In 1882 Friedrich Nietzsche announced the fate of God.
" We have killed him," he said .
It was not something he took lightly:
" How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned. . . . Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?"
Nietzsche was clear on the direction in which he felt we should move, at least in an abstract way. " Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman -- a rope over an abyss," he tells us in Thus Spake Zarathustra. ( " Superman" is sometimes translated as " Overman " )
Most of us are aware that a tiny elite of incredibly wealthy people rule the modern world. I think this elite see themselves as the Supermen that Nietzsche prophesied. Additionally, they take inspiration from Plato. In the tenth book of the Republic, Plato (in the mouth of Socrates) attacks democracy on the grounds that average people (the "demos") are, by and large, pretty stupid, and not qualified to run states. A state needs to be run, he tells us, by philosopher kings -- men who have the discipline to rule selflessly, and the understanding to do it wisely.
The elite is now using the medical crisis that faces us as an opportunity to consolidate their rule.
The death of God is not just the death of a superhuman, anthropomorphic creator and ruler of the universe, but the death of all transcendent principles of creativity, order or purpose. God's funeral celebrates the triumph of materialism. God does not want anything in particular because there is no God. Evolution also does not want anything because it is nothing more than a sequence of accidents, some of which produce results that are more likely to survive than others. This leaves human beings as the only entities around that might actually want something. God, in whatever guise, and the supermen occupy the same philosophical, moral and psychological space in our lives. So God must first be dead for human beings to become gods. This central tenant of the modern headset is captured in the philosophy of transhumanism.
Transhumanism is the philosophy that has captured the imagination our modern philosopher kings -- the new supermen.
The on-line dictionary defines transhumanism as "a philosophy that explores human transcendence above or beyond organic, corporeal limitations through technological and philosophical evolution." The central thrust of transhumanism is the intention to replace both the divine order and the natural order with a humanly engineered one. The key word here is replace. It's a very different aim than simply enhancing our adaptation to a natural order that we respect. Perhaps this is not absolutely accurate. Most transhumanists would not admit that there is either a divine or a natural order in the first place, so there is nothing to replace. Since we find ourselves in a void, why should we not fill it with our own dreams and inclinations? Actually there may be good reasons for holding transhumanism at a distance. There are warnings that if we travel too far down the transhumanist road things may not work out so well.
One of the early warnings about the careless use of technology was Carlson's book, Silent Spring, which documented the environmental damage done by DDT and other pesticides. She made it clear that often a new wonder technology will promise to be of great benefit until it has been around long enough for its secondary effects to become clear. Perhaps we should take a brief look at some of the other threats to our environment that might be intensified by a transhumanist social polic -- not all of them, but just a few of the more pressing ones.
If most people were asked why there was such a dramatic drop in the incidence of infectious diseases during the 20th century they would probably say "vaccines."
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