I trust our world was created by God, a radically compassionate posthumanity. After expressing this trust recently on the Singularity 1 on 1 podcast, a commenter asked how I justify the morality of creating worlds like the one we're now living in, or put differently and in traditional terms: how do I respond to the problem of evil? I've responded to this question here on my blog before, writing about "Gods of suffering and oppression" and "Becoming God can be cruel and irrational", and asking "Can non-benevolent super-intelligence persist?" Here are some additional thoughts I shared with the commenter.
Available now is my computed comparison of the Second Book of Nephi to the Bible, consisting of 157 pages of side-by-side text comparisons. This is part of the second edition of As One that Hath a Familiar Spirit, which I'm publishing both here on my blog and in my Scribd library. Subsequently, pending sufficient interest, I may also work toward publishing more formal print or ebook copies of the entire work. If you would be interested in purchasing a print or ebook copy, please let me know by clicking here. Here are some highlights from and observations about the computed comparison of the Second Book of Nephi to the Bible:
Available now is my computed comparison of the First Book of Nephi to the Bible, consisting of 58 pages of side-by-side text comparisons. This is part of the second edition of As One that Hath a Familiar Spirit, which I'm publishing both here on my blog and in my Scribd library. Subsequently, pending sufficient interest, I may also work toward publishing more formal print or ebook copies of the entire work. If you would be interested in purchasing a print or ebook copy, please let me know by clicking here. Here are some highlights from and observations about the computed comparison of the First Book of Nephi to the Bible:
If you are familiar with the Book of Mormon and the King James translation of the Bible then you know they contain many textual similarities. Nephi extensively quotes Isaiah. Jesus repeats to the Nephites many of his words recorded in the Gospels. Moroni teaches of charity with words nearly identical to those used by Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians. These examples are three of the more familiar similarities, and are hardly exhaustive.
I'm the father of one of your seminary students. He mentioned to me that a student asked about human evolution yesterday, and that you do not have a favorable opinion of it. I'm writing to share with you my thoughts and feelings on the subject, hoping that you'll share some of them with the students in your class so that they may know Mormons have differing perspectives on human evolution, and yet despite those differences we affirm our common trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As the Director of Sales & Marketing Technology at Merit, I’m proud to announce that Merit Medical was ranked 195 out of 500 companies on the InformationWeek 500 Top Technology Innovators. This annual list identifies the nation’s most innovative users of business technology. InformationWeek tracks the technology, strategies, investments, and administrative practices of some of America’s best-known companies.
Think of an egoist atheist. What comes to mind? Here's what doesn't come to mind: trust in an altruistic god-like extraterrestrial. That, however, is only because you don't know this egoist atheist: Forbidden Truth ("FT"). Now, some will think that I'm intending "egoist" as an external judgment or insult, but that's not the case. FT actually identifies both as atheist and egoist. FT also happens to identify as immortalist; in other words, FT values and trusts in the possibility of immortality achieved through technology. However, FT also trusts that "the only real possibility of humanity achieving technological immortality is via extraterrestrial intervention", thereby implying trust in the possibility of god-like power and altruistic behavior among extraterrestrials. When asked about these implications, FT affirms "life very likely exists outside of earth", although it "has nothing to do [with] religion".
If you're a Mormon, you should be a Transhumanist. That's my contention. I've suggested before that "Mormon Transhumanist" is not redundant, but "Transhumanist Mormon" is redundant because Mormonism mandates Transhumanism. In other words, you can be a Transhumanist without being a Mormon, but you can't be a Mormon without being a Transhumanist, at least implicitly. Of course, this is a controversial claim, but here's the basic argument, reflecting Mormon scripture:
This weekend, I watched an online stream of the October 2012 general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I enjoyed the conference, and particularly the opportunity to engage in discussion of the ideas with others online. Below are 100 thoughts, from me and others, about the conference. The thoughts range from affirmations to criticisms, and from questions to assertions. Hopefully they'll provoke reflection, questions and comments.
