Should technology be used to improve human faculties such as cognition and longevity? This thought-provoking dialogue between 'transhumanism' and religion examines enhancement technologies that could radically alter the human species.
“Transhumanism” or “human enhancement” is an intellectual and cultural movement that advocates the use of emerging technologies to change human traits. Although they may sound like science fiction, the possibilities suggested by transhumanism are very real, and the questions they raise have no easy answers. If these enhancements—especially major ones like the indefinite extension of healthy human life—become widely available, they would arguably have a more radical impact on humankind than any other development in history.
This book comprises essays that explore transhumanism and the issues that surround it, addressing numerous fascinating questions posed by scholars of religion from various traditions. How will “immortality” or extreme longevity change our religious beliefs and practices? How might pharmaceuticals enhance spiritual experiences? Will “post-human” technologies be available to all persons, or will a superior “post-human race” arise to dominate the human species? The discussions are as intriguing as the future they suggest.
- Introduces some of the hardest and most pressing issues that will determine the future of the human race
- Examines current scholarly questions and thoughts about transhumanism
- Asks new questions relative to the intersection of human enhancement and religion
- Explores what it means to be human in a technologically changing world
Calvin Mercer, PhD, is professor of religion and director of the Religious Studies Program at East Carolina University. Also trained in clinical psychology, he practiced professionally for a decade and has utilized insights from this discipline in his published works on religion including ABC-CLIO's Slaves to Faith: A Therapist Looks Inside the Fundamentalist Mind. A founding member and chair for six years of the American Academy of Religion's Transhumanism and Religion Group, Mercer is coeditor of the series Palgrave Studies in the Future of Humanity and Its Successors; Religion and the Implications of Radical Life Extension; and the forthcoming Transhumanism and the Body: The World Religions Speak. He frequently gives public lectures on these topics.
Tracy J. Trothen, ThD, is associate professor of religion at the Queen's University School of Religion, in Kingston, Ontario. She is a certified clinical pastoral education specialist and supervisor with the Canadian Association of Spiritual Care. Trothen's published works include Shattering the Illusion: Child Sexual Abuse and Canadian Religious Institutions and the forthcoming coedited anthology Religion and Sexuality: Diversity and the Limits of Tolerance. She is completing a book on sport, enhancements, and religion. Trothen cochairs the American Academy of Religion's Transhumanism and Religion Group.
Reviews"This exciting collection brings together some of the most important thinkers who have addressed the religious implications of transhumanism. Their insights are sure to help move us past one-dimensional posturing and suspicion to a deeper understanding."—James J. Hughes, PhD, Executive Director, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
"Calvin Mercer and Tracy J. Trothen have put together the most comprehensive theological response to the Transhumanism movement to date. A vigorous Promethean spirit is alive and well among the Transhumanists, and it will take careful discernment to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Here we find heroic attempts to help us in this discernment."—Ted Peters, The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences
"Whether religion and transhumanism are inevitably at odds with each other or ultimately in league with each other, their encounter with each other is inescapable, and this fine collection of essays is an excellent guide to it. The range of topics, depth of analysis, and diversity of perspectives are unsurpassed. Those who are well versed in the issues and those who are just beginning to explore them will be equally well served by this important book."—Gerald McKenny, Walter Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
"This is a timely volume given the developing case for transhumanism and the parallel concerns of religion. There is more going on here, however, than careful analysis and engaging speculation about the potentially culture-shaping interaction of the two—a lot more. It is hard to imagine an important question about the dynamic influence each has on the other that is not addressed or anticipated in this volume. In fact, these essays trace the contours of a new field of study. In the next decade or two every thinking person will have to become familiar with the intersection of radical human enhancement and religion. Here’s the map!"—James A. Herrick, Guy Vander Jagt Professor of Communication, Hope College
"The aspirations towards human enhancement represented by transhumanism are undoubtedly here to stay, and there is an urgent need for a profound religious and theological engagement with them. This excellent volume provides the most up-to-date and extensive range of contributions to the contemporary religious and theological discussion—it rightly deserves to be warmly welcomed and widely read."—Robert Song, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University