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PURPOSEOFTHEMORMON TRANSHUMANISTASSOCIATION

ByLincolnCannon
TheMormonTranshumanistAssociationstandsforthepropositionthatweshouldlearntobecomeGods,1 andnotjustanykindofGod,nottheGodthatwouldraiseitselfaboveothers,2 butrathertheGodthat wouldraiseeachothertogether.3 WeshouldlearntobecomeChrists,4saviorsforeachother,5consolers andhealers,6asexemplifiedandinvitedbyJesus.7 MormonismitselfisanimmersivediscipleshipofJesusChrist.8ItsnotsomuchareligionaboutJesusasit isthereligionofJesus.9WithJesus,10wewouldtrustin,changetoward,andfullyimmerseourbodiesand mindsintheroleofChrist.11Wewouldalsoendureinthatrole,12workingtoreconcileourselves,our relationsandworld,13throughsufferingandevendeathifneeded,14 anticipatingthedayoftransfiguration andresurrectiontoimmortalityineternallife.15 SowhilewemaynotbeChristianbycreed,16wereplainly ChristianbyGospel.17 Mormonismisalsoaschoolforprophets.18Thenameofthereligionitselfremindsusofabookthatwould extendtheBible,inpartbyclaimingyetotherbookswouldalsoextendtheBible.19Inturn,thatbook remindsusofamanthatwouldspeakandactforGod,inpartbysayingeveryoneshouldspeakandact forGod.20TheBookofMormonandJosephSmitharenotfortunetellers,21butratherforthtellersthat
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JosephSmithinTeachingsoftheProphetJosephSmith(SaltLakeCity:DeseretBook,1938),346 2Thessalonians2:34 3 Romans8:1617 4 Colossians1:27 5 D&C103:9 6 Matthew10:8 7 John14:12 8 2Nephi25:26 9 D&C93:1920 10 2Nephi31:513 11 Mosiah5:9 12 2Nephi31:1621 13 3Nephi12:2124 14 D&C138:1114 15 D&C63:4952 16 JosephSmithHistory1:19 17 Mormon7:89 18 D&C88:127 19 2Nephi29:711 20 D&C1:20

wouldexpressasublimeesthetic,aHolySpirit,22provokingustospeakandactsoastofulfilltheir prophecies,23inpartbylearningtobecomeprophetsourselves.24

