Transhumanism and atheism

I just finished reading Lincoln Canon’s recent post over at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging technologies. He makes a number of claims that I take issue with, but the one I’m most comfortable addressing is that only “about half of Transhumanists and Technoprogressives identify as either atheist or agnostic, and that’s down about 15% from surveys done a decade ago.”

Most surveys of transhumanists are severely limited in their generalizability. But, let’s look at one of most recent ones anyway: 49% of transhumanists identify as agnostic/atheist. Cannon downplays this number, but it’s difficult to think of many other communities with such a high number of agnostics/atheists. Additionally, most of the prominent transhumanists in North America and Europe are not religious. Not at all surprising given transhumanism’s roots in renaissance and enlightenment humanism.

If we look at the rest of the survey, the religious transhumanist of the sort likely favored by Cannon is rather small. 17% of transhumanists identify as spiritual, but not religious. 11% identify as Buddhist, many of whom may in fact be atheists. Also worth mentioning is Cannon’s preference for drawing a sharp line between agnostic and atheist. He writes “my guess is that probably not even a quarter of Transhumanists are atheists and their low numbers are obfuscated by the large number of agnostics.”

In the absence of better data it’s hard to say much, but many people are rather confused about what it means to be an agnostic, and this confusion is largely driven by their association of atheism with its stronger form that denies the existence of God or gods. You can be an agnostic atheist.