Did Transhumanism just jump the shark?

I’ve noticed that more people are talking about Transhumanism lately, and not just the long haired geeks standing in line for Prometheus. It looks like the idea of pursuing immortality and post-genderism and designer babies and colonizing space may be reaching a mocking point, aka, it appears to be in the process of “jumping the shark”.  

“Jumping the shark” is supposed to be a metaphor for one specific event that signals that a phenomenon is over and no longer taken seriously, a joke, an emperor with no clothes. Happy Days died a slow death, but the moment when everyone realized it was over, when it lost its cool, was when they had Fonzie jump the shark on a waterski wearing his leather jacket.

Has that happened for Transhumanism?  I think that a slow process has started, and perhaps a better metaphor is that this is the final season of Transhumanism. But a commenter over at amor mundi, a blog critical of Transhumanism (but somehow not of “safe” genetic engineering and “wanted” same-sex conception) thinks the watershed moment may have just occurred, quoting from a very interesting blog post “The dangers of geek culture to men who might otherwise have useful lives.

Mark Plus thinks the “transhumorists” (as Athena Andreadis calls them) may have jumped the shark.


I’ve. . . soured on transhumanism after seeing that it has nothing going for it, really, after observing it for the past two decades. . .

One, transhumanism tends to distract people from doing useful stuff. The guy back around 1990 who compared FM-2030 to a mime who imitates the motions of a productive worker without doing any work himself, came closer to the truth than he probably knew at the time.

And two, transhumanism lacks staying power. We’ve already entered the “FM who? Extropi-what?” era as people cycle through transhumanism as a fad on the way to middle age and mortality, and I suspect that in another decade we’ll see a younger crop of transhumanists who will live in the “Eliezer who?” era as they become enamored of some other transhumanist celebrity no one has heard of yet.

So that’s just one blogger tired of Transhumanism wasting our time and endangering us all, but he’s seeing the change in the zeitgeist. Another blog post in my latest “Transhumanism Google Alert” is from Wesley Smith, noticing the same problems:

Which brings up a question: Why should I care that some people use transhumanism as an escape fantasy to help them get through the nights of their lives until the great disintegration?  Two points: First, I don’t think it is healthy or constructive for transhumanists as individuals.  I believe a more hopeful truth is to be found elsewhere. But that’s me. I profoundly respect the right of each of us to work through existential matters for ourselves.

More broadly, and to the point, I believe that transhumanism is a very destructive and dangerous ideology that promotes eugenics, anti human exceptionalism-with all the potential evils that could entail-hedonism, and the dangerous concept of the ubbermenchen.  It presumes we have the wisdom to replace God as the great creators. That leads to hubris-when what we really need is more humility.

The philosophy also adds fuel to ongoing advocacy for culturally destructive policies and proposals like assisted suicide, human cloning, and genetic engineering and enhancement. By seeking meaning at the level of the material, it pushes the culture toward the sterile dystopia against which Huxley warned in Brave New World.

There’s a good discussion at Wesley Smith’s article in the comments. Mormon Transhumanist Lincoln Cannon show up to say:

Lincoln Cannon

June 9th, 2012 | 7:21 pm

Hubris is supposing yourself or persons like you to be the end of God’s creation. Arrogance is imagining yourself good enough. Anti-humanism is pretending humanity to be static. Eugenics, as much as forcing enhancement, is prohibiting enhancement. Wesley, your perspective on Transhumanism is narrow and simplistic, to the point of being unrecognizable to Transhumanists. The first rule of persuasive criticism is to portray the idea to be criticized in a manner recognizable to those who embrace the idea. You repeatedly fail to do this. None should take your criticisms of Transhumanism seriously, but some will unfortunately.

He also makes an important statement about Mormonism, when Wesley says Transhumanists are materialist:

Lincoln Cannon:

June 10th, 2012 at 4:51 pm

@AuthenticBioethics, I’m a theist.


Wesley J. Smith:

June 10th, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Only if you refined the term. You wrote that you worship post humanity and that you believe God to be a physical entity. If I am remembering wrongly, I am sorry. But if you are a materialist, you can’t be a theist without redefining what the term means to suit yourself. We can’t converse when you do that, because we can’t discuss mutually agreed upon definitions and concepts. You act as if you are Adam naming the animals, only you are making up new definitions that we are all supposed to follow, and to heck with history or Webster.


Lincoln Cannon:

June 10th, 2012 at 7:56 pm

@Wesley J. Smith, I’m far from unique in claiming a materialist theism. For example, there are millions of other Mormons that claim a materialist theism. The problem here is not merely my use of words. The problem is also your prejudices, to which I’ve been calling attention.


Wesley J. Smith:

June 10th, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Not prjudice, clarity. Call it materialist theism. I have no problem because it distinguishes properly. It seems an oxymoron to me, but that’s no matter.


Authentic Bioethics:

June 11th, 2012 at 11:49 am

@Wesley J. Smith, OK, I guess I was wrong about Lincoln Cannon being an atheist, and I apologize. But the assertion that he’s a “theist” – understood in his particular nuanced meaning – sort of validates my general thrust. I agree with you, it sounds like a contradiction in terms. If it’s matter, it isn’t God. But it is really hard to have a discussion with people who use terms with definitions known only to them.


John Howard:

June 10th, 2012 at 8:34 pm

@Lincoln Cannon, I don’t think Wesley is trying to prohibit enhancement or genetic engineering to make babies, I think he thinks it should remain legal. Am I right?


That was the end of that thread, Wesley never responded to confirm or deny my recollection that he opposes a law prohibiting genetic engineering or same-sex procreation or anything, really. He’d rather just write books about how we’re gong down the tubes into the brave new world than actually stop transhumanism and preserve sexuality and natural reproduction.

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