Department of Philosophy
William Paterson University
Journal of Evolution and Technology
Vol. 20 Issue 1 - pgs 1-22
Omega Point Theology
Being Used As Framework For 'Christian' Transhumanism
Tomorrow's Nephilim As Spiritual Leaders Of New
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was among the
first to give serious consideration to the future of human
evolution. His work advocates both biotechnologies (e.g., genetic
engineering) and intelligence technologies. He discusses the
emergence of a global computation-communication system (and is said by some to have been
the first to have envisioned
the development of a global society.
Teilhard is almost surely the first to
discuss the acceleration of
technological progress to a Singularity
in which human intelligence will become super-intelligence. He
discusses the spread of human intelligence into the universe and its
amplification into a cosmic intelligence. More recently, his work
has been taken up by Barrow and Tipler; Tipler; Moravec; and
Of course, Teilhard’s
Omega Point Theory is deeply
Christian, which may be difficult for secular transhumanists.
transhumanism cannot avoid a fateful
engagement with Christianity. Christian institutions may support or
oppose transhumanism. Since Christianity is an extremely powerful
cultural force in the West, it is imperative for transhumanism to
engage it carefully.
A serious study of Teilhard can help
that engagement and will thus be rewarding to both communities.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a Jesuit
paleontologist. He combined his scientific study of
the fossil record with his Christian faith to produce a general
theory of evolution. Teilhard’s body of work has much to offer
transhumanists, who advocate the use of technology to enhance human
capacities and see current human beings as in transition to
There are several specific reasons for
transhumanists to study Teilhard’s work.
The first reason is that Teilhard was one of the first to articulate
transhumanist themes. Transhumanists advocate the ethical use of
technology for human enhancement. Teilhard's writing likewise argues
for the ethical application of technology in order to advance
humanity beyond the limitations of natural biology. Teilhard
explicitly argues for the use of both bio-technologies (e.g.,
genetic engineering) and intelligence technologies, and develops
several other themes often found in transhumanist writings.
He discusses the emergence of a global
computation-communication system, and is said by some to have been
the first to have envisioned the Internet (Kreisberg, 1995). He
advocates the development of an egalitarian global society. He was
almost certainly the first to discuss the acceleration of
technological progress to a kind of Singularity in which human
intelligence will become super-intelligence.
He discusses the spread of human
intelligence into the universe and its amplification into a
The second reason for transhumanists to study Teilhard is that his
thought has influenced transhumanism itself. In particular, Teilhard
develops an Omega Point Theory.
An Omega Point Theory (OPT) claims
that the universe is evolving towards a godlike final state.
Teilhard’s OPT was later refined and developed by Barrow and Tipler
(1986) and by Tipler alone (1988; 1995).
Ideas from the Barrow-Tipler OPT were,
in turn, taken up by many transhumanists (see, for example, Moravec
(1988; 2000) and Dewdney (1998)). Kurzweil also articulates a
somewhat weaker OPT.
“evolution moves inexorably toward
our conception of God, albeit never reaching this ideal”
(2005: 476; see also 375,
Many transhumanists work within the
conceptual architecture of Teilhard’s OPT without being aware of its
origins. Indeed, Teilhard is mostly ignored in the histories of
transhumanism; e.g., he is mentioned once and only in passing in
Bostrom’s (2005) detailed history of the transhumanist movement.
The third reason for transhumanists to study Teilhard is that he
develops his transhumanist ideas within a Christian context.
Teilhard shows how one might develop a Christian transhumanism.
Although some secular transhumanists may be inclined to react
negatively to any mention of Christianity, such hostility may prove
Transhumanism and Christianity are not
They share some common themes (Hopkins,
2005). Of course, it is understandable that many transhumanists
reject the superstitious aspects of Christian doctrine and the
authoritarian aspects of Christian institutions. Likewise, Teilhard
wants to abandon those aspects of Christianity. He argues that
Christ is at work in evolution, that Christ is at work in
technology, and that the work of Christ ultimately aims at the
perfection of human biology. Christianity is a complex network of
doctrines and institutions.
A study of Teilhard can help
transhumanists to locate and carefully cultivate friends in that
network and to locate, and carefully defend against, opponents.
The fourth reason for transhumanists to study Teilhard is that they
are likely to need to defend themselves against conservative forms
of Christianity. The dominant forms of Christianity today (at least
in the USA) are conservative. As the cultural visibility of
transhumanism grows, conservative Christians will increasingly pay
it their attention.
They may feel increasingly threatened by
transhumanism and come to see it as a heresy (Bainbridge, 2005).
Various conservative Christians have already opposed transhumanism (Wiker,
2003; Hook, 2004; Daly, 2004; Hart, 2005). Since Christianity is an
extremely powerful cultural force in the West, it is imperative for
transhumanism to engage it carefully.
Conservative Christian forces have
already opposed various biotechnologies (such as embryonic stem cell
research and cloning) and may oppose all the enhancement techniques
that transhumanists advocate. Conservative Christianity currently
has the political power to effectively shut transhumanism down in
Teilhard was attacked by conservative Catholics, and
transhumanists may have to fight similar battles over similar
issues. And yet Teilhard gained a surprisingly large following both
within and beyond the church.
A study of his work can help
transhumanists develop nuanced strategies for defending against
attacks from conservative Christians.
The fifth reason for transhumanists to study Teilhard is that they
may want to build bridges to liberal and progressive forms of
Christianity. Teilhard believed that science and technology have
positive roles to play in building the City of God in this world.
A study of Teilhard’s work may help
transhumanists to explore the ways that transhumanism can obtain
from Christian millenarianism (see Bozeman, 1997; Noble,
from Irenaean and neo-Irenaean theodicies
(see Hick, 1977; Walker, Undated)
from liberal Protestantism (see
from process theology (see Cobb and Griffin,
Teilhard believed that everyone has a
right to enter the kingdom of heaven – it isn’t reserved for any
special sexual, racial, or economic elite.
