A standard trope of science fiction has religious groups using violence to stop a new technology. Perhaps because of this, many are surprised by the existence of religious transhumanists. Saturday I gave a keynote talk on
"...religions often expose children to a mass of details, as in religious stories. Smart children can be especially engaged by these details because they like to show off their ability to remember and understand detail."
off-topic: that would also describe proud parents telling their children know all about Star Wars or sports.
I think that's possible, but it's not the explanation that I personally find most fair or satisfying. There are many ways in which you and I interpret our experience, based on the categories of thought we've inherited and the educations we've received and whatever might be our unique personal dispositions, that persons in a few decades or centuries (or simply from very different backgrounds) would be tempted to describe as simply "delusional". But, in at least some cases, those "delusions" would probably be better described as our reasonable best efforts to interpret our experiences within the context in which we actually find ourselves. This may become particularly relevant when dealing with unusual experiences, such as those claimed by Joseph.
Of course, superficially, it seems easy and not unreasonable to conclude that Joseph lied about having the experiences. And Joseph commented on at least one occasion that he wouldn't believe some of his claims had he not experienced them himself. But, for what it's worth, as someone who has extensively researched and read Joseph's writings and diverse accounts from first-hand witnesses of his words and actions, I do think the the strongest case is in favor of his general sincerity, whatever the case may ultimately be about the extent to which his interpretations of his experience end up matching our judgment of their congruence with reality.
Are you saying Joseph was delusional? (Nonhistorical yet sincere account of personal experience.)
Mormon Transhumanist views on such matters will vary. On the one hand, objects and behaviors like these may serve to promote focus and creativity and even ecstatic experiences, particularly if the person using them believes they will. On the other hand, if we live in a computed world, its creator could inject intervention (subtle or otherwise) toward desired ends through our chosen tools and behaviors.
Personally, I don't think an objective case can be made for Book of Mormon historicity. But I do think Joseph's account of the book and its origins was generally sincere. Wikipedia can't do justice to the origins of the book. If the subject interests you, I recommend "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling".
But Mormonism also evinces a spectacular unscientific gullibility. From Wikipedia:
Joseph Smith claimed The Book of Mormon was translated from writing on golden plates in a reformed Egyptian language, translated with the assistance of the Urim and Thummim and seer stones. Both the special spectacles and the seer stone were at times referred to as the "Urim and Thummim". He said an angel first showed him the location of the plates in 1823, buried in a nearby hill, but he was not allowed to take the plates until 1827. Smith began dictating the text of The Book of Mormon around the fall of 1827 until the summer of 1828 when 116 pages were lost. Translation began again in April 1829 and finished in June 1829, saying that he translated it "by the gift and power of God". After the translation was completed, Smith said the plates were returned to the angel. During Smith's supposed possession, very few people were allowed to "witness" the plates.
What do transhumanist Mormons say about this sort of stuff?
Mormonism is more amenable to tranahumanist ideas that most other forms of Christianity because it places more emphasis on the values of pioneering and productive accomplishment than most other forms of Christianity.
Judaism seems pretty transhumanist. The explanation I've seen for circumcision is the idea that God wanted people to rise to become co-creators with him, and therefore deliberately left a small bit of the man unfinished. That principle seems like it would extend to any self-enhancements we as a species manage to invent.
I really enjoyed this review, Robin. Thanks for coming out!
You can tell that Mormonism originated in the era of early modern astronomy, and after the Enlightenment, because of its view of cosmology. Matthew Stewart, the historian of philosophy, recounts in his book Nature's God the unexpectable fact that many people influenced by the literature of the Enlightenment in the 18th Century believed in a plurality of inhabited worlds, when they had no empirical reason to hold such a belief. Voltaire even wrote a story using this idea.
Hi Albionic. We actually think a lot about that. You mentioned the possibility of a new Axial Age. Here are some thoughts on that. http://lincoln.metacannon.n...
Transhumanists who try to marry transhumanism to their pet religions haven’t thought seriously what “living forever” would have to mean. What if radical life extension means that you as an individual live to witness something like a new Axial Age in a few centuries, where the current religions decline and disappear, like the probable extinction of Zoroastrianism in our century, and new forms of spiritual thinking and practice emerge to take their place? The dominant religion in the part of the universe humans (however defined) live in, say, 10,000 years from now, might not even have started yet.
Robin, thank you for your thought-provoking presentation on Age of EM, and for your observations and recommendations.
I think there are many Mormon transhumanists for the same reason that there are many Mormon sci-fi writers: Mormon cosmology pretty much *is* sci-fi.
For instance, this whole idea that after after death you become the god-emperor of your own little world/universe ties in well with things like the simulation hypothesis.
I once raised this issue in a discussion with Brandon Sanderson. Although he is a fantasy writer, he takes pains to make sure his metaphysics is internally consistent in a very sci-fi'ish way: "My own question was possibly (hopefully) one Sanderson doesn’t get asked too often. I had noticed that his concept of the cosmere – the general idea of there being multiple connected worlds, and virtuous men and women becoming Gods in those various worlds and universes – seems remarkably similar to Mormon eschatology. So I asked to what extent Mormonism influenced his worldbuilding. The answer was fairly predictable and reasonable: He said that while he did not consciously borrow from Mormonism, obviously its core ideas and concepts were rather intrinsic to his identity and worldview, so it was inevitable that it would seep through to some extent into his creative work."