From Meghan O’Gieblyn at the Guardian:
After losing her faith, a former evangelical Christian felt adrift in the world. She then found solace in a radical technological philosophy – but its promises of immortality and spiritual transcendence soon seemed unsettlingly familiar
Transhumanism offered a vision of redemption without the thorny problems of divine justice. It was an evolutionary approach to eschatology, one in which humanity took it upon itself to bring about the final glorification of the body and could not be blamed if the path to redemption was messy or inefficient.
Tip: As soon as they mention “evolutionary,” find your keys. Encounters with God are not “evolutionary.”
Within months of encountering Kurzweil, I became totally immersed in transhumanist philosophy. By this point, it was early December and the days had grown dark. The city was besieged by a series of early winter storms, and snow piled up on the windowsills, silencing the noise outside. I increasingly spent my afternoons at the public library, researching things like nanotechnology and brain-computer interfaces.
Once, after following link after link, I came across a paper called “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” It was written by the Oxford philosopher and transhumanist Nick Bostrom, who used mathematical probability to argue that it’s “likely” that we currently reside in a Matrix-like simulation of the past created by our posthuman descendants. Most of the paper consisted of esoteric calculations, but I became rapt when Bostrom started talking about the potential for an afterlife. If we are essentially software, he noted, then after we die we might be “resurrected” in another simulation. …
It was late. The cafe had emptied and a barista was sweeping near our table. As we stood to go, I felt that our conversation was unresolved. I suppose I’d been hoping that Benek would hand me some portal back to the faith, one paved by the certitude of modern science. But if anything had become clear to me, it was my own desperation, my willingness to spring at this largely speculative ideology that offered a vestige of that first religious promise. I had disavowed Christianity, and yet I had spent the past 10 years hopelessly trying to re-create its visions by dreaming about our postbiological future – a modern pantomime of redemption. What else could lie behind this impulse but the ghost of that first hope? More.
This unhappy adventure went wrong because Christianity is about dying to rise again (in a world where evil is inextricable). Some Transhumanists, as will be seen from this tale, are trying to keep Christianity while bypassing the Cross.
But worse is yet to come. O’Gieblyn will discover that she must not only give up the hope of rising again but of even being able to understand reality in this world. On the metaphysical naturalist view, it’s not so much that her original Christian beliefs were wrong as that there really is no “her,”no beliefs, and nothing to believe in even if it were possible. Consciousness is an illusion.
But there is the animal desire for power, so no matter what, there will always be marchin’, marchin’ in her future.
See also: Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away
Marchin’, marchin’ for Science (Hint: the problems are back at your desk, not out in the streets)
What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness
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