POSTSECULARRELIGION Forsome,prophecyisnotalivingproposition,letalonereligionorGod.Theywonderifwevenotheard thatGodisdead,25andtheyrerighttowonder.FollowingtheirGods,traditionalreligionsappeartobe dying,particularlyintechnologicallyadvancedandprosperousplaces.26Observingthis,manyhave embracedthesecularizationhypothesisthatreligionitselfisdying.However,thathypothesisisshowingits age,anditsnowembracedmorebyantireligiousvoicesinpopularculturethanbyexperts,amongwhom anotherhypothesisiscomingofage.27 IfGodismerelyasupernaturalsuperlative,heverywellmaybedead,butpositingsuchasGodmissesthe functionofGod.Godalwayshasbeenandisatleastaposthumanprojection,anextensionandnegationof humandesire,imaginedandexpressedwithintheconstraintsofhumanthought,languageandaction. 28 That'snottosayGodisonlysomuch.Tothecontrary,asdemonstratedbytheNewGodArgument, we'vemoralandpracticalreasonstotrustthatothershavealreadyrealizedposthumanprojections.29 However,nomatteryourattitudetowardfaith,Godisatleastthismuch:aposthumanprojection. Understoodintermsofthatfunction,Godclearlyisnotdeadandneverwas,exceptperhapstotheextent recurringdeathispartofevolution. Likewise,ifreligionismerelygenuflectiontothesupernatural,itverywellmaybedying,butagainthat overlooksfunction.Mostofushaveregardedreligiontoonarrowly,andmuchthatssupposedtobe secularactuallyfunctionsasreligion.30Forexample,someclaiminspirationfromscienceorethics.Awe fillsusaswecontemplatethevastnessofspaceorthevoiceofthepeople.Yettheinspirationisnot merelyinthereductionistimplicationsofscienceortheproceduraladjudicationsofethics.Ratheresthetics arewoventhroughthem,tyingthemtogetherinmeaning,andthatswhywecareaboutscienceorethics. Estheticsshapeandmoveus,andattheirstrongest,theyprovokeusasacommunitytoastrenuousmood. 31 Whentheydothat,theyfunctionasreligion,notnecessarilyinanynarrowsense,butestheticsthat provokeacommunalstrenuousmoodarealwaysreligionfromapostsecularvantagepoint.32
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1Corinthians13:8 D&C33:16 23 Helaman15:7 24 JosephSmithinTeachingsoftheProphetJosephSmith,119 25 FriedrichNietzsche,ThusSpakeZarathustra(NewYork:DoverPublications,1999),3 26 JamesSmith,SecularLiturgiesandtheProspectsforaPostsecularSociologyofReligion,ThePostsecularin QuestionandReligioninContemporarySociety(2012),159184 27 JurgenHabermas,NotesonPostSecularSociety,NewPerspectivesQuarterly(2008),25:1729 28 SigmundFreud,CivilizationandItsDiscontents(NewYork:Norton,1961),45 29 LincolnCannon,TheologicalImplicationsoftheNewGodArgument,ParallelsandConvergences:Mormon ThoughtandEngineeringVision(Draper,Utah:GregKoffordBooks,2012) 30 JohnMilbank,TheologyandSocialTheory:BeyondSecularReason(NewJersey:WileyBlackwell,2006) 31 WilliamJames,TheWilltoBelieve,andOtherEssaysinPopularPhilosophy,andHumanImmortality,213 32 JamesSmith,SecularLiturgiesandtheProspectsforaPostsecularSociologyofReligion

Ofcourse,noneofthismeansscienceorethicsshouldorevencouldbedisplacedbyreligion.Tothe contrary,scienceshouldcontinuetoreconcileourcontendingaccountsofexperience,asethicsshouldour contendingaccountsofdesire.33Eachshouldexpanditsreachtotheuttermost,34alwaysbetterinforming ouresthetics,affectingeachotherinafeedbackloop.35 Yetevenasscienceandethicsincreasinglyempowerus,let'snotfoolourselvesintosupposingthey'llever befinishedorsufficientinthemselves.36It'snotenoughthatwecandescribeourworldthroughscienceor imagineabetterworldthroughethics.Wealsowanttomakeabetterworld.Wecandothatthrough engineeringandgovernance,butit'salsonotenoughthatwecanmakeabetterworld.Wewanttofeelit, sometimespowerfully,andmore:wewanttoshareourpowerfulfeelingswithothersinwaysthatmoveus together.Asengineeringandgovernanceareactiononscienceandethics,religionisactiononesthetics. Asengineeringandgovernancearethepowerofscienceandethics,religionisthepowerofesthetics. Wecareforandusescienceandethicsonlyinaccordancewithesthetics,whichpresentsitselfas foremostamongtheminthemostvitalmomentsoflife,whenwewemustact,accordingtowhatever wisdomandinspirationwemighthave.Lifecannotwait.37Howwillweact?Willweseebeautyin science?Willwefeelunityinethics?Willwecare,andhowmuchwillwecare?Couldourdegreeof concernmakeapracticaldifference?Thesequestionsmattertoallexceptperhapsthemostapathetic, escapistornihilisticamongus.Theiranswersscopeourfuture. Ifwecanraiseoureyesfromthealtarofreligiousandantireligousdogma,wellseethatthehandraised tofinishthedyingGodisthesignoftheoathtotheresurrectingGod.Ifwecankeepoureyesraised, resistingthecarnagebelow,wellalsoseethehandisourownanditholdsabladethatsagedand stained.Thatswhenwehaveachoice,eithertorepeattheoldsacrificesofourancestors,orfinallyto makethenewsacrificethattheyalwaysimplied:wecanputourselvesonthealtarandlearntobecome Gods.Putdifferently,thenegationofoneposthumanprojectionalwaysimpliesanother,misrecognizeduntil humanitychoosestobecomeposthumanity.38

