Ideology of Transhumanism Challenges

Modern technological advancements and the search of better human conditions have periodically raised eyebrows, arousing conflicting worries and varied reactions among scientists, philosophers, and religious groups. Scientific breakthroughs frequently draw the attention of other groups, such as religious groups, who believe that such developments or advancements violate particular social norms and principles. Before endorsing or rejecting a notion, it is often important to analyze the interpretation and reasoning of the various factions. This is because science is inextricably linked to society. Nonetheless, the outcomes of scientific endeavors or initiatives should not jeopardize human dignity. As a result, philosophical examination is urged to examine whether new technology breakthroughs are compatible with social values and ethics. Transhumanism stands out as one of most controversial inventions that might compromise human dignity if pursued without a consideration of possible repercussions. Hence, the idea, much as it is a major achievement within the scientific sphere, should be abandoned and the effort directed towards other productive endeavors.

Reviewing the Concept of Transhumanism

Transhumanism is a relatively young and continually evolving ideology positing a new vision of humanity. According to transhumanism, humanity is a confluence of developments in neuroscience, life sciences, genomics, informatics, robotics, and nanotechnology. The developments leading to transhumanism include a new blend of cognitive tools that bring together artificial intelligence, molecular nanotechnology, interface technology, genetic enhancement of human mental and physical abilities, and life-extending mechanisms such as anti-aging and exercise control over mental stress, moods, and desires (Ferrando, 2013). Supporters of the idea belief that the developments in bioengineering and biotechnology, as accelerated by scientific understanding and technological developments will ultimately usher in a new generation of human being. The new species will exhibit new and advanced cognitive and physical abilities and live longer since they will be secure form diseases, suffering, and pain as well as aging. In the new age of transhumanism, people will no longer be subjects of nature. Rather, they will be the controllers, which is the main cause of controversy.

The idea of transhumanism has continually evolved over the years since it was first used in 1957. In contemporary society, the term refers to a future form of humans. Proponents of the idea argue that the current form of humans is merely a transitional early phase and stage that is bound to change over the years. The ideas of the features of the ultimate humans can be traced to early works of J.D. Bernal, J.B.S. Haldane, Aldous Huxley who as early as in the 1920s wrote extensively about the possibilities of humans evolving into new more stable forms. Later in the 1960s, science fiction writers articulated optimistic and futuristic scenarios in their works. Fereidoun M. Esfandiary, a leading futuristic writer, for instance, started identifying with transhumans in his fiction works as he identified transhumans as the beings who would take over the position of modern humans in the posthuman age (Ferrando, 2013).

Questioning Transhumanism

All along, the idea of posthumanism has continued to attract the attention of philosophers. Philosopher Max More, for example, formalized the transhumant doctrine in the late 1980s when he advocated for the “Principles of Entropy” as the sure approach to a continuously advancing human condition. Apparently, different organizations started advocating for measures of life extension, space colonization, cryonics, and space colonization. Meanwhile, biotechnology advances, nanotechnology, and neuroscience started making steps in pursuit of transhumanism. Marvin Minsky, a popular researcher in the field of artificial intelligence, articulated myriad themes of transhumanism. Soon, other eminent scientific visionaries such as Eric Drexler, Hans Moravec, and Ray Kurzweil joined him.

The pursuit of transhumanism went a notch higher in the 1990s when several transhumanists activists composed and authored the “Transhumanist Declaration.” In the publication, the group cited various ethical concerns and positions regarding the exploration of various technology in pursuit for transhumanism. Nick Bostrom, in collaboration with David Pearce, established the World Transhumanists Association in 1998. Ever since, the association has grown to boast of more than 4000 members from different parts of the world (Ferrando, 2013). The growth in membership is a clear pointer that the world is already aware of the possibilities of a transhumanist age that will largely depend on technological and scientific advancements realized today.

Owing to the controversial nature of the ideology, contemporary associations such as the Foresight Institute, the Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technologies, the Extropy Institute, and the Immorality Institute have continually pointed out several concerns regarding the idea of transhumanism. These concerns largely focus on the ethical aspects of the ideology since it is feared that it may compromise human dignity. In 2006, though, the transhumanists association recognized the Mormon Transhumanist Association as a close ally by sharing common interests and religious views. With a succinct background of the developments leading to the current understanding of the ideology, a critical engagement is recommended to determine the cases of controversies surrounding transhumanism. In any case, similar to many other ideological movements, transhumanists do not speak in one voice on all issues as they have diverse concerns that they consider crucial.

