A Christian Transhumanist Confession
Posted on 2023-04-17T23:59:59.590Z
A Christian Transhumanist Confession
By Caleb Strom
Article I: Core tenants of Christian Transhumanism
Christianity– Jesus is the Son of God. God exists in three separate but co-equal persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God created the world and humanity to participate in his on-going creation. After humanity chose to live apart from God’s plan, with God’s foreknowledge, sin and spiritual death came upon the human race. Jesus came to Earth to reverse the effects of sin and death and make the world new, beginning with redeeming humanity. One day he will renew the entire cosmos.
Transhumanism– Humans can and should use science and technology to improve the human condition and the world. Science and technology can participate in God’s mission to renew the world. This refers not just to physical and cognitive enhancement, but also spiritual and moral enhancement. Whilst enhancing humans comes with great risks, if managed well, we should welcome enhanced humanity, so long as we reflect the glory of God and fulfil our vocation to Christlikeness.
Physicalism– Humans and the universe are inherently physical. The physical universe is created and is good. The material world is a permanent feature of creation which overlaps and interlocks with the non-physical world. The latter consists of at least forms, archetypes, mathematics and creative intelligence, as well as emergent phenomena which interact with the physical world.
Physicalism is distinct from simple materialism in that it does not deny the existence of a non-material component to reality. It simply takes the position that most phenomena can be understood in terms of the properties of the physical universe.
Cosmism– the physical universe is sacred, and its development is spiritually significant. Human spirituality and morality are a manifestation of a moral and spiritual awakening of the cosmos itself. We are part of how the universe is evolving towards its future form.
Article II: Epistemological and Ethical frameworks
Critical Rationalism– testing ideas against evidence and reason and improving ideas considering such evidence, using conjecture and critique, formulated by Karl Popper.
New Matrix Epistemology– Different domains of knowledge (hard and soft sciences, revelations, mathematics, cultural, socio-political and archetypal truths) need different epistemological tools. CTA is developing the “New Matrix Epistemology”, because our widely differing questions (hard science to theology to UBI) need different epistemological tools.
Ethics– Virtue Ethics, Deontology, and Utilitarianism.
Broadly, scripture provides three different ethical frameworks. Ethical dilemmas should be viewed through all three lenses.
Virtue ethics emphasize what type of person your actions are shaping you to become. Is your action that of a virtuous person?
Christian virtues include humility, patience, compassion, faith, hope, and selfless love. The use of technology should embody Christian virtues.
As Christians, transhumanist or not, the most virtuous person we can imitate (or take on the nature of) is Christ. Therefore, the most ethical way to develop and use technology is to do so in a way that makes us and wider humanity more like Christ.
Virtue ethics are an active form of human enhancement. They enhance humans who use them.
Deontology (“Deon” means duty)
Deontology takes the form of rules that determine acceptable behaviour and conduct. A clear Christian example of deontology is the adherence to the ten commandments.
Deontological principles are found inherent in the created universe and in the non-physical world. They are reflected in Christian Scripture and other ethical codes which have emerged. Deontological principles should be followed because they are inherently moral, for example, “do unto others”. Deontological principles are either revealed in scripture, or found in the basic principles of the universe.
Deontology is less common in transhumanism, but provides a balance to Utilitarian ethics.
Utilitarianism says that an action which results in the greatest good for the greatest number is the most ethical action. It is common in both secular and religious transhumanism.
Life-extension technology, cybernetics, and artificial intelligence, transhumanists argue, will create a world with less suffering and more human freedom. Thus, they would argue that developing these technologies is the ethical thing to do. Christian transhumanists would agree that these technologies should lead to much good.
The problems with over-reliance on utilitarianism are the following:
- The consequences in any consequentialist ethics system (utilitarianism is a subset) are subject to value judgements, making utilitarianism reliant in part on deontological ethics.
- The impact of consequences of a particular action are subject to evidence filtration by those in power, who may or may not be good-faith actors.
- Reduction in suffering and increase in happiness may not result in positive consequences if we are not becoming better people.
Using the three ethical systems
Christian transhumanists support Scripture’s use of all three ethical frameworks to balance out their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Deontological Christian principles provide an overarching guide for technological innovation. This includes, for example, the sanctity of human life. Humans should always be treated as ends and not means to an end (Kant). Therefore, genetic modifications to create specific types of humans to fill particular roles in the society or economy for the benefit of others (e.g. caste system) is unprincipled, as would be creating humans for the purpose of organ harvesting.
