Transhumanism: Transformation or Transfiguration?
The Perspective of Ilia Delio
by Sister Carla Mae Streeter1
Articles on transhumanism abound in recent literature. Perspectives vary, from the naturalistic view that genetic manipulation is the answer to extending the future of the human species, to the marvel of the cyborg, a technical /mechanical enhancement of the human. The bibliography that accompanies this essay can provide information on these various perspectives. What this reflection intends is the exploration of the thought of one writer, theologian Ilia Delio, as she offers us a view that refuses to be reduced, narrowed or confined. Drawing from her vast understanding of the thought of Teilhard de Chardin, she challenges us to settle for nothing less than a broad critical realist view of our human future.
We will begin by visiting an author who will take us to a television series that ran from 2008 to 2013. Zak Bronson will draw insights from “The Multiple Worlds of Fringe,” a series of essays that explore the characters and values of The Fringe TV series. This series presents us with one contemporary perspective on the primary question that grounds this search and much of contemporary literature on transhumanism: What is human nature?
We will then turn to theFranciscan systematic theologian from Villanova University, Dr. Ilia Delio, as she broadens some of our familiar metaphysical categories. The information that she provides can be found by readers in greater depth on the IRAS (Institute for Religion in the Age of Science) website by clicking on “December 10, 2020 Webinar.” Look for the title, “New Materialism, Relational Holism and Post Human Life.” In what follows I will also include a summary of some additional insights in Delio‟s point of view from two of her earlier publications.
These contrasting perspectives, first from our contemporary media marketplace, and then from a Catholic theologian drawing from the scientific world of quantum physics, will hopefully give us a base for future exploration on this important topic. At least we will have an idea of the distinct approaches for this exploration.
First, a little philosophical sketch to get us into the material: Since the Enlightenment „shift to the subject‟ of the 1750‟s, philosophy has moved through several shifts of focus. We begin with Phenomenology, where the focus shifts from things to appearances. Next we move to Structuralism, where the shift is from parts to abstractions. Then comes Post-structuralism, and the shift from a network of signs to the signs themselves. Finally, in our day, we meet the New Materialists, who focus on real things based on science. For those of us trained in medieval metaphysics, the philosophical ground has indeed sifted, and we can feel ourselves indeed on a storm tossed boat. What follows will take us to a new world. It will open to us a new world of physics, specifically the new world of energy. We will meet the New Materialists. We may just end where we started…and really know the place for the first time.
A Visit to the Media Marketplace
“We Were Trying to Make You More Than You Were”
The Singularity, Transhumanism and Shapeshifting
by Carla Mae Streeter, OP
In his essay, “We Were Trying to Make You More Than You Were,” Zak Bronson writes:
“In 1993, computer scientist and science fiction author Vernor Vinge announced the end of humanity. With the rapid growth of technology, Vince predicted that we were quickly approaching the moment in which technology would be able to outperform human intelligence, and at that moment, humanity would cease to exist. According to Vinge, within thirty years (sometime between 2005 and 2030) technology will become so complex that it will no longer be possible to predict its growth. This instant, which he calls “the Singularity…is a point where our old models must be discarded and a new reality rules.”
At the moment of Singularity, technology will have developed the ability to reproduce itself so quickly that its intelligence will far surpass that of humans. More importantly, at this point, a new vision of humanity – what Vinge refers to as “superhumanity,” completely different than its current state – will take place. “We will be in the Post-Human era,” Vinge foretells, as the rapid changes in technology inspire a merging of human and machine, leading to the next stage of being.
In the years following Vinge‟s predictions, a diverse range of scholars including researchers from computer science, mathematics, and philosophy have debated this next stage of human existence. In recent years, the complex changes offered by new technologies, modifications, medications, and genetic engineering have raised profound questions about what it means to be human, or have at least begun to question exactly where the line is to be drawn between human and technological manipulation. For viewers of Fringe (2008-2013), these narratives certainly seem familiar. Since its beginning, Fringe’s emphasis on the scientific manipulation of humanity has addressed the desire to transcend the limitations of human nature, moving into the so-called post-human era. In doing so, the show reveals the complex changes wrought by experimentation, pointing to both the human desire to remake and refashion the limits of the body, and the potential disaster that this manipulation may bring. While transhumanism is often faulted for dismissing the body as mere background to human identity, an image apparent in the portrait of the shapeshifters, I suggest that while addressing the changing nature of humanity in a world of advanced technology, the series “…negotiates tensions within current transhumanist rhetoric and attempts to grasp the complex entanglement of embodied subjectivity.”
