Evangelical Lutheran
Theological Faculty
Comenius University Bratislava

The Future of Imago Dei Theologies in the Context of the New Challenges of Transhumanism: A Central European Perspective

The Future of Imago Dei Theologies in the Context of the New Challenges of Transhumanism: A Central European Perspective

INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH PROJECT

supported by the University of Oxford project

'New Horizons for Science and Religion in Central and Eastern Europe'

funded by the John Templeton Foundation

 

Leading Investigator:

prof. Dr. Michal Valco, PhD. (Department of Church History)

Comenius University in Bratislava, Evangelical Lutheran Theological Faculty (ELTF)

 

Participating researchers from ELTF: assoc. prof. Katarina Valcova, PhD. (Department of Practical Theology)

Milan Jurik, PhD. (Dean of the Faculty, Department of Practical Theology)

Radoslav Hanus, PhD. (Chair of the Department of Church History)

 

Grant Administrator:

The Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion University of Oxford (Administrator of the Grant for Central and Eastern Europe) https://cee.ianramseycentre.ox.ac.uk/about

 

Participating Domestic and International Institutions (by virtue of researchers’ involved):

Ovidius University of Constanta, Orthodox Theological Faculty

University of Ljubljana, Catholic Theological Faculty

Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences in Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnam National University in Hanoi, University of Social Sciences and Humanities

Charles University in Prague, Hussite Theological Faculty

JP II University in Krakow, Philosophical Faculty

University of Zagreb, Catholic Theological Faculty

University of Presov in Presov, Greek-Catholic Theological Faculty

 

Project’s Annotation (Executive Summary)

Human societies are facing radically new types of challenges stemming from a rapid scientific-technological development, especially in the areas of Artificial Intelligence and biotechnologies. The movement of Transhumanism constitutes an unparalleled challenge not only to technological experts and policymakers but also to ethicists, social scientists, philosophers, and theologians. Our project will explore the corresponding shifts in perspectives from Imago Dei theological anthropologies to secular humanism and finally transhumanism in contemporary philosophical, ethical, and even theological discourses. Importantly, we will conduct our mapping, analyzing, comparisons, and critical reflections against the background of our own socio-political and historical experience as a Central European, post-totalitarian nation. We will explore how our complicated and painful history and its corresponding metanarrative

frameworks influence attitudes, behaviors, and reflection on said topics in comparison with ‘typical’ answers that we see in relevant literature in the West. Our research will identify and analyze these challenges against the background of the most relevant aspects and articulations of the classical Christian doctrine of imago Dei understood in connection with relational Trinitarianism’s emphasis on the relational aspect of personhood. Transhumanism is depicted as an expression of the innate human desire to excel, to develop one’s faculties and abilities to become better adapted to face adversities of the outside environment. It is also presented as a potentially proud attempt to become more independent, invulnerable, and even immortal. We wish to discuss these issues among scholars but also with non-academicians, as we believe an informed discussion can help people cope with this new challenge. Our emphasis will be on international networking and engaging people from beyond the academia through colloquies, and seminars, online resources, and published works. Our ambition is to create a network of cooperating institutions that will continue working after the project ends.

 

The “Big Questions” our Project wishes to address:

Examples of the main, BIG questions the project will address are: How should we conceive of the ‘nature’ of the human being and of human personhood in ‘the age of the cyborg’? Can the traditional/mainstream Christian theological notions of human uniqueness or distinctiveness be maintained in the face of these developments, or should they be abandoned or radically reinterpreted/reformed? Is there/should there be a Christian theology of transhumanism, or even posthumanist theology? Do ‘green’ and ‘creaturely’ theologies offer better hermeneutical starting points for interpreting human-machine relationships than the traditional Christian imago Dei anthropologies? Do scientific theories or environmental philosophies offer more appropriate and theoretically more successful conceptual frameworks or resources to address this challenge? Or should we rather adopt a secular vision of reality and relegate the human to the Marxist category of homo faber? How did the 40-year experience of communist totalitarianism influence the perspective of scientists and researchers in Slovakia (and other participating countries) on our research topic? How should we understand human personhood in the light of these new challenges? How do we justify / ground human dignity if we adopt a transhumanist vision of the world and human nature (or of being human in the world)? How does one approach these questions relative to one’s metanarrative framework (i.e. theistic vs. atheistic; immanent vs. transcendent etc.) and concrete historical experience?