Last month, a science story spread across the internet that seemed more suitable for Halloween than mid-September: Researchers had found that injections of young blood appeared to protect old patients from age-related illnesses.
The controversial discovery stemmed from a growing realm of scientific research aimed at transforming the human condition. Doctors involved hope to help people artificially boost their intelligence, gain new athletic abilities and maybe even live forever.
Transhumanism, the philosophy or intellectual movement underlying this type of research, teaches that humans aren’t done evolving. Transhumanists look at scientific advancements such as gene editing or robotic limbs and see the promise of a future with longer lives and much less suffering.
Although transhumanism began as a mostly secular movement, people of faith, as well as organizations such as the Christian Transhumanist Association, play a notable role in this movement today. Religious transhumanists draw on teachings related to bodily resurrection or rebirth to explain their involvement, arguing that revolutionary science benefits from a stronger moral compass.
Religious transhumanism has been criticized by both secular and religious people, who see a contradiction between belief in a higher power and passion for extreme human-led medical advancements.
Prominent transhumanists in Silicon Valley, including Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, are bringing more attention to this intellectual movement. Here’s a list of the people and organizations that can help you cover the intersection of transhumanism and faith.
- Read “Should we live to be 500? Christians and secularists come together over transhumanism” from Religion News Service on Sept. 5, 2018.
- Listen to “Spiritual Machines” from the Ministry of Ideas podcast on Aug. 31, 2018.
- Read “Want to live longer? Consider the ethics” from The Conversation on Aug. 31, 2018.
- Read “Should we live to be 500? And other questions Christians are asking in Nashville this weekend” from The Tennessean on Aug. 24, 2018.
- Listen to “The why factor: Immortality” from BBC World Service on May 21, 2018.
- Read “Thinking Outside the Old Religious Box: Transhumanism is complicating the sometimes antagonistic relationship between faith and science” from Slate on March 21, 2018.
- Read “Inside the first church of artificial intelligence” from Wired on Nov. 15, 2017.
- Read “Transhumanism and Christian Orthodoxy: Where Do We Draw the Line?” from Christ and Pop Culture on April 20, 2017.
- Read “God in the machine: My strange journey into transhumanism” by Meghan O’Gieblyn for The Guardian on April 18, 2017.
- Read Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, which was published on Feb. 21, 2017.
- Read “Google’s long, strange life-span trip” from MIT Technology Review on Dec. 15, 2016.
- Read “When Cyborgs and Christians Compromise” from Inverse on Sept. 25, 2016.
- Read “The immortality upgrade” from The New Yorker on April 20, 2016.
- Read “Why I Became a Christian Transhumanist” by Micah Redding for Motherboard on Aug. 14, 2015.
- Listen to “What is transhumanism?” from The Christian Transhumanist Podcast on July 6, 2015.
- Read “Living to 120 and Beyond: Americans’ Views on Aging, Medical Advances and Radical Life Extension” from Pew Research Center on Aug. 6, 2013.
- Read “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal” from Time on Feb. 10, 2011.
- Read The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil, which was published in 1999.
Christopher Benek is a Presbyterian pastor and frequent commentator on emerging technology and theology, including artificial intelligence and religion.
Chris Bradford serves as president of the Mormon Transhumanist Association.
Donald Braxton is a professor of religion at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. He has planned a conference on and written about transhumanism.
Lincoln Cannon helped found the Mormon Transhumanist Association and the Christian Transhumanist Association. He writes and speaks about the relationship between philosophy and technology.
Christopher Key Chapple is a professor of Indic and comparative theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He contributed chapters on Hinduism and Jainism to the 2014 book Transhumanism and the Body: The World Religions Speak and has written on what Jainism has to offer to end-of-life health care debates.
George Church is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and professor of health sciences and technology at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He co-launched the Human Genome Project in 1984. His current research includes efforts to extend animal lifespans.
Ronald Cole-Turner is the H. Parker Sharp Professor of Theology and Ethics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, author of Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Advancement and editor of Design and Destiny: Jewish and Christian Perspectives on Human Germline Modification.
Todd Daly is an associate professor of theology and ethics at Urbana Theological Seminary in Champaign, Ill. His work on Christian bioethics includes research into transhumanism.
Marcy Darnovsky is executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society. She speaks and writes about why scientific advancements such as gene editing are a social justice concern.
John K. Davis is a professor of philosophy at California State University, Fullerton. He is the author of New Methuselahs: The Ethics of Life Extension.
Celia Deane-Drummond is