Lest this text go by us too quickly, I suggest it holds within it several key issues we will be addressing, so I list them here for us to keep them in mind as we move forward:
- These questions about human nature are not new
- The rapid advancement of technology as evident
- The meaning of „Singularity‟ as a condition beyond human capacity to control
- The new vision of humanity, „superhumanity,‟ as completely different
- The notion of „cyborg‟ as the merging of human and machine
- The ethical line in human manipulation
- The complexity and possible disastrous results of this manipulation
- The desire to transcend the limits of human nature (illness, death, )
- The complex entanglement of embodied subjectivity
It is important that we identify these issues here and keep them in mind, as we will be meeting them again as we explore Ilia Delio‟s perspective on these issues as they relate to science.
The New Materialists and the Human Person In the Thought of Ilia Delio
It is clear that our assessment of one group of New Materialists, the transhumanists, will depend on the view of the human personas we move forward. So, this will be the question we will bring not only to them, but to all the New Materialists. What kind of human are you considering?
What is human nature and personhood in the world where we now know that matter and energy are interchangeable, where matter can come as a wave or a particle? What then is consciousness, when it is clear that animals have some form of it? Shall we settle for some kind of pan-psychism? What if matter itself is suggesting that the background of the universe is some kind of „mind‟ or „consciousness‟ that is orchestrating it all – a creator and governor of biological evolution? That matter/energy is pointing to a dynamic process going on, a type of fluidity, lawful nature at play if you will? And most mysterious of all, what is holding it all together?
The Human Person: A Dynamic View
The New Materialists will view human personhood as a set of dynamics, a center of identity that shapes the material world and is likewise shaped by it. Human personhood is no long viewed as isolated and autonomous, as static, but whose identity is relationally interacting with the biological, social, political, and transcendent dynamics of the culture that surrounds it.
What is a “Cyborg?‟
The complexity of mind (consciousness)/matter in dynamic interplay has introduced the category of the cyborg. Drawn from a joining of the terms “cybornetic‟ and “organism,‟ the term refers to the human as a hybrid of biological evolution and mechanical/electric interaction with fluid boundaries between the two. This interaction is already real in our experience whatever name we give it. (Readers can explore this topic in greater depth in Donna Haraway’sThe Cyborg Manifesto.)
This fluid and dynamic view of our species in creative interaction with every element of our culture, being shaped by it and shaping it, extends also to our developing understanding of gender, our embodiment, and how we read our western origin myths. It changes our very way of thinking about ourselves with no real fixities, but with constant becoming. It opens up categories beyond a bio-essentialism. In this new more dynamic understanding, our view for example, of gender, becomes post-gender as its boundaries become more fluid, opening up the possibility of viewing gender as more performative than fixed, and including biological, psychological, and spiritual dimensions.
With these insights we are entering a world of dynamic connectivity. Our cognition itself, as even Thomas wrote of it, is dynamic (See Summa theologiae, ques. 85-89ff.), intelligence being known only in its act. Bernard Lonergan, SJ, takes Thomas further in his treatment of the agent intellect in Insight, revealing that it is a series of operations. In this new dynamic world, matter itself is not inert. It is dynamic, processing, and relational, responding to culture and shaping culture in its turn. It follows then that technology also is not neutral. It will be what we intend it to be. It is up to the choice of the human person what is to be fostered in this connectivity, and what is not.
Transhuman or Post Human?
Enter two important distinctions on how this humanness is to be enhanced and perfected: the transhuman and the post human. They are not the same for Delio. The transhumanist is convinced that technology is the key to enhancement, to making the human „different‟ by living longer, happier, and smarter, even to the possibility of a „mind transplant‟ resulting in immortality, and even a transhuman democracy bringing peace. The focus is on the individual and resembles the enlightenment enthronement of knowledge as power. It can border on what Delio calls „bio-hacking,‟ the creation of the Nazi ubermench or becoming god by technical means. Its vision has objective goals, uses objective knowledge as power, and it is autonomous and anthropocentric. Its voices are mainly male in the literature. The human becomes „something else‟ beyond its biology.