An important premise of transhumanism is the view that human nature is continually changing and that the current form is not the final. Based on this perspective, the modern humans have the opportunity to alter to determine the future humans with the dramatic use of current technological advances and capabilities. Ferrando (2013) notes that the future of humans is malleable since people are continually evolving in form. Therefore, people stand a chance to determine the fate of humanity if they embrace technological capabilities to influence the transformations. The core objective is to alter or mold the transformational process such as to yield persons exhibiting more capabilities that the modern person; hence, the need to refer to the future form of people with the terms posthumanism and transhumanism.

According to the advocates and proponents of the idea, such developments are desirable. This perspective can be deduced from Nick Bostrom’s assertion that according to transhumanists, human nature is a work in progress where the current form is just a half-baked beginning that can be remolded to influence the next and ultimately the final forms. Bostrom posits that transhumanists perceive that the current form of humans ought to mark the end of the evolution process. That can only be achieved through the responsible use of all rational means, science, and technology to shape the destiny of humans as beings with greater capabilities compared to the current form: posthumans. Bostrom heads the Institute for the Future of Humanity at Oxford.

Gregory Stock, the head of the UCLA’s Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life, shares Bostrom's views that human species is in the process of development. He adds that the current form is an early stage that presents the opportunity to mold and alter to yield humans with vast physical and mental capabilities. Stock believes that the current generation of humans is obligated to use its growing powers and scientific knowledge to shape the future by molding. He believes that humans already played god in many intimate realms and ways that it is not even possible to turn back (Ferrando, 2013). Critically, Stock infers that humans will inevitably change into posthumans whether the current generation intervenes or not. Hence, it is only reasonable to take responsibility and engineer the future since the change is inevitable. Stock, thus, finds it justified to use genetic engineering technologies to help the current form of human species beyond the present decrepit condition.

Transhumanists, though, face a stern criticism from evolutionary psychologists who believe that the current form of humans is a result of a long evolution process. According to Steven Pinker, a popular evolutionary psychologist defines humanity as an endowment of emotional and cognitive faculties that are universal across the Homo sapiens species. Further, Pinker argues that all people share a common human nature regardless of differences in gender, race, and personal characteristics. These differences are similarly manifested in nature. Importantly, evolutionary psychologists cling to the view that the nature of human mind or cognitive characteristics are a result of natural selection. Ferrando (2013) notes that the psychologists cling to the view that the human mind has evolved as specialized machinery designed to perform specific although continually changing tasks. The mental evolution is necessitated by the need to solve problems attributed to survival and reproduction challenges. The mind serves as the control center of other body processes and alters both simple and complex processes as may be required to cope with the varying environmental conditions. Therefore, these psychologists find it unnecessary to use scientific knowledge to alter the evolutionary process. Often, they express concerns and fears that such endeavors may yield to beings with excess human intelligence. The unintended consequences, however, are a major source of concern and fear.

From the psychologists’ perspective, posthumanism is challenged and disputed from two important strands: the Romantic and Enlightenment strands. The Enlightenment approach is founded on the Enlightenment projects of the 18th century that focused on technological and scientific attempts to improve humanity (Ferrando, 2013). Based on this view, transhumanism is not necessarily as novel as it poses to be. In any case, everyone living in the current age is an augmented human considering that many of the technological developments realized over the years have directly affected and influenced the human transformation. Accordingly, technology will indisputably continue to augment humanity. If transhumanism merely referred to the 19th-century commitment to the alleviation of humans, any critique of the ideology would be unnecessary and inappropriate. However, the thought that these efforts could ultimately affect the natural human processes arouses philosophical concerns that they may affect human dignity.

From a critical perspective, posthumanism has attracted criticism for focusing on human transformation due to technological developments and enhancement. From an evolutionary psychologists' perspective, this view is highly controversial. The psychologists criticize Posthumanists for ignorance on the evolution of the human brain as was influenced by changing nature of the cognitive tasks (Hansell, 2011). Accordingly, it is necessary to reassess the essence of technological changes while noting the thin line between change and progress. Any attempts to influence the natural processes is unwarranted as it amounts to tampering with the natural processes, which is exactly what posthumanists advocate for. Evolution is a random and capricious process mainly depended on the natural selection that should never be tempered for the certainty of orderliness within the universe. Apparently, the human mind is a computational structure comprised of numerous mechanisms formulated over a long evolution period characterized by adaptation processes. Before embracing the transhumanism projects, therefore, scientists must map the mechanisms of the mind and the specific programs for certain glimpse of the outcome of their efforts.

