RE: the Human, Posthuman and Transhuman (& the arts)
- Hi Mike,
I just joined this list and decided to make my first posting a response to
yours because it implicates me as someone who is interested in both
evolutionary psychology and transhumanism.
I work as a teacher in the English Dept. of New Mexico State University. I
volunteer for, and have been elected to the Board of Directors of, the World
I think that the neo-Darwinian synthesis, including evolutionary psychology,
can go a long way toward explaining human urges, tendencies and behaviors.
Similarly, I see much promise in cognitive science and the related fields of
neurophilosophy (Patricia Churchland) and neurotheology (esp. Pascal Boyer).
These seem likely to tell us much about how we came to be the way we are.
At the same time that the new science is explaining humans more deeply and
reliably (truly) than previous theories could, I believe that technology is
giving us the ability to change ourselves more deeply and profoundly than
ever before. Genetic engineering, cyborgization devices (artificial auditory
and visual aids, for example) and computers (plus, in the near future,
nanotechnology) may permit us to radically change the ground rules that
evolutionary psychology is just now explaining. Fear of such a change to
these ground rules is what animated, for example, Francis Fukayama in his
declaration that transhumanism is "the most dangerous idea on earth."
Dangerous, yes, just as any world-changing idea is dangerous. As Nietzsche
wrote, "Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman: a rope
across an abyss - a dangerous going across, a dangerous wayfaring, a
dangerous looking back, a dangerous shuddering and staying still."
"For any man to abdicate an interest in science is to walk with open eyes
-- Jacob Bronowski
"Experiences only look special from the inside of the system."
-- Eugen Leitl
Board of Directors, World Transhumanist Association: www.transhumanism.org
Board of Directors, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:
Extropy Institute: www.extropy.org
Alcor Life Extension Foundation: www.alcor.org
Society for Universal Immortalism: www.universalimmortalism.org
President, Zen Center of Las Cruces: www.zencenteroflascruces.org
> -----Original Message-----...
> Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2005 13:43:01 +0000 (GMT)
> From: Mike Tintner <andarot@...>
> Subject: Re the Human, Posthuman and Transhuman (& the arts)
> Thanks, Tom, for the Neurology and Literature,
> 1800-present info.
> Reading that:
> "Neurologists from the nineteenth century to the
> present have actively
> engaged in debates about what it means to be human"
> prompted some loose but to me interesting thoughts.
> I find it fascinating that we have had EP and related
> disciplines emerging at more or less the same time as
> "post-human" and "transhuman" fields of speculation
> AND technology (cloning et al).
> Here on the one hand we have had scientists
> (predominantly conservative, no?) concerned to
> establish some fundamental and largely immutable human
> nature. And on the other hand, people are increasingly
> thinking about how far we can, or should, change it.
> Googling on from that conference, for example, I came
> to a Transhumanist one next year which will consider:
> (It's ironic, too that many EP conservatives,
> especially on the evo-psych group, are trying to
> assert the natural limits to female intelligence and
> ambition , just when, in the last two decades or so,
> we have had the most amazing academic catchup by
> females of males, to the point where girls now
> outperform boys academically in many countries).
> Don't get me wrong - there IS a human nature, and it's
> important to establish it. But it consists of very
> broad, general and malleable urges. And what seems to
> be overlooked is that it's a fundamental dimension of
> human nature and all species' nature to keep changing
> that nature - to keep seeking more freedom, with an
> ever greater range of movement, thought and activity.
> (In fact, I would say that that - the quest for more
> freedom - should be a theme that unifies evolutionary
> studies). To use a very clumsy metaphor, you have to
> know the nature of the plasticine, but then you think
> about how to remould it.
> There's a further irony regarding any evolutionary
> approach to literature and the arts. (And there's a
> question too: would you say most of you guys are
> conservatives like the EP-ers?) Actually, the arts are
> almost exclusively about human beings trying to extend
> human nature - to stretch the plasticine - rather than
> the fundamental nature of that nature. (Somebody think
> of a more appropriate metaphor).
> Just some loose thoughts - but I would very much
> welcome comments.