Having fouled Earth with the works of their modern substitute for religion, science and technology, liberals imagine they can build a perfect world in outer space by means of science and technology that are now more “advanced” than they were in the past, or so it is boasted. It is what NASA has been about since the agency’s inception. The effort has been joined in recent years by billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos with space projects of their own financed by them. However, there is a fly in the liberals’ ointment.
It is that their planned perfect world would be inhabited by imperfect human beings, men and women who are often irrational, some to the degree that they persist in holding to the preposterous notion that a Palestinian peasant two thousand years ago was God, and all of them subject to emotions which can be unruly and lead to messy situations. This, despite liberalism with its belief in the perfectibility of man, having long ago replaced religion as the core around which the life of society is lived.
Some very rich and powerful men, not to speak of scientists and technologists of like mind, think there is now a solution to the “problem” (as they see it) of human imperfection. It is called transhumanism. Perhaps you have heard of it. The literature of transhumanism is quite extensive. Heavily funded foundations promote it. References to it show up regularly in mass media. Persons under forty are apt to talk about it at social gatherings when they want to appear to have “intellectual” interests.
Like Christianity ever since the so-called Reformation shattered the unity of the Faith, sectarian differences exist within transhumanism, but all its adherents believe in, work toward, or otherwise support an undertaking of the kind that could only be conceived in a post-Christian age like ours: melding human beings and computers. The idea is to upload artificial intelligence (A.I.) into men so they will become, transhumanists say, more than human. Christians would say it will make them, if successful, less so, but we’re not going to get into that here.
Not all Christians would say it anyway. Although most transhumanists are atheists, they recognize the Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin as a precursor. To anyone looking for clarity of thought and expression the woolly verbiage of Teilhard’s writings make them difficult to read, but it is possible to get his drift. It appeals to the kind of Catholics who strive to reconcile truths taught by the Church with science and technology in order to rationalize their dependence on machines — to transport them, cool them, make things for them, entertain them, keep them alive in some circumstances, do more and more of their thinking for them.
Being a paleontologist, Teilhard was a great believer in evolution. What he envisioned, decades before the development of the internet and worldwide web, was all machines linked in a network by which, and in which, human minds would merge, all consciousness becoming unified so that it would eventually “break through the material framework of Time and Space” and arrive at what he called Omega Point — the Divine, Christ. Of course at that point human beings would not be as we know them and as they have always existed.
Julian Huxley, the famed British eugenicist, was a close friend of Teilhard, but a non-believer. In a 1951 lecture he presented a secularized version of Teilhard: “Such a broad philosophy might perhaps be called, not Humanism, because that has certain unsatisfactory connotations, but Transhumanism. It is the idea of humanity attempting to overcome its limitations and to arrive at fuller fruition”
Oh, those irksome “limitations”! (i.e., irrational beliefs and emotions.)
Many transhumanists see Christian belief in particular as positively threatening. Simon Young, one of their leading thinkers, has written: “The greatest threat to humanity’s continued evolution is theistic opposition to Superbiology in the name of a belief system based on blind faith in the absence of evidence.”
Perhaps the most influential transhumanist thinker is Ray Kurzwell, a director of engineering at Google. A book he wrote in 1999, The Age of Spiritual Machines, is a kind of bible of the movement. “The twenty-first century will be different,” he said therein. “The human species, along with the computerized technology it created, will be able to solve age-old problems…and will be in a position to change the nature of mortality in a postbiological future.”
Change the nature of mortality? He means his “spiritual machines” will live forever, their bodies incorruptible, immune to disease and decay. To acquire knowledge, all they’ll have to do is upload it effortlessly to their brains.
Kurzwell calls the point in evolution where this happens Singularity. It is analogous to Teilhard’s Omega Point.
Some transhumanists, including Kurzwell, talk about resurrecting the dead. They’ll do it, they think, using the DNA we all leave behind. This is where space travel comes back into the picture, though in a way unforeseen by the men who launched NASA: What with the dead being brought back to life and everybody living forever (as “spiritual machines”), it won’t take long before Earth really is overpopulated. Migration to other planets will be necessary.
The billionaire Elon Musk identifies as a transhumanist. Besides developing the Tesla electric automobile, he is best known for Space X, a project for developing reusable rockets with a view to their eventually transporting men and material to Mars for human colonization of the Red Planet. (Since there is no oxygen on Mars, vehicles on the planet will have to be powered by electricity. Hence the Tesla.)
Peter Thiel is another billionaire transhumanist and financial angel to enterprises like Future of Humanity Institute and Singularity University. Although he was given a speaker’s slot at last year’s Republican National Convention, he is less well known to the public than Elon Musk. Born in Germany and now a citizen of New Zealand, he was a co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook, is openly gay, a huge fan of Tolkein (he says he has read Lord of the Rings more than ten times), was a member of the Libertarian Party until 2016, and seems to have an unerring instinct for placing himself where power and influence can be had. His membership on the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group shows that. So did his being named to the executive committee of Donald Trump’s transition team after Trump won last November’s election (he had contributed $1.25 million to the Trump presidential campaign). It is known that he is a partner of Jared Kushner in one of the latter’s investment operations. Oh, he also describes himself as a Christian but acknowledges that his beliefs are not orthodox. His financial contributions to transhumanism are weighted toward life-extension and age-reversal projects. (At one point, pre-PayPal, Thiel was a speech-writer for William Bennett when the former drug czar and U.S. Secretary of Education was marketing himself as a morality guru with books like The Book of Virtues and The Children’s Book of Virtues, but grew tired of the job and quit before the public learned that Bennett was a compulsive gambler who had blown millions of dollars at Las Vegas casinos.)
The defense of civilization requires vigilance, but guarding against treachery from within is hard. Western Christian civilization has been undone by leaders who were really Judases, beginning with the priests, bishops and princes who led millions out of the Church at the time of the Protestant revolt commonly called the Reformation. They were followed by the Revolution which first overthrew Christian government in France in 1789 and has continued to unroll so that it does not now exist anywhere. More recently there were the “culture wars,” which Christians could never have won, not with the weight of modernity against them.
Why? The Judas factor again. Christianity demands sanctification for entrance into Heaven; and self-denial, self-abnegation, self-discipline are requisite to it. Too many modern Christians, faith and belief run out of them, including belief in Heaven except maybe as a place where everybody will go anyway, have preferred self-aggrandizement instead. What they want is all that will make things easier for self or, better yet, enhance it. What could do that to a greater degree than the promise of immortality, especially immortality without pesky emotions and irrational beliefs to mar its perfection?
The trouble is that only a computer could see such a state of things as perfect.
Footnote: Transhumanists argue among themselves as to whether the right of anyone to “stay human,” especially for religious reasons, should be respected and protected. If these people ever exercise more power and influence than they already do, the argument will probably prove pointless. When most remaining Christians aren’t Christian enough to face life without the “benefits” of modernity’s existing appurtenances — smartphones, processed foods, automobiles, television, air-conditioning, etc., etc. — how many will choose Heaven in whose existence they can believe only by faith over the “scientific certainty” of life in the here and now forever and ever?