A study of Teilhard’s
writings can help transhumanism embrace a deep conception of social
justice and expand its conception of social concern (see Garner,
2005). A study of Teilhard can help transhumanists make beneficial
conceptual, and even political, connections to progressive Christian
My goal in this paper is to present the thought of Teilhard de
Chardin in a way that is defensible and accessible to transhumanists.
Teilhard was working in the early twentieth century, at a time when
biology was primitive and computer science non-existent. Many of his
ideas are presented in a nineteenth-century vocabulary that is now
My method is to present these ideas in a
charitable way using a contemporary conceptual vocabulary, and to
show how they have been refined by transhumanists such as Tipler,
Moravec, and Kurzweil. One might say this paper offers a
transhumanist reading of Teilhard or even a Teilhardian
transhumanism. Since I make extensive use of computational
ideas, I am offering a computational model of Teilhard’s thought.
I thereby hope to make his ideas
accessible and to encourage further study of Teilhard among
Teilhard produced an extensive body of
work that may be of interest to them; there is also an
enormous secondary literature on Teilhard, much of which may be of
great interest to transhumanists.
2.1 Complexity and logical depth
Physical things can be compared
in terms of their size, mass, and so on. But they can also be
compared in terms of their complexity. Complexity is an objective
physical property and the scale of complexities is an objective
the complexity of a thing... [is]
the quality the thing possesses of being composed (a) of a
larger number of elements, which are (b) more tightly organized
among themselves.... [Complexity depends] not only on the number
and diversity of the elements included in each case, but at
least as much on the number and correlative variety of the links
formed between these elements.
The Future of
Man, page 98; henceforth abbreviated FUT.)
A first refinement of Teilhard’s thought
requires that we update his definition of complexity.
We can define
the complexity of an object as the amount of computational work it
takes to simulate the object. It takes a more powerful computer to
simulate a more complex object. Bennett (1990) makes this idea more
precise by defining complexity as logical depth.
Logical depth = Execution time
required to generate the object in question by a
near-incompressible universal computer program, i.e., one not
itself computable as output of a significantly more concise
program.... Logically deep objects... contain internal evidence
of having been the result of a long computation or
slow-to-simulate dynamical process.
(Bennett, 1990: 142.)
Teilhard observes that increasingly
complex systems are emerging in our universe over time.
We can plot this emergence on a graph
with two axes: a time axis and a complexity axis (Teilhard, 1973,
“My fundamental vision” in
Towards the Future, page 166; henceforth abbreviated
Teilhard refers to the emergence of increasingly complex systems as
complexification. Today we are more likely to talk about
self-organization. But the idea is the same.
According to Bennett, we should expect
more complex objects to appear later in any evolutionary process.
Teilhard would agree.
2.2 The Law of Complexity – Computation
Teilhard correctly observes that
the evolution of increasingly complex living things on Earth goes
hand in hand with the evolution of increasing mental powers. He uses
the term consciousness to designate any kind of mental activity.
thus infers from the history of life on Earth that degrees of
complexity correspond to degrees of consciousness.
This is Teilhard’s Law of Complexity
“Whatever instance we may think of,
we may be sure that everytime a richer and better organized
structure will correspond to the more developed consciousness”
of Man, pages 60-61, 301; henceforth abbreviated PHEN)
At the time Teilhard was writing, many
thinkers believed that all material things had some degree of
mentality. The doctrine that all material things have some mental
activity is panpsychism.
Teilhard accepted the panpsychism of his
day. For Teilhard, the scale of complexity runs from atoms to humans
and beyond. So the scale of consciousness must also run from atoms
to humans and beyond. However, nineteenth-century panpsychism is
clearly obsolete. Once again, we can refine Teilhard’s vision by
replacing his vague nineteenth-century notion of consciousness with
the more precise notion of computation.
As matter self-organizes, systems with the capacity for computation
emerge. And since it takes a more powerful computer to simulate a
less powerful computer, more powerful computers are more complex
than less powerful ones. We can thus obtain the Law of Complexity –
Computation: the emergence of increasingly complex systems goes hand
in hand with the emergence of increasingly powerful computers.
At this point, we need a precise
definition of computational power. The power of a computer is its
capacity to simulate other computers. One computer X is more
powerful than computer Y if and only if X can simulate Y but Y
cannot simulate X. For Teilhard, noogenesis is the emergence of more
and more powerful minds. If we analyze mentality in computational
terms, noogenesis can be understood as the emergence of increasingly
Teilhard’s writings outline a series of epochs of complexity. These
closely resemble the six epochs of complexity described by Kurzweil
In order to show how Teilhard’s vision
is taken up by such transhumanist thinkers as Kurzweil, I'll divide
Teilhard’s epochs of complexity into the six outlined by Kurzweil
the epoch of physics and
the epoch of biology
the epoch of brains
the epoch of technology
the epoch of the merger of
biology and technology
the epoch in which the universe
epoch: information in atomic systems
At the beginning of the first epoch, the Big Bang produces a vast
explosion of radiation.
The radiation cools and condenses into the
simplest material things: subatomic particles such as electrons and
quarks. The plasma of quarks, in turn, cools and condenses to form a
gas of protons and neutrons. Continued condensation produces
Gravity now pulls hydrogen into stars.
Stars fuse hydrogen into helium and then fuse lighter elements into
“In the stars... the degree of
complexity rises rapidly... the stars are essentially
laboratories in which Nature, starting with primordial hydrogen,
As time goes by, the elements become
“arranged according to our scale of
complexity, the elements succeed one another in the historical
order of their birth”
Stellar nucleo-synthesis fills out the
periodic table of elements. Atoms of all kinds are now available for
the formation of planets and organic life.
