The above tagline is from the new “Futurisms” blog over at The New Atlantis. If you haven’t had the chance to check it out, I highly recommend you do. The blog engages techies who reduce human cognition to the material processes of the brain and who hope to harness technology to transform human nature, among other Faustian dreams.
While these “futurists” are a fringe group, the founders of the blog (Charles T. Rubin and Ari N. Schulman), argue that they are nevertheless worth debunking because they “are not unconnected to the central aims of the modern scientific project.” While I think the phrase “central aims of the modern scientific project” is a bit too general, they are certainly connected to a reductive materialism that characterizes a number of current scientific projects, including the Daniel Dennett camp of the cognitive sciences, which is still somehow very much the fashion in certain circles.
In English, for example, there are a number of literary critics who have attempted to “reread” humanity, to borrow Futurisms’ tagline, in great works of literature by reducing every emotion expressed in literary texts to certain capacities of the brain, which, in turn, are said to have been formed by that nebulous but convenient god-like force of social evolution. Not too long ago I heard a visiting literary scholar explain things such as love and justice in terms of the evolution of empathy. The care one feels for another, it was posited, was developed in packs of Neanderthals who learned that mutual aide led to increased individual benefits. Among numerous other things, I was struck by this “selfish” definition of love, which seemed to me, and still seems to me, to be very different from the sort of love depicted in most great works of literature, which in its idealized form is almost always self-sacrificial. As is all too often the case, efforts to “reengineer” or “reread” humanity turn out to be efforts to destroy what is distinctly human about it.
Anyway, by all means check out “Futurisms.” And speaking of all things human, be sure to check out Salvo‘s interview with First Things contributor and blogger Wesley J.