How should rationalist futurists regard movements promoting religion, spirituality, and faith?
Rationalist futurists share a profound respect for the potential of science, engineering, and critical thinking to improve the human condition. New technology places power in our hands which formerly would be regarded as miraculous, divine, or the preserve of gods.
But rationalist futurists differ markedly among themselves in their attitudes towards movements that promote religion, spirituality, and faith.
Given the power and influence of these movements, some critically important questions deserve attention:
• Should rational futurists ignore, sidestep, oppose, imitate, collaborate with, reason with, or seek to merge with or transform those movements?
• Are there elements of religion, spirituality, and faith which can (and perhaps should) usefully be combined into futurist, techno-progressive, and transhumanist projects?
• Or are the notions of religion, spirituality, and faith too tied up with irrationalism and the denial of personal responsibility?
This meeting will hear a number of short presentations from panellists - Carl Youngblood, Gennaro Giannini, Imtiaz Salam, and Giulio Prisco - who cover a range of key opinions. There will then be time for contributions from the floor, Q&A, and group discussion.
About Carl Youngblood:
Carl has been an avid technology enthusiast since early childhood, and has been earning a living as a software engineer since 1997. He was a Mormon missionary for two years in Brazil, where his newfound aptitude for language led him to eventually get a degree in Portuguese from Brigham Young University, and later a masters in Computer Science from the University of Washington.
Carl's struggle to apply his faith meaningfully in today's rapidly-changing world led him to co-found The Mormon Transhumanist Association (http://transfigurism.org/) in 2006, where he currently serves as a director. Carl is passionate about science, technology, religion, philosophy and the performing arts.
The secularisation hypothesis is now showing signs of age. Though religion is experiencing rapid change and upheaval, rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated.
I will share a brief survey of some salient features of religion and the forms it has taken throughout history, as well as some of its (perhaps surprising) manifestations today. A successful transition to posthumanity will not occur without greater awareness of and accommodation for human religiosity, which (I will argue) is one of our most powerful social technologies.
About Gennaro Giannini:
Gennaro is a passionate rationalist based in London.
I will talk about how the world really works, and why there's no place in it for religion or mystical philosophy - forces which have slowed down scientific and humanitarian progress.
About Imtiaz Salam:
Imtiaz Salam has a strong background in science, technology and social movements since his childhood, and has been actively working in these areas for over 6 years. As a partner at a solar energy company, he works on deploying high concentration solar power plants. His personal struggle with anti-intellectualism and anti-entrepreneurship in some facets of his community pushed him to found Tackle: London, an organisation that helped >900 students with long term direction, and was awarded “TimeBank’s Most Innovative Volunteering Project” in 2009.
Imtiaz had been an advocate of Science and Islam from an early age as a Muslim. After leaving his religion, he built an underground railroad, of sorts, for others. The movement he started has grown across the UK and has helped hundreds with issues including coming out of the closet (religion wise), safe havens to stay, people to talk to etc. The movement has also played a part in helping Muslims and non-Muslims to reach common grounds.
The Muslim world is changing, and with it comes new challenges and opportunities, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Futurists cannot ignore these developments.
How will an intellectually, culturally and religiously diverse demographic deal with developments in transhumanism, the technological singularity and education? I will share the views of Muslims (from various philosophies) and apostates of Islam. I will also briefly outline the growing challenge to traditional Muslim thinking posed by progressive Muslims (particularly Quranites & secular Muslims) and apostates, and how this could play out in the mix of technological development.
About Giulio Prisco:
Giulio Prisco is a writer, technology expert, futurist, cosmist, and transhumanist. A former manager in European science and technology centres, he writes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including science, information technology, emerging technologies, virtual worlds, space exploration and future studies. He is especially interested in the convergence of science, religion, technology, and spirituality.
I will argue that future science may achieve all the promises of religion, including benevolent gods and resurrection, and that a worldview informed by this possibility offers the same mental benefits of religion, while at the same time being based on and fully compatible with science.
2pm-4pm, Saturday 21st September
Venue: Room 541, Birkbeck College (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/maps), Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London.
Room 541 is on the 5th floor in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.
Coffee and other light refreshments can be purchased from the Costa Coffee shop in the reception area of the building, either ahead of or after the meeting.
The event will be followed by a chance to continue the discussion in a nearby pub - The Marlborough Arms (http://www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub-food/marlborough-arms-bloomsbury/pid-C7440), 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ
Optional pre-meeting rendezvous - please feel free to join a small number of regular London Futurist attendees at the Marlborough Arms any time from 12.30pm onwards, for general chat over a light lunch and/or drinks. To find us, look out for a table with a futurist book on it.
Covering meeting costs:
A small fee (£5) is payable to attend this meetup. This fee covers room costs. Please pay in advance, online.
This will be refunded if the meeting is cancelled or rearranged, or if the attendee cancels at least 3 days before the meetup.
Alternatively, if there are still seats available, payment can be made in cash at the door on the day. (Requesting payment in advance assists with accurate planning of the event.)
Journalists are welcome to attend the meeting free-of-charge - please contact the organiser, notifying us in advance of your plans to attend.