A Christian Anthropology for a Technological World
In this project, an international team of researchers reflect on how humans can flourish in a world increasingly dependent on technologies that profoundly alter human relations with others, the world and, indeed, God. With the pervasive use of technology for communication, medical treatments, and regulating social relations, along with people's increasing detachment from religious traditions that helped define human nature, we are faced with two questions: how do we define human identity and what is the meaning of technology for human nature? These are fundamental human questions that affect humanity as a whole. This common human problem requires interdisciplinary team work, to cover the multiple dimensions of our existence, but it also requires hermeneutic awareness. In tackling the pressing issue of human identity and technology, we recognize that all scholarship is an interpretive effort. All research proceeds in some sense 'by faith' insofar as human reasoning operates within structures of plausible assumptions that escape empirical verification. For this reason, our approach consciously includes religion, and, more specifically, the Christian tradition because of its formative impact on Western cultures.
While all areas of technological culture that impact human nature will be considered, one area of particular focus will be on technologies intended for human enhancement: from increasing information exchange to biogenetic enhancements for eliminating disease and, eventually, every perceived shortcoming of the human body. Human technological enhancement raises a question crucial for Christians and non-Christians alike: is our true humanity found in post-human existence, represented by a machine-body, invulnerable to all, and no longer governed by an experience tied to our flesh? Or does true human flourishing require vulnerability and fleshly embodiment? Many questions, such as these, drive this project and call for careful critique from a Christian perspective.
The goal of this critique, and of this project more broadly, is to provide theological guidance for integrating technology into a view of human flourishing grounded in Christian anthropology. A long-standing Christian view of human flourishing that focuses on the incarnation provides the essential platform for our research. For early Christian thinkers, God’s re-creation of humanity in the incarnation shows that salvation, the apex of human flourishing, is "theosis," the transformation of the total human being, body and spirit, into godlikeness. Salvation, to use another orthodox term, is “Christification,” becoming Christ-like. Early Christians viewed self-denial, life in service to the world, and hardship as preparatory training for their future existence in a transformed body fit for the glorified existence demonstrated by Christ’s post-resurrection life. Our project will use this Christian anthropology to assess modern dreams of human flourishing.
This project will create 5–10 podcasts over the course of three years, featuring lectures and interviews with team members and internationally recognized experts on the topic of technology and human identity. All podcasts will be made publicly available on this website.
The leaders and contributing scholars will meet once a year to discuss the findings from their individual research projects and to meet with additional consultants to ensure that the research interacts with both critics and visionaries of our technological society and future. We aim to engage humanists, transhumanists and posthumanists in order to formulate our own guidelines for responsible engagement with technology. The first workshop took place June 5-8, 2018 at Green College, the campus of the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, B.C. The attendees’s reflections from this conference can be found here. The 2019 conference will be held in Oxford.
Scholars will not only produce academic presentations or essays, but blog posts will be written and posted on this site to encourage a public dialogue on human identity and technology.
Aside from podcasts, public lectures, and workshops, the final outcome of this project will be a volume of collected essays. Tentatively entitled Human Flourishing in a Technological Age, this book will summarize the findings of our three-year research.