Pierre de Chardin and transhumanism

Teilhard de Chardin and Transhumanism

Eric Steinhart
Department of Philosophy,
William Paterson University
steinharte@wpunj.edu

Journal of Evolution and Technology – Vol. 20 Issue 1 –December 2008 – pgs 1-22
http://jetpress.org/v20/steinhart.htm

Abstract

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was among the first to give serious consideration to the future of human evolution. His work advocates both biotechnologies (e.g., genetic engineering) and intelligence technologies. He discusses the emergence of a global computation-communication system (and is said by some to have been the first to have envisioned the Internet). He advocates the development of a global society. Teilhard is almost surely the first to discuss the acceleration of technological progress to a Singularity in which human intelligence will become super-intelligence. He discusses the spread of human intelligence into the universe and its amplification into a cosmic intelligence. More recently, his work has been taken up by Barrow and Tipler; Tipler; Moravec; and Kurzweil. Of course, Teilhard’s Omega Point Theory is deeply Christian, which may be difficult for secular transhumanists. But transhumanism cannot avoid a fateful engagement with Christianity. Christian institutions may support or oppose transhumanism. Since Christianity is an extremely powerful cultural force in the West, it is imperative for transhumanism to engage it carefully. A serious study of Teilhard can help that engagement and will thus be rewarding to both communities.

1. Introduction

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a Jesuit paleontologist.[1] He combined his scientific study of the fossil record with his Christian faith to produce a general theory of evolution. Teilhard’s body of work has much to offer transhumanists, who advocate the use of technology to enhance human capacities and see current human beings as in transition to posthuman forms. There are several specific reasons for transhumanists to study Teilhard’s work.

The first reason is that Teilhard was one of the first to articulate transhumanist themes. Transhumanists advocate the ethical use of technology for human enhancement. Teilhard’s writing likewise argues for the ethical application of technology in order to advance humanity beyond the limitations of natural biology. Teilhard explicitly argues for the use of both bio-technologies (e.g., genetic engineering) and intelligence technologies, and develops several other themes often found in transhumanist writings. He discusses the emergence of a global computation-communication system, and is said by some to have been the first to have envisioned the Internet (Kreisberg, 1995). He advocates the development of an egalitarian global society. He was almost certainly the first to discuss the acceleration of technological progress to a kind of Singularity in which human intelligence will become super-intelligence. He discusses the spread of human intelligence into the universe and its amplification into a cosmic-intelligence.

The entire paper can be read by going to Journal of Evolution and Technology

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