The Singularity Movement, Screwtape, and the Hope of Immortality

Unknown-4The February 2011 cover of Time Magazine pictures a human head connected to a metal cable. “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal*,” reads the caption. The asterisk directs the reader’s eye to this caption: “*If you believe humans and machines will become one. Welcome to the Singularity Movement.” The hope for immortality is nothing new. The belief however that science will usher in such a reality is unique to the modern age. It is the myth of progress run amok. The idea that there is no upper bound to human achievement smacks of human pride and arrogance. [1]

And if pride is, as Christianity teaches, the chief sin of both man and fallen angels, then one might suspect some devilry behind the scenes. As it turns out, a transcript of letters amongst our underworldly hosts has been intercepted. These letters reveal a diabolical plot to keep us humans around for as long as possible. The incriminating lines are listed below (the letter is written to Wormwood who seems to be some kind of devil-in-training. It is from a senior devil named Screwtape):

The truth is that the Enemy [God], having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unraveling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth.[2]

Screwtape seems to think the longer man lives on earth, the more opportunities there are for “wearing out a soul by attrition.”[3] The longer we live the more attached we become to this world and, Screwtape reasons, the less likely we are to be “taken out of ourselves” and live for another.

Well if man were to achieve immortality on his own terms, he certainly would be attached to this world. And why begrudge him? Life is not perfect, but there are enough pleasures and distractions to keep us entertained for more than the normal allotment of time. Why leave the party early if there is the chance of an all-nighter?

The problem with the man-made attempt at immortality is that it is a façade. The myth that we are, or can become, autonomous is foolish. At every moment, every breath we take, every beauty we perceive, every morsel we receive is a gift from a God who lovingly sustains and cares for us.

Moreover, this life is not the whole show. As C. S. Lewis puts it, life on earth is “Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”[4]

Why settle for immortality on man’s terms, when eternal life is on offer? The good news is that one day man will be transformed into a flourishing embodied agent rather than a machine-human cyborg. In eternity, those who trust in Jesus will love, serve, and live forever in God’s loving care and kingdom. This is the true immortality we all long for beneath the superficial “this worldly” immortality of the Singularity movement. In comparison to Heaven, the Singularity movement’s vision of eternity is closer to Hell.

For more on eternity see my post: Plato, The End of Narnia, and Eternity.

 

[1] The singularity movement also illustrates how pride leads to intellectual blindness. A quick scan of webpages such as www.2045.com, with their slick charts, timetables toward immortality, and confident proclamations, seem, to this outsider, to be utter foolishness. Or again: there is no way the Singularity movement will meet their stated goals for the simple reason that the kinds of human/machine integrations envisioned are simply not metaphysically possible given the fact that man is not a purely physical being.

[2] C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Westwood, NJ: Barbour Books, 1941), 143–4. Obviously, I am speaking in jest. These letters are purely fictitious, written by the brilliant C. S. Lewis.

 [3] Ibid., 143.

[4] C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1984 edition), 211. Lewis is speaking here of the end of Narnia, but clearly, the truth he alludes to is eternal life in Heaven, as envisioned by Christianity.

3 Responses to The Singularity Movement, Screwtape, and the Hope of Immortality

  1. Pingback: Human beings: Self-creators, self-shapers, or determined? | Paul Gould

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