Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Semi-good (but significantly wrong) ideas: OK, then what? (With reference to Political Correctness and Transhumanism.)

One of the problems about ideas, about discussion, debate, advocacy - is that it may be so difficult to get people en masse to accept a truth (even when it is true) that those who advocate it never get to the point of discovering its consequences.

They never get to the point where you can say - "Okay, let's accept everything you say is valid: then what?"

People never get to this point, even inside their own heads, because they are so engaged by the process of advocacy, trying to persuade, implement, monitor etc. They never get to the point where they are forced to imagine that the thing they advocate is actually in place - and then doing the thought experiment of what difference it actually makes - what kind of consequences will ensue.

This problem is particularly bad when the advocacy is for something which is wrong in some way, or is pushing against unacknowledged realities - something which goes against the flow. Bad ideas of this kind never get near to being implemented, and therefore their advocates never get near to being compelled to see their undesirability.

The most obvious and dominant way that this is shown is, of course, mainstream New Left politics - political correctness. There is an arena where the mass of the population go along with ideas, policies, rules about things like democracy, equality and diversity that - if they were implemented in the desired way would be very obviously destructive (if the evaluation was honest - and that is a big 'if) - but which never get near being implemented because they are so riddled with errors, omissions and illogic.

But the phenomenon is very pervasive and cuts very deep in much secular thinking which is intended to tackle the fundamental problems of life. For example, the main ideological alternative to Christianity is Transhumanism - the idea that the primary problems of life can be solved by knowledge, science, technology. The analysis starts from defining these primary problems in terms such as pain and suffering, lack of joy and happiness, and death - so the ultimate aim is making people feel completely happy all the time (unless they chose otherwise) and each person lived for (say) several centuries.

This is such a difficult and unlikely goal, that Transhumanists will never come to the point where they are compelled to consider the consequences of their wishes; and the extent to which even if they achieved all their hope, the fundamental problems of life remain untouched

The emotions of suffering and happiness, and the significance of imminent death are extremely important problems - but even if they could all be solved the ultimate problems remain untouched: problems of meaning, purpose and my relationship to meaning and purpose - problems about the significance of my life.

Transhumanists could contend that they are not offering a complete answer, as indeed they are not, but that reduced suffering, greater happiness, greatly-extended healthy-lifespan are all things good in themselves - and which might enable people better to tackle the primary problems - but that is now what I see.

What I see is people who use the Transhumanist project so as not ever to acknowledge, consider, think-about the real primary problems of life. People who are so absorbed by the difficulties of getting what they want that they never recognize that - even if they could have it - it would leave the basic problems of life completely untouched.

I see people who are so wrapped up in 'the fight' that they do not know what they are fighting for. In effect, each has made the implicit decision that "the meaning and purpose of my life is the advocacy of Transhumanism". The practical strategy, the actually-lived approach to the problems of life, is so to fill one's mind with the problems of funding, achieving and implementing Transhumanism that there is no room in the mind for anything else - the means have completely displaced the end.

I often feel that the same applies to religions which offer 'more life' as their goal - which offer 'me as I am now' (but eternal and healthy) an eternity in a paradise of sensuous gratification; and fail to see that this is just more of the same old stuff. Or ideas of reincarnation as an endless recyling of versions of me as I am now - and they don't notice that this means that an eternity of staying-alive or recycling would be as meaningless/ pointless as they perceive the present to be!

They are, in effect, trying to solve the fundamental problems of lack of meaning, purpose, existential satisfaction by perpetuating lack of meaning/ purpose/ satisfaction forever!

All this may be perfectly understandable human behaviour - but it is frustrating to contemplate!


Note: There are many other problems with what is currently termed the Transhumanist project, but which has been around for a few hundred years - as is explained in CS Lewis's essay The Abolition of Man and his novel That Hideous Strength; but I take Transhumanism as my examplehere, being the most complete and 'idealistic' of the current world-betterment schemes.