Please forgive the length of time between commentary postings...
"Real" Life has been consuming most of my blogging time.
However, I have managed to spend some precious moments by myself in deep contemplation and meditation regarding this seminar's theme.
For this 3rd speaker known as James Sleeper (Hughes), I have realized that I will need to post my commentary on his presentation in two sub-parts. Sleeper's presentation was the longest and the most comprehensive...
Also, since Hughes is the current President of the World Transhumanist Association (WTA), I consider him to be the official voice of contemporary Transhumanism (not to be confused with the Extropians now led by Dr. Anders Sandberg).
Since Sleeper/Hughes is the official voice of World Transhumanism, I think it is necessary for me to post quotes from their website on the topic of religion...this will help shape the context for my more detailed commentary in the next posting...
Please visit their site at http://www.transhumanism.org if you wish to explore more of their concepts in depth.
Very well then... Here is a re-posting from the official WTA FAQ on the subject of its relation to religion:
"5.3 How does transhumanism relate to religion?
Transhumanism is a philosophical and cultural movement concerned with promoting responsible ways of using technology to enhance human capacities and to increase the scope of human flourishing.
While not a religion, transhumanism might serve a few of the same functions that people have traditionally sought in religion. It offers a sense of direction and purpose and suggests a vision that humans can achieve something greater than our present condition. Unlike most religious believers, however, transhumanists seek to make their dreams come true in this world, by relying not on supernatural powers or divine intervention but on rational thinking and empiricism, through continued scientific, technological, economic, and human development. Some of the prospects that used to be the exclusive thunder of the religious institutions, such as very long lifespan, unfading bliss, and godlike intelligence, are being discussed by transhumanists as hypothetical future engineering achievements.
Transhumanism is a naturalistic outlook. At the moment, there is no hard evidence for supernatural forces or irreducible spiritual phenomena, and transhumanists prefer to derive their understanding of the world from rational modes of inquiry, especially the scientific method. Although science forms the basis for much of the transhumanist worldview, transhumanists recognize that science has its own fallibilities and imperfections, and that critical ethical thinking is essential for guiding our conduct and for selecting worthwhile aims to work towards.
Religious fanaticism, superstition, and intolerance are not acceptable among transhumanists. In many cases, these weaknesses can be overcome through a scientific and humanistic education, training in critical thinking, and interaction with people from different cultures. Certain other forms of religiosity, however, may well be compatible with transhumanism.
It should be emphasized that transhumanism is not a fixed set of dogmas. It is an evolving worldview, or rather, a family of evolving worldviews – for transhumanists disagree with each other on many issues. The transhumanist philosophy, still in its formative stages, is meant to keep developing in the light of new experiences and new challenges. Transhumanists want to find out where they are wrong and to change their views accordingly..."
WTA Website FAQ - http://www.transhumanism.org/index.php/WTA/faq21/82/
And here is the quoted abstract from James Hughes' article "On The Compatibility of Religion and Transhumanism"...
"Transhumanism – the proposition that human beings should use technology to transcend the limitations of the body and brain –
is a product of the Enlightenment humanist tradition.
As a consequence most avowed transhumanists are secular,
and many religious are skeptical or hostile towards the transhumanist project. However there are also many religious transhumanists
who find the project of human enhancement at least consistent with, and sometimes a fulfillment of, their metaphysics, soteriologies and eschatologies.
Transhumanism appears to be especially compatible with religious traditions that emphasize human agency and evolution to a transcendent state, such as
Buddhism, or that have incorporated Enlightenment values, such as liberal Christianity. But elements of the transhumanist worldview and enhancement
technologies are compatible with one element or another of most world faiths, even the most fundamentalist. We can thus expect that human enhancement
technologies will be adopted creatively into the theologies of groups within all the world’s faiths, producing many flavors of 'trans-spirituality'.”
-James Hughes, April 16, 2007 - http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/hughes20070401/
And now that I have established the general context for contemporary Transhumanism's relation to religion, I will provide more detailed and personal commentary in my next posting...