Mormon Theology in Relation to Science and Technology
21 June 2008 (updated 12 March 2011)
I often have the opportunity to present to groups interested in learning about parallels between Mormon and Transhumanist views of the future. Below is a summary of how I understand Mormon metaphysics, theodicy, eschatology and soteriology in relation to contemporary science and technology.
Mormon metaphysics (a description of the basis of reality) does not rely on the immaterial or supernatural. Spirit is fine matter or light. Miracles do not contravene law. God organized the world from matter according to law. Mormon metaphysics is fundamentally consistent with that of modern science. Like Mormons, although explicitly in deference to the scientific method, scientists generally reject or ignore appeals to the immaterial or supernatural. Even so, some computer scientists share Mormons’ faith in a material spirit, although described in different terms as experimentation on the hypothesis of substrate independent consciousness, which they recognize as a basis for the feasibility of futures including mind uploading and computed worlds.
Mormon theodicy (an explanation for the mutual existence of God and evil) separates from theologies that postulate a monolithic God of absolute omnipotence. While God is powerful, the possible is limited. God did not create matter or law, but emerged within and sought to reorganize them to exalt other intelligences to godhood. Evil is not absolute, but arises from conflict between wills, desires and laws. To overcomeevil, God calls us to be saviors, of whom Jesus Christ is the example, reconciling in atonement our wills, desires and laws. Similarly, evolutionary science holds that our pain and misery reflect limited fitness in relation to our environment, and may be overcome in time through adaptation. Moreover, anincreasingly common evolutionary view,that technological adaptation eventually supersedes biological adaptation, corresponds with the Mormon view that each of us, including God, first passively emerges within an environment before actively working to reorganize it.
Mormon eschatology (a vision of the future) begins by identifying our time as one of wonderful progress and extraordinary challenges, and proceeds rapidly to a millennial paradise and beyond to yet greater challenges. Through ordinances, mortals will be transfigured and the dead resurrected to physical immortal bodies, differing among themselves as do the stars. Immortals inhabit worlds without end of diverse kinds and degrees, and some of their inhabitants become gods, with power to organize new worlds. Mormon eschatology clearly parallels a common a view of the future espoused by futurists examining trends in technological change. Both expect our acquisition of knowledge and power to continue accelerating, and that a time of dramatic change is imminent, with unprecedented risks, as well as opportunities for material abundance and indefinite life extension leading to transformative change. Some futurists argue that if we ever use advanced computing power to simulate a significant number of worlds indistinguishable from our own, we are almost certainly already living in a computed world, as are the neohumans computing our world, and so on in possibly infinite regression. Anyone trusting in the feasibility of such computing is, in different words, sharing the Mormon faith in eventual godhood in worlds without end.
Mormon soteriology (a description of salvation) focuses on happiness, individual and communal, spiritual and physical, attained through both grace and works, according to our wills, desires and laws. The grace of God provides opportunity, without which we would be less than dust. In this context of grace, we are saved through faith, not passively, but rather through action and power. Faith in Christ manifests as will to truth and friendship in eternal reconciliation with each other, extending love not only to the living, but also to persons past and future. In worlds without end, all enjoy that which they are willing to discover and create, with full happiness in eternal progression of physical and spiritual exaltation. Such pursuits will be increasingly facilitated by our emerging technological capacity for shaping better minds and bodies through mental and physical enhancement.