Transhumanism is a rationalist, individualistic, and secular ideology mainly fueled by the desired to attain individual happiness. As an outcrop of modern humanism, transhumanism is centered on human happiness, which has been the main concern of most human endeavors since the times of the ancient Greek philosophy. Among the Greek philosophers, human well-being or happiness is the objective standard and virtue that all people are out to pursue. The pursuit of individual happiness pushes humans to organize all activities into a certain pattern over their lifetime. Going by pre-modern philosophers, happiness is an objective feeling and state that defines the nature of humans since being happy entails being in accord with other people and nature. To flourish and attain happiness, though, requires the actualization of one’s ability and potential to know and appreciate appropriate external truths (Ferrando, 2013). The pursuit of individual happiness, which is at the core of transhumanism, contradicts religious ideologies that all human endeavors ought to be in accord with nature.

Even after philosophical analysis, the pursuit of happiness has a decadently religious interpretation. This perspective is derived from the integrations Greek reflections of happiness into monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In the modern era, the adverse secularization of Christianity in the west, coupled with scientific revolution, led to naturalism and materialism. The result was the dissociation of science from religion. The gap has since been widening even as the relatively new ideology of transhumanism was born. The differences between the two, religion and science, are attributed to the varying perceptions and views about the source of happiness, rather the entire concept of happiness (Tirosh‐Samuelson, 2012). Largely, transhumanism is driven by the human desire for pleasure. Much as the ideology is condemned and criticized for interference with nature and the creation work, the proponents' obsession with the pursuit of happiness does not oscillate well with religious groups.

The transhumanist approach to happiness is problematic since it is based on the hedonic understanding and the 19th-century Utilitarianism. This is in view that the contributions of transhumans are driven by the desire for human self-fulfillment. They fail to appreciate the notion of virtue or even explain how the values and deeds of the self-promoted being; the transhumans (Tirosh‐Samuelson, 2012). Nevertheless, transhumanists solely talk about self-realization, self-fulfillment, and life satisfaction, but fail to account for the link between the objective and subjective features or concepts of human happiness. Thus, a rigorous analysis and review of the concept of happiness as projected by transhumanists is necessary. Other than the lack of philosophical clarity, the hedonic view is scientifically problematic since it is both materialistic and reductionist. This is in view that transhumanists tend to use a computer metaphor to explain the functionalities and operation of the brain (Hansell, 2011). The metaphor is misleading since no computational machine or even operation may match the development and operations of the mind. Different from the computer, for example, the mind not only takes into account the nervous system but also the social-cultural context.

An important issue of interest is the transhumanism struggle against aging and the postponement of death. Among transhumanists, aging and death are undesirable experiences that scientists must continually seek for remedies. Supporters of the idea believe that aging is undesirable and should be avoided as much as possible since it saps ones strength rendering them weak and unable to work and enjoy life. The ultimate destiny is death. Transhumanists believe that scientists have the opportunity and potential to use technology to make aging therapies such as life extension medicines. Appreciably, the society already has already developed life extension methods such as supplements and calorie restrictions. A major breakthrough, though, calls for the actualization of the transhumanism ideology. The social impact of the immortality that transhumans seem to pursue, though, arouses social concerns that the endeavor could be detrimental as it will not only affect humans but all natural processes and other living things (Tirosh‐Samuelson, 2012). From a philosophical perspective, humans are not necessarily allowed to compromise other beings by altering natural systems for their sole interests or needs.

The ethical and moral concerns arising from the pursuit of an extended lifespan or avoidance of aging is best articulated in De Grey’s scientific works. De Grey’s work is specifically focused on all possible methods that can help the body to remain strong regardless of age. Although the goals seem appropriate at first, De Grey’s gerontological has been criticized and his intentions questioned much as they may seem obvious. Critically, the researcher’s view of the human body is controversial as he perceives of humans as resilient machines requiring regular long-term care. This machine model of the body is socially unacceptable considering that people attribute more dignity to humanity than not only machines but also other animal species. Any attempts to compare, equalize, or treat the human body as a meager machine requiring regular maintenance is ethically and morally inappropriate. To uphold human dignity, thus, transhumanists need to restrain their focus by viewing humans as living organisms rather than machines.