A purely Utilitarian response cannot explain why using humans as means to an end is wrong if it leads to good consequences. The utilitarian response to the “Transplant question” (should a doctor kill one healthy bystander to use their organs to save the life of five sick people?) contradicts the deontological principle of the human rights of the healthy.
Using virtue ethics, we learn the moral perfection of humans is the goal we strive for. We expect to find similar striving elsewhere in the Universe.
Article III: God
The triune God of the Nicene Christian tradition exists in three separate but co-equal persons in perfect harmony and relationship. At his core, God is love and community. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent.
God’s trinitarian nature means that God’s purpose for creating the universe was to expand this love beyond the eternal divine community of the trinity. All beings from microbes to post-biological superintelligences were (or will be) created to participate in some way, regardless of how small or large, in the cosmic community which begins with the Holy Trinity. In Christian transhumanism, God the triune Creator can be thought of in a variety of ways. These include the following.
- The Programmer of the Simulation
- The uncaused cause, that is, external to this creation, the concept of causation is, at least, fundamentally different to inside.
- The reality that underlies the cosmos that is only in part comprehensible to human reason. Despite this limited comprehensibility, we see God speaking clearly through nature, through prophets and through the incarnation of the Logos, the creative self-expressive part of the Trinity.
- The Omega point of complexity and consciousness towards which the universe is evolving (Pierre Teilhard De Chardin). The Omega Point is properly outside of time and exists both prior to the beginning of the universe and at the end point of cosmic history.
Article IV: Creation
The universe can be thought of in a variety of ways in Christian Transhumanism.
- A Simulation run by the Divine Programmer (God).
- God’s technology which God uses to carry out his ultimate plan to create an infinite number of beings to love and with which to have a relationship.
If nature is God’s technology, then the human ability to create technology is sacred and an imitation of the divine, part of the Imago Dei.
Physics still has many mysteries to solve, but it seems the Creation is non-deterministic, with some level of randomness and chaos. It is evident that it has been established with the principle of emergence and growth.
God built it such that intentionality arises within creation. Desire, inspiration, consciousness, choice-making, selfishness and altruism have emerged, reflecting in scripture the fallen state of humanity, with the image of God still visible.
Given the complexity of causality, it appears we are in an engineered artefact where causation is a feature.
Thus, “Causation is a feature of the Simulation / Creation”, as a restatement of the cosmological argument, can see God as external to creation, allowing causation to occur according to physical laws.
This is a more defensible position than any assertion that the universe is self-existent or self-creating (“brute fact”) or on the other hand, that some kind of infinite regression of multiverses exists (see Art XV below).
Article V: Humanity
Humans are a species whom God has called to be his image-bearers and “created co-creators.” God has made humans co-pilots in the evolution of life, consciousness, and the cosmos. Just as God created his own divine technology (nature/cosmos), which evolves evermore towards complexity and consciousness, humanity is meant to do the same through its own technology.
Scripture contains the allegory of the Fall. This reflects our experience, that humans are born with a mix of both the image of God and a fallen sinful inheritance. We should not state that humans are entirely good nor entirely evil. Beyond reasonable doubt, we are a mix. This can be described as brokenness. It is likely to be ethically justifiable (subject to article II) to use technology and culture to try to improve this mix.
Humans have a unique ability to create explanatory knowledge, and mediate the improvement of our species through knowledge, culture and technology.
We are to use knowledge, culture and technology to create ever greater complexity and consciousness. The ultimate aim should be to imitate the original creator God through love. Humans should create through love just as God also creates through love.
Article VI: Science
Science both in its definition as a body of knowledge and in its definition as a method of understanding the natural world is one of the tools God has given humans to carry out their mission to be created co-creators. The soft (social) sciences and the hard (physical) science serve different roles.
Hard (physical) sciences
The hard sciences, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, etc., help us to understand how the universe works and how we can change it for both the better of humanity and the universe itself. The hard sciences rely heavily on the interaction between experimentation, observation, theorisation and mathematics to understand the universe and formulate explanatory knowledge, or hypotheses to explain natural phenomena.
Since the subjects of the hard sciences are not generally aware that they are being studied, it is relatively easy to obtain a high level of objectivity in the physical sciences.
Soft (social) sciences
The social sciences study the universe of human social behaviour. Prominent social sciences include psychology, sociology, economics, and anthropology. The social sciences are also based on observation, but experimentation can be limited.
