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Science and Spirituality at Global Future 2045

Posted: Fri, March 08, 2013 | By: Giulio Prisco



 

Editors Note: This article was written as a response to a previous article by Maria Konovalenko, which can be found here.

 

The 2nd International Global Future 2045 congress will cover global challenges and science mega-projects to address them, as well as insights on these matters from various spiritual traditions. The premise is that humanity needs a scientific revolution and significant spiritual changes that will be inseparably linked, supporting and supplementing each other.

Visionaries and world-class practitioners in science, technology and ethics will join educators, futurists, philosophers and spiritual leaders at the 2nd International Global Future 2045 congress at the Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, June 15-16, 2013.

The roster of speakers is really stellar, with world class scientists who will cover super science and highly imaginative technologies, the development of anthropomorphic robots, telepresence systems, brain-computer interfaces (BCI), life-support systems for the brain, neuroprostheses, whole brain modeling, consciousness theory, and roadmaps for non-biological mind substrates, with a focus similar to the Singularity Summit and other futurist science events.

What is unique and intriguing, however, is the emphasis given to a new synthesis of science and spiritual traditions: “Humanity is in need of new guidelines for its development which match the challenges of our times, and which reflect the achievements of leading technologies and the spiritual experience of civilization. Representatives of faiths and spiritual practices are the traditional keepers of this experience, which has been accumulated over millennia. However, modern society only accepts things that have passed the inspection of science. Therefore, in order to form a new evolutionary strategy for humanity, it is necessary to ensure a dialogue between science and spiritual traditions. Creating a constructive environment for this dialogue is one of the most important tasks of the congress.

 

Science writer Maria Konovalenko doesn’t seem to like this approach. She writes on Transhumanity and her own blog: “Credible researchers, like Dr. George Church, Dr. Marvin Minsky, Dr. Ed Boyden, Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro and Dr. Peter Diamandis, are mixed with self-realized Siddha masters, Jewish mystical meditators and mahatmandaleshwars of the Juna Akhara Order of Hindu monks. This is beyond unacceptable.

This combination of researchers and religious activists will allow the organizers to promote their religious ideas whatever those may be. Substrate-Independent Minds has nothing to do with religion and faith. It is crucial not to transform [Substrate]-Indipendent Minds in some sectarian idea of finding a soul,” continues Konovalenko. “Combining religious leaders and credible researchers discredits both the work of those scientists and transhumanist ideas.

I often agree with Konovalenko, who is a smart person and a good writer, but I totally disagree on this point. Re-using her words, I find her critique beyond unacceptable, and an example of that rabid “militant atheist” bigotry which builds walls instead of bridges between people.

1. First, there are many interpretations of transhumanism, including spiritual interpretations. I think the world is an interesting place because there are many people with very different ideas, priorities, and values, and the world would be a very boring place otherwise.

Live and let live, and let a thousand flowers bloom! I am sure many participants will listen to the scientific talks and ignore the spiritual talks, and vice versa. But for me, the fusion of science and spirituality is what makes this conference interesting.

Many persons have spiritual inclinations and sensibilities, and this is a fact. Spiritually-oriented persons and religious believers are a majority, and this is another fact. Denying the facts, ignoring the people, and closing the doors, is never a good growth strategy for a social movement. The organizers of Global Future 2045 have, wisely, chosen an open door strategy.

2. Second, science and technology are tools. They can help us to achieve our goals, but they cannot tell us what our goals should be. Science and technology live in the land of “is” but goals and values live in the land of “ought,” and we cannot derive “ought” from “is.” But we can derive “is” from “ought” — we can use science and technology to turn our visions into reality.

We are getting close to a point where we can use science and technology to remake our species, transcend biology, and move to the stars. The great spiritual traditions have been a source of visionary wisdom in our history, a guide for scientists and philosophers as well as believers, and with suitable adaptations (see next point) they can continue to guide us in the future.