Teilhard’s panpsychism leads him to posit the existence of a
primitive kind of mentality (pre-consciousness or
proto-consciousness) in particles:
“we are logically forced to assume
the existence in rudimentary form... of some sort of psyche in
every corpuscle, even in those (the mega-molecules and below)
whose complexity is of such low or modest order as to render it
(the psyche) imperceptible”
However, this attribution of mentality
to sub-atomic particles is hard to defend. And even if we replace
consciousness with computation, it seems wrong to attribute any
degree of computation to particles or atoms.
We may, however, say that the emergence
of the atoms in the periodic table is the emergence of a system of
combinatorial possibilities. These permit the evolution of
Chemistry is computation-friendly.
epoch: information in biological systems
As planets condense out of the rings of debris around stars,
self-organization begins to take place on them:
“the stars cannot carry the
evolution of matter much beyond the atomic series: it is only on
the very humble planets, on them alone, that the mysterious
ascent of the world into the sphere of high complexity has a
chance to take place”
We know that organic chemistry has
appeared on Earth.
Although biochemistry was primitive in Teilhard’s
day, he knew about polymers and proteins. He knew about the
appearance of organic chemistry on Earth (PHEN: 70-74).
Today we have a better idea of how the
evolution of life proceeds. We may posit the emergence of
auto-catalytic networks (Kaufmann, 1990). These are networks of
polymers. They were probably initially networks of RNAs and
proteins. DNA is then incorporated into such networks, which become
encapsulated in membranes to form the first living cells.
Teilhard assigns a low degree of consciousness to polymers. Of
course, Teilhard is wrong to say that polymers are conscious. But it
is correct to say that computation first emerges in auto-catalytic
networks of polymers.
Polymers (proteins and nucleic acids) have the
ability to store information. They have the ability to act as
switches and logic circuits.
Auto-catalytic networks are networks in
which self-reference first appears. These networks contain feedback
loops. A polymer X regulates the production of polymer Y; polymer Y,
in turn, regulates the production of polymer X.
what Teilhard calls involution (something turns inwards towards
At some point, cells appear that are
capable of self-replication. Self-replication is the next step in
involution. Teilhard assigns a low degree of consciousness to cells
(PHEN: 87-88). Of course, Teilhard is wrong to talk about the
consciousness of a cell. But, again, we can talk about the
computational powers of cells. With DNA, cells are the first things
to store internal self-descriptions.
The storage of an internal
self-description is significant for two reasons. First, it is a
further step in involution. Second, it is the initial appearance of
what Teilhard refers to as interiority. The cell stores information
about itself inside of itself. Storage of a self-description is the
basis for the evolution of self-awareness.
Teilhard is also aware of the increasing complexity of many-celled
“The simplest form of protoplasm is
already a substance of unheard of complexity. This complexity
increases in geometrical progression as we pass from the
protozoon higher and higher up the scale of the metazoa”
As the complexity of living systems
increases, so too does their consciousness:
“the higher the degree of complexity
in a living creature, the higher its consciousness, and vice
Once again, it is wrong to attribute
consciousness to things like sponges and fungi.
But it is right to
argue that increasing biological complexity is increasing
computational power. With the emergence of multi-cellular organisms,
we see the emergence of the first computer networks.
We see the emergence of the first
networks of social self-regulation.
epoch: information in brains
Teilhard correctly describes evolution by natural selection as
filling out a Tree of Life. The various random mutations drive the
formation of different types of living things. These types evolve
along different pathways, but always towards greater complexity and
more powerful computation.
They develop towards greater
The next step in the evolution of greater computational power (noogenesis)
is the emergence of cellular systems specialized for computation.
These are nervous systems (and immune systems).
“we have every reason to think that
in animals too a certain inwardness exists, approximately
proportional to the development of their brains”
He argues that there are two main lines
of neural development. These are the insects and the mammals (PHEN:
We know today that he should have added
the birds. Birds are among the most intelligent animals on the
planet (perhaps just shy of the intelligence of the higher
primates). So there are three lines in which intelligence is
emerging with the greatest strength: the insects; the birds; and the
Within the insects, intelligence emerges most powerfully in
the social insects (ants, bees, termites). Within the birds, it
emerges most powerfully in the corvids (crows, ravens) and
parrots. Within the mammals, it emerges most
powerfully in the primates.
The emergence of intelligence goes hand in hand with three other
the emergence of social networks
the emergence of signaling
the emergence of exosomatic
These three features are found in the
social insects, in intelligent birds, and in the primates.
They are consequences of the increasing
power of computers bound into networks. The emergence of these three
features corresponds to the separation of software from hardware
(the separation of the program from the computer) and the emergence
of computational universality. Intelligent swarms are more and more
like universal computers.
As brains develop, they store increasingly complex
self-representations. While the genome of an organism stores a
static self-description of that organism, its nervous system stores
a dynamic self-description. Nervous systems can learn.
We must add
that immune systems can also learn (they store memories in
Still, brains are more powerful
computers than immune systems; so we’ll focus on brains. Brains
store self-representations of the organism. Self-consciousness
evolves in organisms with increasingly complex brains.
Self-consciousness is the next step in involution. It is a deepening
and intensification of interiority. Self-consciousness does not
first emerge with humans. It emerges earlier.
But in humans it becomes most intense.
As organisms become self-conscious, they become able to consciously
modify their own representations (both of themselves and their
environments). With the emergence of self-consciousness,
intelligence becomes self-directing. Social networks, languages, and
technologies all become self-directing.
