Some Further Thoughts on Transhumanism

On October 4, 2019, as part of our ongoing BibleMesh Conversations event series, Dr. Benjamin Quinn interviewed Dr. Jacob Shatzer over his recent book Transhumanism and the Image of God. You can find a recording of the event here (for audio only, click here).

In the conversation, we discussed the fact that technology is no longer simply a tool by which humans can effect the world around us while we ourselves remain largely the same. Rather, technology appears to be changing the way we interact with the world, and even changing the way we conceive of ourselves and our very nature in relation to the world around us.

Transhumanism is the idea that these changes to human beings brought by the radical ways technology is shaping our experience of the world are good and something to be pursued. Technology can help us rise above the limits of human nature.

Thus, in a sense, transhumanism is a religious belief with a specific notion of how technology can bring “salvation.” Technological progress can help us overcome our greatest limitation: death.

During the BibleMesh Conversation, several questions were posed to Dr. Shatzer. We did not have time to answer all of them, and so Dr. Shatzer has provided some brief answers to some remaining questions below.

What are some practical ways to implement some restrictions on our use of it in everyday life? (ie. your use of a smart phone simply as a phone…)

I hesitate to give “practical” advice for two reasons. First, what is practical for me might not be for you! What we really need is careful discernment, which requires attention to specific contexts, challenges, and priorities. Second, the most important piece is to develop a new way of seeing and evaluating technology. A few practical tips might actually make us even more blind to the underlying issues. 

It seems that the everlasting work of redeemed humanity will involve the imaginative cultivation of the New Heavens and Earth to the end that all of reality declares the beauty of God in Christ….sort of an eternal expansion (and increase) of Eden. What role do you envision technology playing in this? (succinct version: role of technology in the New Heavens and Earth?)

We have to be very cautious in how we connect our technology to our eschatology. We must remember that the vision in Revelation is a city descending as a blessing to us. We also see the image of kings carrying in their treasures. So there seems to be a mix. I’d be careful in thinking about eternity as a continuing expansion and increase of Eden as though it is our work. I imagine technology will have some role as tools brought in by humans and purified by God’s power and grace. What that might look like, well, I hesitate to speculate on that. Will our mansions have Nest thermostats? Beats me.

You referenced God as Creator and since we are created in the image of God which would include being creative, cannot technology be seen as just another way that we are expressing our creativity as given by God?

Absolutely! We can’t lose sight of this. However, God’s creation is always very good. Our creative ability participates in his, and is only good to the extent that it honors and connects with God’s vision and direction. As fallen creators, we should expect that our creations—our tools, in this case—will be a mix. We should expect that our inherited sin will also taint what we create. This view of our role as human creators underlies the attention I seek to draw to help us evaluate our tools based on a God-centered vision of human flourishing.

Was George Orwell (1984) right but missed the location? Its happening in China now. If we continue down this “technology saves us” path, will it transform our society as well? What is a Christian response?

I think the Christian response is to remember that God gives good gifts, and technology can be a good gift. But God also is the one who will save us; we will not save ourselves through anything we create. Technological assessment connects to both of those ideas, which is why we need careful discernment rooted in God’s Word, open to God’s gifts but also suspicious of human-created messiahs.