by ROWENA OREJANA
Marist priest Fr Neil Vaney, SM, has warned of two movements that aim to replace religion in the modern world: Futurism and Transhumanism.
In a lecture at the Catholic Discipleship College on September 18, Fr Vaney said those two
movements are promising to deliver what they see religion as promising.
Fr Vaney is a lecturer in ethics and moral theology and has a keen interest in science-theology
dialogue.
In early ages, Fr Vaney noted, science and sacred knowledge did not conflict. “Technology is
something that goes back to the roots of the Jewish people,” he said.
He pointed out how, in Genesis, God is shown as the designer and creator and how in Exodus one
can find the instruction for the creation of the ark.
He also pointed to Christian scholars like St Bede who charted the tides, Albert the Great,
who was a natural scientist and the Jesuits, who were astronomers of the royal court of China.
“There was no such thing as the division between secular and sacred knowledge. It was all seen
as part of the same learning,” he said.
Today, he said, the secular world is veering away from faith.
“Secular thinkers seeking a more integral view of life see religion as promising three great
goods that all people long for and that all society wanted. The first one is salvation or healing. We are conscious that we are broken people. Eternal life is also one thing held
out to people,” he said.
“The third one is happiness. Basically, if you accept the religious view of life, although there may be struggles, you would eventually be happy.”
He said Transhumanism and Futurism say they can deliver those.
Salvation or healing is offered through psychopharmacology or drugs that induce heightened
awareness as well as mental stability and control, genetic engineering and nanotechnology.
Eternal life can be attained by brain uploading, artificial intelligence or neuro-engineering.
“When we die, all of our memories can be downloaded into a computer,” he said.
Happiness, on the other hand, can be gained through psychopharmacology, artificial intelligence
and virtual relationships.
Fr Vaney explained that these secular thinkers see the body as a source of limitation and
evil and thus, with the help of technology, people can overcome those limitations and become
“transhumans”.
“What will happen if death died?” he asked.
Fr Vaney also noted the rise of the “nones”, people who do not have church affiliations.
While it might seem like science fiction, most of the techonology these movements are talking
about are already here.
“This is the philosophy of seeing the body and the spirit as different, whereas we as Christians see the body and the spirit as not two different and distinct units. They are two dimensions of our being,” he said. “If you try to break it up, you’ll distort what it is
to be a human being, and humanity.”

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