TECHNOLOGICALEVOLUTION Transhumanismistheethicaluseoftechnologytoexpandourabilitiesfromthehumantotheposthuman.39 Forsome,thisconjuresupimagesofcomicbookcyborgswithgunarmsandlasereyes.Ofcourse Transhumanismispartlyaboutbodyenhancement,butyou'dprobablyagreethatagunarmdoesn'tqualify asanenhancement,eitherpracticallyoresthetically.Forbetterexamples,lookatthetechnologythat


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James,TheWilltoBelieve,andOtherEssaysinPopularPhilosophy,andHumanImmortality,190 SamHarris,TheMoralLandscape:HowScienceCanDetermineHumanValues(NewYork:FreePress,2010) 35 AlbertEinsteininThePrivateAlbertEinstein(KansasCity,Missouri:AndrewsandMcMeel,1992),85 36 EmileDurkheim,ElementaryFormsofReligiousLife(OxfordUniversityPress,1912),325327 37 Durkheim,ElementaryFormsofReligiousLife 38 HavaTiroshSamuelson,TranshumanismasaSecularistFaith,Zygon(2012),47:710734 39 TranshumanistFAQ,Humanity+,accessed12February2014, http://humanityplus.org/philosophy/transhumanistfaq/

enhancesyourightnow.Someofyouareusingcomputingdevicesthatextendyourabilityto communicate.Youmightbewatchingthroughglasses,contactsorsurgicallymodifiedeyes,orlistening throughhearingaidsorcochlearimplants.Youreprobablywearingclothingthatenhancesyourabilityto adapttoenvironmentalchange.Underthoseclothes,youmighthaveimplantsorprosthetics.Throughyour blood,drugsmayberelievingpain,heighteningattention,orfacilitatinggrowth.That'sjustnow.Think throughtherestofthedayleadinguptothismoment.Thinkthroughyourlife.Considerhumanhistory.If technologicallyenhancedhumansarecyborgsthenwevealwaysbeencyborgs.40Wevealwaysbeen transhumans,andtotheextentwevewelcomedthat,wevebeenimplicitTranshumanists.Atleastin contextofthepastandpresent,thatsnotparticularlycontroversial. Thecontroversyariseswhenwelookforward.Howwilltechnologychangeusinafewyearsor decades?41Whataboutathousandyearsfromnow?Howmanydrugs,surgeries,prostheticsandother enhancementsaretherebetweenhumansandposthumans,asdifferentfromusaswenowarefromour prehumanancestors?Isitpossibletochangethatmuch?Ifso,shouldwe? Sometimeswetalkabouthumansbecomingmoreroboticorrobotsbecomingmorehuman.Whenwethink ofrobots,mostofususuallythinkofcoldmetalorhollowplastic.Ifthat'swhatrobotsarethenwearen't andnevershould(orcould)berobots.However,ourlanguageusesadichotomythatisincreasingly insufficientfordescribingnotonlythepossibilityspace,buteventheactualityspace.Doesahuman receivingaprostheticlimboranartificialheartbecomelesshuman?Canabodyoriginatingfromartificial DNA,conceivedthroughanartificialprocess,orgestatedinanartificialenvironmenteverbehuman,even ifit'seventuallyindistinguishablefromanaturalhuman?Forthatmatter,hownaturalarethehumanswe actuallyknow?Areagricultureandmedicinenatural?Theblurringbetweennaturalandartificialisas ancientasthestickourdistantancestorwieldedtoextendherreach,andtheleavesdonnedtoenhancehis skin.Inanimportantsense,asynthesisofanatomyandtoolsmadeushuman,empoweringusaboveand differentiatingusfromourprehumanancestors.Inthatsense,perhapswe'vealwaysbeenrobots,forat leastaslongaswe'vebeenhumans. Whydowewanttoenhanceourselves?Theanswersnotnew.Wewanttoenhanceourselvesforallthe reasonswe'vemadetoolssincethebeginningofhistory.Toolsempowerus.Sowe'llcontinuetobuild moreandbettertools,andtheirsynthesiswithouranatomieswillbecomeincreasinglyseamlessand intimate,becausewewanttoandbecausewecan,forthepoweritprovides.Likeallpower,toolsand theirintimateevolutionintobodyandmindenhancementsarenotinherentlygoodorevil.Rather,theyre bothriskstomitigateandopportunitiestopursueaccordingtowhateverwisdomandinspirationwemight have.Ontheonehand,toolscanempowerusagainsteachother.Somehoard,andothersdeplete.Elites form,totalitarianscontrol,andrevolutionariesrevolt.Artificialcatastrophicriskswellbeyondthoseof nuclearweaponspresentthemselves.42Perhapswecouldrealizetheworstinterpretationsofthe Apocalypse.Ontheotherhand,toolscanalsoempowerusforeachother.Alreadywe'veusedthemto

