Monday, April 26, 2010

New God Argument Challenges

Lincoln Cannon gives a New God Argument, which suggests an interesting logical proposition about how humans could use scientific and technological development to eventually become immortal, "posthuman" and even create other worlds with other humans. While I fully support science as a method of progressing both spiritually and physically, I see some real challenges with the leap to eternal conclusions in this argument.

Perhaps this is just a philosophical argument for the existence of the same Heavenly Father I believe in, but I see some logical fallacies in the benevolence argument. I also don't see what this philosophical exercise adds to existing testimonies of both people and physical evidence--"All things denote there is a God", and I worry that it creates a proud distraction from the true nature of God.

Immortality and the ability to create is only one aspect of the Mormon conception of God--that He once was a man, died and was resurrected, then eventually created us, and the He is now working actively to encourage us to follow Him and eventually create worlds into the future D&C 76: 50, 58D&C 132: 20.  However, this description leaves out another, more important characteristic of God: that He will distinguish between good and evil and reward only the good and benevolent with eternal live and future ability to create, as I will show below.

The Transhumanist benevolence argument suggests "posthumans" are benevolent because humans have managed, most of us, to survive so far, and therefore we will then naturally and gradually progress toward benevolent, loving "posthumans," who then have the power to create other worlds.

This line of thinking seems tenuous at best--especially the assumption that only benevolent "posthumans" will continue and create into the future. Humans are well-known for doing a terrible job of separating good from evil and rewarding only the benevolent with superior scientific and technological power.  Examples abound--say, the Internet--are the best website developers using their skills for only benevolent ends? What about biotech or pharmaceutical companies, etc?  The American medical system, although the most scientifically advanced, is one of the worst in the developed world at almost every public health measure that one might find in a truly benevolent system.

In a number of ways, for at least several decades, on earth we have the current technology and resources to provide plenty of food, shelter, and basic medical vaccinations to the entire planet. Yet, we've not managed to do so. In fact, many of the actions and resource choices of the most technologically advanced of us, as in using corn for ethanol or massive spending on military actions, have made the situation worse that it was before for the poorest people around the world. Many of our inner cities in the United States, surrounded with technological powers, have educational attainment, health quality and life expectancies that are now worse than they were 20 years ago.

One would be hard-pressed to promote benevolence and compassion as a primary characteristic of the most powerful current scientific or technological human organizations. Hitler had much more advanced technological power than other heroes of true compassion, such as Mother Theresa.

This pattern for normal human behavior is described in
D&C 121:39 

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
The New God Argument offers no realistic mechanism for distinguishing between those with good and evil motives, and leaves us to assume that the battle between sinister and benevolent "posthumans" will continue in a similar pattern that exists among humans. The argument appears to hope that "posthumans" will be as benevolent as our God is, but offers no evidence that this can be accomplished through normal, humanist processes.

On the other hand, Scripture and and doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints describes a God that will distinguish between good and evil, and reward only the good and benevolent with eternal life, as in
Matthew 25:31-34.

31 ¶ When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
This concept is repeated in numerous other places--emphasizing that "no unclean thing" can dwell with God, such as: 1 Ne. 10: 21Alma 11: 37Alma 40: 263 Ne. 27: 19.

Further, this separation, primarily occurring at the second coming of Jesus Christ, is consistently described as a dramatic, disruptive, not evolutionary, event that all will witness as He descends from the clouds of heaven and the righteous are caught up to meet him, and He will then Judge the world. See Isa. 45: 23Dan. 7: 13 Matt. 26: 64Luke 21: 25-28 Rev. 1: 7, 3 Ne. 27: 14-18

My belief and hope is in a God and an eternal future that involves the ultimate victory of love and benevolence, and disallowing sinister and selfish people from the opportunity to create future worlds. I'm convinced this will require a dramatic, disruptive intervention from God in order to transform our current patterns of progress.

The key of my belief in God is this hope for a peaceful, loving eternal future and an ultimate victory of good over evil that only God can provide, and I don't see how that is realistically possible without some dramatic interruption of the natural human progression. 

The transhumanist "New God" as simply a "posthuman," developing naturally and scientifically from humans, seems to me more likely to be Hitler than Ghandi or Mother Theresa.  The Heavenly Father I understand would reward Mother Theresa with eternal life and future creative ability, regardless of her access to or interest in scientific progress, and would prevent Hitler from creative power in spite of his technological and organizational abilities.


  1. Hi Vblogger. Thanks for expressing your perspective on the importance of benevolence and relating that to your understanding of the New God Argument. I have responded here:

  2. Vblogger, I'm curious about this last statement of yours:

    "The Heavenly Father I understand would reward Mother Theresa with eternal life and future creative ability, regardless of her access to or interest in scientific progress, and would prevent Hitler from creative power in spite of his technological and organizational abilities."

    Why do you believe this, when God didn't prevent Hitler from committing atrocities on this earth? In our ward's Elders Quorum meeting yesterday, we discussed Elder Dallin H. Oaks' October 2009 conference talk, Love and Law (,5232,23-1-1117-9,00.html ), in which we find this quote:

    "Agency — our power to choose — is fundamental to the gospel plan that brings us to earth. God does not intervene to forestall the consequences of some persons' choices in order to protect the well-being of other persons — even when they kill, injure, or oppress one another — for this would destroy His plan for our eternal progress. He will bless us to endure the consequences of others' choices, but He will not prevent those choices."

    Was God's lack of intervention in Hitler's atrocities because Hitler wasn't powerful enough that God needed to prevent his actions? This seems unlikely to me. It seems more likely to me that God desires to empower us to overcome the evil choices of others through the establishment of the gospel of charity -- or, in the words of the New God Argument: if a powerful group does not develop charity (benevolence), it will destroy itself. (Or, in the words of Spider Man, with great power comes great responsibility :-) .)

    How, then, does God establish the gospel of charity? President Uchtdorf's recent General Conference talk (,5232,23-1-1207-23,00.html ) gives us very keen insight: "You Are My Hands".

    -- Christopher Bradford (MTA Vice-President)

  3. God's respect for our agency is truly incredible--often baffling the extent to which he permits suffering. His dramatic interventions to interrupt agency in this life and punish the wicked do happen, but they're incredibly rare.

    And, I fully support the concept that He expects us to use our agency to help each other. I've seen that in action.

    My comments about Mother Theresa and Hitler were about an ultimate, final judgement and eternal life, not about this earth life. I feel at some point after this life, when all men are taken home to that God who gave them life, we will need the external power of God to intervene, interrupt normal human progression, and separate good and evil. It's not simply a matter of "survival of the fittest" and people avoiding destroying themselves for eternity.