Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

11/17 2011

Transhumanism and Transcendence

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The high level of scholarship on the part of the faculty at PTS never ceases to amaze and interest me. This month the Rev. Dr. Ron Cole-Turner demonstrates yet again why I make that observation—his latest book, Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Advancement, becomes available. Even a quick review of the back-cover summary makes me eager to read the book in depth. Here is what it says:

The timeless human desire to be more beautiful, intelligent, healthy, athletic, or young has given rise in our time to technologies of human enhancement. Athletes use drugs to increase their strength or stamina and cosmetic surgery is widely used to improve physical appearance. And today researchers are exploring technologies such as cell regeneration and implantable devices that interact directly with the brain. Some condemn these developments as a new kind of cheating—not just in sports but in life itself—promising rewards without effort and depriving us most of all of what it means to be authentic human beings. Transhumanists, on the other hand, reject what they see as a rationalizing of human limits, as if being human means being content forever with underachieving bodies and brains. To be human, they insist, is to be restless with possibilities, always eager to transcend biological limits.

As the debate grows in urgency, how should theology respond? Christian theologians recognize truth on both sides of the argument, pointing out how the yearnings of the transhumanists—if not their technological methods—find deep affinities in Christian belief. In this volume, Ronald Cole-Turner has joined seasoned scholars and younger, emerging voices together to bring fresh insight into the technologies that are already reshaping the future of Christian life and hope.

Wow. What a timely, culturally relevant work of scholarship—one that Ron’s colleagues are already calling “the most important debate on Christian transhumanism that I have ever read” and “mandatory reading” on the topic. And it’s not his first such book—it’s his seventh.

Installed 15 years ago in the H. Parker Sharp Chair of Theology and Ethics at Pittsburgh Seminary, Ron Cole-Turner has for many years been a leading voice in important national and international debates at the intersection of theology and science. How privileged our students are to be preparing for Christian ministries under professors such as Dr. Cole-Turner.

Here’s to good reading,

The Rev. Dr. William J. Carl III, President