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BrendaBrasher,"Thoughtsonthestatusofthecyborg:ontechnologicalsocializationanditslinktothereligious functionofpopularculture",JournaloftheAmericanAcademyofReligion(1996),64:809830. 41 RayKurzweil,TheSingularityisNear(NewYork:PenguinBooks,2005) 42 NickBostrom,GlobalCatastrophicRisks(OxfordUniversityPress,2008)

build,relate,consoleandhealinwaysourdistantancestorsimaginedonlyGodstohavethecapacity.43 Perhapssomedaywemighttransfigureourselvesintoagelessbodies.44 Wemightevenresurrecteach otherassublimemindsthatrelatewithunfathomablecompassionandconceivethoughtsthatinthemselves constitutenothinglessthanthecreationofnewworlds.45Inanycase,Transhumanistsaffirmthatwecan andshouldchangethroughcontinuedethicaluseoftechnologytoexpandourabilitiesfromthehumanto theposthuman.

MORMONISMMANDATESTRANSHUMANISM Ifyou'reaMormon,youshouldbeaTranshumanist.Toidentifyasa"MormonTranshumanist"isnotatall redundant,buttoidentifyasa"TranshumanistMormon"isredundant,becauseMormonismmandates Transhumanism.Inotherwords,youcanbeaTranshumanistwithoutbeingaMormon,butyoucan'tbea MormonwithoutbeingaTranshumanist,atleastimplicitly.Ofcoursethisisacontroversialclaim,butwe canmakeanargumentfromMormonscripture.Letsbeginwiththepremises. ThefirstpremiseisthatGodwantsustouseordainedmeanstoparticipateinGod'swork.Thispremiseis basedonscriptureslike1Nephi3,whichsaysGodprepareswaysforustoaccomplishhiscommands 46 Alma60,whichsaysGodwontsaveusunlessweusethemeanshesprovided47andD&C58,which saysweshouldntwaitforGodtocommandustoengageinagoodcause.48 ThesecondpremiseisthatscienceandtechnologyareamongthemeansordainedofGod.Thispremiseis basedonscriptureslike1Nephi17,whereGodcommandsNephitoconstructashiptosavehisfamily49 Alma37,whichsaysGodgaveNephiacompasstoguidehisfamilytothepromisedland50D&C88, whereGodcommandsustostudyandteacheverythingfromastronomyandgeologytohistoryand politics51andD&C121,whichsayswewilllearnallthelawsofthenaturalworldbeforeattaining heaven.52 ThethirdpremiseisthatGod'sworkistohelpeachotherattainGodhood.Thispremiseisbasedon scriptureslike3Nephi12,whereJesuscommandsustobeperfectlikeGod53D&C76,whichsaysGod wouldmakeusGodsofequalpowerwithhim54andMoses1,whichsaysGodsworkistomakeus
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StevenPinker,TheBetterAngelsofOurNature:WhyViolenceHasDeclined(NewYork:PenguinBooks,2011) AubreydeGrey,EndingAging:TheRejuvenationBreakthroughsthatCouldReverseHumanAginginOur Lifetime(NewYork:StMartinsPress,2007) 45 AndersSandberg,ThePhysicsofInformationProcessingSuperobjects:DailyLifeAmongtheJupiterBrains, JournalofEvolutionandTechnology(1999),5 46 1Nephi3:7 47 Alma60:11,2123 48 D&C58:2728 49 1Nephi17:811,16 50 Alma37:3839 51 D&C88:7879 52 D&C121:2633 53 3Nephi12:48 54 D&C76:5860,9295

