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Transhumanism and Transcendence

Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Enhancement

Ronald Cole-Turner, Editor

Publication Year: 2011

The timeless human desire to be more beautiful, intelligent, healthy, athletic, or young has given rise in our time to technologies of human enhancement. Athletes use drugs to increase their strength or stamina; cosmetic surgery is widely used to improve physical appearance; millions of men take drugs like Viagra to enhance sexual performance. And today researchers are exploring technologies such as cell regeneration and implantable devices that interact directly with the brain. Some condemn these developments as a new kind of cheating—not just in sports but in life itself—promising rewards without effort and depriving us most of all of what it means to be authentic human beings. “Transhumanists,” on the other hand, reject what they see as a rationalizing of human limits, as if being human means being content forever with underachieving bodies and brains. To be human, they insist, is to be restless with possibilities, always eager to transcend biological limits.

As the debate grows in urgency, how should theology respond? Christian theologians recognize truth on both sides of the argument, pointing out how the yearnings of the transhumanists—if not their technological methods—find deep affinities in Christian belief. In this volume, Ronald Cole-Turner has joined seasoned scholars and younger, emerging voices together to bring fresh insight into the technologies that are already reshaping the future of Christian life and hope.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

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1. Introduction: The Transhumanist Challenge

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pp. 1-18

Technology is being used more and more today in an attempt to enhance human lives by directly modifying human traits or capacities. Athletes use drugs to increase their strength or stamina. Cosmetic surgery is widely used around the world to improve physical appearance, while millions of men take drugs like Viagra to enhance their sexual performance. ...

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2. Contextualizing a Christian Perspective on Transcendence and Human Enhancement: Francis Bacon, N. F. Fedorov, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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pp. 19-36

Transhumanism is the contemporary movement that advocates the use of technologies—biotechnology or information technology—to transcend what it means to be human. Its dependence upon cutting-edge technologies might make it seem to be a fairly recent phenomenon. Today’s transhumanism has its antecedents, however, and its engagement with Christianity ...

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3. Transformation and the End of Enhancement: Insights from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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pp. 37-50

Few theologians have offered more suggestive openings for a constructive dialogue with transhumanism than the French Jesuit Pierre Teil-hard de Chardin. Because he was also a paleontologist, he sensed deeply the dynamic of evolutionary development that has shaped the world from its origins, and he recognized that human beings have become agents of their...

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4. Dignity and Enhancement in the Holy City

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pp. 51-72

The enhancement debate appears as an “either/or”—either enhancement threatens something about our human dignity because it defies limits intrinsic to human beings and hence to human dignity, or enhancement may contribute to human dignity. The first is roughly the view of the President’s Council on Bioethics in Beyond Therapy; the second is a position ...

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5. Progress and Provolution: Will Transhumanism Leave Sin Behind?

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pp. 63-86

"I like new things,” my mother said one day during my youth. She was sitting on the sofa, running her hand over the upholstery and feeling the texture. The sofa was brand new. It had just been delivered by the department store. My mother did not experience such new things very frequently. This was a special day. ...

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6. The Hopeful Cyborg

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pp. 87-100

The transhumanist vision is an end product of the belief that the human condition can be improved through reason, science, and technology. It focuses predominantly upon the autonomous individual, asserting the primacy of reason as a force for personal and therefore societal transformation. Through the use of applied reason, transhumanism asserts ...

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7. Artificial Wombs and Cyborg Births: Postgenderism and Theology

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pp. 101-114

What is a “posthuman”? In a sense, it is impossible to define this term, because the posthuman is not one single thing but rather a whole set of possible things.1 One posthuman possibility is the feminist cyborg, first described by Donna Haraway in her landmark essay referred to in shorthand as the “Cyborg Manifesto.” The cyborg, as an organic–mechanical ...

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8. Taking Leave of the Animal?: The Theological and Ethical Implications of Transhuman Projects

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pp. 115-130

In this chapter I focus on the relationship between transhumanism and what might be termed human “animality” or “creatureliness.” I believe that this is important, because taken in isolation the kind of enhancements portrayed by transhuman philosophers might seem relatively innocuous. By drawing particularly on the work of Nick Bostrom, the philosopher and ...

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9. Chasing Methuselah: Transhumanism and Christian Theosis in Critical Perspective

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pp. 131-144

On Monday, August 4, 1997, Madame Jeanne Calment died at the age of 122 years as the longest-lived person in modern history. Before her death she had become a local celebrity in her hometown of Arles, France. She took up fencing at the age of 85 and was still riding her bicycle at 100. She was fond of both chocolate and cigarettes, and only reluctantly gave ...

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10. Human or Vulcan?: Theological Consideration of Emotional Control Enhancement

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pp. 145-162

Transhumanism encompasses a wide variety of views generally oriented toward “the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.”1...

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11. Whose Salvation?: Which Eschatology? Transhumanism and Christianity as Contending Salvific Religions

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pp. 163-176

Death, and more broadly finitude and mortality, has been a perennial religious concern, a universal yet nonetheless anxiety-ridden attribute of the human condition prompting some kind of salvific response. These responses have ranged from indifferent resignation to desperate struggle. On the one hand, the Pre-Socratics share with Nietzsche an amor fati ...

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12. Transcendence, Technological Enhancement, and Christian Theology

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pp. 177-192

In an essay published in 2004 Francis Fukuyama famously (or for some, notoriously) identified transhumanism as “the world’s most dangerous idea.” 1 Many Christians would agree with Fukuyama’s condemnation of any program that has as its goal, or at least as a welcome prospect, the transformation of humans into “future beings whose basic capacities so radically...

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13. Transhumanism and Christianity

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pp. 193-204

The scholars who contributed to this book hold differing views on transhumanism and on the use of technology for human enhancement. Even so, several shared themes and common perspectives are clearly visible. For example, the contributors generally recognize that on the surface, at least, there are notable similarities between Christianity and trans-...

Contributors

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pp. 205-208

Index

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pp. 209-219


E-ISBN-13: 9781589017948
E-ISBN-10: 1589017943
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589017801
Print-ISBN-10: 1589017803

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2011

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Subject Headings

  • Medical technology.
  • Biotechnology -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Technology -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Human body -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Theological anthropology -- Christianity.
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