American Academy of Religion annual meeting 2017 — Human Enhancement & Transhumanism

March 14, 2017

The American Academy of Religion brings 1000s of academics and students, authors and publishers, religious leaders and interested people to its annual meeting each year. It’s the largest event in the fields of religious studies and theology. 9,500 people attend, enjoying access to more than 1000 academic sessions and additional meetings. The American Academy of Religion neither endorses nor rejects any religious belief or practice.

Human Enhancement & Transhumanism

“Transhumanism” or “human enhancement” refers to an intellectual and cultural movement that advocates the use of a variety of emerging technologies. The convergence of these technologies may make it possible to take control of human evolution, providing for “desirable” physical, moral, affective, and cognitive enhancements and the amelioration of aspects of the human condition regarded as undesirable. These enhancements include the radical extension of healthy human life. If these enhancements become widely available, it would arguably have a more radical impact than any other development in human history — one need only reflect briefly on the economic, political, and social implications of some of the extreme enhancement possibilities. The implications for religion and the religious dimensions of human enhancement technologies are enormous and are addressed in our session.

We study the relationship between religion and human enhancement through technology and transhumanism. We seek perspectives from a variety of religious traditions and encourage relational, feminist, queer, post-modern, and post-colonial analyses. We critically evaluate implicit religious beliefs, practices, and values that might underlie the development and use of human enhancement tech — or key claims, goals, values, and assumptions of transhumanism.

We explore the relationship between enhancement and core doctrines or practices of religious traditions, asking how religion might challenge a culture of enhancement? Or how the growing use of enhancement tech might challenge or re-shape the religions of the future. We explore an envisioned future that places greater confidence in nanotechnology, cognitive science, moral bio-enhancements, genetics, robotics, and information tech to achieve enhanced human capacities or extend the human lifespan.

We examine what it means to be human and of the role of human vulnerability in deliberations about enhancement usage.

We explore the complex intersection of sport and play and the use of various tech to make the bodies of athletes, players, and gamers even “better.” We probe social, political, moral, and religious dimensions of  sport and play enhancement.

—Event Producer