The influence of religion was once thunder in the ears of man. It was all pervasive, telling men when to work the fields and when to rest, when to express compassion and when to kill. In the proper context of time, many religious admonishments were beneficial. For example, many religions forbid the consumption of specific animals. The Qur’an expressly prohibits the eating of pigs. The Torah teaches that animals such as snails and bats are unclean and unfit as food. Some scholars theorize that these prohibitions stem not from a philosophical position, but rather as an early form of public health intervention. The parasite Trichinella Spiralis has afflicted mankind since prehistory and is commonly acquired from undercooked pork. Snails are the carriers of a myriad of nematodes such as Angiostrongyliasis: a parasitic worm which can grow and live in a persons central nervous system and eyes resulting in blindness, brain damage, and finally death. Bats are amazingly proficient carriers of disease; over 60 zoonotic viruses have been identified and they’re the prime suspects for the natural reservoir of the Ebola virus. Technology is the application of knowledge and as such these religious prohibitions are a technology. However, they aren’t based in science in that they don’t seek testable explanations. Even without the tools of microbiology, experimentation would have been able to show that when properly cooked, these unclean organisms are perfectly safe. Our predecessors lacked the knowledge and the systematic methodology by which knowledge can derived leaving only vague superstitions. The time to listen to gods seems to have passed and the thunder is becoming a soft voice if not a whisper.
The scientific method has pushed humanity far beyond this knowledge cusp but our technology has lagged behind. We have the science to harvest energy from the atom itself and yet most of mankind heats their homes with burning trees. Vaccines have been developed for 25 different infectious diseases but we’ve only succeeded in eradicating two, only one of which affects humans. Despite all of our advances in agriculture, medicine, and engineering, too many people are cold and hungry and suffering.
Much of this can be attributed to the technologies we choose to pursue. Industry is seldom driven by altruism. Advances in industry haven’t ever freed us from labor and if anything the more technologically advanced a country is the longer the work week of its people. As observed by Mill, it’s questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being. Worse yet is how our machines are poisoning the earth. We are in the midst of the sixth great extinction event. There are no city sized asteroids or massive volcanoes to blame. It’s clearly the result of our action and of our technology. A luddite regression is neither possible nor desirable. The best way out is always through, but the state of the world begs the question as to why we aren’t directing technology is more adventitious ways.
We all know that something’s wrong. We delude ourselves that the cause of suffering is the other, those of differing opinion, creed, nationality, or race. Our science has found cause and explanation for so much of our world that we’ve discarded all but the vestiges of religion. Science is inherently the study of the other, the study of the natural world. Much of religion truly is better left behind on mankind’s path to becoming, but there are two understanding which deserve to be carried forward. Each beings existence has purpose and that which obstruct us comes from within our own hearts. Man is born of sin – we are animals. We are driven by genetics to squabble and breed. A series of genetic mutations has blessed us with cognitive faculties that outrival any other species and perhaps we alone are able to ask ourselves as to our purpose. This type of question can’t be answered through any external testing and it seems a uniquely human ability that we can decide the meaning of our lives and override our base animal inclinations.
Religions have evolved. The least advantageous traits have become recessive enough that inquisitions and cleansing are seen for the barbarism they are. Faith has found a way to coexist with science rather than being held dear despite evidence to the contrary. For those filled with hate and violence however, religion still serves as a framework with which to justify. The problem is less one of religion itself being flawed, but rather that the animals subscribing to religion are flawed.
As mankind has matured so has our politics. Democracy is better by far than the whims of strongest. Democracy strives to give all men and women a voice but with less than one in four humans being literate, this average of voices too often comes out as either the ravings of a madman or the mumbling of a toothless ineffectual old man. It isn’t so much that Democracy as a system fails, but rather that we have failed. Yes, we all know something’s wrong. The solution is that we need better people. This is the most important goal of Transhumanists. Transhumanism is the application of science and technology towards extending and expanding human capability. We’ve explored the surface of the Earth, the depths of the oceans, and have counted the stars above and yet can’t find the gates to any heaven and we’ve lost our surity in a god with which to barter for entry. The meaning of our lives is the meaning we create. The purpose of our lives is the purpose we create, and one of the greatest purposes a person can aspire to is to create that heaven… to remake ourselves in the image of the Gods we hold to be so perfect. Science and technology are the tools which enable this but only if we can overcome those petty vistigial demons in our genetics that keep us clambering to be the alpha gorilla.
Now, my perspective as to what Transhumanism means is certainly colored by my participation as a Grinder. To me, Transhumanism is a redirection. It’s a redirection of science. It’s a redirection of technology, and it’s a redirection of what it means to be human. Transhumanism is taking preexisting tools and applying them towards purposes that really matter. The prosthetics industry has brought us implants by which the deaf can hear again. Transhumanism will bring us devices with which to hear the ultrasonic chirps of bats and enabling us to navigate in similar ways. Transhumanism will bring us infrasonic hearing with which to hear the full song of whales and allowing us to percieve through objects such as doors and walls. Transhumanism will allow us to hear melodies to which we are all currently deaf. Medical Science is at the verge of being able to grow replacements for those with failing organs and with the ability to afford them. Transhumanism will place this ability in the hands of all allowing for maellability of form and entirely new paradigm as to what health means. Genetically engineered foods have allowed for bigger yields and larger profits in agriculture. Transhumanism will use GE to change our very relationship with food. Creating our purpose and choosing to become more than animal is how we’ll build our prosperity, our heaven. In practice, we do by always learning, always growing, never being content to let other tell us we can’t, and taking the tools of science as our own. And when mankind is more.. healed and fed, free of the violence and greed of our genetic heritage, whole in way that can only be the product of design, perhaps then the time will be right to tune in to the cosmic microwave background and listen for the voice of God.
* hero image used from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/259590365992873024/