Volume 23, Issue 2 (2015)
The Age of Transhumanism Has Begun: Will It Bring Humanism to Its End?
An Interview with Roland Benedikter
by Katja Siepmann and Annabella McIntosh
This interview with Roland Benedikter, the European scholar of technology futures and politics, discusses the emergence of biological and computing technologies for transforming humanity. In this wide-ranging discussion, Benedikter discusses many ethical, social, and political implications to the application of these enhancing technologies and their coming political implications. Transhumanism, according to Benedikter, will represent both a powerful social ideology and a serious political agenda. How will humanism respond?
Synthetic Biology and Religion
By William Daley
Through the relatively new science and technology known as synthetic biology, scientists are attempting to create useful new life forms. Any attempt to “create life” inevitably prompts some to ask whether man is trespassing into areas properly reserved for a divine creator. The potential creative power of synthetic biology raises this concern to a level that has not been known before. Thus a new chapter in the history of the relationship between science and religion is being written. This article presents some of the scholarly perspectives on that chapter.
Pragmatism, Possibility, and Human Development
By Stephen Rowe
Pragmatism emerges from the loss of tradition as a source of life-guidance, and awareness of the insufficiency of modernity to provide a viable alternative. It arises from an existential crisis and decision through which one is able to move beyond nihilism to life-affirmation. It entails the developed understanding that articulation of one’s affirmation is inherently limited and subject to revision as one grows in the depth and breadth of the root decision. Orientation to the intellect, at that point, is quite different from that which most Western people inherit, such that one’s philosophy can no longer be understood as a system which is fixed in correspondence with Reality itself, but rather as provisional statement of ideals, commitments, and hypotheses. This statement is then subject to refinement in an ongoing developmental process, especially based on one’s democratic or dialogical encounter with others, and a spirituality of openness to the radically ineffable source of life. In this way pragmatism both reflects and contributes to a global movement toward a more mature form of humanity.
God, Geography, and Justice
By Daniel Linford and William R Patterson
The existence of various sufferings has long been thought to pose a problem for the existence of a personal God: the Problem of Evil (POE). In this paper, we propose an original version of POE, in which the geographic distribution of sufferings and of opportunities for flourishing or suffering is better explained if the universe, at bottom, is indifferent to the human condition than if, as theists propose, there is a personal God from whom the universe originates: the Problem of Geography (POG). POG moves beyond previous versions of POE because traditional responses to POE (skeptical theism and various theodicies) are less effective as responses to POG than they are to other versions of POE.
A Renaissance of Globalization: A Theory of Compassionate Humanity
By Tony Svetelj
In a world of confrontations between numerous cultures, traditions, languages, and religions, the meaning of “human” and “humanism” reaches a higher level of “humanness.” The pluralism of cultural, political, and religious outlook creates new options and alternative interpretations of what constitutes the “human.” True humanness is always there, open and accessible to all, with nothing being hidden or obscured. At the same time, true humanness is also a matter of doing, not just being. To be “true” is to live the truth, to be with it, and to be part of it. We exist inside this truth as a passion, which informs all the decisions we make in life. So true humanness is not something objective and static, something to be studied from a distance; true humanness is an up-close and personal way of living, a mode of existence, something that is relational.
Our way toward a more complex understanding of humanness faces similar obstacles as a yogi encounters on his way to the final way of Yoga. Patañjali in his Yoga Sutras describes these obstacles—kleshas—as the afflictions of the human mind, or destructive and disturbing emotions: ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life. A higher understanding of “humanness” will not be reached without an ethical engagement of individuals, as well as formal and informal commitment of institutions and nations. Such an endeavor will consequently reveal yet-undiscovered human potential, leading to a renaissance of our acting, thinking, and believing.
Self and Transcendence
By C. W. Vail
This essay is a meditation on our shared humanity. It begins with (1) a description of the human self in terms of a naturalistic explanation of human nature; it continues, moving from potential to informed practice, by examining, in turn, (2) self-awareness, intentionality, and cooperativeness, (3) living in community, (4) beyond fear, beyond selfishness, (5) freedom and equality, and (6) certainty and uncertainty; and it concludes by suggesting (7) how we all may enter into meaningful dialogue from the common conceptual ground that is our shared humanity.
Defending the Humanistic Virtue of Holiday Commercialism
By James A. Montanye
A prominent study of holiday gift giving estimates the correlative amount of wasted economic value (“deadweight loss”) to be roughly $25 billion worldwide. This result is predictable (in direction, although not in actual magnitude) from economic theory and casual experience. Regrettably, the study neither substantiates its broad condemnation of holiday gift giving, nor does it support any of the normative generalizations that might be drawn from it; for example, the desirability of modifying the Christmas holiday’s commercial aspect, or of augmenting its religious and spiritual dimensions. This essay argues instead that holiday gift giving is privately and socially beneficial on balance despite its economic costs.