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Transhumanism project spawns new works


April 28, 2011

Back in 2005 a group of Arizona State University scientists and humanities professors began meeting to ponder the dramatic changes taking place as humans and technology began interfacing more rapidly and in more complex ways than ever before.

These conversations turned into the project, “Facing the Challenges of Transhumanism: Religion, Science and Technology,” which in turn spawned further conversation as well as a series of public lectures, workshops and new writing on what it means to be human in an age when advances in bioengineering, nanotechnology, robotics and performance enhancing drugs have turned humans into a design project.

At 7 p.m., May 2, one of those faculty members, Braden Allenby, will be at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe to discuss and sign copies of his new book, "The Techno-Human Condition," co-authored with Daniel Sarewitz.

With wide-ranging ramifications for religion, society and culture, Allenby will discuss his and Sarewitz’s argument that coping with this new reality means liberating ourselves from such categories as human, technological, and natural to embrace a new techno-human relationship.

In addition to "The Techno-Human Condition," another book spawned by the project has also been published this year.

"H+ Transhumanism and Its Critics," edited by Gregory Hansell and William Grassie, features a series of essays that grew out of a workshop held at ASU in 2008. With an introduction by Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, a professor of history and director of the ASU transhumanism project, the volume asks, “can human nature be improved upon with the application on new sciences and technologies?” And if so, should it?

The project, which was funded by a grant from the Metanexus Institute and the John Templeton Foundation, was led by Professor Tirosh-Samuelson and coordinated by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.

The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University promotes interdisciplinary research and education on the dynamics of religion and conflict with the aim of advancing knowledge, seeking solutions and informing policy. Public debates over the relationship of science and religion are an on-going topic of the center’s programming.

Allenby and Sarewitz were named Templeton Research Fellows in 2007-08 as part of the project. "The Techno-Human Condition" resulted from a series of public lectures they gave at ASU that same year.

Allenby is a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He’s also Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics and founding director of ASU’s Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management.

Sarewitz is director and co-founder of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at ASU and a professor of science and society in the School of Life Sciences and the School of Sustainability.

The Monday lecture and booksigning at Changing Hands Bookstore is supported by the "Facing the Challenges of Transhumanism" project and co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics.