Accepted paper:

Cosmology and transhumanism, Mormons and utopia


Jon Bialecki (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing the 19th century Mormon utopian tradition, and literature on the relation between the Mormon church, science, and cosmology, this paper asks whether the recent interest of some Mormons in transhumanism and entropy can be thought of as a return of the Mormon utopian imaginary.

Paper long abstract:

There are several distinctives to the Latter Day Saints, or "Mormons": Emphases on continuing revelation, on the cosmological as opposed to the eschatological, and on materiality as opposed to transcendence, all work in combination to make the LDS a unique form of American religiosity. Nineteenth century Mormons were also distinct in that they strove to create a utopia situated not in some future moment or transcendent sphere, but rather on American soil. Both Joseph Smith's various attempts at building 'Zion' in the American frontier, and Brigham Young's State of Deseret, can be understood not only as expressions of the Mormon Cosmological imaginary, but also as perfectible intentional communities, with different conceptions of property, authority, and even space. Mormon cosmology has also had effects in another field: many of the same traits that gave rise to nineteenth century Mormon utopian projects have also fostered an attitude towards science and technology distinct from that found in American Protestantism. Recently, some members of the LDS have become interested in transhumanism, arguing that the technological overcoming of the limitations of biological humanity is not only consonant with Mormon religion, but is the purest expression of it. Building on literature on the LDS and science, this essay asks whether a recent growing interest in transhumanism can be understood as a return to a Mormon utopian project. Often already framed as crypto-religious and utopian when adopted by humanists, what does it mean when transhumanism is adopted by a religion with utopian cosmology?

panel P04
Architects of utopia