The second forward move of humanness is advancement to the post human person. Its voice in the literature is mainly female. Instead of objective goals it will speak of „emergence and extension.‟ Rather than knowledge as objective and as providing power, it will speak of a „reflexive epistemology.‟ Instead of acting autonomously, it will speak of „distributive cognition and extended embodiment.‟ It is post-anthropcentric, decentralized and communal, viewing subjectivity as extended and emergent. Humanness is a „tool or node‟ or a prime actor in an entire interconnected network that affects it and which it affects.
For the New Materialist, mind is always material in its form as energy; matter/energy is interactive; nature and culture are interactive systems. The author Giles Deleuse will view the subject as „infolding and outfolding,‟ as being „interior and exterior.‟ Matter has its own agency as it interacts. These new categories move beyond our usual
„binaries.‟ Rather than just being there, matter in its own way is creative. Matter matters, because of its agency and interactive capacity through relationality, affects, assemblages, and productiveness. (Lest we think this novel and even radical, we need to recall that Thomas was the master of the „instrumental cause,‟ highly defending its actual causality in relation to the primary efficient cause.)
This view of matter as dynamic offers a new vital and relational ontology. Described as „arboreal or rhizomatic‟ it is all about connections, prompting the author and physicist Karen Barad to describe it as agential realism.(Lonergan refers to dogmatic realism as the approach of “Accept what I say because I have the authority/credentials to say it,” and critical realism as “What I say is credible because I can explain this in relation to empirical evidence.”)
This intra-action reveals matter as no longer inert or passive; not the property of the human alone, but as having bilateral mutuality.
Most important of all, in thisontology, relationship is formative of existence. Agency is what one is, not something one has.(Interestingly, this resembles Trinitarian theological language, where relationality is precisely the only distinction in God, actually causing a total unity or oneness, not opposing it.)
This dynamic perspective of the human encourages nouns to become verbs. We are „worlding‟ the world, and the world is „worlding‟ us. Knowing leads to being, and to continual becoming. Our life becomes a continuous dynamic process rather than a static goal of some perfection to be achieved. We are never quite „there‟ yet. The human subject is no longer materially embedded but „nomatic.‟ The author RosiBraidatti uses this term to describe the human as becoming within social-political transversal lines which she describes as „autopoeisis,‟ tending toward a „monistic philosophy and panpsychism,‟ and an „expanded relational self: the nomatic subject.‟ The self is more like an assemblage, a cluster of embedded relationships, shifting our cognition from binaries to „rhizomatics.‟ As distinctly human, we bring ethics, choices, values, to the mix. For those of us coming from our beloved and secure metaphysics, we are being led to a new look at an old familiar: the philosophical meaning of our humanness as pure potency unfolding.
Contrasting Perspectives: Transhuman or Ultrahuman?
Transhumanists can be reductionists. Delio wants to take us in another direction. Rather than being at odds with technology as imprisoning, Delio believes that „post humans‟ have a healthy respect for technology as a part of this picture. We might refer to them as „spiritual cyborgs.‟ AI transhumanists in contrast among the New Materialists, can settle for the reductionism that offers technology as a solution because it (falsely) seems to have no limits. We might say that the term „post human‟ provides a wider context and a much more positive and dynamic view of matter as a vital relational force, a planetary geocentric perspective that can be more inclusive, relating more to a vibrant and expansive incarnational theology and spirituality, provided that this created dynamism flows from an Uncreated Source, Expression and Gifting that we name as Tri-personal Love.
For us to say that this is nothing but „naturalism‟ can smack of a premature judgment on our part, keeping us in a world that insists on holding on to familiar binary categories. This more fluid view of matter and energy is reflective of Teilhard de Chardin‟s writings, specifically his 1919 work The Heart of Matter. As an aside, Chardin was under Roman monitum(Warning) during his lifetime and forbidden to publish. He gave his writings to a woman in New York City. The woman published them after his death. I wrote the United States Apostolic Deligate in the 70s asking what the state of the monitumon Chardin was. He replied that the Church rarely removes a monitum.“It just moves beyond it.” Recently Benedict XVI is reported to have said, “Today, Chardin is the one to read.”
