Joseph Fisher is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, where he studies the intersection of science, technology, and religion. His dissertation offers a historical and philosophical analysis of the contemporary movement transhumanism. His work is motivated by the ways in which technologies, real and imagined, influence understandings of what it means to be human. He earned a B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College in Religious Studies before earning an M.A. and M.Phil. in Religion at Columbia.
“Science, Religion, and the Human of Transhumanism”
How can transhumanism, a movement that identifies as secular and scientific, be made legible to scholars of religion? I contend that transhumanism performs work typically regarded as the subject of philosophy of religion through its inquiry into the nature and future of the human. Through its discussion of the posthuman, transhumanism concerns itself with a question that has been fundamental to the ‘onto-theological’ tradition: what does it mean to be a human being? Since cybernetics, the information-processing machine has provided an organizing metaphor for human being. As this techno-scientific model has moved outside of the boundaries of institutional science and into the domains of popular and speculative science, it has motivated reflection on eschatology, immortality, and transcendence, as well as the value and distinctiveness of human being. In transhumanism, this reflection performs work familiar to scholars of religion: making sense of the self and its relation to the world.