Atheist Reduction of Knowledge to Science part 2


  photo schweitzer.jpg
Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
Foresaw the death of civilization
The problem is that among the forces gathered under the rubric “scientism” is a movement that seeks the abolition of humanity, that movement is “transhumanism.” In his article Lawler writes of how Wieseltier exposed Scientism as the major force seeking to destroy the arts and humanities and the crucial reasons why we must not allow this to happen. He speaks of transhumanism:

No one can deny, for example, that the movement known as transhumanism aims at “the abolition of man,” at the overcoming of the distinction between man and machine on pretty much the machine’s terms. Every competent scientist and humanist knows it will never achieve its goal, as Marxism never achieved anything like the “communism as the end of history” Marx fancifully described. But humanists are right to fear what can be lost on an ideological mission impossible.[1]

In fairness to transhumanists they see themselves as seeking to enhance human intellectual abilities. They point to the age old desire to mirror human life in after life as a wish for continuance; they also point to renaissance humanist classics such as Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man where he says “it will be in your power to descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; you will be able, through your own decision, to rise again to the superior orders whose life is divine.”[2] So they are not totally insensitive to humanist standards. Yet we know Picco was not a transhumanist. Bostrom begins reckoning their history from the 1920s (after trances his kindred spirits form caveman days to the Nietzsche) British biochemist J.B.S. Haldane published the essay Daedalous; or, Science and the future. That essay argued for the benefit of controlling our own genetics.[3] The term “transhuman” may have first been used by James Hughes in this 2004 work Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future.[4]
               Among the topics engaged by transhumanism we find “radical extension of human health-span, eradication of disease, elimination of unnecessary suffering, and augmentation of human intellectual, physical, and emotional capacities.[5] The list goes on with space colonization and the possibility of creating superintelligent machines, along with other potential developments that could profoundly alter the human condition.[6]  But what is the price for these “improvements?”

Transhumanists view human nature as a work-in-progress, a half-baked beginning that we can learn to remold in desirable ways. Current humanity need not be the endpoint of evolution. Transhumanists hope that by responsible use of science, technology, and other rational means we shall eventually manage to become posthuman, beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have.[7]

Essentially they are the “Borg,” from Star Trek the Next Generation. The Borg were the race of biological being augmented by machines that sought total domination of the universe.[8] They do actually advocate all assortments of augmentation for intellectual capability and bodily limitations. Their greatest value is what Bostrom calls “the post human relam.”[9] Looking to end humanity and move beyond it. To soften the blow they talk about how they share the values of humanism, but humaists want to prolong humanity so that the value will be consistent, the transhumanists want to end humanity and somehow believe the values will remain consistent. Leslie Fain, writing for Catholic World Report, finds that they are going to enhance everything from genetic life span to physical speed, they will become a new species. “Transhumanists, in general, aren’t too worried about this,” she quotes  Michael Cook, editor of MercatorNet,
“Their future will divide homo sapiens into two sub-species, the gen-poor (genetically poor) and the gen-rich. To me, it’s a bit like the ghastly scenario envisaged by H.G. Wells in The Time Machine—a world divided into the Eloi and the Morlochs.”
The transhumanism narrative is becoming more mainstream. Pop culture references and commercials (such as this one from Verizon) hyping men and women becoming “one” with their latest technological toys abound; last year an Italian transhumanist was elected to parliament.[10]
With this hyper technology augmenting a new species and moving beyond the old humanity, what’s going to lead them beyond the old sin nature? What’s going to assure that we wont wind up with a have-augmentation and Have-not augmentation culture?
            Transhumanism has not only bonded with atheism but produced a sort of fundamentalist segment. Zoltan Istavon, in huff post, who proclaims that “I am an atheist therefore I am a transhumanist.”

Sometime in the next decade, the number of worldwide godless people -- atheists, agnostics, and those unaffiliated with religion -- is likely to break through the billion-person mark. Many in this massive group already champion reason, defend science, welcome radical technologies, and implicitly trust and embrace modern medicine. They are, indeed, already transhumanists. Yet many of them don't know it because they haven't thought much about it. However, that is about to change. A transformative cultural storm comprised of radical life improving technologies is set to blow in soon.[11]