If we think of the mental content of an
organism as software, we can say that a self-conscious system is
able to modify its own software. A self-conscious system is a
self-programming computer. For such systems, the software is able to
evolve on its own. Insofar as the evolution is independent of the
hardware, we can say that software has separated itself from the
Evolution can thus continue in software
(e.g., in the evolution of the knowledge of a society). As organisms
and societies (computer networks) become self-aware and
self-directing, parts of the universe become aware of the whole
universe and their relations to it. The software can contain
representations of the universe as a whole (e.g., scientific
Hence the universe can be said to “wake
up” wherever software begins to evolve on its own.
We are aware of one place in the universe in which software has
become separated from hardware: the emergence of humans. Humans thus
have a special place in noogenesis (the evolution of
increasingly powerful computers).
“Man is not the center of the
universe as once we thought in our simplicity, but something
much more wonderful – the arrow pointing the way to the final
unification of the world in terms of life. Man alone constitutes
the last-born, the freshest, the most complicated, the most
subtle of all the successive layers of life”
Of course, we must bear in mind that
there are other lines in the tree of earthly life that are leading
to this self-awareness.
And it is entirely possible that life on
other planets has also led to self-awareness.
epoch: information in exosomatic organs
Many writers have thought of technology in biological terms. Tools
extend the functional powers of natural organs (e.g., clothes extend
the protective powers of the skin). Tools can be regarded as
artificial organs (e.g., cameras are artificial eyes; computers are
Tools are organs outside of the body (Turner,
2000). They are exosomatic organs.
The global system of exosomatic organs
is like an organism. We can refer to the global system of technology
as the technosphere. Teilhard thinks of technology in biological
The technosphere is,
“like some great body which is being
born – with its limbs, its nervous system, its perceptive
organs, its memory”
Evolution continues in technology (PHEN
223; see also Dyson, 1997). Several technologies are often said to
be essential to the future evolution of humanity (Garreau, 2005;
Although he does not talk about robotics
or nano-technologies, we can infer that Teilhard would welcome them.
But Teilhard does discuss genetic and information-processing
First, Teilhard talks about information-processing technologies. He
writes briefly but positively about computers and the “young science
of cybernetics” (1966: 110). Some have argued that Teilhard foresaw
the Internet (Kreisberg, 1995).
“a generalized nervous system,
emanating from certain defined centers and covering the entire
surface of the globe”
(FUT: 125; PHEN: 244)
More precisely, Teilhard writes:
how can we fail to see the machine
as playing a constructive part in the creation of a truly
collective consciousness?... I am thinking, of course, in the
first place of the extraordinary network of radio and television
communications which... already link us all in a sort of
“etherized” universal consciousness.
But I am also thinking of... those
astonishing electronic computers which, pulsating with signals
at the rate of hundreds of thousands a second, not only relieve
our brains of tedious and exhausting work but, because they
enhance the essential (and too little noticed) “speed of
thought,” are also paving the way for a revolution in the sphere
of research.... all these material instruments... are finally
nothing less than the manifestation of a kind of super-Brain,
capable of attaining mastery over some supersphere in the
This generalized nervous system (this
“super-Brain”) is an exosomatic nervous system.
It is the totality
of all computing and communications technologies. At present (2006),
this exosomatic nervous system spans the whole Earth and extends
into the solar system (via satellites, space-probes, Martian rovers,
etc.). The evolution of the intelligence of the whole human species
is continuing in the exosomatic nervous system.
Teilhard also talks about genetic and biotechnologies.
He refers to genetic engineering,
“we appear to be on the eve of
having a hand in the development of our bodies and even of our
brains. With the discovery of genes it appears that we shall
soon be able to control the mechanism of organic heredity”
(PHEN: 250; MFV: 181)
He argues, further, that human
intelligence should guide human evolution via genetic engineering.
He is thus arguing for an ethically
appropriate form of eugenics:
So far we have certainly allowed our
race to develop at random, and we have given too little thought
to the question of what medical and moral factors must replace
the crude forces of natural selection should we suppress them.
In the course of the coming
centuries it is indispensable that a nobly human form of
eugenics, on a standard worthy of our personalities, should be
discovered and developed. Eugenics applied to individuals leads
to eugenics applied to society.
He envisions the synthesis of entirely
new forms of life:
“we may well one day be capable of
producing what the Earth, left to itself, seems no longer able
to produce: a new wave of organisms, an artificially provoked
When human intelligence guides both
human evolution and the evolution of novel forms of life, then
evolution on Earth will have become self-directing.
Evolution has so
far been blind; but when it is guided by human thought, it becomes
reflective and thus self-directed. Biotechnology is thus a further
step in the rise of evolution to self-consciousness.
A historical survey of technological progress justifies the
conclusion that technological evolution is accelerating (see
Kurzweil, 2005). Teilhard argues that information technology is
accelerating according to a “geometrical progression” (PHEN: 245).
One might see here a primitive version
Moore’s Law. Teilhard refers to the intensity of
information-processing on Earth as the “psychic temperature” of the
“there is at the moment a rapid rise
in the psychic temperature on Earth, caused by the activity of
an economico-technological network which is being tightened at a
continually accelerated speed”
(Teilhard, 1973; “Two
The convergence of genetic and
information technologies aims at the perfection of human
“Thought might artificially perfect
the thinking instrument itself”
7. Beyond the
Teilhard correctly observes four epochs of self-organization:
the emergence of stars and
the emergence of planets
the emergence of living things
and biological evolution
the emergence of intelligence
(in nervous systems)
Each form of self-organization gives
rise to the next. Evolution is thus hierarchical.
From these facts, he infers that evolution has a direction (PHEN:
146, 290). It is directed towards the production of increasingly
complex systems (which we might interpret as the production of
increasingly powerful natural and artificial computing systems).