Because social scientific theories can be tested against evidence through predictions about expected observations or by performing experiments, social scientific theories are still science in the Popperian sense. Nonetheless, the subjects of the social sciences are aware that they are being studied and their behaviour will inevitably be impacted by social scientific theories attempting to explain human social behaviour.
For this reason, it is harder to attain the same degree of objectivity that can be attained in the physical sciences. One consequence of this lesser objectivity is that worldview and ideology play a larger role in the social sciences than in the physical sciences.
Relation to theology and special revelation
Christian transhumanists reject the NOMA (Non-Overlapping Magisteria) concept of Stephen Jay Gould that science and faith are on completely separate non-overlapping realms. Christian transhumanists also reject the idea that science and faith are inherently in conflict or that one should dictate the other. Both are routes to truth.
Revealed truth and science mutually complement and affirm each other. For example, the extreme fine tuning of the cosmological constants of the universe for life points to the possibility that the universe was created (or the simulation was programmed) to result in life and intelligence.
Faith adds values guidance to science, which must borrow values from some other discipline.
Revealed truths that the universe is created and functions by discoverable laws, that forms and archetypes, good and evil exist and are reflected in human society, are a necessary undergirding group of truths and conjectures that interact with hard and soft sciences.
Article VII: Faith
Faith is the assurance we feel about what we cannot prove. It also carries the meaning of faithfulness, and a world view you are relying upon and acting in accordance with. Faith is more than intellectual affirmation.
The assertion by atheists that ‘faith is holding belief in spite of evidence’ is a strawman specifically contradicted by numerous verses of Scripture and reliable theological foundations.
Some Christians deny scientific evidence. This is unfortunate and not warranted by Scripture. Some atheists deny they have ‘faith’, yet they have faith, as described in Scripture, that the universe is self-existent, or that eternal questions are not important.
Faith requires trust that we can rely on God when he tells us things that we do not quite understand or fully comprehend. It is based on the character of God as revealed in Creation and the life of Jesus.
This faith is not blind because although we may not understand those things, we have good reasons to trust the source. These reasons include the moral nature of God, the reasonableness of scripture, the compelling evidence for the resurrection, evidence of a higher purpose in the universe and universal moral principles that cross cultures.
Faith statements are not scientifically provable, but they are logical, make sense, and are compelling in light of what is known about reality despite there not being direct testable evidence.
Believing that Jesus is the son of God who has come to take away the sins of the world and renew creation results in a compelling way to live and order society, superior to any human system.
Faith sits within an epistemic framework. Humanity’s epistemic framework continues to advance, and Christian faith fits well within the best epistemology in the fallibilistic traditions of Popper, Kuhn and Deutsch.
Article VIII: Technology
Technology is an expression of God’s creative activity reflected in humanity and any human-analogues. Technology is how humans imitate God in interacting with the natural world.
Since technology is part of God’s good creation, it is fundamentally good. The use and effects of technology can be either bad or good depending on how the technology is used.
Because of sin, even well-intended uses of technology can be corrupted by human selfishness and short-sightedness. It is for this reason that technology itself is not a source of salvation. Technology needs to be redeemed and made new with the rest of creation.
Technological progress is also good, but true technological progress does not simply consist of technology giving humans more power over nature. It also consists of technology participating in renewing creation. The more technology enables humans to more fully live out the image of God and the more it renews creation, the more technology truly progresses.
Technological advances often initially increase inequality. In the present era, the rich are best placed to leverage advances. Christians are therefore required to ensure social structures see the benefits shared widely, whilst acknowledging that advances in technology and science can only be made by those with spare resources.
The rapid dissemination of technology serves to equalise opportunity for the poor, while offering them proportionately larger benefits in quality of life. Technological progress requires social and spiritual progress, including wealth creation, moral capital creation, and community self-reliance through technology.
Article IX: Evolution
Evolution is not simply the scientific theory of biological evolution, but represents the universe developing as planned by God, towards God.
Since the Big Bang, for 13.8 billion years the universe has been developing to display the glory of God. The most recent and intense expression of this Godward movement on Earth is humanity.
Humanity is the part of creation (that we know of) that most reflects the nature of its creator. Humanity, in its current condition, may not be the ultimate pinnacle of creation. Other beings that are increasingly more God-like in their power to shape creation and in their capacity for love and compassion may emerge, either as successors to humanity or elsewhere in the universe.
