McGrath- The Transformation of Humanity or the Abolition of Man?
University of Oxford
The Transformation of Humanity – or the Abolition of Man? C. S. Lewis and the Transhumanism Debate
How can we improve ourselves without ceasing to be human? Is a technologically enhanced human being actually something other than human? Are these technological enhancements capable of being transmitted genetically? If so, are we really talking about the emergence of a new species? Will “posthumans” eventually displace humans through their superior capacity to survive? Questions like these arise in any serious discussion about what seems to be the unique human capacity to intentionally redirect our evolutionary history. This lecture explores the potential of C. S. Lewis’s famous Abolition of Man (1943) to frame discussions of these and other related themes. Lewis’s prophetic exploration of our basic instinct to wish to “subdue reality to our wishes” does not answer the many questions we face in thinking about transhumanism; it does, however, help us identify the core issues, and reflect on where they might lead us.
ALISTER MCGRATH holds the Andreas Idreos Professorship in Science and Religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, and Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion. His main research interest at present is the area of thought traditionally known as “natural theology”, a theme of his Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen (2009), and his Hulsean Lectures at the University of Cambridge. A former atheist, he is also known for his opposition to New Atheism and his advocacy of theological critical realism. Among his best-known books are The Twilight of Atheism, The Dawkins Delusion, Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life, and A Scientific Theology.