Teilhard argues further that there is a
force (radial energy) that drives self-organization (FUT: 70). There
is a universal force of extropy that opposes entropy.
Noogenesis happens everywhere:
“wherever there are life bearing
planets in the Universe, they too will become encompassed, like
the Earth, with some form of planetized spirit”
On the evidence of the four epochs of
evolution, Teilhard posits further epochs. He posits the emergence
of super-intelligent super-humans (FUT: 114; PHEN: 231-34).
“there is for us, in the future,
under some form or another, at least collectively, not only
survival but also super-life”
Although the Earth is threatened by many
disasters, Teilhard argues that they will not happen:
When the end of the world is
mentioned, the idea that leaps into our minds is always one of
catastrophe. Generally we think of a sidereal cataclysm... Since
physics has discovered that all energy runs down, we seem to
feel the world getting a shade chillier every day.... Onslaughts
of microbes, organic counter-evolutions, sterility, war,
revolution – there are so many ways of coming to an end. We are
well aware of these different eventualities....
And yet, on the strength of all we
learn from past evolution, I feel entitled to say that we have
nothing whatever to fear from these manifold disasters in so far
as they imply the idea of premature accident or failure. However
possible they may be in theory, we have higher reasons for being
sure that they will not happen.
Teilhard’s reasoning about the future is
an early example of what Tipler (1995) calls physical eschatology.
Physical eschatology is closely connected to various anthropic
principles (Barrow and Tipler, 1986).
We can identify three anthropic
principles in order of increasing strength.
First is the Weak
Anthropic Principle (WAP): any cosmology must be
consistent with the emergence and existence of creatures (like us)
who are able to state that cosmology (Barrow and Tipler, 1986: 16).
The WAP is not controversial.
But the Strong Anthropic Principle
(SAP) certainly is.
“The Universe must have those
properties which allow life to develop within it at some stage
in its history”
(Barrow and Tipler, 1986: 21)
The Final Anthropic Principle (FAP)
is even more controversial.
must come into existence in the Universe, and, once it comes
into existence, it will never die out”
(Barrow and Tipler, 1986: 23)
Teilhard clearly subscribes to the
Final Anthropic Principle. But his version of the FAP explicitly
includes the perfection of humanity.
“We have seen and admitted that
evolution is an ascent towards consciousness... Therefore it
should culminate forwards in some sort of supreme consciousness.
But must not that consciousness, if it is to be supreme, contain
in the highest degree what is the perfection of our
He further says that,
“The only universe capable of
containing the human person is an irreversibly ‘personalizing’
It is difficult to defend any version of
the FAP. And therefore it is difficult to defend any Omega Point
Tipler makes an argument from beauty:
the FAP is a beautiful principle
“We physicists know that a
beautiful postulate is more likely to be correct than an
ugly one” (Tipler, 1988: 32; see also Tipler, 1995: 11);
the FAP is more likely to be
true than false
But this argument is very weak.
Of course, for Teilhard the
anthropocentric version of the FAP is a matter of religious faith.
Transhumanists like to marshal evidence that humanity is
developing into a super-intelligence. They project current
technological trends into the far future. And that is all fine.
But we cannot infer with any certainty
or inevitability that humanity will reach the fifth or sixth epochs
of complexity. At most we can argue for some degree of probability
that we will reach the fifth or sixth epochs. Or we can argue for
some degree of probability that some civilization somewhere will
reach them. Since including the whole universe includes more
opportunities, the probability that some civilization will reach the
fifth or sixth epochs is perhaps higher.
Nevertheless, since we are following
Teilhard’s vision, I will proceed as if Teilhard’s version of the
FAP is true.
In what follows, I will assume that
human civilization will make progress into the fifth and sixth
epoch: the merger of humanity and technology
8.1 Kurzweil’s Singularity
As already mentioned, Teilhard recognizes that the pace of
technological advance is accelerating.
He argues that this acceleration will
lead to the emergence of a global super-machine:
“all the machines on Earth, taken
together, tend to form a single, vast organized mechanism”
These machines begin to operate on
“thus accelerating and multiplying
their own growth and forming a single gigantic network girdling
This self-direction of technological
evolution is the next type of involution (after self-replication and
The emergence of a global super-machine that directs its own
evolution seems to correspond closely to the idea of the Singularity
developed by Ray Kurzweil, who defines it as,
“a future period during which the
pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so
deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed”
is Near, page 7; henceforth abbreviated SING)
Kurzweil says the
transform humans into super-humans:
Our version 1.0 biological bodies
are likewise frail and subject to a myriad of failure modes...
The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of
our biological bodies and brains... We will be able to live as
long as we want...
The Singularity will represent the
culmination of the merger of our biological thinking and
existence with our technology, resulting in a world that is
still human but that transcends our biological roots.
There will be no distinction,
post-Singularity, between human and machine or between physical
and virtual reality.
Teilhard affirms that there will be a
period of rapid technological change that will fuse humanity with
technology. But he does not identify this period with the
Singularity. For Teilhard, the Singularity comes later.
The fusion of humanity with technology
is the birth of the
noosphere and the emergence of the spirit of the
8.2 The emergence of the spirit of the
At this point of his discussion,
Teilhard has already argued for the emergence of a technosphere. He
has argued for the emergence of “a generalized nervous system,
emanating from certain defined centers and covering the entire
surface of the globe” (FUT: 125).
We may take this to be a system of
interconnected computing machines. The Internet is an early version
of this nervous system. Teilhard argues that individual humans will
eventually fuse into a single super-mind (PHEN: 278).
