Transhumanism, an intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to improve human mental and physical characteristics and capacities, a concept once limited to the realm of science-fiction, is now becoming more of a reality than ever before. The once outlier philosophy is quickly becoming mainstream, an accepted part of the social conscience that is the new religion for the anti-religious, including its own Messianic vision.
There are many aspects to the transhumanism philosophy, often abbreviated as H+ or h+, including physical longevity through medical breakthroughs and/or merging mankind with machines. Many transhumanists advocate transferring the sum total of a person’s knowledge and experiences into a computer and recreating the individual as a form of artificial intelligence (AI) in order to extend an individual’s life.
In its most extreme form, transhumanism advocates limiting human population. This extreme philosophy is criticized for being eugenicist master-race ideology and infringing on basic reproductive rights.
Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman, director of Ohr Chadash Torah Institute, noted that as in any social reform, the driving intention behind the movement is the key element, the factor that decides whether it will be a positive or negative influence on human history.
“There is an aspect of this movement that is a culture of ‘Me’,” Rabbi Trugman told Breaking Israel News. “Individual freedom has become a form of self-idol worship. For example, having children for many people today does not fit into this emphasis on the individual as it necessarily limits one’s personal freedom.”
With technology as a central element of transhumanism, Rabbi Trugman noted that Torah is compatible with science and technology within certain limits.
“Science allows us a certain control, ruling over the natural world,” Rabbi Trugman said. “But the verse that says we can rule over the world comes along with the commandment to be fruitful and multiply.”
“And God blessed them; and God said unto them: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ Genesis 1:28
Many environmentalists blame religion for ruining the environment,” Rabbi Trugman explained. “But the Bible commands us to rule over the destructive aspects of nature, not to destroy the very earth that supports and nurtures us.”
“The synergy of science and Torah is a positive thing, but it requires limits,” continued Rabbi Trugman. “Technology cannot trump everything. There is an aspect of hubris, taking the place of God, when people set out to create a new being, which is forbidden by Torah law. Or ruling over creation and life through euthanasia or selective eugenics, choosing who reproduces.”
Many of the new techno-billionaires are attracted to transhumanism: Peter Thiel, the founder of Paypal, adheres to a form of the philosophy called “immortalism” and invests heavily in projects to extend life indefinitely. Rabbi Trugman explained that this aspect of transhumanism is an exaggeration of love of self, a necessary and positive attribute.
The rabbi warned, however, that this trait can be exaggerated to the point where it becomes harmful to the individual and to the culture.
Zoltan Istvan, known for his endorsement of transhumanism as his political party and own philosophy, puts forth the idea that all humans desire to reach a state of perfect personal power, to be omnipotent in the universe. In this, the movement is a form of alternate Messianic movement. And therein lies a much larger danger.
“I am sure that some of them have good intentions, to fix humanity and solve the economic and social problems of the planet,” Rabbi Trugman said. “But as we have seen throughout history, science, guided just by human nature, can run amok. A higher morality is required as a guide to ensure that technology doesn’t end up being hijacked by those who would use science for less than benevolent purposes.”