[extropy-chat] Transhumanism on the Air (Wesley Smith)

Giu1i0 Pri5c0 pgptag at gmail.com
Wed Dec 13 18:22:50 UTC 2006

>From Wesley Smith's
*I was interviewed for an hour by Derek Gilbert yesterday on KSSZ about
transhumanism, post humanity, and genetic enhancement of our progeny. We
discuss transhumanism as religion, its obsession with control, and its
threat to human exceptionalism. If you are interested, check it
.* My comments below.

Smith acknowledged that the transhumanist movement is not a fringe movement,
that it is growing fast and becoming well known, with "influential thinkers"
engaging in "serious scholarship" on posthumanity.

Then of course he criticized the "value system" of transhumanists.

Both Smith and the interviewer kept laughing frequently, like they could not
believe the words they were about to say. Quite cheap trick if you ask me,
like the style of some Fox News anchors. Needless to say, to me the effect
was the opposite, like hearing a postman laughing at the Internet.

Smith said "transhumanists scout the internet, and if you say something
about them you will end up on their website, and probably also this radio
program will be mentioned on their website at some point". Here it is

When asked how how influential the transhumanist movement is, Smith answered
that it is definitely not fringe though not yet mainstream, mentioned the
conference at Stanford, and remarked that while transhumanists will not
influence the Bush administration, some of them teach in prestigious
universities and are in a good position to influence the government leaders
of tomorrow.

Concerning "designer babies", Smith thinks parents should "accept with
unconditional love" their children. Even, apparently, when accepting their
birth defects means condemning them to a lifetime of unhappiness. His main
criticism is that transhumanist think that "being merely human is not
enough". He keeps referring to empty cliches, impossible to defend
rationally, like the "joy we get from being merely human", and that "knowing
that we are going to die is a powerful stimulation to live full lives". Even
with frequent quotations from the WTA website, Smith keeps misunderstanding
the transhumanist message, e.g. "transhumanists never talk of improving
human capacity for love". We do talk about it of course, and a lot, but it
is difficult to expain things to those who do not wish to understand.

The basic premise of transhumanism, according to Smith, is that "being human
has no intrinsic value". He believes, instead, in human exceptionalism:
humans are special, and being human has value. I agree, but prefer defining
"human" based not on our current biological makeup, but rather on our
capacity to think, feel, love, hope and improve ourselves and our world.
Smith thinks that then "everything becomes possible" and refers to Nazi
eugenics which in this context is, I believe, just smoke in the eyes.

Transhumanism, according to Smith, is a materialist religion that "reflects
obsession with control". But some minutes later he says that he wishes to
see human cloning research, even therapeutic, completely outlawed regardless
of its potential to save lives and reduce suffering. So I wonder who is
really obsessed with control. Even if Smith's objections seem based on
humanitarian and social considerations, I still sense the old "will of god"
argument against progress (at the very beginning the interviewer refers to
"Transhumanism: the idea that we can be more than our God-given physical
limitations"). Of course Smith is too intelligent to mention it explicitely.
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