I agree that Mormonism's doctrine embraces and promotes scientific and technological discovery. But we struggle with this culturally, and I think there is some cross-over in the sense that the cultural struggle is too often mistaken within Mormonism for doctrine. In other words, many Mormons mistakenly think that Mormonism's doctrine cannot be reconciled with science and technology. . .
Finally, I agree that there is a risk that some transhumanist ideas, accepted without question, may erode some core Mormon principles. However, as Paul says, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." The same may be said of nearly anything.Here, Christopher makes two excellent points: 1) Mormon culture and doctrine don't always match 2) We can learn much from other teachings, but should study them out carefully and "prove all things."
It seems we agree there are differences between transhumanism and Mormonism. That's basically all I'm trying to point out in this blog. I can also agree there are also points of overlap between the two.
Now, to discuss Christopher's other issues:
1) Culture not matching doctrine
Yes, in the Mormon Church we have a plenty of challenges with cultural divergences from doctrine, or perhaps too strict or limiting interpretations of doctrine.
However, in terms of cultural practices that don't match doctrine, embracing science and technology seem to be pretty low on the list. A large portion of our Quorum of the Twelve hold PhDs, a significant portion are professional scientists, as are numerous members of the Seventy. The Church directly funds at least tens of millions of dollars a year in scientific research at Brigham Young University, including physics, genetics, cancer, engineering, computer science, all the social sciences, and BYU requires a course on evolutionary biology for many science majors and teaches evolution as part of the required Biology general education class.
The Church directly owns and operates hundreds of Internet URLs, and officially and proactively encourages members and wards to use the Internet, phones, and computers for numerous purposes: distributing general conference, ward websites and directories, family history, blogs, missionary work, managing finances, etc. The Church was one of the first organizations to use radio and TV, and TV was invented by a Mormon--Philo T. Farnsworth. Brigham Young sent workers from the Salt Lake Temple to help build the railroad, which was completed in Ogden, Utah.
The Mormon Scholars Testify site now has 276 testimonies of Mormon academics, and the Church's Brigham Young University is 7th in the nation for the number of alumni who earned PhDs in the past 5 years.
Where's the cultural problem here?
In my personal experience among Mormons, I see a very open cultural embracing of technology and scientific development. Perhaps my Mormon world is more surrounded by tech or science professionals than yours. I don't recall in recent memory meeting a Mormon who shunned technological development or scientific research.
I have encountered a variety of thoughts about the merging of creation and evolution, but it seems to me Mormons are much more open to scientific insight on this issue than are other highly religious Christians.
In my experience, there many other higher-priority areas in which our culture tends to separate from our doctrine. Sometime it might would be interesting to make a list and contrast our experiences. Most of these areas, though, it seems to me that our Church leaders at the highest levels are regularly trying counteract this culture with our actual doctrine.
In most cultural problem areas I can think of, we'd probably be just as well off studying scriptures and the guidance and personal examples of Church leaders as we would promoting our own ideas. Science and technology is definitely one of those areas in which the Church and its' leaders are excellent examples, as I've shared above.
2) Learning from others
On the issue of learning from others, I question the value of creating a new group for all of these issues in which culture is not aligned with doctrine as well as it should be. For example, I believe we can learn much about Biblical study, grace, enthusiastic and joyful worship, and missionary work from evangelical Christians. Should we start an "Mormons Embracing Evangelical Christianity" group?
I feel we can learn much about meditation and spirituality from Buddhism, we can gain an improved understanding of modesty, obedience, and respect for family life from Islam, we can learn respect for ancestors, eternal progression, and positive sensuality from Taoism. I have read and love the Hindu Baghavad-Gita for its' inspiration about life principles.
We already seem to openly embrace C.S. Lewis and his insights--which I love, but one of my favorites for philosophical insights and understanding of life in general is Mark Twain. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are full of both wit and wisdom.
Does that mean the best solution is to create new joint groups to discuss and celebrate these additional learning opportunities? The Mormon Taoist Society? The Mormon Islamic Association? The Mormon Huck Finn Fan Club?
Once you start merging the word, "Mormon" with another group's name or message, whether intentionally or not, you give the impression that there is full overlap between the ideas of the two groups.
As a result, the areas in which you differ need to be clearly and openly delineated, or you just create more confusion. Still, in spite of your best efforts to communicate the differences, the mere joint name makes communicating those differences very difficult.
Hence this blog. I'm trying to highlight the differences I see.