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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Unitarian Universalist bloggers.

A round-up of recent blogging by Unitarian Universalists:

  • The Rev. Charlie Ortman, the new UUA trustee from the Metro New York District, keeps a trustee's blog!

  • "Gomi Girl" writes movingly about joining a Unitarian Universalist church in Florida (second item, dated 9.14.03):

    It's not as easy as it sounds. A lot of our members, like me, came from highly religious, structured backgrounds. Years of questioning our faith, wondering if we're going to hell, feeling alone and uncomfortable in our skins. Becoming a UU is a lot like coming out of the closet. It's a painful process of admitting that maybe - just maybe - the "road to salvation" is not what our parents told us. Not what our friends told us. Not what the TelEvangelist with the stereotypical Southern Dialect told us. It's hard to admit that maybe we were mislead by the people who cared about us most.

  • The author of "Across, Beyond, Through" explains the distinctive autobiographical roots of his blog's name.

  • Heather Janules ("The Chrysalis") observes that "some of our [congregational] disconnect with people from a working-class culture might stem from our religious pluralism".

  • David Soliday ("Facilitating Paradox") discovers the rub in the old joke that the UCC stands for "Unitarians Considering Christ".

  • Richard Hurst ("Universalist Sundays") has lots of good stuff: The Jehovah's Witness have Prince, but "all the Unitarians get is ... Pete Seeger." Plus, he launches into an interesting dialogue about homosexuality and Christianity.

  • And what has Will Shetterly been up to? His new novel will include portions set in the time of Jesus!

  • John K. Davis, who says he is now blogging full-time, had lunch with the Rev. Tom Owen-Towle— who I did not know is a magician! — but I'm willing to wager that Davis's Transhumanist Unitarian Universalist Network isn't the next big thing.

    If you are a Unitarian Universalist — or religious liberal — with a blog that discusses your religion, drop me a line — and consider listing your blog at UU Blogs.


    I am now maintaining an annotated directory of Unitarian Universalist bloggers.

    Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 22 October 2003 at 6:03 PM

    Previous: Gini Courter elected interim UUA moderator.
    Next: Elliott Smith.

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    Matthew Gatheringwater:

    October 23, 2003 01:09 PM | Permalink for this comment

    I'll take that bet.

    I've been following transhumanism for some time now and I think one could make two arguments in its favor as an emerging world view compatible with UUism. First, it strikes me as essentially a religious movement, with even a hint of millienialistic fervor. (Transhumanists await the singularity, not the Messiah.) And, despite the name, I'd say transhumananism is a distinctively humanistic worldview. Second, by forcing us to re-examine just how we define humanity, transhumanism seems to me to be in line with the liberal religious tradition of recognizing more and more types and conditions of people as fully human.


    October 23, 2003 02:36 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Say more, Matthew. I'm an anti-utopian liberal — and I especially distrust "scientific millenialism" — so I am pretty much relentlessly suspicious of proposals that involve the radical transformations of human beings. I could be mistaken about what "transhumanism" means, but the expense — and therefore the radically unequal availability of technological "enhancements" — would seem to mean that the technologies could only intensify the differences between rich and poor. We have barely reached the point where every human being is considered fully human; it boggles my mind how we'll make ethical sense of the divide between the merely human and the superlatively human.

    But I'm not overly concerned. When I was a kid, I thought we'd all be living in space stations by now. I don't even have cable TV, much less my own hydrogen-powered hovercraft or holographic telephone. The revolution sure is a long time coming, no matter how often I sing "Wonders still the world shall witness". . .

    John K. Davis:

    October 25, 2003 12:36 PM | Permalink for this comment

    I respect your skepticism, Philocrities, but I do want to provide a different perspective concerning the "radically unequal availability" issue you raise. Many transhumanist are working to prevent this disparity. Transhumanists are very active in the open source movement. Many of the transhumanist scientists working on molecular engineering foresee a time in the not-too-distant future when nanotechnology will provide any material object at minimal cost, thus eliminating economic disparity between "humans." Transhumanists are moving effectively toward a more just system.

