Science and the Sublime

Wormhole

Science fiction has long dreamt of an impossibly sophisticated future where mere intelligence has transcended to the superhuman. Religion through the many millennia of human history has peddled an opiate of post death eternity where all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

Jesus' ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775
Jesus’ ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775

Religion has not made good on its promises: we still await the parousia among other things. And as for bodily resurrection, I visited San Lazzaro degli Armeni and was shown around by an erudite and charming young believer.  We were looking around the monastery’s museum and I rather unkindly quipped that the preserved corpse on display was evidently still awaiting resurrection.

Unfazed by my sarcasm the young man replied: “It will happen”.

Will science provide what religion has failed to give us?  According to the “transhumanists” the answer is assuredly yes. Per Wikipedia the most common transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the current condition as to merit the label of posthuman beings.

I have always been captivated by the transcendent (inspired in childhood by the Narnia Chronicles of CS Lewis and the lore of JRR Tolkein) but in adult life my interest has veered towards the scientific possibility of nirvana and the possibility of different planes of existence and post physical life.

San Lazzaro degli Armeni, Venice
San Lazzaro degli Armeni, Venice By Anton Nosik

Mathematical physicist Frank Tipler veers firmly towards religious belief. At the end of time he believes our distant ancestors will be able to re-create every living being that has ever lived in virtual reality. Hence he came to believe in the resurrection and became a Christian.  Perhaps encouraged by the philosophy of Teilhard de Chardin.

While eschewing religious faith I understand its longings.  I’m with Iain M. Banks.

 

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