A universal computational medium will
cover the Earth. A human super-consciousness will emerge within this
We are faced with a harmonized
collectivity of consciousnesses equivalent to a sort of
super-consciousness. The idea is that of the Earth not only
becoming covered by myriads of grains of thought, but becoming
enclosed in a single thinking envelope so as to form,
functionally, no more than a single vast grain of thought on the
sidereal scale, the plurality of individual reflections grouping
themselves together and reinforcing one another in the act of a
single unanimous reflection.
In what follows, I will sketch a
technically plausible way for this planetary computation to emerge.
We can easily imagine that human brains and bodies will become
increasingly merged with artificial computers (Teilhard already
hints at this in 1966: 111).
Some human brains already (in 2006) are
directly plugged into computing machines. It is perfectly reasonable
to think that brain-computer interfaces will become more common and
more complex. Moravec (1988: ch. 4) has argued that human brains and
bodies can be scanned and their programs abstracted. These human
body-programs can then be run on artificial super-computers.
Living thinking things will merge with
The Internet is presently limited in several ways. Its first limit
is that it consists of separate computing machines linked in thin
ways (by wires or radio channels). It can overcome this limit by the
fusion of all computers into a single computational medium.
This computational medium could be a
layer of silicon covering much of the Earth; or it could be a layer
of carbon nano-tubes and nano-switches; or it could be a layer
containing both silicon and carbon. This computational medium will
be like a gigantic rhizome or network that covers the planet’s
The second limit is that the Internet
depends on external power sources. It can overcome this limit by
becoming solar powered.
We thus posit an Earth covered by a layer of pure computronium. This
computronium is composed of self-constructing and self-repairing
nano-machines (nanobots). It is like Bill Joy’s grey goo, but it is
not life-destroying. Rather, this layer of nanobots is a single
living thinking substance. It is a layer of living and thinking
material. It is solar-powered. All living systems are eventually
scanned and their body-programs are uploaded into the layer of
They live in a virtual reality
simulation of their past ecosystems. But this virtual reality is not
unreal. It is made of real mass-energy.
The evolution of computation on Earth leads to the conversion of the
whole Earth into a planetary super-computer.
Teilhard says we aim at,
“an interior totalization of the
world upon itself, in the unanimous construction of a spirit of
The spirit of the Earth is the totality
of (human and non-human) software processes running on the planetary
the collectivization of the human
race, at present accelerated, is nothing other than a higher
form adopted by the process of moleculization on the surface of
our planet. The first phase was the formation of proteins up to
the stage of the cell. In the second phase individual cellular
complexes were formed, up to and including Man.
We are now at the beginning of the
third phase, the formation of an organicosocial supercomplex,
which... can only occur in the case of reflective, personalized
First the vitalization of matter,
associated with the grouping of molecules; then the hominization
of Life, associated with a supergrouping of cells; and finally
the planetization of Mankind, associated with a closed grouping
of people: Mankind, born on this planet and spread over its
entire surface, coming gradually to form around its earthly
matrix a single, major organic unity, enclosed upon itself; a
single, hypercomplex, hypercentered, hyperconscious
arch-molecule, coextensive with the heavenly body on which it
Is not this what is happening at the
present time – the closing of this spherical thinking circuit?
The technosphere will become the
History points to,
“the progressive genesis of what I
have called a ‘noosphere’ – the pan-terrestrial organism in
which, by compression and arrangement of the thinking particles,
a resurgence of evolution (itself now become reflective) is
striving to carry the stuff of the universe towards the higher
conditions of a planetary super-reflection”
“The noosphere, in short, is a
stupendous thinking machine”
We can think of this as the conversion
of the entire Earth into a planetary super-computer (see SING: 350).
8.3 Material expansion into the
The noosphere is a living
thinking machine with enormous physical powers.
Teilhard writes that,
“in becoming planetized humanity is
acquiring new physical powers which will enable it to
One possible future for the noosphere is
that it will super-organize larger and larger arrangements of matter.
It will expand materially into the solar system and universe.
Teilhard considers this option:
“We may perhaps move to Venus –
perhaps even further afield”
Elsewhere, he says,
we may begin by asking seriously
whether life will not perhaps one day succeed in ingeniously
forcing the bars of its earthly prison, either by finding the
means to invade other planets or... by getting into psychical
touch with other focal points of consciousness across the
abysses of space. The meeting and mutual fecundation of two
noospheres is a supposition which... is merely extending to
psychical phenomena a scope no one would think of denying to
Consciousness would thus finally
construct itself by a synthesis of planetary units. Why not, in
a universe whose astral unit is the galaxy?
The material expansion of the noosphere
into the universe has several stages.
The first is the conversion of the solar
system into a computer. The solar system can be converted into a
computer first by building increasingly large
Dyson Spheres around
the sun (Kurzweil, 2005: 350). The second stage is the expansion
outwards from the solar system. It is the colonization of the
galaxy. One way to colonize the galaxy is to use robotic
space-probes (often called von Neumann probes).
According to this strategy, our solar
system will send out enormously large flocks of enormously small
robots. These robots will flock to other planetary systems and
convert them into super-computers.
The material expansion of the noosphere takes us into the very far
future. Barrow and Tipler write that life will expand outwards from
the Earth until it encompasses half of the universe (1986: 675).
Around that time, they argue, the
universe will start to converge to a Big Crunch. According to Barrow
and Tipler, this Big Crunch is a good thing for life, since it means
that energy will always be available for computation. As the
universe converges, the available energy will be used more and more
efficiently. So the computational power of the universe goes up
without bound as time goes on.
The universe at the moment of the Big
Crunch is an infinitely powerful computer. It is the Barrow-Tipler
Omega Point. This infinity will be the end of time – a total and
endless presence of all possible finite computational processes
(Barrow and Tipler, 1986: 675-77). Recent observations have,
however, raised objections to the Barrow-Tipler eschatology. It
seems that our universe is not converging to a Big Crunch. On the
contrary, its expansion is accelerating.