3. Third, all indicates that someday we may get to the point where we can use science and technology to do really momentous things, “magic” feats in the sense of Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law, large-scale space-time engineering, master Time, re-write the laws of nature themselves, steer the evolution of the universe, build synthetic realities containing conscious observers like ourselves, resurrect the dead by copying them to the future, and build/become Gods. See the Ten Cosmist Convictions for more, and note that even Sir Richard Dawkins agrees.

Our super-human descendants may use their God-like powers to turn the promises of religions into reality, and perhaps some alien civilizations out there have done all that already. In this sense, the teachings of the great spiritual traditions are true — for they are realized by science. The new (actually old) Cosmist spiritual transhumanism can bridge the gap between transhumanists and billions of believers and New-Age spiritual seekers, and give us hope, happiness, energy, and drive.



Comments:

Quite an enthralling article. One shall wait for the outcome of Internation Global Future 2045 Congress in June 2013.

I believe science and religion complement each other in some way, it depends much on individual’s world-view and value-system.

Nonetheless, extreme science, supported by wild conjectures yet to be substantiated or proven, could be construed as a form of religion.
(btt1943, tanboontee, vzc1943)

By venze on Mar 08, 2013 at 9:19pm

@venze - exactly, science and religion complement each other in some way, which depends on the person involved. Science and religion complement each other in different ways for different persons.

By Giulio Prisco on Mar 09, 2013 at 8:29am

One tangible reason science and religion now complement each other in some way is in the past having anachronistic possessions was viewed as praiseworthy; today even religious people whose minds are more/less stuck in the 19th century have the latest gadgets. Virtually all churches have Websites. In the past the homeless (who tend to be religious or at the v. least congregate at religious orgs. such as churches for itinerants) often wore backpacks- today virtually all of them have cellphones in those backpacks. They might sleep outdoors like hunter-gatherers, but they possess 21st century objects.
We can call this a science-religion linkage. The religious are perhaps unconsciously updating their modus operandi.

By Alan Brooks on Mar 09, 2013 at 2:37pm

This sort of thing merely shows that transhumanism is turning into the sort of human-all-too-human ideology that means that it will never rise beyond the human in tandem with technology. The clue is in the ‘ism’ - once the transhuman impulse became an -ism, it was always in danger of losing its integrity as a form of reliable and critical thought about the human within the long haul of future history (which, in turn, had a tendency, in any case, to a geeky love of science fiction).

There is valuable work to be done on the thinking about what technological change will mean to and how it will change humanity but ‘spiritual traditions’ have nothing to contribute to this debate precisely because they are the data which we study.

As soon as ‘trans-humanism’ becomes the data by becoming an ideology, a religion (perfectly possible) or a politics, then it ceases to stand outside itself and becomes embedded in humanity and tradition. It ceases in effect to be transhumanism except as a label - it becomes a bit of an intellectual joke.

To be seriously interested in transhumanity is not only to think critically about the use-value of science (technology) but to think critically about being human and whether the definition of being trans-human is going to be closer to that of Nietzsche than anyone else - a ‘going beyond’ nihilism but also accepting the ‘death of God’ (which means the death of ideology, religion and tradition).

A great deal of work has gone into thinking about these sort of things, ‘humane’ thought at that, but you would not believe it from the article above. There is, of course, nothing wrong with another happy-clappy transcendentalist anxiety-relieving belief system since the hunger for these seems everlasting, but any such belief system is not trans-human (beyond human), does not create the most effective mental attitude for handling technological innovation and it simply expresses the secret terror of the future in an anxious species - precisely what the transhuman mind is seeking to go beyond!

By all means compromise with dialogue with ‘spiritual types’ but if you do, you are no longer even approximating the level of thought required to consider what might be required in a demanding future.

We are in danger of separating humanity from its most advanced thinkers when, I would have thought, the mission was to transform all humanity as a species over time (possibly considerable periods of time) and not merely create a herd of happy spiritual cows herded either by new wave ‘transhumanist’ priests or cold Nietzscheans. Don’t sell the pass on this one ...

