[ExI] Humanity+ Talk Religion & transhumanism (not the usual!)

Amon Zero amon at doctrinezero.com
Tue Sep 6 08:19:56 UTC 2011

On 5 September 2011 18:47, Thomas Eliot <bgaesop at gmail.com> wrote:

> The first one seems to be basically saying "hey I just figured out that
> fiction can be useful and interesting even though it's not literally true,
> hey you guys isn't that amazing" to which I respond "yep that's what fiction
> is all right." The latter article seems to be just "people* compare
> transhumanists to gnostics, but did you know that gnostics were kind of cool
> and persecuted?" which is not really... interesting or new or profound in
> any way that I can see?
> *what people? I've never heard this comparison

Hi Thomas -

Now, this is an interesting criticism that I didn't see coming! As a natural
default, I'd be inclined to agree with you; Of course I (as the writer)
think these are entirely reasonable and unremarkable notions. The reason i
felt motivated to write, however, was that I've been surprised over the
years by the number of people who not only disagree with one or both ideas,
but who disagree vociferously, with the background implication that I must
be mad to think this way. So it's nice to know I'm not alone!  ;-)

Regarding the idea of fictional entities being in some sense real and even
useful... perhaps I spend too much time on facebook and mailing lists, but
not a week goes by without the perennial battle between literalist atheists
and (often absent, even straw man) literalist believers flaring up. The
atheists will make some variant of the simple claim that there is no
evidence that God exists, and therefore believers are being stupid to
believe in something that has no consequence in this real, physical world of
ours. Occasionally I'll say something along the lines of "but the believers'
*beliefs* are real enough, and so their notion of God and the consequences
of that belief system are real, and so their belief in real effects of
belief might be justified". If my point were uncontroversial then it would
never spark an argument. But it does, just about every time.

As for "people" who have compared transhumanists to the Gnostics, these days
it tends to be implied in comments to the effect that transhumanists are
"body haters", and 10-12 years ago there was a rush of blog posts & articles
making the connection while referring to The Matrix and similar movies, but
the most high-profile example I'm aware of was Erik Davis' book
"TechGnosis", which included an explicit and extended attack upon
Extropianism in exatly this vein (the book's title rather gives the game
away). Of course I and others (apparently including yourself) think it
uncontroversial to embrace such a comparison rather than let it be a
liability, but it would seem that others do not hold this view. Natasha's
comment that "the thrust of the piece is a turn-off" seems a condemnation of
the idea.

- A
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