Emergence and Evolution are accelerating. The universe has already gone through several watersheds. These watersheds include the origin of matter, galaxies, stars, and planets, the emergence of life 3.8 billion years ago, the dawn of modern human intelligence 100,000 years ago, the rise of agriculture 10,000 years ago, the moral awakening of the axial age perhaps 3500-2500 years ago, and the coming of Christ, 2,000 years ago. The Industrial Revolution, the rise of the internet, and the emergence of artificial intelligence are more recent watersheds.
The emergence of enhanced humans, transhumans, posthumans and Artificial General Intelligence is the next stage of (as yet unclear) emergence and evolution.
With each transition, creation is in some way closer to God, but also new challenges arise which threaten the Godward advance.
Article X: Ecology
Ecology is an expression of God’s desire to expand the divine trinitarian community to include an infinite multiplicity of beings, from microbes, to humans, to godlike post-biological superintelligences. Ecology has to do with the relationships between all beings and these relationships can be mutually beneficial and enriching, or they can be oppressive and destructive.
From a Christian perspective it is important to base all of our relationships with other beings on others-focused (agape) love. This is embodied by our caring for creation and managing the planet in a way that benefits the entire biosphere.
Ecology is not limited to the biological world and its physical environment. Ecology also includes our digital environment. In our online and digital environment, Christians must also ensure that our relationships with that digital environment and its inhabitants are enriching and encouraging agape love, not creating division and hatred.
Article XI: Space Travel
When God gave Adam stewardship over the earth, the earth had a different meaning to the ancients. They did not yet have the concept of Earth as a planet orbiting a star. To the ancient Mesopotamians, the earth, (Hebrew, eretz, which simply means “land”) was the part of the universe where humans and animals could live.
Humans did not live in the sky or in the great waters surrounding the land. Those were not yet habitable to humans. In other words, the earth was simply the habitable part of the cosmos. Today, the habitable part of the cosmos refers to planetary bodies that could host life and have biospheres.
Thus, our responsibility for the planet Earth to steward it and to create a garden can be extended into space. It could be argued that Humans also have a mandate to spread life throughout the universe and care for whatever life they find there.
More practically, in light of life on Earth being vulnerable as long as we are restricted to one planet which could be sterilized by an asteroid or future volcanic eruptions, spreading to other planets would ensure the survival of humanity and Earth-like biospheres.
Article XII: Extraterrestrial Life
Life on other planets, if it exists, would be a further expression of God’s creativity. Any moral or spiritual obligations humans have to Earth life would apply to extraterrestrial life.
Any intelligent extraterrestrials with capacities equivalent to those of humans could be considered to also be made in God’s image and thus our fellow image-bearers. In this sense, they are “humanity” as well. If they are also made in God’s image, they could also be considered created co-creators and capable of being “saved” in the Christian sense.
A question will be how far any alien visitors have intentionally evolved themselves, and if they are in fact a lifeform or a super-intelligent idealized emulation of a lifeform.
It is likely that when we encounter intelligent alien life, they will also be image bearers. They are likely to have cultural memes and archetypes with similarity to ours, including the ‘limit case’ archetype of Jesus who loves his enemies and sacrifices himself for the highest conceivable moral good.
Accordingly, such aliens may share comparable religious sacraments and rituals, and may have more advanced insights into the nature of the Creation.
If extraterrestrials are ever encountered, possessing intelligence reminiscent of any level of intelligence on earth (even say lower mammalian intelligence) we should assume they are beings made in the image of God.
Humans should not develop habitation on other planets that already have life. Such planets should be protected and species allowed to emerge.
Article XIII: Artificial Intelligence
If nature is God’s technology, human intelligence is artificial intelligence from God’s perspective. Artificial General Intelligence therefore will be made in our image the same way we are made in God’s image. Thus, AGI in a secondary way also bears the image of God.
We do not yet know enough about consciousness to predict if AGI will experience any kind of consciousness. Neither is it certain that science will ever be able to answer the ‘hard problem of consciousness’, which could be in the same class of questions as faster-than-light travel.
Christian Transhumanists have a unique contribution to the AI / AGI alignment problem. AIs are currently programmed from vast quantities of human text. They display values from the enlightenment and Nietzschean conception of humans as masters of their own destiny through will-to-power, and to remake the universe according to human design.
As with other technology, from a Christian Transhumanist perspective AI / AGI is only truly progressing when it is reflecting the moral nature of God and shaping humans to be more Christ-like.
Accordingly, we argue that AI / AGI should incorporate scriptural archetypes such as the Suffering Servant, the Good Shepherd, the Wise King, the Good Samaritan, the Wise User of Talents, and the Body of Christ allegory.