    The ethical divide may be of no consequence to those who choose to forgo enhancement. Evolution has made us more humane, more loving, more appreciative of beauty, truth and justice. Why would not a highly-evolved human be even more compassionate than we?

    Accelerating change is transforming our reality. Your linear time scale is no longer rational despite its intuitive appeal. Transhumanism may very well be the next big thing among Unitarian Universalists.


    October 25, 2003 06:42 PM | Permalink for this comment

    I don't think that evolution has made us more compassionate; that's a cultural-ethical achievement, not a biological one, at least in most of the senses that matter to us. And our scientific-technological advances haven't improved our ethics in the slightest, although it has made us more efficient in just about everything — for good or ill — that we do.

    It seems to me that there are so many basic justice issues in the world that are so much higher on the agenda — food, medicine, sanitation, and education for starters — that tinkering with human biology just strikes me as untimely and unlikely to make anything better for most people.

    John K. Davis:

    October 25, 2003 08:16 PM | Permalink for this comment

    So, I take from this statement that you do not see culture or ethics as a tool in the evolutionary process. Did evolution begin with biology? It is my understanding that in this local time/space biology came along quite recently and continued the acceleration of evolution at the cutting edge toward the development of thinking organisms...

    These life forms evolved at the cutting edge toward conscious animals, and they toward human beings. Humans invented a new methodology, technology, to speed the process of evolution at the cutting edge toward a higher, more powerful and complete entity capable of unfathomable intellectual acuity able to manipulate matter at will and probably with the motivation to do so with profound compassion and sensitivity.

    We have not yet finished this process of creation, our mind children have yet to be born, but we are getting close and are beginning to understand that something quite remarkable will soon occur. This is developmental evolution, Chris. It is all part of the process. We are not the end all and be all of existence, but we are playing a pivotal role. And, it just might be possible for us to transcend our biological roots and move with our progeny into a new reality and beyond.

    * our scientific-technological advances haven't improved our ethics
    * in the slightest, although it has made us more efficient in just
    * about everything -- for good or ill -- that we do.

    Can it be true that you do not think technology has assisted in improving our ethics? It was only 200 years ago when the overwhelming percentage of the human population was focused on survival with little time for ethical enhancement. For 150,000 generations our progenitors struggled to eek out a living, raise children to adulthood and die with dignity relatively young. I would argue that technology (transportation, reading, printing, electronics...) more than any other factor is responsible for our advancement as an ethical species. I suspect we will pass the baton to those who are far more refined in this area than we.

    * food,

    Agribusiness is providing nourishment for a far greater percentage of the world's population when compared with the relative simplicity of farming, but both are technologies. Nanotechnology will eliminate farming and ranching while making epicurean delights as available as the air we breathe.

    * medicine,

    Need I detail the technological advances in medicine that are available to most of the world's population? Need I point out the rapid increase in life expectancy that technology has brought to every culture on earth?

    * sanitation,

    If cleanliness is next to godliness, then technology is divine.

    and education

    What did the education technology of language offer to the evolutionary process? Printing? Radio? Television? The Internet?

    * tinkering with human biology just strikes me as untimely and
    * unlikely to make anything better for most people.

    OK. I will honor your opinion and defend your right to decline enhancement. Will you honor me and defend my right to accept enhancement?

    Chris replied via email:

    Your confidence in evolution's "goal" is a faith-stance I just don't share, and don't find philosophically or scientifically plausible. But I think that's a conversation that I hope people will migrate over to your site to discuss.
    As for whether people have a "right" to seek enhancement: People have the right to mobilize politically to pursue their goals and interests, and I of course salute your right to promote "transhumanism." But since that really only means, at this point, the promotion of biomedical technologies that may clash with other public priorities and ethical values, I can't say that I'll support them. Warm regards...

    And we end, for now, with my post here:

    It's so UU of us, Chris, agreeing to disagree and all.

    Your position is far more prevalent than is mine and you are in good company. But my company is not bad either. The conversation will intensify as things accelerate forward and in the end I hope that those who evolve will provide well for those who prefer death. The survivors will mourn, and life will go on.

    Best wishes...

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