Delio regards Chardin as an early New Materialist of the post human type. He writes of matter→life→energy as revealing Presence→Wholeness→Plenitude. He posits spirit as the heart of matter‟s potency, not its binary opposite. He writes not of the cosmos, but of a cosmogenesis, with the Christic Word being the „what is holding it all together,‟ a Christogenesis operating with a love energy that is ever transformational, ever coaxing matter to become all that it can be. This is a new hyper-physics,
„spacetimemattering.‟ In this ontology, union is first, and being comes from it in a becoming transfigured by the energy of a love that is at the very heart of all matter. This calls for a new synthesis. Deep at the heart of this unfolding is the love that Chardin calls God Omega. God is no longer “out there” but at the very heart of atomic structure as the source of its unfolding.
As Delio explains it, this is no reduction of spirit to matter. This is creation that is continuous, incarnation that is on-going, transcendence at work in immanence, love bringing forth a transfigured cosmos. It is matter as a matrix of consciousness, providing a start for a “sublating,” a spirit-driven unfolding while never leaving behind what was before. It attempts to word a relational wholeness taking form and expression in matter, yet more than matter, and distinct yet not separate from matter, forever putting to rest the detached gnostic spiritualisms that have haunted religious traditions, including Catholic Christianity. This process will be completed in, through, and with, the human as embodied.Matter will not be „disposed‟ of because only the transcendent is important. Thisongoing transformation will be done by God‟s magnetic power in and through our own human thought and responsible choice. The causal language to describe this ultra-human activity will begin with the reality of a relationship,its source in creative union at the heart of unfolding evolution. This organicity of collective magnitude will be nothing short of the transfiguration of matter.Scientifically, transhumanism is just not enough. Theologically, we might be struggling to find new language for the New Jerusalem, and indeed human transfiguration.
John Haught was the respondent to Delio in the webinar where these distinctions were made. His concern, well taken, was that human uniqueness not be lost, in particular the presence of the transcendental precepts Bernard Lonergan revealed as the dynamism operative in human consciousness: Be attentive to your experience; Be intelligent in your questioning for understanding; Be reasonable in your judgment of fact; Be responsible in your judgment of value and the action it prompts.This invites us to the moral implications.
Other Input by Ilia Delio
In earlier publications by Ilia Delio, (“What would Teilhard say? Evolve or be annihilated,” Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter, 2017, and “Religion, Transhumanism and the Vision of Teilhard de Chardin,” N.D.) we are challenged with an expansion of some of these insights.
The first of these, written in 2017, addresses a 1953 article by Chardin titled “The Agony of our Age: A World that is Asphyxiating.” Delio points out that already back then Chardin saw that “…after eons of slow expansion, the human species has entered a phase of compression.” Noting that “There are too many of us in too little room,” he cautions that a drastic restriction of reproduction or a mass migration to another planet is not the answer. The answer lies in the one thing we as a human species hold together: the future, and we must allow this reality to engage us together. This will mean the shift to an evolutionary world view, that change is integral to life.
We are indeed becoming something that is not yet seen or known. We are not static or fixed. To live in evolution, Delio writes, is to let go of structures that prevent convergence and deepening of consciousness and assume new structures that are consonant with creativity, inspiration and development. Understanding that there is a constant urge in nature to transcend toward higher levels of complexity (degrees of relationship) and consciousness, Delio sees this as the way forward.
Convinced that we are only beginning to learn how to think as people in evolution, she states that two main systems stifle this shift: religion and education. Dogmatic realism convinces many that we need to remain „in the ways we have always done it‟ whether our faith systems are confined to old cosmologies and entrenched doctrines or operating in education on outdated scientific principles. It is no wonder, Delio says, that evolution frightens us if we are thinking out of old boxes and praying to old gods. Yet the younger generation, those born after 1985, are thinking differently. Because of their networks and social media sites they think in terms of connections and communication more than across the lines of the ontological distinctions we have preferred. They believe we can really use our gifts to change things. This is evolutionary thinking. Rather than remaining stable, fixed, tribal and nationalistic, they seek convergence, shared space, shared resources, shared policies and shared power.
