, death itself will be defeated. Perhaps, we will repeatedly renew our bodies through cloned organ replacements or have our heads cryogenically frozen to allow eventual surgical attachment to a different body. However, transhumanists’ greatest hope is to eternally save their minds (again, as opposed to souls) via personal uploading into computer programs. Yes, transhumanists expect to ultimately live without end in cyberspace, crafting their own virtual realities, or perhaps, merging their consciousnesses with others’ to experience multi-beinghood.
Transhumanists used to repudiate any suggestion that their movement is a form of, or substitute for, religion. But in recent years, that denial has worn increasingly thin. For example, Yuval Harari, a historian and transhumanist from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told The Telegraph, “I think it is likely in the next 200 years or so Homo sapiens will upgrade themselves into some idea of a divine being, either through biological manipulation or genetic engineering by the creation of cyborgs, part organic, part non-organic.”
According to Harari, the human inventions of religion and money enabled us to subdue the earth. But with traditional religion waning in the West – and who can deny it? – he believes we need new “fictions” to bind us together. That’s where transhumanism comes in:
Religion is the most important invention of humans. As long as humans believed they relied more and more on these gods, they were controllable. With religion, it’s easy to understand. You can’t convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana with the promise it will get 20 more bananas in chimpanzee Heaven. It won’t do it. But humans will.
But what we see in the last few centuries is humans becoming more powerful, and they no longer need the crutches of the gods. Now we are saying, “We do not need God, just technology.”
Ha! The old stereotype of the bearded Christian fanatic in robe and sandals carrying a sign stating, “The end is nigh!” has been replaced by transhumanism proselytizers like author Ray Kurzweil (of Google fame) whose bestselling transhumanist manifesto is titled, The Singularity is Near.
I can’t end this essay without highlighting an absolutely crucial distinction that must be drawn between transhumanism and orthodox faiths, particularly Christianity. Christianity’s highest ideal is love. St. John the Evangelist wrote, “God is love.” Christ commanded Christians to “love one another as I have loved you.” Hence, believers understand that Christian living requires clothing the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned, etc. Because, as Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, when we do these things to “the least of these, you have done it unto Me.”