“From the low-tech mania for tattooing and piercing, through the medium-tech tools of abortion, hormonal birth control, and transgendering, to the high-tech visions and explorations of genetic engineering and cyborgism, [the transhumanist] rebellion seems to be gathering steam.”
“Transhumanism” – the idea that we can, and more importantly, that we should, “transcend” our very humanity – seems to be in the process of moving from a “fringe phenomenon of science fantasy” to an organizing principle behind the present assault on traditional Western culture and civilization.
This excellent (albeit long) article by Mark Shiffman in the superb journal First Things explores and explains both the process and its implications. As he points out, transhumanism “styles itself a philosophy, [but] is really a religious movement with a twenty-first-century marketing campaign (under the brand ‘H+’),” and has a distinctly Gnostic (which denies the goodness of Nature, including humanity, viewing us as spiritual beings trapped in material bondage) character to it:
“The options come down to rejecting God entirely or reducing God to a useful projection of human possibilities. In either case, the human is no longer an ecstatic subject who receives the gift of being and the grace that fructifies our nature, but is himself the primary source of transcendence…
“The subject of projects gives modernity its Gnostic character. This world is not an inherently good creation. A better alternative world remains to be made by us, in the future…
“The distinctly transhumanist horizon comes about when our project of mastery turns its attention to our own bodies. They come to be treated as raw material, resources available to satisfy our free individual preferences. Our will to transcend nature through projects of mastery mounts a rebellion against the natural constraints of the organic human body, harnessing the power of technological innovations to render it the instrument of our arbitrary will…
“From the low-tech mania for tattooing and piercing, through the medium-tech tools of abortion, hormonal birth control, and transgendering, to the high-tech visions and explorations of genetic engineering and cyborgism, this rebellion seems to be gathering steam. An aggressive assertion of bodily self-ownership is becoming the new normal, with the status of a fundamental right.”
That is on the personal level. On a more cosmic level, Gnosticism teaches that the
“world is not an order of beings manifesting God’s goodness; it is rather an order of inert matter in motion, available for the human will and intellect to master and manipulate. Ancient Gnosticism sought deliverance from evil by severing the spirit’s ties to the material world. Modern Gnosticism appears at first to take a much more optimistic view of creation.
“Its hopes, however, are not placed in nature as created, but rather in the mind’s capacity to construct models that will unlock the powers trapped within the given order of beings, so as to release their infinite possibilities and make them subservient to our needs and aspirations.
“It hopes to escape evil not by fleeing the world, but by stepping away in distrust, securing the independent power of the mind through the scientific method, and then turning against the world with a vengeance and transforming it to suit the human will.”
In other worlds, transhumanism is a quasi-religious belief system (cf. scientism) which denies both God and the goodness of the created order, believing in the ability of the human intellect to bring about a secular version of paradise by transforming both humanity and the natural world.
Given the amazing number and variety of ways in which we have screwed up the natural world by messing with it so far, not to mention the incredible amount of havoc, destruction, and bloodshed that has come by humans trying to bring about a “kingdom of God” on Earth by our own efforts, one has to ask – with more than a touch of irony – what could possibly go wrong with this…?