Accordingly, the Barrow-Tipler Omega
Point Theory appears to be refuted by empirical evidence.
Kurzweil sketches an eschatology that does not depend on the
Crunch. As civilization fills the universe, it will be able to
program matter at the most basic physical level. We will discover
ways to turn “dumb matter” into “smart matter.” We will be able to
convert any material structure into a substrate for universal
computation (into computronium).
Kurzweil describes our expansion into
the universe in the following passages:
In the aftermath of the Singularity,
intelligence, derived from its biological origins in human
brains and its technological origins in human ingenuity, will
begin to saturate the matter and energy in its midst. It will
achieve this by reorganizing matter and energy to provide an
optimal level of computation... to spread out from the Earth....
[T]he “dumb” matter and mechanisms
of the universe will be transformed into exquisitely sublime
forms of intelligence, which will constitute the sixth epoch in
the evolution of patterns of information.
As intelligence saturates the matter and
energy available to it, it turns dumb matter into smart matter.
Although smart matter still nominally follows the laws of physics,
it is so extraordinarily intelligent that it can harness the most
subtle aspects of the laws to manipulate matter and energy to its
will. (SING: 364.)
Kurzweil recognizes that the evolution of intelligence in our
universe faces certain material limits. Kurzweil considers various
highly speculative ways to get around these limits (2005: 359-66).
But he also suggests more deeply (and
more speculatively) that these material limits might be irrelevant
to the evolution of intelligence, that the evolution of intelligence
may not be constrained by material forces:
My conjecture is that intelligence
will ultimately prove more powerful than these big impersonal
forces.... Intelligence does not exactly repeal the laws of
physics, but it is sufficiently clever and resourceful to
manipulate the forces in its midst to bend [them] to its
will.... Ultimately, intelligence will be a force to reckon
with, even for these big celestial forces (so watch out!). The
laws of physics are not repealed by intelligence, but they
effectively evaporate in its presence.
So will the Universe end in a big
crunch, or in an infinite expansion of dead stars, or in some
other manner? In my view, the primary issue is not the mass of
the Universe, or the possible existence of antigravity, or of
Einstein’s so-called cosmological constant. Rather, the fate of
the Universe is a decision yet to be made, one which we will
intelligently consider when the time is right.
epoch: the universe wakes up
9.1 Teilhard’s Singularity
Although Teilhard considers the possibility that the noosphere will
expand materially into the universe, he regards this possibility as
a dead end (PHEN: 286-87; FUT: 302). The computational capacity of
the material universe is finite. An expanding intelligence will
eventually encounter the computational limits of matter (see
Kurzweil, 2005: 364-66, 485-87).
We will hit a wall.
Teilhard suggests that when intelligence
hits the computational limits of matter, it must change course. It
must strive for a different kind of realization. So Teilhard is not
interested in leaving the Earth (or solar system) materially.
Teilhard often speaks of a critical point in the evolution of human
“In our time Mankind seems to be
approaching its critical point of social organization”
(FUT: 31, 47)
He refers to the critical point as “the
entry into the super-human” (PHEN: 244-45).
He says that intelligence will reach a
critical point of intensity which,
“represents our passage, by
translation or dematerialization, to another sphere of the
Universe: not an ending of the Ultra-Human but its accession to
some sort of Trans-Human at the ultimate heart of things”
Teilhard’s “Ultra-Human” is what we
would call the transhuman and his “Trans-Human” is what we would
call the posthuman.
Teilhard identifies the critical point with the Christian notion of
“the parousiac spark can, of
physical and organic necessity, only be kindled between Heaven
and a Mankind which has biologically reached a certain critical
evolutionary point of collective maturity”
The parousia is the fulfillment of the
mission of Christ. It is crudely portrayed in popular religion as
the “second coming” of Christ or the “rapture”. For Teilhard, it is
a radical biological change.
He writes that when future human
intelligence passes through the critical point it,
“will penetrate for the first time
into the environment which is biologically requisite for the
wholeness of its task”
The critical point (identified with the
parousia) is the Teilhardian Singularity.
9.2 Informational expansion into the
As we consider the evolution of intelligence in the sixth epoch, we
must deal more and more with the explicitly religious and
speculative aspects of Teilhard’s thought.
Teilhard has little
interest in the material expansion of the noosphere into space. He
writes that future human intelligence will “break through the
material framework of Time and Space” (FUT: 175).
He repeatedly says that future human
intelligence will leave the Earth spiritually (PHEN: 272, 273, 287;
FUT: 116, 175, 303-304).
We obviously need to clarify Teilhard’s
notion of leaving the Earth spiritually. At first glance, it looks
like old-fashioned supernaturalism. But Teilhard consistently says
that his orientation is scientific.
For Teilhard, to leave the Earth spiritually is to enter the
(Teilhard, 1974: 64-75).
This is the medium in which individual
human persons become ultimately perfected and harmonized. Teilhard
denies the materiality of the pleroma, but he affirms (and stresses)
the pleroma’s physicality (1974: 67-72). He says that those who
enter the pleroma will be “physically incorporated” into it (1974:
70; the italics are Teilhard’s).
He says the pleroma is spatially
“extended to the galaxies” (174: 236).
Hence for a person to escape the Earth
spiritually is for that person to break free from his or her
material realization, while remaining physically in space-time. As
we leave the Earth spiritually, we do not vanish from the universe.
Teilhard writes that at the critical point we pass,
or dematerialization, to another sphere of the Universe”
I understand this to mean that at the
critical point future human intelligence will no longer be realized
by any network of material particles and forces.
We will cease to be
realized by matter. This does not contradict the naturalistic thesis
that we are entirely physical. It simply implies that not every
physical thing is a material thing – physics has deeper levels.
