Workshop to explore influence of religion on scientific imagination
Where does the scientific imagination come from? What part does religion play? These and other questions will be the subject of a workshop on “The Transhumanist Imagination: Innovation, Secularization and Eschatology,” which will take place from noon-3:30 p.m., Dec. 13, in West Hall, room 135 on ASU’s Tempe campus.
The workshop will feature presentations by:
• John Evans (UC-San Diego) on hope, progress and religious views of technology
• Nassar Zakariya (NYU) on transhumanism, posthumanism and the theology of the secular
• Margo Lipstin (Harvard) and Ben Hurlbut (ASU) on Singularity University and technological messianism
What is transhumanism?
The term "transhumanism" denotes an ideology of extreme progress, suggesting a coherent narrative to account for the accelerated pace of science and technology. As a future-oriented outlook, transhumanism prophesizes scientific and technological advances for the well-being of humanity, enabling humans to live extremely long, intensely happy lives, free of pain and disease.
Transhumanism is more than an idle fantasy of a few techno-optimists; it is an eschatological narrative that draws together a range of religious and secular motifs around an ideology of innovation, intensifying an imagination of the future that foregrounds technology as the source of progress. The transhumanist posture toward innovation reaches well beyond the transhumanist community itself, exerting a powerful influence affecting innovation policies and practices, scientific and cultural views about the transformative powers of technology, as well as our understandings of human flourishing.
The eschatological vision of transhumanism has ethical and political ramifications: it is a radically individualist vision in which freedom is re-imagined as the agency to radically transform – and thereby transcend – the body. This understanding of freedom does not measure the present in terms of improvement over the past, but rather as an incremental progress toward a future in which transcendence is achieved by rendering the body utterly subordinate to the individual, creative will.
By examining the religious underpinning of the ostensibly secular transhumanist imagination, the workshop contributes to a larger discussion about the sources and dynamics of technological innovation in the current moment and the institutions being harnessed toward realizing the future that it imagines.
The workshop is organized by the ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, a research unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The workshop is part of a larger project on The Transhumanist Imagination: Innovation, Secularization and Eschatology that is funded by a grant from The Historical Society’s program in Religion and Innovation in Human Affairs, and sponsored by the John Templeton Association.
ASU professors Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, and Ben Hurlbut, of the School of Life Sciences, are the project directors.