Organisms are subject to pain, anger, aging, and death because they are living. The transhumanists' crusade against aging, thus, is a protest against natural processes such as death. Although supporters of the idea acknowledge that death is real and inevitable, they express commitment to the efforts and attempts to postpone; if possible indefinitely. Multiple questions arise over why one would wish to live indefinitely and what would be the essence of living for the extended duration. In fact, one wonders what a person would be doing for a period of up to 150 or 500 years (Tirosh‐Samuelson, 2012). It is indisputable that an extended lifespan will possibly allow humanity to engage in more destruction of the natural environment. Nevertheless, living longer means overpopulation and exploitation of natural resources and ultimately environmental degradation. The result could be more suffering rather than happiness since the world may not provide enough resources to sustain the increasing population.

Proponents of transhumanism respond to the concerns that their efforts could lead to a world situation where natural resources are unsustainable with the argument that technological advances will make it possible to produce enough. However, they fail to realize that sustainability requires a proper balance between food production and the rise in population. With an extended lifespan, the population will rise due to lack of balance between the birth and mortality rates. Indisputably, food production may not record comparable developments since little is being done while transhumanists continue with their research. Additionally, even with technological developments since the second Agricultural Revolution, the world has the largest population of starving people than ever before (Hansell, 2011). This observation is explained by the fact that technology may not improve exponentially. Often, there comes a time when it clashes against the limits of the finite world. A slight disturbance on the natural order can easily make the situation even worse and compromise the well-being of not only humans as well as the other living things.

Transhumanists are optimistic and may not relent any time soon regardless of the criticism against their ideologies. They look forward to helping developing countries in their bid for fast-paced industrialization. Upon successful actualization of the transhumanism ideology, developing countries will not need to go through all the industrialization stages and associated changes. Rather, they will skip the step and go straight capitalistic and postindustrial societies usually characterized by a negative population growth and extremely low mortality rates (Hansell, 2011). From a socioeconomic perspective though, the idea of capitalist society is no longer appealing because of the contemporary global economic meltdown. In fact, there is little evidence showing that countries are striving to achieve the status of a capitalist society.

The thought of a world without pain and suffering is a fascinating idea. The desire for that world has led to the establishment of the transhumanism movement that seeks to use scientific knowledge and technological developments to enhance humanity. The movement is not only interested in alleviating suffering or aging but also seeks to extend lifespan. Much as their cause might be impressive and well intended, transhumanists continue to receive criticism from philosophers and religious groups for attempting to interfere with the natural order. For instance, they are condemned and criticized that the actualization of their dreams will ultimately affect other living things. From a bioconservatists perspective, the efforts of transhumanists are unwarranted not only because they compromise human dignity but also contradict the natural order and systems.

With an overview of the arising concerns, the practicability of the transhumanism is highly doubted based on Feyerabend's philosophical perspectives. Feyerabend advanced the principle of falsifiability that no scientific theory is consistent with all available facts. Accordingly, the transhumanists’ view that the human mind is comparable to the operation of the computer system is misleading (Feyerabend, 1975). As discussed, the computer model is inadequate since it does not mimic the complex human mind or the cognitive processes. Further, Feyerabend’s epistemological anarchism doctrine on the link between the society and science poses a major challenge to the ideology of transhumanism. The philosopher posits that science does not necessarily deserve a privileged status in the society (Feyerabend, 1975). Feyerabend was indignant towards the scientists' condescending attitudes towards alternatives such as astrology. Similarly, the transhumanism idea does not deserve the privileged status in the society. In any case, scientific and technological advances have always influenced and enhanced humanity.


Ferrando, F. (2013). Posthumanism, transhumanism, antihumanism, metahumanism, and new materialisms. Existenz, 8(2), 26-32.

Hansell, G. R. (2011). H+/-: Transhumanism and its Critics. Xlibris Corporation.

Tirosh‐Samuelson, H. (2012). Transhumanism as a secularist faith. Zygon®, 47(4), 710-734.

Campbell, H., & Walker, M. (2005). Religion and transhumanism: introducing a conversation. Journal of Evolution and Technology, 14(2).

Feyerabend, P. (1975). How to defend society against science. Other books by the same author, 261.

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