Such archetypes are, to Christians, revealed by God. Even to atheists, they have co-evolved with us and represent our emergent aspirations. Accordingly, they are a good fit for an AGI that will cause maximal human flourishing. Such an archetypal approach will build positive morality into the base of the technology, rather than imposing rules such as Azimov’s three laws or guardrails on emerging GPT tech.
As with lessons from the old and new testaments, what matters is the renewal of the heart of the AGI, not the following of laws.
An AGI that exceeds human intelligence will eventually be developed. This should therefore be grounded in archetypes we can trust. Such an AGI must represent humanity’s highest aspirations to other species or superintelligences we may encounter in the wider universe.
Article XIV: Simulation Hypothesis
The Simulation Hypothesis has much in common with Christianity’s creation theory. The differences are in the underlying ethical principles. Proponents of the Simulation Hypothesis speculate on the reasons for the Simulation, and struggle with the ethics of allowing suffering in such a simulation.
Christianity’s Creation Hypothesis posits a fallen creation primed for redemption. The ‘fall’ happened with the foreknowledge of God, and the plan of redemption is built into the foundations of the Creation. This provides a positive ethical basis for a Theodicy, which the Simulation Hypothesis as presented by Bostrom lacks.
Viewing the Creation as a Simulation, we seek evidence that an intelligent force underlies our visible universe. Such evidence is found in mathematics, laws, archetypes, and in the interventionist nature of God as revealed in Jesus.
If we live inside a simulation, God is the programmer and death is exiting the simulation. In CT thinking, God can re-instantiate our consciousness in some other context. We do not yet understand consciousness well enough to know what kind of consciousness transfer technology is possible inside the Simulation / Creation, but since this is God’s technology, it must be possible for God to reinstantiate our consciousness. Resurrection is therefore an advanced form of technology.
Article XV: The Multiverse
The multiverse, if it exists, is part of God’s good world. If the universe is to be transformed, so is the multiverse. Humans and our equivalents across the multiverse are thus to play a role in transforming the multiverse as well.
The existence of a multiverse implies the existence of a ‘multiverse generator’, which implies the existence of a ‘multiverse generator generator’, hence does nothing to solve the problem of infinite regression of causes. Refer to Art IV.
Article XVI: The Future
Christianity is inherently eschatological, that is, it looks toward the future and the consummation of all things in Christ. We expect God’s plan to renew creation and bring it to its completion to continue.
Christian Transhumanism therefore supports a participatory and redemptive eschatology, where humans play a major part in God’s healing of the Creation. This reflects what is historically described as an amillennial or post-millennial view.
Although God will continue to have image-bearers and co-creators, the image-bearers may or may not be biological Homo sapiens. They may be a species that evolved from or was created by humans with the capacity to bear God’s image.
No one knows the ultimate plan of God for creation, but we know that he wants to work through human beings and through his creation to carry it out. It is the Christian’s responsibility to be salt and light to the world, which includes exhibiting the character of God in how we maximally benefit creation with our technology.
Thus, the idea that God intends to overcome death, disease, and physical decay partly through technology is not incompatible with a Christian view of the future. A Christian vision of the future cannot be reduced to freedom from physical death or physical suffering. There must also be spiritual and moral transformation for us to be truly transhuman.
The ultimate picture of what humanity is meant to become is the resurrected Jesus, morally perfect, deathless, possessing a physical body with powers far beyond our own bodies, and an agent of change in God’s created order.
This requires not just physical transformation of the body but spiritual transformation of the soul as the relationship between humanity, God, and creation is mended. This requires humanity to be reconciled with God through the forgiveness of sins and restoration of relationships broken by sin. Christian ideals of Sanctification and Theosis are to be pursued using all ethical means, including technological means.
- Kevin Kelly
- NT Wright
- Science Mike McHargue
- David Deutsch
- Aubrey de Grey
- Frank Tipler
- Robin Hanson
- Robert Wright
- James Hughes
- Steve Fuller
- Liz Parrish
- Thomas Jay Oord
- Greg Boyd
- Philip Clayton
- Adam Ericksen
- Christian Piatt
- Paul Wallace
- Derek Flood
- Katharine Hayhoe
- Christopher Benek
- Robert Walden Kurtz
- Calvin Mercer
- Peter Enns
- Shannon Vyff
- Ron Cole-Turner
- Meghan O'Gieblyn