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Theology/Ethics and Transhumanism


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Howdy folks,

I've been sending out emails left and right to potential supervisors trying to find someone interested in working on a project centered around transhumanism. I am particularly interested in theology and ethics but I am willing to negotiate a specific field. I am particularly interested in transhumanism where it applies to end-of-life concerns but also a much broader interest in how Christianity has engaged transhumanism. I am especially interested in Nikolai Fedorov and a slightly lesser extent into Teilhard de Chardin and Francis Bacon. I am also interested in any potential inter-religious dialogue on the issue, especially Buddhism as I have traveled in Tibet, Nepal, and China and have a nominal knowledge of Buddhist philosophy.

The responses I have gotten from professors is that I have a legitimate project. The problem is, is that the academy has not caught up to transhumanism yet. Those that do engage with it primarily do it on the side and through issues raised in bioethics.

Originally I thought maybe I needed to pull back but after conversing with faculty at Harvard, Yale, and others - go for my original interest, there are legitimate concerns there. As noted earlier, there are just too few faculty for the time being doing work in the field, and it will likely be another five years before scholars turn to issues raised by technology, at least in the nature that I want to discover.

Diana Cates at Iowa has expressed a lot of interest in my work and ideas thus far, so that's promising. That said, I am hoping to crowdsource other potential POIs that I may contact from any of you. I still have some emails out that I am waiting to hear back from.

It's a long shot, I know but we'll see what turns up.

Edited by xypathos
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I noticed recently that the AAR annual meeting next month has a Transhumanism and Religion group (https://papers.aarweb.org/program_book?keys=transhumanism&field_session_slot_nid=All). Some of the presenters may be more in the field of religious studies than theology. I'm not sure if Ted Peters (Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, part of Graduate Theological Union) is still taking doctoral students (I suspect he may be near retirement).

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You don't necessarily need someone who does exactly what you want to do. "Transhumanism" can mean a lot of different things in RS. If you find someone who does "contemporary religions" broadly and is interested in media/technology/religion, he/she will probably have a lot of interest in your project.

I think the more difficult thing will be navigating the theological and even the ethical interest in a religious studies department. Even if your interest is comparative (another kind of dicey thing in RS departments), you'll want to make sure the department you're applying to is friendly toward ethical/theological/constructive projects (as opposed to ethnographic, descriptive, etc.)

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