As mentioned before, I've repeatedly found inspiration in Richard Dawkins, despite an important difference between us: he's a devout atheist, and I'm a devout theist. He argues cogently that complex life must have simpler antecedents, and he vigorously attacks contrary theist positions. I agree with him. Interestingly, however, to illustrate the strength of his position, he sometimes appeals to the possibility of precisely the kind of God in which I put my trust: evolving Gods.
At the recent 2012 Conference of the Mormon Transhumanist Association, I presented a paper entitled "The Consolation: An Interpretive Variation on the King Follett Sermon of Joseph Smith". Some who are well acquainted with my thoughts and writings have remarked to me that this may be the best paper I've ever written. Recordings of presentations of the paper (such as the one embedded above) have been available for a while, and I'm now making available the full text (embedded below), which I invite you to download and share.
Several friends have asked for my opinion on Humanistic Mormonism, consequent to hearing about the Society for Humanistic Mormonism. As most readers of my blog know, I'm one of the founders of the Mormon Transhumanist Association and currently serving as president of that organization. So it won't come as a surprise, given that Transhumanism has much in common with Humanism, that there's much I like about Humanistic Mormonism. There are, however, a few areas where my views differ from those of some Humanists. To illustrate, below are my perspectives on "16 Questions About Humanistic Mormonism". I present in quotes the answer provided by the Society for Humanistic Mormonism, followed by my own thoughts.
God is dead, proclaimed Nietzsche. He was right and wrong. Following their God, traditional forms of religion have been dying, particularly in many technologically advanced, specialized and prosperous countries. Consequently, many have embraced the secularization hypothesis: religion itself is dying. That hypothesis, however, now embraced less by experts than by anti-religious voices in pop culture, is showing its age. In its place, a new hypothesis is rising: post-secularization.
News of a creationist museum using billboards featuring cartoon dinosaurs (yes, that's religious dinosaurs using cartoon dinosaurs to preach fictional dinosaurs) prompted an interesting discussion on my Google+ page regarding interpretation of the Judeo-Christian creation story. The claim was made that the LDS Church (the largest Mormon denomination, of which I am a member) teaches there was no death prior to six thousand years ago, when Adam presumably left the Garden of Eden and became mortal. While some Mormon authorities have certainly taught such ideas, I reject literal interpretations of the creation story.
Should we attempt to persuade each other of our ideologies? Some of us avoid proselyting. Others, such as Mormons, heartily embrace proselyting. While I don't think all forms of proselyting are good, and I don't think all ideologies (or all interpretations of any ideology) are worthy of proselyting, here are a couple reasons why we should engage in some forms of proselyting for some kinds of ideas.
In "The Superintelligent Will: Motivations and Instrumental Rationality in Advanced Artificial Agents", Nick Bostrom argues briefly for the idea that the intelligence and the purpose of an agent are mostly independent (which he calls the "orthogonality thesis"). I'm not persuaded by his reasoning. He acknowledges three constraints on the relation between intelligence and purpose, and although he characterizes them as "weak", at least two of them seem strong.
In 1978, the LDS Church extended priesthood to blacks. Prior to that time, some Mormons doubted the divinity of the priesthood ban. Subsequent to that time, some Mormons doubted the divinity of the priesthood extension. This evening, I was imagining what it might have been like in the early 1970s for a Mormon who thought blacks should receive the priesthood. What would such a Mormon have written in his journal? Here's a guess.
Mormons typically understand the work of God to be that of bringing about human immortality and eternal life, reflecting words from a thought provoking passage from the first chapter of the Book of Moses. Since most Mormons also trust that we should become like God, the implication is that the work of God is also our work: we too should be working to bring about our immortality and eternal life.
Over the last couple days, I watched an online stream of the April 2012 general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I enjoyed the conference, and particularly the opportunity to engage in discussion of the ideas with others online. Below are 92 thoughts, from me and others, about the conference. The thoughts range from affirmations to criticisms, and from questions to assertions. Hopefully they'll provoke reflection, questions and comments. I'd like to hear from you.