By Tim Pendry on Mar 10, 2013 at 4:36am

“but also accepting the ‘death of God’ (which means the death of ideology, religion and tradition).”

during:

“possibly considerable periods of time”

By Alan Brooks on Mar 10, 2013 at 7:02pm

I don’t think it is workable to “stand outside” our own becoming and the creation of the future in the shape of our dreams.  If we are “outside” then who will inhabit it? To whom is it of value?  What could be more of a place to go beyond disassociation than create the future of oneself and humanity? 

We are not attempting to create “cows” but fully alive and more alive than ever possible before whole beings.  Not intellects divorced from passion, from dreams, from believing that which is not yet possible to accomplish can be done and should be done and not letting go until it is accomplished or we are shown a better and truer goal.

I am not talking of sucking oblivious at the teat of the old bottles but of making new bottles of new and deeply nourishing “wine”.

By Samantha Atkins on Mar 11, 2013 at 1:12am

Yes, Alan, but this is no excuse whatsoever to try to ‘speed history up’ by falling back into falsehoods out of impatience or desire for social, cultural and political power over scientific knowledge and ‘praxis’ (in its proper sense).

If we have a unit of mental energy to expend, it should be spent on innovation, creation and example and not pandering to obscurantists.

The ‘advance guard’ must know that billions of people are not resourced enough or educated enough or emotionally strong enough to deal with these issues so the game is to build resources, education and emotional strength not cut deals with the Vatican or let New Age loons in by the back door. The cultural horror of Jesuit or hippy trans-humanism is too terrifying ... though what an individual believes internally is their business.

This impatience is not something our Chinese friends would recognise and we should really just ease up and concentrate on the task in hand ... by all means have a trans human ‘imaginal realm’ and even ‘mysteries’ but not ones that mistake the phenomenon for the object creating the phenomenon.

By Tim Pendry on Mar 11, 2013 at 3:07am

@Tim re “what an individual believes internally is their business.”

Exactly.

By Giulio Prisco on Mar 12, 2013 at 2:46am

Of course, we cannot be outside of ourselves, Samantha, but we are capable of imagining ourselves ‘as if’ outside ourselves and that, though a delusion, is less of a delusion than losing ourselves in an idea or an enthusiasm or a hope or a dream.

The Dionysiac moment is part of what we are but it is our detached Apollonian nature that both permits the space for periodic Dionysiac excess and yet stops us from taking it too seriously and taking over our lives. The imaginal realm (which is the domain of this non-thing called ‘spirit’) is not reality and cannot be willed into existence as material reality by enthusiasm ... reality will always overwhelm imaginings and that is good. It keeps us safe and alive. Spirit is not life but denial of life, an attempt to evade its rawness.

I think your ‘enthusiasm’ is romantic but flawed. All enthusiasms must be brought to heel eventually or we lose ourselves and destroy the world we seek to save.

By Tim Pendry on Mar 12, 2013 at 3:25pm

But, Giulio, what an individual believes internally is their business so long as they keep it to themselves and amongst others like them in a ‘church’.

As soon as internally generated beliefs are imposed on others, they become imperialistic and oppressive and the more so to the degree that they are unevidenced, irrational and derived from the faulty perceptions of reality of the wetware of the few.

Resistance to spirituality in public administration and education is, in fact, a moral imperative just as the protection of the private right to belief - even a happy madness - is equally a moral imperative. Both derive from the only real right - that of the autonomous mind to evolve on their own terms in safe public space.

By Tim Pendry on Mar 12, 2013 at 3:32pm

@Tim - re “As soon as internally generated beliefs are imposed on others, they become imperialistic and oppressive”—- No caveats needed. Forcing one’s ideas on others is a bad thing, period. In some circumstances others may have the right to tell me when I can or cannot do, but nobody, ever, can tell me what I can or cannot think.

re “what an individual believes internally is their business so long as they keep it to themselves and amongst others like them in a ‘church’.”—- that must include the right to communicate our beliefs to others, peacefully and without coercion. I cannot force you to listen to me, and you cannot force me to shut up.

By Giulio Prisco on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:05am


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