A Quest for Immortality – A Pelagian Quest
Ever since Isaac Newton discovered gravity and subsequently initiated the unfolding of modern science, mankind, supported by both modern science and modern philosophy, has been on a quest for (man-made) immortality. As science began to develop cures for human ailments and diseases, it was only (and obviously to the modern intellect) a matter of time and inevitable progress, that the ultimate disease, death, would be overcome and human immortality would be achieved. Science and technology became the “hope” and therefore “faith”, supported by philanthropy (“charity”) to replace “superstitious” (supposedly) “foolish” religious faith.
Pelagianism is a 4th century heresy that purposes that man can formulate his own salvation through acquired virtue, in opposition to salvation through graced virtue. Lifting oneself by one’s own bootstraps so to speak. We cannot elevate ourselves, only God can elevate us to our ultimate happiness. We can maintain a level and progressively good existence on the temporal plan, below the horizon of eternity, but we can get ourselves to heaven.
Transcendence, according to modern philosophy, is human consciousness. “I think therefore I am.” With this moment of philosophical insight Rene Descartes (1596-1650), gave birth to modern philosophy. With this starting point, that the only certitude was that of the thinking self, philosophy historically pursued the quest for human self-sufficiency. If we can only be certain of the subjective self and it thinking, then the only hope would be of that self, and subsequently any and other thinking selves, thinking its way to full understanding of reality and existence. Although Descartes’ starting point of the thinking self was within his proof of God; that the certitude of self presupposes a certitude of non-self-origin: “I think, therefore I exist; my thinking does not have within it a recollection of my origin, therefore that which religions call God must be my origin. This presupposition, however, was secondary to the primary certitude of the subjective self, here and now, post origin.
Human Consciousness, therefore, according to modern philosophy, is the only certain transcendence of material existence. It is a transcendence of the sensible (sense perceptible/material) world. It is a trans-sensible transcendence. The mind, in other words, is beyond our material existence. This obviously leads (reverts back to) to the idea that reality only exists in the mind or consciousness of the thinking-self. All of the problems of humanity, the afflictions, poverty, conflict, morality, even prosperity and wealth, are resident in material existence. With the advent of modern science, all of the things of human existence could be overcome, even the temporary contentment of prosperity, which modern philosophy knows is only an illusion. The ultimate goal, therefore, would be the preservation of human consciousness; to find a way, through science and technology, to capture human consciousness at the moment of material non-existence (i.e. death) and redeposit the trans-sensible (human consciousness) in a future material containment (i.e. a body.) The irony, as all forms of modern philosophy have an intrinsic self-contradiction, is that although it does not give certitude to material existence (only the thinking-self,) the modernists yearn for a continual material existence; immortal consciousness being incomplete or seemingly unsatisfactory.
For those of you of a religious faith, the idea of human consciousness may seem simply to be the human soul. The modernists, however, reject anything of a supernatural concept and understand consciousness as a function of the human brain. Therein we find their dissatisfaction with consciousness without material, bodily containment. Consciousness, originating in a created, material being, therefore needs the material containment and its neurological brain to activate it. The preservation of consciousness therefore, in scientific/technological capabilities is merely “storage” of consciousness until such time that a new “body” can be developed to receive and activate the trans-sensible to begin “operating” again in the material reality of existence. The idea of an immortal soul, capable of existence outside of material reality (for them material reality is the only reality) is absurd. Therefore when modern philosophy reaches its limits and yet encounters the human soul and hence the supernatural realm in which it exists, the modernists have to deal with the encounter within their boundaries of reality. Consciousness (their limited acceptance of the soul) is trans-sensible material-dependent and anything (everything) material-dependent is science-dependent.
The consequence of all of this is that modernity’s quest for immortality presupposes and has a (seemingly) convincing case for the rejection of religious faith and the existence of God. The premise of this argument is that if there is a God, as the religious believer describes God, that he is all knowing, all loving, and all powerful, then there would be no human problems of affliction and suffering. The religious God would know of the suffering, and because of his love for humanity he would use his power to overcome it. Such is the mystery of suffering; it leads the believer to a stronger faith and the unbeliever to a stronger unbelief. A clear portrayal of modern “faith” in science and technology is the recent movie (2014) Interstellar. It could be said that all “space” movies are born of the Pelagian quest for immortality, but for the most part these ideas are implicit and therefore very enticing to the susceptible inquiring mind of the average person. In the movie Interstellar these modernists-pelagian concepts are explicitly expressed in two statements; one in the overall science that is expressed and in a brief statement by one of the characters that “Someday, someone, will figure it out.” The it is the problem of human existence in continuum. the science is explicitly pursuing a “new world” on which to re-populate humanity given the “obvious” notion that humanity is progressing towards its own annihilation; while at the same time (sane) scientists are progressing towards the “salvation” of humanity. The movie portrays the first step in the progress of the latter, which is time-transcendence, commonly known since the birth of science fiction as time travel. To move forward and/or backwards in time, with advanced science and technology “in-tow” will be necessary (or at least convenient) to humanist salvation. Interstellar is a well-made movie and well worth watching, but only with an eye for the modernist manifesto.
Another, yet non-fiction, example, which inspired this post, is a series of articles called Chasing Immortality in the New York Times (where else,) centered on the work being done at the Brain Preservation Foundation, [“faith in science, hope in science, and charity supporting science”.]
The irony is that faith in science has the same template as faith in God; but with faith in God we know that science belongs to God.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.” (Hebrews 11:1)
The same can be said of science.