The emergence of a new faith is being witnessed in Silicon Valley. Unlike theistic religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, this faith puts a radically personal embrace of materialistic personal recreation instead of an individualistic relationship with a transcendent Creator.
One of the most distinguishing features of this belief system is that contrary to the Judeo-Christian or Islamic worldview that the human-beings are constituted of both the material body and immaterial soul- which matter equally- followers of this new faith assert that despite our body, what really matters is our mind which can be reduced to a mere exchange of chemical and electrical components. In contrast to the view of Abrahamic religions of an existing Heaven or Buddhism’s view of the world as being an illusion, this faith asserts that the physical is what matters most without realizing that such a thinking in fact results in nihilism.
While personal salvation is at the core of Abrahamic religions, this new faith suggests a radical life-extension given the developed abilities of various tech applications in order for being saved. To use the jargon of Silicon Valley futurists, this new faith is referred to as “trans-humanism” for which there is no place when it comes to asking for forgiveness or following some religious rituals as it is based on comfort-seeking through use of technology. In fact, trans-humanism can be expressed as the new faith of the postmodern age.
At the core of trans-humanism lies the concept of ‘Singularity’ which has two inherent assumptions:
- Human-beings will be equipped with enhanced capabilities through means of DNA engineering or other advanced in medicine and science rather than through prayer or personal discipline which can offer salvation in the eternal life.
- According to trans-humanism, its followers can experience a partially indefinite existence given the miracles of applied sciences.
The promise of this new belief system is that an upcoming event referred to as the “Singularity” will provide the trans-humanists with the opportunity to recreate themselves in their own image given the advance in the field of science and technology. To give a specific example, in case someone is interested in increasing his or her IQ, a brain implant might work.
Furthermore, the proponents of ‘Singularity’ assert that as the human bodies could be renewed through means of organ replacements or freezing, death itself can be escaped. What is more crucial for trans-humanists is the ability to save their minds rather than their souls through means of uploading onto computer programs. Some of the more radical trans-humanists would also expect to live eternally within the cyberspace by merging their consciousness with other’s to experience multiple beings.
Even, the popular historian and professor Yuval Harari from the University of Jerusalem stated that it might be possible with the next few hundred years for human-beings to upgrade themselves into a kind of divine being, either via means of genetic engineering by the creation of cyborgs or biological manipulation.
One of the interesting claims of Harari is that as a human invention religion lost its popularity, especially in the West and there is a need for a new narrative that will bind al humanity together, therefore trans-humanism enters the stage. One of his statements from his book is that as human-beings become more powerful they will no longer need a god, but only more technology which will empower them.
There is so much to argue against these statements so that one does not know even where to start. Needless to say, the power of human-beings could never eliminate the need for the All-Powerful and Almighty Creator as everything occurs only with His Permission. There is also a point which needs to be highlighted when it comes to making a distinction between orthodox faiths, especially Islam and trans-humanism.
As in all other religions, believers understand that Islamic living requires feeding the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned, etc. in addition to the daily prayers and other main pillars of the religion. On the contrary, trans-humanism accepts intelligence as the highest virtue; therefore one of the main aspects of this new faith movement is to enhance the capabilities of the human brain through various sorts of technological advances. Trans-humanist followers claim that at the basis of existence lies intelligence which is the most valuable resource for human-beings.
Intelligence is surely one of the most valuable gifts from our Creator. Yet, our basis for existence on this Earth should go beyond intelligence and embrace values such as love, mercy and compassion. Nowhere in the trans-humanist literature can one come across these virtues other than the intelligence. The reason for this lack of virtues might be to approach love from a merely materialistic perspective based on the firing of neurons.
Indeed, it is no coincidence that God mentioned in the Qur’an:
Your God is One God. There is no god but Him, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful. (Surat Al-Baqara, 163)
Correct and courteous words accompanied by forgiveness are better than sadaqa followed by insulting words. God is Rich Beyond Need, All-Forbearing. (Surat Al-Baqara, 263)
God does not impose on any self any more than it can stand. For it is what it has earned; against it, what it has merited. Our Lord, do not take us to task if we forget or make a mistake! Our Lord, do not place on us a load like the one You placed on those before us! Our Lord, do not place on us a load we have not the strength to bear! And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy on us…. (Surat Al-Baqara, 286)
To find such meaningful, deep and intelligent statements in a trans-humanist manifesto is far from reality.
Last, but not least, even if the human-beings were capable of re-engineering themselves they would still be not able to become the creatures they wish to unless there is an exponential growth of their capacity to love their Creator and its creature. Ultimately, such a love requires a spiritual discipline and cannot be encoded onto human-beings as if it were a mechanistic endeavor. The need for spirituality will never fade away no matter how the advances in science and technology would affect the conjectures of human development.