A friend (who knows I'm writing this, but whose name will remain undisclosed) approached me today with a list of questions, reflecting a crisis of religious disillusionment. Like me, my friend is a Mormon, which brought us together.
This week, I was a guest on the Mormon Matters podcast, hosted by my friend Dan Wotherspoon. I joined Dan, Chris Bradford and Tyson Jacobsen in a discussion about Mormonism and Transhumanism. Dan does excellent work, both as a host and in post-production; I've long known him to be an insightful religious philosopher, but now I know he's got a geek side too. Tyson represented secular humanism, posing questions that complemented those posed by Dan, helping us approach the subject from both important angles; I didn't know Tyson prior to this discussion, and I was impressed by his willingness to help us express our views. Chris and I represented Transhumanism; presently, Chris serves as the vice president of the Mormon Transhumanist Association, and I serve as president.
I have three sons that I love dearly, and I care about their education in all areas, including sexuality. I want them to understand that sex is beautiful and fun, when accompanied with love, respect and responsibility. I also want them to understand that sex can be abused, potentially harming our relations, as well as our own psychological well being.
I'm pleased to announce that "Parallels and Convergences: Mormon Thought and Engineering Vision" is now available for purchase.
In 2009, the Claremont School of Religion, the LDS Council on Mormon Studies and the Mormon Scholars Foundation sponsored the Mormonism and Engineering conference. Richard Bushman (Claremont College Howard W Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, and author of "Rough Stone Rolling") and Scott Howe (specialist in robotic construction at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) organized the conference, and the Mormon Transhumanist Association assisted with video recording and web site hosting. Several members of the Mormon Transhumanist Association also presented at the conference.
In conversation with a friend today, he commented that Paul in the New Testament seems to tell us to leave behind Christ (Hebrews 6: 1). I don't think that's an accurate interpretation of the passage, but I do think Paul invites us to leave behind the infancy of following Christ for the maturity of being Christ.
Scientists Anders Sandberg and Stuart Armstrong are working on a paper that explores the relation between theoretical engineering capacities and colonization of the universe. Of course, this is not a new topic. For decades, scientists and philosophers have analyzed what has come to be known as the "Fermi paradox", named after physicist Enrico Fermi, who called attention to two apparently conflicting observations: on the one hand, the universe appears old and large enough to have produced many Earth-like planets capable of supporting intelligent life; yet on the other hand, we have no objective evidence for the existence of intelligent life beyond humanity on Earth. Many have argued that if intelligent life existed elsewhere then it should have been able to colonize the universe many times over by now, but perhaps "many times" grossly underestimates just how many times it could have happened by now.
Sports news media and google searchers are presently giving the Biblical passage at John 3: 16 a lot of attention because Tim Tebow, an American football player known for advocating Christianity by displaying references to "John 3: 16", recently led the Denver Broncos to victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers by passing for 316 yards and averaging 31.6 yards per completion. Do you see it? "John 3: 16", "316 yards", and "31.6 yards per completion": the statistics would appear to point at Tim's favorite reference, as if by divine intervention.
[3 January 2012 11:48pm - If I were to write this post again now, it would be titled and focused differently. As I've reviewed and discussed with others the posts and comments exchanged between BCC and me, and as I've considered subsequent claims by BCC, I've become persuaded that BCC chose to ban me more because of the timing and tone of my comments than because of their content. By this, I do not mean that I now agree with the ban. To the contrary, my surprise has only shifted, from an apparent ideological disagreement with BCC, to the hypocrisy of BCC employing ridicule and taunts while banning me for expressing an idea at a time and with a tone that "some folks didn't like". In any case, this post will remain in place, to document communication and clarification after the ban. Hopefully this note will resolve concerns that I misrepresented BCC before it communicated a reason for the ban.]