immortalineternallife.55 ThefourthandfinalpremiseisthatanessentialattributeofGodhoodisaglorifiedimmortalbody.This premiseisbasedonscriptureslikeEther3,wheretheBrotherofJaredseesthatGodisembodied 56D&C 76,whichsaysGodhasabodyglorifiedlikethesun57D&C93,whichsaysfulljoyrequiresabody, elementsarethebodyofGod,andintelligenceisthegloryofGod58andD&C130,whichsaysGods bodyisastangibleasthatofahuman. 59 Fromthesefourpremises,wecanreason. BecauseGodwantsustouseordainedmeanstoparticipateinGodswork,andbecausescienceand technologyareamongthosemeans,Godmustwantustousescienceandtechnologytoparticipatein Godswork. Next,becauseGodwantsustousescienceandtechnologytoparticipateinGodswork,andbecause GodsworkistohelpeachotherattainGodhood,Godmustwantustousescienceandtechnologytohelp eachotherattainGodhood. Finally,becauseGodwantsustousescienceandtechnologytohelpeachotherattainGodhood,and becauseanessentialattributeofGodhoodisaglorifiedimmortalbody,wecanconcludethatGodwantsus tousescienceandtechnologytohelpeachotherattainaglorifiedimmortalbody. Thisconclusionisbothareligiousmandate,inthatitpurportstoexpressthewillofGod,andadescription oftheTranshumanistproject,advocatingtheethicaluseoftechnologytoexpandhumanabilities.Ifwe arrivedatthisconclusionbyvalidreasoning,whichwedid,andifwebeganwithpremisesthataccurately reflectMormonism,asIbelievewehave,thenMormonismmandatesTranshumanism.

MORMONTRANSHUMANISTAFFIRMATION TheMormonTranshumanistAssociationstandsforthepropositionthatweshouldlearntobecomeGods, andthatscienceandtechnologycomplementreligionandspiritualityasmeansfordoingso.The Affirmationthatallassociationmemberssupportexpressesthisstance:60 1)Weseekthespiritualandphysicalexaltationofindividualsandtheiranatomies,aswellascommunities andtheirenvironments,accordingtotheirwills,desiresandlaws,totheextenttheyarenotoppressive.


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Moses1:39 Ether3:716 57 D&C76:70 58 D&C93:3336 59 D&C130:22 60 MormonTranshumanistAffirmation,MormonTranshumanistAssociation,accessed10February2014, http://transfigurism.org/pages/about/mormontranshumanistaffirmation/

2)WebelievethatscientificknowledgeandtechnologicalpowerareamongthemeansordainedofGodto enablesuchexaltation,includingrealizationofdiversepropheticvisionsoftransfiguration,immortality, resurrection,renewalofthisworld,andthediscoveryandcreationofworldswithoutend. 3)Wefeeladutytousescienceandtechnologyaccordingtowisdomandinspiration,toidentifyand prepareforrisksandresponsibilitiesassociatedwithfutureadvances,andtopersuadeotherstodo likewise. Youareinvitedtostandwithus.Promotepostsecularreligionandtechnologicalevolution.Supportthe TranshumanistmandateofMormonism.VisitTransfigurism.organdjointheMormonTranshumanist Associationtoday!