He is assuming that all non-affiliated are atheists, which is a mistaken assumption. These guys believe in reason that means none us old fashioned humans who believe in God believe in reason. We stupid old Christians don’t trust medicine. If this radical cultural storm waves the flag of destruction of humanity in this way as a badge of commitment to atheist ideology humanity is truly in trouble. The transhmanists are part of the scientistic ideology because they have come to accept the notion that science is the only form of knowledge and all value and truth must be shaped around that.
            The dangers of scientism and the loss of humanity have been lurking over modernity for a long time. These things go way back to the nineteenth century. What we see emerging today as the perils brought on by scientism is just the modern outcome of trends that were engaged by Albert Schweitzer as early as 1900. Schweitzer is all but forgotten today. He’s mainly remembered as a great humanitarian who went to Africa to nurse the poor. In the early part of the twentieth century and up to the 1960s he was given huge respect one of the most profoundly brilliant and great men of human history. Schweitzer had four brilliant careers going at the same time. He was a theologian, philosopher, Bible Scholar and concert musician. In addition to all that he built organs. After having achieved greatness with his book Quest of the Historical Jesus[12] he went to medical school and became a doctor. Then he went to Africa and spent his life nursing the poorest of the poor. One thing he did not do even in leaving civilization was to give up on civilization. He wrote one of the first philosophies of civilization and was one of the first philosophers to seriously argue for animal rights. As early as 1900 Schweitzer already argued that civilization was dead and we lived in barbarism. The reason, because civilization is more than just indoor plumbing and modern inventions it is an ideal about the quality of life in affording the individual purist of his/her cherished goals. Yet modern life negates the individual and reduces ideals and personal concepts of freedom to matters of taste and eccentricity. Schweitzer identified that process by which this reduction takes place.[13] The forces that Schweitzer traces as the collapse of civilization may well have culminated in World War I.
           Schweitzer anticipated the work of Karl Jaspers, C. Wright Mills and Herbert Marcuse, thinkers who flourished five decades after he began his thinking on civilization. Karl Jaspers reflected upon the end of Western civilization in Man In The Modern Age, likening it to the end of Hellenism before the dark ages.[14] For Jaspers, the current phase in modernity (the 1920s) marked the turning point from human pursuits such as discursive reasoning, thought, understanding, and artistic production, to the dominance of a highly organized super-structure based upon reducing content to "technique." Art becomes "mere amusement and pleasure (instead of an emblem of transcendence), science becomes mere concern for technical utility (instead of the satisfaction of a primary will to know).[15] He warned that the growing tendency to "wrap the world in apparatus," the building of a giant inter-connected infrastructure based entirely on calculation, would have a deleterious effect upon humanity. According to Jaspers, society faces the extinction of those qualities and aspirations which have always defined humanity, such as rational discourse and ethical norms. These warnings seem quaint when one considers that they were made before regular air travel in the days of radio. It may be that at each stage in technical development, society becomes more habituated to technique, closed in a technological womb that grows ever more content with closed possibilities for qualitative change. The contemporary litany of dangers, ecological destruction of the planet, the failure of the educational system, growing violence, and governmental control, should bare out the realization that society is complacent in the face of growing peril. Jasper's notion that discursive reasoning was being replaced by technique anticipates the work of C. Wright Mills in the 1950s.


[1] Ibid.
[2] Picco della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of man, quoted in Nick Bostrom, A History of Transhumanist Though. Pdf  accessed 1/1/14originally published in The Journal of Evolution and Technology, vol 14, issue 1, April 2005., 2.
Bostrom is a philosopher who teaches at Oxford and the edition of Mirandola used is:Chicago, Gateway Editions  1956.
[3] Ibid, 5.
[4] James Hughes, Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future. Cambridge Mass: West View Press, 2004, 155
Huges is a sociologist and bioethicist. He’s been involved in the transhumaist movement since before 2004, he was ordained a Buddhist monk in the 80s.
[5] Nick Bostrom, “Ethical Issues for the 21st  Century,” Philosophical DocumentationCenter Press, Ed. Frederick Adams,  2003, 3-14.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., 4.
[8] find
[9] Bostrom, Ethical Issues..Op Cit., 8.
[10] Leslie Fain, “The Surprising spread and Cultural Impact of Transhumanism.”Catholic World Report, Oct 3, (2013). Blong, online   accessed 1/3/14.
[11] Zoltan Istvan, “I am an Atheist Therefore I am a Transhumaist.” Huff Post The Blog,12/5/13. on line
Istvan Is a self proclaimed “visionary.”
[12] Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede. New York: MacMillan, originally 1906, MacMillan paperbacks 1961, eighth printing, 1973.
[13] J.L. Hinman, “Albert Schweitzer On The Death of Civilization.” Negations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Social Criticism. No 3. (Winter 1998). On line copy, accessed 1/4/14.
See also: Albert Schweitzer, The Philosophy of Civilization. Translated C.T. Campion, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. 1980 (original German pulbication 1923). The work is divided into two sections, the "Decay and Restoration of Civilization," and "Ethics and Civilization." Unwin has published the first section as an independent volume entitled The Decay and Restoration of Civilization.
[14] Jaspers, Karl. Man In The Modern Age. New York: Doubleday, 1957, 20. 
[15] Ibid., 137.


Anonymous said…
The guy on the Shadow to Light blog did an entry about Zoltan Istvan, leader of the Transhumanist Party:

Shadow To Light: The Faith of an Atheist
Jason Pratt said…
I know it isn't fair to draw the comparison, but Zoltan Istvan sounds like he should be a villain for the Ghostbusters. {g}

A little more critically, I'm pretty sure atheists have cracked the billion population long ago, although Istavon (okay, Joe, which spelling is correct?) may not want to count them since they're largely represented by historically repressive communist tyrannies. Still, those regimes invested heavily in what we would now call transhumanist research (so far as they had the money and intellectual pool to try it, primarily in China and the Soviet Union), so hey there's that connection if anyone wants to see what real-life transhumanistic atheist movements have so far looked like.

on google3 search i put in "what percentage of world population is atheist?"

"Studies on the demographics of atheism have concluded that self-identified atheists comprise anywhere from 2% to 13% of the world's population, whereas people without a religion comprise anywhere from 10% to 22% of the world's population."

adherents.come put it at 3-5%

I don't see what thsi has to do with my thing
Jason Pratt said…
Your thing involved Istvan (or Istavon?) promoting the idea that it'll be ssoooooo great for humans, for various human reasons, when so many humans start being atheists, and so also become (in his estimation) either transhumanists or proto-transhumanists (his idea being that they're already trans specifically as atheists but don't really know or understand it yet).

But we don't have to wait for superlarge populations of atheists in the future to see examples of superlarge populations of atheists -- call them cultural atheists in name only if he wants -- who have even already been working on (what we'd now call) transhumanistic experiments for the better part of a century already. Those cultures were not so great for humanity, including in their pushes for transhumanity, as he's rhapsodizing about.

(I'm agreeing with your criticism of Ist, along a related line. I thought that was pretty obvious...?)


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