Remarkably, the central key to this change is the quiet but steady dialogue going on among world religions. Delio believes, with Chardin, that once religious boundaries become permeable, like human cells, a new consciousness is emerging of the oneness of the human community. This growing awareness is putting into effect a new spiritual dynamic toward solutions to world problems. Pope Francis is moving in this direction by his latest encyclical Fratellitutti where he calls the world to a new sense of human community. Delio quotes the late Thomas Berry, who summed up the challenge of our times in a single sentence: “We will go in the future as a single sacred community or we will all perish in the desert.” And God? It is this Holy Mystery, at the heart of this unfolding toward what we shall be, that despite our fear is irresistibly drawing us into the future. This God is the future.
What Shall We Be?
The second and final source we will consider from Ilia Delio deals with a further clarification of Chardin‟s Christocentric view of the transhuman and its contrast with what is known as Artificial Intelligence (AI) Transhumanism.
Delio explains the source of the term „transhumanism‟ as used first in 1950s by Julien Huxley, brother of Aldous Huxley. Aldous was a friend of Chardin, although they differed greatly on whether evolution had a direction. Early use of the term before distinctions were made, was based on the belief that humans needed to rescue their biology from evolution‟s blind process by the use of science and technology to overcome biological limitations. The reason Julian could dialogue with Chardin was his distinct corporate view of transhumanism. By 1979 he sees it as a positive step for the whole of humanity rather than as mere individual perfection or enhancement.
On the dark side, because evolution involves suffering and death, and because these early thinkers wanted to leave biological limitations behind and replace them with technological solutions, they were in fact aiming to end the evolution of organic life.
They had lost the understanding that technefor the Greeks, was originally a domestic science that enhanced human life in its daily tasks. Delio points out that author David Noble stresses that technology and religion developed together. The human as imago Dei expressed this reality by an ongoing dialogue with the material universe. The goal of this dialogue was to provide more space for prayer as was sought in the monasteries.
Historians of transhumanism such as Nick Bostrom, proclaim that modern science has dispenced with medieval religion. God became unnecessary. This inadequate view overlooks the immense contribution medieval figures made to the development of modern science. The work of Robert Grosseteste (d. 1253) and Roger Bacon (d.1292) saw science as a service to theology, preparing the world for the Second Coming. The Black Death (1347- 50) added to this conviction. The stark reality of suffering and death contributed to the development of practical science. Technology advanced in light of religious beliefs rather than as a substitution for them.
In our own day, the prevalence of war and the steady rise of totalitarianism gave new rise to the development of technology. The computer appeared on the scene through the genius of Alan Turing, a British intelligence officer who developed it to break German codes. Within fifty years, computer-based technology has become the principle organizer of modern life. Again the critical question arises: Can technology now fulfill what religion promises? In the past the ancients wrestled with the question of being. Today we grapple with technology which is increasingly attempting to define being. Technology is more and more attempting to define the human person.
Critical in addressing this growing possibility is the application of technologies to improve individual human bodies. Thinkers such as Ray Kurzweil anticipate virtual life where the bodily presence of human being will become irrelevant. AI will prevail, even outwitting death, thus making us totally machine-dependent. We become software rather than hardware, our identity based on an evolving „mind-file.‟ Margaret Wertheim writes of a philosophical shift: from reality constructed of matter and energy to reality constructed on information – a veritable reincarnation of medieval dualism, a cybergnosticism. The physical world is again impure or inefficient; information is purer and more spiritual. The seduction is complete. In biological evolution nature mutually interacts with the species; in technological evolution, species controls nature. In this twisted scenario, we who were once people of the earth have become people of the screen.
We are in danger of creating a new dualism of mind and body, matter and spirit that opposes the whole ecological movement of interrelatedness. Author Ronald Cole-Turner calls this a pelagian lure that “offers the illusion of a managed grace.” It is a self that can fix itself up without changing itself. Technology is not out of control because it is a real power, Cole-Turner states, but because “we cannot control what is supposed to control it: namely, ourselves.” The clear presence of a selfish urge to control cannot be denied.
