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

Amon Zero amon at doctrinezero.com
Wed Sep 7 18:25:37 UTC 2011

On 7 September 2011 02:29, Thomas Eliot <bgaesop at gmail.com> wrote:

> I suspect that if you say "Jesus is real the same way that Mickey Mouse is
> real; that is, he doesn't exist and none of the stories he's in are true,
> but some people make decisions that take him into account" then atheists
> (even [especially?] the militant ones!) will agree far more frequently than
> religious people will. Are you sure that you're phrasing it in a way that
> makes it obvious that that's what you mean? I suspect based on personal
> experience that the majority of people who vociferously disagree with that
> statement are actually misunderstanding you and think you're saying
> something like "strong/popular enough faith in a belief causes that belief
> to become true" which is an actual position I have seen put forth.

Now that's an interesting idea... I'd be extremely surprised if I hadn't
made my point clearly enough every time this happened, but yes, some
proportion of cases might have been down to a misunderstanding like this.

One form of response, perhaps even the most common one, makes it clear that
conversational partners have understood and yet still disagree. This is
where they say "Fictions aren't *real* in the sense we're all talking about
here, and which believers are talking about", which amounts to denial that
there is a real set of psychological circumstances to acknowledge, as far as
I can tell. It seems a bit like denying that someone has been run over in
the street because no-one can agree what colour the car was.

> I also think that it's not a particularly useful definition. I mean, after
> all, anything that affects people's decisions are "real" by this definition.
> So for instance, the hallucinations of a schizophrenic, the WMDs in Iraq,
> the promised returns of a Ponzi scheme, and the million$ waiting for you in
> Nigeria are all "real" by this standard.

Yes - and if people who recognised the non-existence of Ponzi returns were
also advocating denial of the existence or danger/importance of Ponzi
schemes, that would be something of an issue, wouldn't it?

In other words, the fact that there are no returns from a Ponzi scheme, if
anything, only makes the reality of the scheme itself more notable, not
less. The same logic holds for religious and other belief systems, I feel.

> Indeed, I had not heard of that. Is it worth reading? Could you summarize
> the main points he makes?

I might not be the best person to do that, since I haven't read that one in
a few years. It seems that Natasha might be able to comment, since she
clearly remembers the details of Davis' critique better than I do. The gist,
however, was that the transhumanist focus on uploading and "transcendence"
constitutes a kind of self-loathing and intense dislike of the 'material
world', as was also found among the Gnostics.

One thing I will say here, however, is that from my point of view it would
seem that the H+ response to such comments has grown more nuanced over the
last decade, often pointing out that transhumanists often *like* having
bodies, and want to improve & maintain them, play with morphological freedom

I don't think that the comparison is accurate enough to be worth embracing
> as a long term rhetorical technique, but in the short term, in the midst of
> a conversation where the comparison is made, I find that frequently the best
> retort to "you're so similar to [persecuted minority religion I dislike]" is
> "you know who else <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler> disliked minority
> religions?"

Yes, I think you've got a good point there!

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