Sunday, May 6, 2007

Religion and Posthumanism

I was recently watching a debate between Sam Harris, author of the "End of Faith," and Reza Aslan, author of "No God but God."

This got me thinking to, as an atheist, where do I find a purpose? How do I satisfy the biochemical need for meaning that is imbued in most human's minds? It's difficult. Experience has shown that the overworked workers in the finance industry here in New York don't have the solution.

I look to posthumanism. I reject religion because I know that machines will become more intelligent than humans. That anything in the world can be explained by science. That there is no free will. That death is not inevitable. That our civilization will become God.

People frequently criticize Kurzweil for having such strong faith in his ideas of a singularity, that his belief system represents a religion of sorts. I disagree. We both point to the mountain of evidence (neuroscientific advances, mathematical progression of artificial intelligence) that point to the singularity, and say: no, this isn't faith. It's reason. Therefore, its not religion. Faith-based beliefs largely run CONTRARY to reason today.

But, what does posthumanism give me? A purpose: stay alive and work to bring about the singularity. Calming of my fear of death. Justification of my hedonistic lifestyle. A connection to the universe - the same things that religion provides. What I say, then, is that posthumanism is religion for the reasonable. It satisfies a genetic need in humans for something greater than themselves. Read the New York Times magazine article from a few weeks ago on how it evolved. Sexual selection, principle agent, how to deal with trauma while having a greater awareness of the world than animals.

Many opponents of atheists point to the brutality of communism and say hey: that's evidence of atheistic violence. I agree, but only to some extent. Communism filled the deep human need for meaning that we all have. And, any doctrine that satisfies this need, but also suppresses reason, is extremely dangerous. Because the people in Nazi Germany, Stalin's Russia, and Pol Pot's Cambodia all needed a greater purpose in life when religion is abolished. Where do they go? Nationalist ideology.

Anyway, what's my point? We are hardwired to believe in SOMETHING. I consider myself an intelligent, rational person. Yet, I was a staunch Hindu for many years. Why? Because I need it. Because it is difficult to find meaning in life unless I delude myself. Keep this in mind when you defend your beliefs-beliefs that are rooted in the chemistry of your brain. Sure, I may be deluding myself. But, I'd rather achieve transcendence and meaning from something rational and peaceful than books that say to stone adulterers.


Alex Kinnan said...

While I presently consider myself something of "Christian with posthumanist leanings," I have to agree with much of what you say. Sad to say, it seems folks need things to be distilled into easily digestible concepts for them to give new ideas any amount of consideration. Thus, I think your statement of PH being "religion for the reasonable" -- while not being something I agree with without some reservation, has a ring of plausibility about it and would make a great bumpersticker.

I'm curious about your statement that posthumanism justifies your "hedonistic lifestyle." What are defining as hedonism? Isn't it possible that, for many, the overzealous pursuit of personal satisfaction leads to less (or no) time to delve into the technological or social issues that we need people to routinely contemplate in order for beneficial advancements to occur sooner, rather than later? Allot of people I know take an immediate opposing viewpoint o issues of posthumanism not so much because of religion, but because they fail to see, or refuse to contemplate how such advancements could alleviate much of the suffering we've endured since Day One.

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