|> contact us > faq > metanexus.net > templeton.org
Facing the Challenges of Transhumanism: Religion, Science, and Technology
Humanity stands now on the precipice of a new phase in human evolution, referred to as “posthumanism” or “transhumanism.” This new phase emerges due to the confluence of new developments in the life sciences (e.g., genomics, stem-cell research, genetic enhancement, germ-line engineering,), technology (i.e., robotics, nanotechnology, pattern recognition technologies), and neurosciences (e.g., neuro-pharmacology and artificial intelligence). Today human beings are not only able to enhance their own performance and make important strides against devastating diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and AIDS, but also endow humanly-engineered traits to future generations. The new technologies may be able to produce human beings with enhanced capabilities who will live longer and provide the capacity to create and modify (i.e., clone and engineer) existing forms of life, including humans. In the transhuman phase, humans will become their own makers, transforming their environment and themselves.
Proponents of transhumanism believe that advances in robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and genomics will liberate humanity from pain and suffering. Presumably, in the transhuman age humanity will conquer the problems of aging, disease, poverty, and hunger, finally actualizing happiness in this life. Yet, many people, especially those committed to a religious outlook, intuitively recoil from the trans-human vision and find within that vision an affront to human dignity. It is precisely the belief that humans are created by God in the image of God that leads many people (including religious scientists) to resist the trans-human vision as a new hubris that will destroy humanity by “redefining” it, and further endanger life on our vulnerable planet through unforeseeable consequences. Those who advocate transhumanism promote a utopian vision rooted in a host of unstated assumptions about the meaning of being human. To face the challenges of transhumanism with appropriate depth, an interdisciplinary approach is urgent.
Our interdisciplinary committee seeks to devote the Templeton Lecture Series to examine and evaluate the claims of transhumanism through public lectures, symposia, conferences, and an interdisciplinary faculty seminar. The first year will consider philosophical questions, the second year will be devoted to social and legal issues, the third year will engage transhumanism from an environmental perspective, and the fourth year will wrestle with the religious implications, with a focus on eschatology. We hold that only an interdisciplinary approach that is attentive to culture, social institutions, and history can address the challenges of trans-humanism by highlighting how religion, science, technology, law and public policy interface. Such an interdisciplinary approach does not treat ‘science’ and ‘religion’ as two reified a-historical categories, and thereby avoids falling into the pitfalls of either seeing them as necessary in conflict with each other or as separate and unrelated spheres.
We seek funding for four years of Templeton Lecture Series. The Templeton Research Fellow will deliver four lectures, advise faculty and students on research projects, and participate in our on-going faculty seminar “Being Human: Science, Religion, Technology, and Law.” As potential Templeton Fellows we have in mind (in alphabetical order) scholars such as: Braden Allenby (ASU), George Annas (Boston University), David Buss (University of Texas, Austin), Nick Bostrom (University of Oxford, England), Brian Cantwell-Smith (University of Toronto), Geoffrey N. Cantor (University of Leeds, England), Leda Cosmides (UC-Santa Barbara), Eric Drexler (Institute for Molecular Manufacturing), Patricia Fara (University of Cambridge, England), Roger S. Gottlieb (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), Susan Haack (University of Miami), Andrew Feenberg (Simon Fraser University, Canada), Donna Haraway (UC-Santa Cruz), Donnald Kennedy (Editor of Science), David Magnus (Stanford University), Maxwell J. Mehlman (Case Western Reserve University), Robert Neville (Boston University), Norbert Samuelson (ASU), Daniel Sarewitz (ASU), Gregory Stock (UCLA) and Bron Taylor (University of Florida, Gainesville). Each year the Templeton Research Fellow will have to produce a book manuscript to be submitted to an academic press for publication. In the Spring semester of the first three years, there will also be an intensive workshop with scholars outside of ASU. In the fourth year there will be an international research conference of a total 100 scholars, some invited and other recruited through a general “call for papers.”Several units make Arizona State University the ideal place for innovative research on religion, science, and technology: The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, the Center for Law, Science, and Technology, The Consortium of Science, Policy, and Outcomes, the Arizona Biodesign Institute, the Center of Biology and Society, the School of Life Sciences, and the Lincoln Center of Applied Ethics. For the past two years faculty members from these units and from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (History, Physics and Astronomy, Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Psychology) constituted a faculty seminar that studied select books on the intersection of science, religion, technology, and law, and participated in public symposia and research conferences. The conferences have resulted in book publications with academic presses.
The four years of the Templeton Lecture Series will examine the meaning and implications of transhumanism. In addition to public lectures delivered by the Templeton Fellow, this examination will take place in the interdisciplinary faculty seminar (22 faculty members), “Being Human: Religion, Science, Technology, and Law.” The Templeton Fellow will participate in meetings of the faculty seminar and will contribute to the on-going conversation on science and religion at ASU.
Year 1 Theme: Transhumanism and the Concept of Human Nature
Year 2 Theme: The Social and Legal Implications of Transhumanism
Year 3 Theme:
The Environmental Impact of Transhumanism
Year 4 Theme: Transhumanism as Secularized Eschatology
Hava Tirosh-Samuelson is Professor of History in Arizona State University. She specializes in premodern Jewish intellectual history, Judaism and science, Judaism and ecology, and feminist philosophy. She holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1978) and a B.A. from SUNY-Stony Brook (1974). Prior to joining ASU in 1999, she taught at Indiana University, Emory University, Columbia University, and Hebrew Union College (New York). In addition to articles and book chapters, she is the author of Between Worlds – The Life and Work of Rabbi David ben Judah Messer Leon (1991) received the award of the Hebrew University for the best work in Jewish history for 1991. Her most recent book is Happiness in Premodern Judaism: Virtue, Knowledge and Well-Being in Pre-modern Judaism (2003). She is also the editor of Judaism and Ecology: Created World and Revealed World (2002) and Women and Gender in Jewish Philosophy (2004). Her current projects include a book on Nature and Judaism (Rowman and Littlefield) and the edited volume Judaism and the Phenomenon of Life: The Legacy of Hans Jonas; Historical and Philosophical Studies (Brill). She sits on the Editorial Board of Journal of American Academy of Religion and on the Academic Advisory Board of the Metanexus Institute on Science and Religion.
Click on the name of a committee member for biographical information.