Cyberimmortality: Science, Religion, and the Battle to Save Our Souls; Research Enabling You One Day to Archive and Regenerate Your Memory, Personality, and Consciousness-Giving You Cyberimmortality-May Meet Resistance from Religious Groups Arguing That the Soul Is a Spirit, Not a System

By Bainbridge, William Sims | The Futurist, March-April 2006 | Go to article overview

Cyberimmortality: Science, Religion, and the Battle to Save Our Souls; Research Enabling You One Day to Archive and Regenerate Your Memory, Personality, and Consciousness-Giving You Cyberimmortality-May Meet Resistance from Religious Groups Arguing That the Soul Is a Spirit, Not a System


Bainbridge, William Sims, The Futurist


A crucial battle in the longstanding conflict between science and religion will concern the prospects for "cybernetic immortality"--the possibility that converging technologies will offer humans extended lives within information systems, robots, or genetically engineered biological organisms.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Cyberimmortality would require redefining human personalities as dynamic patterns of information, and human life as a process of evolution from material to computational planes of existence. The convergence of cognitive science with information technology already threatens traditional beliefs that are the heart of religion, notably the need for a God to save souls.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, psychiatrists struggled with the apparent contradiction between the traditional notion of an immortal soul and the discovery that injury, illness, and old age can rob an individual of memory, personality, and many other functions. If much of an individual's personality can be destroyed during life, the idea that it can survive death intact becomes less plausible. Later, the psychoanalytic school of psychology, led by Sigmund Freud, explicitly criticized religion as an illusion or a shared psychosis. But most branches of psychology, like science more generally, discreetly chose to avoid the topic.

Beginning around 1980, cognitively oriented researchers in sociology, psychology, and anthropology began developing rigorous models of religious faith. By explaining it, they came perilously close to debunking it. In the 1980s, sociologist Rodney Stark and I published a deductive theory, bolstered by extensive sociological data, about how social interaction can lead to belief in supernatural sources of rewards, when highly desired rewards (like eternal life) are unavailable in the real world. Wishful thinking, we suggested, is the typical mode of religious cognition.

On the basis of psychological and anthropological data, a number of writers have argued that the human brain evolved in such a way that people tend to see complex phenomena as the actions of conscious beings, thus encouraging belief in gods. In Descartes' Baby (2004), psychologist Paul Bloom argues that humans imagine they have souls because the human brain has no awareness of its own functioning. We falsely perceive ourselves to be separate from our bodies.

Cognitive scientists may not say explicitly that religious beliefs are errors of perception and interpretation, but that is what many people would infer. Cognitive science is making considerable progress in understanding how human thought and behavior arise in the structures and electrochemical processes of the human brain, and it has found no evidence of a soul.

At the same time, computer scientists have been creating technologies that effectively imitate more and more distinct functions of human intelligence, although the goal of full artificial intelligence (AI) remains elusive. As more people gain experience with computers, information systems, robots, and AI agents, cultural assumptions are likely to change. These machine intelligences cannot yet duplicate human mental behavior, but they do provide rather compelling illustrations of how pure mechanism could be responsible for complex thought.

More to the point, people are increasingly archiving their memories, experiences, and thoughts by means of computers. In the future, when combined with AI surrogates (avatars, robots, and distributed intelligence), these archives will enable technological resurrection and migration to new worlds in outer space. Although this development will be of vast historical significance, it may begin so imperceptibly within the standard customs of the society that it initially arouses no opposition from the churches or other conventional institutions.

Cybernetic Immortality

In modern societies with market-oriented economies, the influence of religion and religious institutions has retreated with the advance of industrial and service corporations. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Cyberimmortality: Science, Religion, and the Battle to Save Our Souls; Research Enabling You One Day to Archive and Regenerate Your Memory, Personality, and Consciousness-Giving You Cyberimmortality-May Meet Resistance from Religious Groups Arguing That the Soul Is a Spirit, Not a System
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.