Friday, April 23, 2010

Lincoln Cannon MTA response--affirmation 1

Lincoln Cannon, on his blog, has responded to my doctrinal and logical response.  Interestingly, his initial response, does not effectively dispute my core arguments.   I'll respond to these in sections, as he has done.

To keep my remarks in context, I have no problem with asserting that faith and science are valid means of finding truth, and firmly believe both can and do work together.  For example, I believe science has contributed much to our understanding of the creation process on this earth, a point that revelation gives only an outline of phases and an order and purpose for creation.   I'm fully convinced, through science, that the process must have taken millions of years and involved gradual changes.   I'm also thrilled to see the Church using technology to further God's work on earth in many ways. 

Science, due to its nature, is a much slower method of gaining truth than direct revelation, but it can work very well.  For example, revelation taught us in 1833 that tobacco was bad for the body and that we needed lots of grains, fruits and vegetables, yet science took at least 100 years or more after that to come to the same conclusion.   

My concern throughout this discussion is not about whether science is compatible with religion or whether science and technology are now used now and can and should be used to promote "positive futures."  I fully agree with that.  My problem is that the Mormon Transhumanist Affirmation (MTA) asserts that essentially science can do some things, such as forgiveness of sin, that, in fact, belong in the realm of faith, not science.  The level of emphasis of the MTA is on what man and science can do, not a humble reliance on God, His will, and His word.

On this key point, Lincoln essentially agrees with me--that our goal should be the unification of our wills with God and Christ.  But in his agreement with me, he relies on his own personal beliefs, not those of the MTA, and admits that
"the MTA does not advocate specific positions on the extent to which positive human futures, whether we describe them as "salvation" or "exaltation", depend on God and Christ."  
That's the core of my concern.  Scripture and Mormon Doctrine are abundantly clear that God and Christ are absolute requirements for exaltation, which is a clearly-defined state of cleanliness from sin as a result of Christ's atonement, not just a generic or undefined set of "positive futures."  On the other hand, Mormon Transhumanism advocates science not just as a means of understanding truth, but as a means for exaltation.  Those are two dramatically divergent viewpoints.

I'll get to our discussion of the next two affirmations in future posts.


  1. I appreciate the thought, sincerity, and respect in this blog and in Lincoln's responses.

    It seems to me, which I think is essentially the essence of Lincoln's response, that the perceived chasm between the MTA and Mormonism could be bridged by considering broader and deeper meaning to such terms as "Christ," "atonement," "faith," "science," "technology," and "exaltation." My experience has been that a thoughtful extrapolation of Mormon scripture, especially when considered within the historical context of its authors, demands deeper meaning to these terms. I hope to post more of my own thoughts later.

  2. Hi Vblogger.

    While some members of the MTA may disagree with parts of what you have posted here, others probably agree with everything you posted here except your conclusion that the MTA is opposed to your perspective.

    Seeking understanding of God and Christ (and particularly seeking a common understanding with others) is a life-long endeavor. Various Mormons will agree and disagree to varying extents with your understanding, as they will with mine. That makes the effort to reach common understanding all the more interesting and important.

    Speaking personally, and not for the MTA, I think some Mormons dramatically underestimate the importance of human effort in the work of God. As I read the history books, contemplate scripture, and reflect on my own experience, I see God providing opportunity and expecting us to do the rest. For example, I see the ancient accounts of resurrection, most particularly that of Jesus' resurrection, as signposts that point our minds to possibilities. For ages, such hopes have been far beyond human reach, to such extent that most concluded reliance on supernatural means, but times have changed and we now begin to discern the faint outlines of potential processes and mechanisms whereby the glory of the prophecy might be realized. Maybe it's impossible. Maybe God will do it all for us. On the other hand, maybe God will continue to provide opportunity and patiently await our response, perhaps even while shedding tears to the extent that we continue to demonstrate a lack of charity for each other.

  3. Hi VBlogger,

    Is your concern that the MTA is setting itself up as a substitute for the gospel of Jesus Christ or the LDS Church? Your criticisms all seem to point in that direction. You rightly point out that technology alone will not result in exaltation and that science alone will not result in atonement and forgiveness. But you may be misunderstanding the purpose of the MTA. It is not intended to substitute for any religious organization nor for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather, it is intended to focus on encouraging the implementation of those aspects of the Church and gospel that can be aided by science and technology (which, as Lincoln points out, the Church and gospel embrace), "and not to leave the other undone" (Matt. 23: 23).

    -- Christopher Bradford (Vice-President of the MTA)

  4. I agree with the God's amazing respect for our agency. The founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the publishing of the Book of Mormon certainly provide countless examples of God allowing awful things to happen while and essentially requiring men to do the work.

    I also agree with and believe in a very active faith that requires tremendous learning and effort on our part.

    I see it a big leap, however, to extrapolate that philosophy into imagining that science and technology are a means to resurrection and eternal life.

    I feel we should embrace science, knowledge, and truth. My concern with MTA is that it appears to leave God and His grace out of the picture.

  5. Then it sounds like it's a matter of presentation, rather than content. We have not emphasized sufficiently for you our understanding that God and Christ are central to the vision of the MTA (that's why it's the *Mormon* Transhumanist Association and not just the Transhumanist Association). We need to do a better job of clarifying those points.

    We may still differ on the particulars of God's involvement and the extent to which he may inspire the use of science and technology, but these seem to be primarily differences degree, rather than in kind.

    Hopefully our clarifications can help allay concerns about the compatibility of Transhumanism with Mormonism. Our aim is not to equate the two; rather, it is to supplement atheistic, amoral Transhumanism with the theology and morals of Mormonism and to help Mormons recognize the inspiration in and potential of science and technology in furthering the work of God: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.