18 July 2008

Humans, chimeras, humility

Many bioconservatives are addicted to a notion of humanness that is very specific to Judeo-Christianity. [But] when you look at India and Thailand, Japan, Korea and China, and you ask should parents be able to use biotechnology to make their children more virtuous or more intelligent?, the vast majority in those countries say yes. But in Europe and North America people are very pessimistic. And that’s largely because of the Judeo-Christian hangover that there's a certain humanness was created by God at the beginning of time, and by playing around with this you’re playing God. There are natural boundaries beyond which it’s hubris to go. And those are western problems, for the most part. In eastern cultures you don’t have that problem. You have chimeric gods in Hinduism which are half-human, half-animal. In Buddhism you have the implicitly notion that humans can become more than the gods, achieve greater states of mind and physical abilities than the gods.
--James Hughes in conversation [1] on existential threats at Buddhist Geeks.

Yes, but hubris (ὕβρις) predates Judeo-Christianity. The word comes from a culture that had no problem imagining chimeric beings and gods that could take animal forms but still thought Man could over reach with terrible consequences. [2]
Who are most humble? Those who most skillfully prepare for the deepest and most catastrophic errors in their own beliefs and plans.
-- from the Twelve Virtues of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky.


1. this is a rough transcript, not verbatim.

2. In Shame and Necessity, Bernard Williams argues that the basic ethical ideas possessed by the ancient Greeks were "in better condition" than modern ones

No comments: