Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spiritual Transhumanism (Review, Video) *Human 2.0: The Relevance of God in a Transbiological World*


Human 2.0 and God in a Transbiological World: The Compatibility of Religion and Transhumanism

[Editor's Note] This post is one of a series to explore spiritual transhumanism. The speaker reviewed is Dorothy Deasy, a Christian existentialist, who spoke at the Transhumanism and Spirituality 2010 seminar held by the Mormon Transhumanist Association. Ms. Deasy presented a good overview of what spirituality and organized religion will be encountering in a post-human, trans-human, trans-biological world. The world view of some religions is much more compatible with this future society than others and will be explored in a future post. For the purposes of this post and Deasy's presentation, Methodism and Mormonism are incidental and not specifically relevant. Ms. Deasy asked important questions and made good points to utilize as a framework for reviewing Human 2.0 and God in a transbiological world.

How Do We Reconcile Spirituality With Transhumanism? Atheists versus Religious Fundamentalists: Are Spiritual Transhumanists the Middle Way? This post reviews the first 6:15 of the presentation and video below by Dorothy Deasy.

What Does Spirituality Mean? Is an Electronically or Pharmacologically Induced Religious Experience the Same as Spirituality? Dorothy Deasy answers, "Both give us a sense of euphoria, both allow us to step outside our own egos to observe our own neurotic behaviors, both may trigger feelings of unity. So what's the difference? A drug wears off. Spirituality is incorporating insight from peak experiences into our everyday lives. Spiritual engagement is ongoing, allowing access to that part of us that is more fundamental than the 'I', that which creates the 'We'. It teaches that our lives are interconnected with lives of others. It reshapes our being, so that we strive not to simply repeat the peak experience, but to live up to and into those images of ourselves and others. It is not simply a feeling, but a call to action and interaction. Spirituality is the growing realization that we are connected to all of humanity and that to do harm to others is to do harm to ourselves. The uniting role of spirituality is borne out by science." She adds, "Empathy is a part of our evolutionary development". Deasy quotes Jeremy Rifkin, "We are actually soft-wired...for sociability, attachment..., affection, companionship, and the first drive is to actually belong".

Spiritual Experiences Are Biological Experiences: We Are Biological Beings Dorothy Deasy states that spiritual experiences are actually biological experiences. "Through brain research, we are actually able to see the biological processes underlying our experiences of transcendence and our connections with others. Therefore, "it is not an either/or experience, but two different, and non-conflicting, ways of describing the same [spiritual] experience." That is, science and religion are describing the same experience, but from different viewpoints. Deasy mentions and quotes from "The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World" by Zach Lynch and from research by Dr. Andrew Newberg ("The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience"). The point is that "Western culture, rooted in dualism, poses false choices between belief systems, such as religion versus science, free market versus justice, and mysticism versus biochemical reactions. We are biological beings and as such we experience everything, even our most profound of experiences, through our bodies. Because we understand how the machinery works, does not negate the importance of what that experience means."

The Transhuman Road Ahead Deasy begins, "It is becoming clear as we move further into the 21st century, that humanity has within reach the ability to alter the body human and to influence the trigger points of life itself. What is less clear is whether our ethical, moral, and spiritual development can keep pace with our technological prowess." Transhumanist describe the biological, medical, and technological developments as the "next stage of evolution, which is perhaps more accurately described at Human 2.0. It is not so much evolution as industrialization applied to biology." Deasy notes that transhumanists, by referring to evolution and a new species, could place unenhanced humans as inferior and outcasts. She quotes Jeremy Rifkin and the critical role of empathy in human development. "He notes we went from blood ties to religious affiliation to nationalism, and currently emerging is the extension of empathy to the biosphere."

Two Concurrent Paradigms Dorothy Deasy sees a natural evolution paradigm, driving individuals towards empathy to the biosphere and "radical cooperation". The other paradigm is the transhuman evolution paradigm, that, "without attention to spirituality, and its emphasis on interdependence, will take us someplace altogether different." She quotes theologian Ted Peters, "We should play human in the imago dei sense - that is, we should understand ourselves as created co-creators and press our scientific and technological creativity into the service of neighbor love, of beneficence." Paul Tillich, a Christian existentialist, said, "It is not the technologies that represent the risk, it is how we develop and apply the technologies."

The Compatibility of Religion and Transhumanism by Dorothy Deasy Presented at Transhumanism and Spirituality 2010, held 1 October 2010, 9:00am to 5:00pm MDT at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Marriott Library, Gould Auditorium.

Abstract: As we move further into the 21st century humanity has within reach the ability to alter the body human to such an extent as to give rise to a new post-human species. What is less clear is whether our ethical, moral and spiritual development can keep pace with our technological prowess. This paper will take the position that our faith communities are in a unique position to speak up for the need to hold both God and science together in our lives, to check human hubris and offset individual motives in exchange for ethical standards that support social justice.

About Dorothy Deasy

Dorothy Deasy is a freelance design researcher. She specializes in the user’s context and strategic qualitative projects using techniques such as immersion, ethnography, observation, and indirect inquiry. Her undergraduate degree is in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She is currently working on her Masters of Applied Theology. A Christian existentialist, her thesis is on spirituality for a transhuman age. “Still we struggle against the tides, against the magnets in our genes, which pull us together, reminding us that we are not alone, but the universe itself.” (from the poem Magnets In Our Genes)

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