Alfred Kracher writes that nature offers healing even though it can also frighten. This fright serves the purpose of awakening in us our dependency on God, on the earth, and on other people.He also says that “a planet ruled by predictability where all contingency is eliminated is also a planet dominated by unchecked evil.” These AI transhumanists are willing to sacrifice the organic whole at the expense of perfecting the human. By artificially eliminating human limitation we cut ourselves off from the rich depths of evolving life.
Chardin and the Christian Ultrahuman
Delio now offers an alternative. But she, along with authors Eric Steinhart and David Grumett, suggest that Chardin can only be called a “transhumanist‟ with careful qualifications. Two important points distinguish Teilhard from AI transhumanists:
- The location of transhumanism within evolution
- The vitality and openness of matter to spirit and ultimately, Uncreated Spirit.
These two differences not only distinguish Chardin from all AI transhumanists but enable him to describe the evolutionary humanism that engages life for the whole cosmos. Understood correctly, these distinctions can not only bring depth to long held Christian beliefs, but dispel the threat of a new cybergnosticism or dualistic pelagianism. Delio develops each of the following positions from her vast knowledge of Teilhard de Chardin‟s writings:
- The ongoing development of the human for Teilhard is an evolutionary process with religion at its core.
- Technology has an important role in the progression of evolution.
- Evolution is not a blind random process, but has meaning, purpose, and a direction.
- It is a process of creative union, a progression toward increasing consciousness active at all levels of reality.
- Matter and consciousness are not two substances or two different modes of existence but two aspects of the same energy/matter cosmic “stuff.‟
- Evolution of the mind is linked with the concept of physical and psychic energy.
- The within is the mental aspect and the without is the physical aspect of the same cosmic “stuff.‟
- Because we rise from the process, the human person is integrally part of evolution, but in reflecting on the process we stand apart from it.
- Reflection is “the power acquired by a consciousness to turning upon itself, to take possession of itself a an object…no longer merely to know, but to know that one ”knows”.
- The human person is evolution becomes conscious of itself.
- The human person is “the point of emergence in nature, at which this deep cosmic evolution culminates and declares itself.”
- Evolution is the unfolding of consciousness through the dual process of complexification and convergence.
- The evolutionary vigor of humankind can wither away if we should lose our impulse, or worse, develop a distaste for ever-increased growth in complexity-consciousness.
- The risen Christ is the unifying influence in the whole evolutionary process, a centrating factor that holds the entire process together and moves it forward toward greater complexity and unity.
- Christ is the future fulfillment of the whole evolutionary process, the centrating principle, the pleroma, and the Omega Point where the individual and collective adventure of humanity finds its end and fulfillment; where the consummation of the world and the consummation of God converge.
- The future of evolution is “the mysterious synthesis of the uncreated and the created– the grand completion of the universe in God ”
- Because of this goal and direction, transhumanism can only be considered adequately within this larger direction.
- Internal forces can thwart the direction of evolution toward the Omega Point.
- The solution is not “an improvement in living conditions” but that the inner pressures of history become a catalyst for evolution toward more being.
- The evolutionary ascent of human beings occurs in stages; we have reached the end of the “diversity‟ stage and are entering the contracting or “unifying” stage – that of mega-synthesis.
- Contrary to Darwin, this will not be determined by “survival of the fittest” but by our own capacity to converge and unify.
- A planetary neo-envelope will begin to emerge; the plurality of individual reflections grouping themselves together and reinforcing one another in the act of a single unanimous reflection.
- This noosphere is a psycho-social process essentially linked with the biosphere in which it has its root, yet is distinguished from it, a new stage for the renewal of life and not a radical break with biological life.
- Humankind‟s combined achievements are forming a global network of collective mind, a collective consciousness which preserves and communicates everything precious, active and progressive contained in earth‟s previous evolution, the natural culmination of biological evolution, not a termination of it, an organic whole, irreducible to its parts, and destined for some type of superconvergence and unification.
- Computer technology extends the outreach of human activity but it depends on how humans direct psychic, spiritual energy needs and powers.
- The convergence of human and machine intelligence creatively completes the material and cerebral sphere of collective thought.
