Add hasty generalization to the bag of tricks from which Transhumanism antagonists are conjuring their criticisms. In a recent opinion piece published by the North Country Gazette, Pamela Hennessy, founder of the Partnership for Medical Ethics Reform, described Transhumanists in the following terms:
“To be clear: Transhumanists are people who believe the human condition can be greatly improved upon through the use of technology and inter-species minglings. They have followers from scientific and spiritualistic communities that firmly believe humans can be forcibly evolved into beings so superior to homo-sapiens that they merit the moniker ‘Posthumans.’”
Judging from the remainder of the article, Hennessy arrived at this understanding of Transhumanists by generalizing from her interpretation of the ideas of a particular member of the World Transhumanist Association, An Ravelingien. Whether or not her interpretation of Ravelingien is accurate, her general portrayal of Transhumanists simply is not.
Hennessy’s description of Transhumanists starts out fine, but quickly deteriorates. We do typically believe the human condition can be greatly improved through use of technology, but through “inter-species minglings”? What does she mean by that? As it stands, everything from dog-man to bestiality comes to mind. While there are some radical Transhumanists that may want to look like dogs and perhaps want to engage in sexual activity with dogs, it is grossly inaccurate to consider these radical ideas to be representative of mainstream Transhumanists. For example, no member of the Mormon Transhumanist Association, to my knowledge, contends that inter-species minglings is among the most promising ways of improving the human condition, despite a commonly expressed interest both in ensuring the well-being of non-human animals and in learning what we can from them.
Subsequently, Hennessy mentions that there are Transhumanists who believe humans can be forced to evolve into posthumans. This is probably technically true, but the context of her statement presents at least two problems: first, simply because some believe it possible does not necessarily imply that they believe it moral to force such evolution; second, simply because some believe it possible does not necessarily imply that most or even many believe it possible to force such evolution. Again to provide an example, no member of the Mormon Transhumanist Association, to my knowledge, contends that any person should be forced to become posthuman; to the contrary, the Mormon Transhumanist Affirmation explicitly states that we seek to improve the human condition “according to their wills, desires and laws, to the extent they are not oppressive”.
Hennessy’s opinion piece continues to imply hasty generalizations regarding Transhumanists as it progresses – if “progress” is a word that should be applied to the article. The culmination of the hasty generalizations is, after talking about various groups including Transhumanists, she states:
“With each little nudge and push, these groups are reducing the basic human rights and liberties of those who are unable to fight them off. That makes them thugs. They sell their madness by smearing the word ‘ethics’ all over their verbal rubbish. That makes them liars.”
Transhumanists are misanthropes, thugs, sociopaths, sophists and liars. That’s what Hennessy wants you to believe, in her words, “to be clear”. Of course, she is not being clear. Rather, she is making a hasty generalization based on her interpretation of ideas purportedly expressed by some Transhumanists, without providing any reason for us to believe those ideas to be typical of most Transhumanists.