Re: humanism vs. transhumanism?

David C. Harris (
Sat, 04 Apr 1998 03:29:38

Does this sound familiar?:

"The next century can be and should be the Humanistic century. Dramatic
scientific, technological, and ever-accelerating social and political
changes crowd our awareness. We have virtually conquered the planet,
explored the moon, overcome the natural limits of travel and communication;
we stand at the dawn of a new age, ready to move farther into space and
perhaps inhabit other planets. Using technology wisely, we can control our
environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our
life-span, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human
evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide
humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and
meaningful life."

That's the opening of the Humanist Manifesto II, from 1973. To get the
tenor of modern Humanism, read a little on the American Humanist
Association page at <> or the
newer one at <>.

A very current issue that both transhumanist and humanist communities
have adressed is cloning. See
for the Humanist argument supporting cloning research.

I have been involved for over 5 years with organized humanism, inspired
by the promethean stance suggested by the quote above. The Humanist
Community meets at Stanford University. See <>. My
own impression is that Humanists are more accepting of conventionally
assumed limits of human nature, and less interested in extrapolating from
current technology than the Extropian/Transhumanist movement. Sometimes I
get bored. They definitely are more inclined toward collective solutions
to problems than the libertarians in the Extropian movement.

I agree with someone who said that Humanists, although agnostic/atheist,
have more of the Judeo-Christian values than Transhumanists, and Humanists
tend to address issues from more of a religious/ethical viewpoint. Perhaps
that is why they are so reviled by fundamentalist Christians --- you can
write off someone who is radically different, but it's frustrating to deal
with someone who is culturally similar enough to you to be relevant, yet
differs sharply on important issue(s).

Any anthropologist who was dropped into both communities would observe
that Humanists are generally older than Extropians/Transhumanists.

My view is that Humanists and Transhumanists have enough common values to
work together in science-promotion, euthenasia legalization, and other
areas. But to do that we have to avoid overemphasizing where we differ.
If you want to travel widely, build bridges, not walls.

- David Harris

At 04:51 PM 98/3/31 -0600, Thom Quinn <> wrote:
>These would be what I consider documents that contain the "tenets" of
>secualr humanism:
>1) Humanist Manifest I (1993)
>2) Humanist Manifesto II (1973)
>3) A Secular Humanist Declaration (1980)
>Also, would you characterize transhumanism as anti-environmental?
>Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
>> > Are there any tenets of secular humanism that extropians
>> > or transhumanists outright reject?
>> The statement of purpose of the Council for Secular Humanism
>> (the nearest thing I could find to "tenets") is generally
>> vague, but there are a few specific things it supports: for
>> example, democracy, that I find somewhat incompatible with
>> transhumanism. It also talks about "fairness" as a moral
>> goal, which I have no use for.
>> I have seen other discussions of secular humanism that have
>> a revoltingly enviro-nazi tone to them as well. I'm sure
>> many Earth-firsters or other Green Gestapo thugs probably
>> call themselves secular humanists.