- Evolution effects a greater unification of the whole in and through the human person who is the growing tip of the evolutionary process.
- The perfection of being will not come through artificial means; not through well being but a hunger for more being; it is upon its point of spiritual concentration, not its material arrangement, that the equilibrium of humanity biologically depends.
- Psychic energy advances to an ever more reflective state, giving rise to an “ultra‟ humanity.
- The noosphere is a superconvergence of psychic energy, a higher form of complexity in which the human person becomes not obsolete but acquires more being through interconnectivity with others; a medium of collective consciousness that enhances more. It is hyperpersonal.
- The value of science is only for the deepening of spirituality, since knowledge increases mind and mind deepens spirit; without this relationship science is insufficient to effect the transition to superconsciousness. What is needed is a heart to heart.
- Integral to the noosphere is the role of love and “the rise of our inward horizon of a cosmic spiritual center…the rise of God.”
- The evolution of noosphere brings forth a new collective consciousness that enables a more profound union in love and thus a deepening of being that reflects more unified soul and greater wholeness. Evolution is the process of unfolding consciousness. (For AI transhumanists, consciousness is a mere epiphenomenon in the evolutionary process )
- Ultimate knowing is love which draws together and unites in such a way that new complexified being transcends individual being; it is the emerging body of Christ.
- The evolution of the noosphere and the emergent ultrahumanity is fundamentally religious in nature. Christ is the Omega Point, the goal of the universe and the evolver in its convergence toward unity.
- The new level of global mind is the emergence of Christ because the human person is “the arrow pointing the way to the final unification of the world in terms of life.”
- Technology advances noogenesis but noogenesis continues christogenesis, the possibility of a new global unity in love through a collectivization of consciousness.
- The noogenic Christ would in future bring about “a general convergence of religions upon a universal center of unity who fundamentally satisfies all religions”
- The endpoint is not technology or techno sapiens; it is Omega, the total unification of being-in-love.
- The transhuman is the ultrahuman, the deepening of a being in love.
First, AI transhumanists seek to replace biological evolution and religious beliefs with technology. In doing so they disconnect matter and the life of the spirit. Because the Uncreated Spirit is the source of the energy that is the human spirit, evolution is religious to the core.
Second, because technology is the product of human intelligence, it serves a vital role in the present stage of human advancement. It will be vital as religions meet and dialogue, drawing closer together than they have ever before in human history. Yet the next stage of evolution is not dependent on technology but on the very power of those religions uniting.
Third, because evolution is not a mechanical process of inert matter but a dynamic unfolding of life, spirit and consciousness, organic matter becomes the means for the spirit to deepen and complexify. We are given a deeply incarnational view of the evolutional process. Once again, religion is not outside the realm of technology but integral to its very purpose and development. Evolution proceeds towards the Omega Point not by information or enhancement of the individual but by the convergence of humanity and the deepening of relationships in love.
With this synthesis, and with distinctions between AI transhumanists and ultrahumanists, Delio has provided us an alternate perspective, a wider context to read current writings on transhumanism.
This conversation has just begun. It is our challenge to dialogue our way to an ever clearer understanding.
We have begun, and perhaps fear is the only thing that can silence us.
1 Sister Carla Mae StreeterO.P., Th.D., is presently professor emerita of systematic theology and spirituality at Aquinas Institute of Theology. A member of the Dominican Order, she completed doctoral studies with the Canadian Jesuits at Regis College at the University of Toronto School of Theology in 1986. She was co-recipient of the first Jean-Marc Laporte scholarship award for academic excellence, and the first woman to complete a theological doctorate at Regis College. Her thesis title was Religious Love in Bernard Lonergan as Hermeneutical and Transcultural. She is the author ofFoundations of Spirituality: The Human and the Holy, Seasons of the Soul: An Intimate God in Liturgical Time, and co-author of Avoiding the Sin of Certitude. She has served on the board of Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis and currently serves on the board of ITEST, The Institute for the Theological Encounter with Science and Technology.
Article previously published in the International Journal of Philosophy and Theology June 2021, Vol. 9, No 1, pp. 15 – 23.
Full article and Bibliography on Transhumanism available as a pdf here.