Ep 29: Calvin Mercer—Theology & the Trickiest Questions in Transhumanism
How does religion grapple with transhumanism and radical life extension? What does a theology of Extraterrestrials say about a theology of AI? Is Mind Uploading a rejection of the body, or an affirmation of St Paul's theology of resurrection?
Dr Calvin Mercer is the Professor of Religious Studies at East Carolina University, the founder of the American Academy of Religion's “Transhumanism and Religion” Group, and the author of 7 books.
- How do we define Transhumanism?
- Living beyond 120 years & common misunderstandings about Radical Life Extension
- Harvard's George Church in 2015: "Perhaps the aging process can be reversed in 5 or 6 years"
- Categories of enhancement
- Healthy lifespan
- Cognitive enhancement
- Emotional enhancement
- Moral enhancement?
- Spiritual enhancement — see upcoming interview with Ron Cole-Turner!
- Methods and Trends toward Radical Life Extension and beyond:
- Genetic Engineering — CRISPR
- Germline Genetic Engineering
- Tissue & Organ Replacement (like a car still running after 1,000,000 miles)
- Merging of Computer Technology with Human Biology
- Nanotechnology and Robotics
- Whole Brain Emulation or "Mind Uploading"
- The well-funded pursuit of ending aging:
- Kernel with Brian Johnson and Craig Venter of the Human Genome Project
- Aubrey de Grey SENS foundation
- Calico Labs
- Ray Kurzweil at Google
- Upwing vs Downwing—the Strange Bedfellows of the Singularity, and why left and right will break down on the path the future
- Transhumans, Posthumans, and Superintelligent AI. What does it mean to be Posthuman?
- The theology of AI and Extraterrestrial Intelligence & Why the pope would baptize aliens
- Does AI have a creation story? Is it the same as ours?
- Is AI made in the image of God?
- Mind Uploading & Resurrection
- The role of the body & the importance of embodiment
- Transhumanists are accused of denigrating the body. But what if the critique goes the other way?
- Max More's Letter to Mother Nature
- The Christian doctrine of resurrection is not resuscitation of a dead body (just compare Lazarus to Jesus)
- Why embodiment does not rule out mind uploading. Why mind uploading might look more like Christian resurrection than other forms of radical life extension.
- Continuity, Discontinuity and Transformation in the Christian doctrine of the body
- Substrate-Independent Minds is a better terminology than "Mind Uploading"
- Mind Uploading is an affirmation of what St Paul says about resurrection
- The multifaceted dilemma of cloning our minds & why identical twins already pose a transhumanist dilemma for the pro-life position
- The Psychology of fundamentalism:
- Fundamentalism is a modern movement, a reaction to change
- We are overwhelmed
- Fundamentalism offers safety in the face of tremendous existential threats, and anxiety about the world
- Religion is nimble. When it gets hardened, it becomes irrelevant
- Why the fundamentalist approach to the Bible can absolutely affirm a conversation about transhumanism
- Why we need conversations on Christianity & Transhumanism from Alcor to Baptist churches
- Books & Further Works:
- Religion and Transhumanism: The Unknown Future of Human Enhancement
- Transhumanism and the Body: The World’s Religions Speak
- Religion and the Implications of Radical Life Extension
- Steve Fuller, Calvin Mercer co-edit the “Palgrave Studies in the Future of Humanity and Its Successors”
- Contact & Further Information on Calvin Mercer:
Christian Transhumanist Podcast
- 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
The Christian Transhumanist Podcast is an editorially independent production of Micah Redding, provided here as a community resource on behalf of the CTA.