Transhumanism is an intellectual movement that aims to transform and improve humanity. It is similar to religion as it propagates universal human values. It differs from religion as instead of churches and prayers it uses science and technology to achieve tangible results.
How does it aim to achieve those results you would ask? -By developing and making available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physiological, and moral functioning.
Transhumanists argue that humanity in its current form represents an early phase of its evolutionary development. A common Transhumanist thesis is that humans may eventually transform themselves into beings with greatly expanded abilities that will have become godlike or posthuman. Notably, this interpretation includes defeating the limitations imposed on humanity by death.
Having read thus far, you can easily conclude that Transhumanism is a new religion. But is this really so?
Is Transhumanism a Religion?
Transhumanists want some of the same things like religious zealots, – such as infinite being, infinite consciousness, and infinite bliss. Nevertheless, religions and Transhumanism are dissimilar in very important ways. Religious beliefs are superstitious and implausible, both an affront to intellect and an insult at our best scientific knowledge, appealing to some undefined and invisible entity in hope of getting something once we do not breathe any more.
Transhumanists on the other hand aim to replace the delusions of popular religions and use science and technology to transform the very feasible reality of our lives.
Religions’ adherents are imaging there is a mansion in the sky populated by angels and gods while Transhumanists work on creating a heaven-like habitat on earth.
In other words, there is a great difference between saying that unicorns exist and using biotechnology to create them. The first is fantasy, the second is an engineering project.
Just like Greta Thunberg does not have to be a scientist to bring public’s attention to some important points about climate change data, Transhumanists are not always scientists who know the solutions to world’s most pressing issues.
However, they are standing in the vanguard of popularizing scientific discoveries for the sake of battling diseases, extending human life span and improving living conditions for all sentient beings.
Should Transhumanists Be Given a Freedom of Action?
Some people object to transhumanism as they worry about the risks associated with the project of augmenting Humanity.
As the experience shows, however, if you do not make a step forward, you are being brought two steps behind. There is no risk-free way into the future and if we are to survive and flourish as species we must as well augment our moral and intellectual faculties. We either evolve, or we die. Pure Darwin.
The question we ought to face in the fast changing environment:
How do we challenge our centuries long theistic notion of religion that built the whole foundation of human civilization – our architecture, art and the institution of hope?
What Actually Constitutes Religion?
Harari provides a helpful model of understanding religion in these post-theistic term: “Religion is anything that legitimizes human norms and values by arguing that they reflect some superhuman order.”
In this sense, Harari shows how things like liberalism, humanism, and communism all fit this definition and share a common function with religion by providing structure to the lives of the people who believe in them.
All these beliefs religions claim as their own are not artifacts we can put under a microscope or facts we can scientifically test—but they are sacred value judgements that exist as fundamental commitments people share. This is not to say that all beliefs are created equal—there are always varying degrees of utility to any belief—but this is a useful way of understanding how religions managed to make themselves into worldwide ideological frameworks.
In this debate, an expanded post-theistic understanding of religion shows how science and religion aren’t necessarily opposed, but serve different functions.
Transhumanism helps uncover this often-concealed distinction and unite hard data with human values.
Science can tell us about the objective world, but its mission must always be conducted within a system of values constructed by the larger society.
In other words, science is here to serve Humanity and not the other way round.
This is precisely why we need Transhumanist ideology to have an open discussion around how and for which purpose we are creating scientific discoveries and new technologies.