The “Rapture” and the “Singularity” Have Much in Common

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on May 21, 2011

By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

Many jokes are being cracked about the prediction of doomsday Saturday, in which the “Rapture” is supposedly coming, heralding the end of days. From the CNN story:

By now, you’ve probably heard of the religious group that’s predicting the end of the world starts this weekend. Harold Camping and his devoted followers claim a massive earthquake will mark the second coming of Jesus, or so-called Judgment Day on Saturday, May 21, ushering in a five month period of catastrophes before the world comes to a complete end in October.

Meanwhile, Time, the NYT, and other mainstream media outlets have given very respectful coverage of the supposedly approaching “Singularity.” Here’s a quote from a Time story about the Singularity that I covered here:

For [Raymond] Kurzweil, it’s not so much about staying healthy as long as possible; it’s about staying alive until the Singularity. It’s an attempted handoff. Once hyper-intelligent artificial intelligences arise, armed with advanced nanotechnology, they’ll really be able to wrestle with the vastly complex, systemic problems associated with aging in humans. Alternatively, by then we’ll be able to transfer our minds to sturdier vessels such as computers and robots. He and many other Singularitarians take seriously the proposition that many people who are alive today will wind up being functionally immortal.

I won’t argue the bad theology behind the prediction about th supposed Second Coming because that isn’t what we’re about. But I would like to raise a bit of a subversive question: Isn’t the transhumanist “Singularity” merely a materialist version of the Rapture? Or at least, aren’t the same impetuses at work?

Consider:

  • The Rapture is supposed to occur at a specific moment in time. Ditto, the Singularity.
  • Belief in the Rapture generally rests on faith, which the author of Hebrews defines as ” the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” So is the Singularity, at least using that definition of faith.
  • Believers in the Rapture accept religion. Believers in the Singularity accept the quasi religion of materialistic scientism.
  • The Rapture gives many believers hope that death will be ultimately defeated. The same is true for believers in the Singularity.
  • The Rapture is supposed to herald in a new age. So is the Singularity.
  • The Rapture is supposed to eventually usher in a world of pure peace and harmony. So too, the Singularity. Indeed, a huge purpose behind transhumanism is to banish suffering and want from the experience of life.
  • The Rapture is expected to restore Eden in which the lion will lay down with the lamb, e.g. an end to predation and strife. Likewise, the Singularity, at least for some transhumanists, who believe that hyper technology will eventually allow animals to be “uplifted” into a state of moral agency, or even as I heard ubber transhumanist George Dvorsky say at a conference, putting their enhanced animal minds into computers.
  • The Rapture is prophesied to result in Christians receiving “glorified” bodies that will be immortal. Prophets for the Singularity also promise such bodies. Indeed, Princeton biologist Lee Silver predicted in Remaking Eden that we would one day be transformed by technology into pure mental beings with unlimited capacities.

So all you transhumanists who believe in the Singularity and chuckle about Final Saturday, it seems to me that you live in a glass house and shouldn’t throw stones.

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