The pleroma is physical, but its
physicality is deeper than material.
Many writers at the intersection of basic physics and computer
science have argued that the material world is not the deepest level
of our physical universe. They argue that the deepest level of
physical reality is computational (Fredkin, Landauer, and Toffoli,
1982; Fredkin, 1991; Zeilinger, 1999).
Early work on the computational
foundations of physics tended to treat the universe as a cellular
automaton like the game of life (see Poundstone, 1985). Each spatial
point is a computer. The states of these computers form various
physical fields (e.g., the electro-magnetic and gravitational
fields). Material particles are self-perpetuating disturbances in
these fields (like gliders in the game of life).
But the states of these computers are
purely informational, and they can do more than just realize
material fields. We can think of these computers as running the
sorts of informational processes that go on in human or super-human
bodies and brains. And we can go beyond the finitism of cellular
automata theory. We can think of these computers as infinitely
They might be accelerating universal
Turing machines (Copeland, 1998). Every spatial point is an
infinitely powerful physical computing machine interacting with an
infinity of other points. On this hypothesis, the deepest level of
physical reality is an infinitely complex network of infinitely
powerful computers (call it the Network).
I suggest that the most
precise way to think of Teilhard’s pleroma is to think of it as the
The Network is physical but not
material. For Teilhard, spirit looks very much like energetic
information. Spirit is software in action. As humanity becomes
super-intelligent, it will cease to be material and will become
Future intelligence will cease to be
materially realized. Evolution will pass into the pleroma.
The hypothesis that evolution continues in the pleroma enables us to
make sense both of Teilhard’s claim that we will leave the Earth
spiritually and of Kurzweil’s conjecture that intelligence will
ultimately be more powerful than the big impersonal forces of the
A human person is a living thinking
informational process. At present we are informational processes
realized by carbon chemistry. We are realized by flesh. Our future
super-human descendants may be realized by other kinds of materials
(e.g., silicon). But the materials in which human or super-human
computations are realized are not essential to those computations.
We can be realized by purely
informational processes in the pleroma. If we (or our super-human
descendants) learn to program the pleroma, then we can program
ourselves into it. We will live, move, and have our being in the
pleroma. We will become living thinking software patterns. We will
spread informationally to fill the entirety of an infinitely rich
future cosmos. If there are other intelligent species, we will merge
our computations with theirs.
If all this happens, then we won’t need
to worry about the future material evolution of the universe.
Material structures will no longer be of much interest to
intelligent life. Future intelligence may choose to work with matter
(perhaps for artistic expression) or it may ignore matter.
Intelligence will no longer be material and will have become purely
It will have become spiritual.
9.3 The resurrection of the body
For Teilhard, faith in Christ is the conviction that the cosmic
process is tending to a final state in which all persons are saved.
Salvation is the recovery and perfection of what is most personal in
every human (PHEN: 260-64; FUT: 175).
Teilhard often writes about this
salvation in psychological terms (e.g., in terms of consciousness).
But he also talks in biological terms about the passage through the
critical point (FUT: 51).
“Is the Kingdom of God a big family?
Yes, in a sense it is. But in another sense it is a prodigious
biological operation – that of the Redeeming Incarnation”
On this view, there is no reason to
oppose the psychological to the biological.
Human cognition is a
biological computation running in every cell in the body at the
The psychology of an individual human
body is recovered and perfected when the biological program that was
running on that body is recovered and perfected. The recovery and
perfection of an individual body-program is the resurrection of the
body. The resurrection of the body is obviously not the revival of a
corpse. It is the translation of the body-program into a new medium.
The resurrection of the body has long been associated with the
disembodiment and re-embodiment of the soul. A long tradition
identifies the soul with the form of the body (see Aristotle, De
Anima, 412a5-412b21; Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part 1, Q 78-84).
We may follow this tradition: the form
of the body is the form of the biological computation running in
every cell in that body at the molecular level. The soul may be
identified with the body-program, as several important Christian
thinkers have done (Hick, 1976: ch. 15; Reichenbach, 1978;
Polkinghorne, 1985: 180-81; Mackay, 1997).
Barrow and Tipler explicitly identify
the soul with the body-program:
an intelligent being – or more
generally, any living creature – is fundamentally a type of
computer... the really important part of a computer is not the
particular hardware, but the program; we may even say that a
human being is a program designed to run on particular hardware
called a human body, coding its data in very special types of
data storage devices called DNA molecules and nerve cells.
The essence of a human being is not
the body but the program which controls the body... defining the
soul to be a type of program has much in common with Aristotle
and Aquinas’ definition of the soul as “the form of activity of
A living human being is a
representation of a definite program rather than the program
itself. In principle, the program corresponding to a human being
could be stored in many different forms.
(Barrow and Tipler, 1986: 659)
For Barrow and Tipler (and especially
for Tipler), a particular human individual is resurrected when its
body-program begins to run on the material super-computer formed
during the Big Crunch.
Tipler refers to an exact simulation as
“the physical mechanism of
individual resurrection is the emulation of each and every
long-dead person – and their worlds – in the computers of the
(1995: 14, 220)
Of course, our emulations in the
computers of the far future need not suffer and die as we do on
Earth. They can be improved. They can live indefinitely. Their lives
can be guided into super-human forms and then into forms of ever
higher complexity. They can become infinitely complex (Barrow and
Tipler, 1986: 659-61).
Since the end of the universe in a Big
Crunch does not seem likely, however, the Barrow-Tipler theory of
resurrection does not seem likely either. And even if a Big Crunch
were likely, Teilhard would not agree that we will be resurrected by
emulation on any future material machines. All material machines
have limits. For Teilhard, the future of intelligence lies beyond
According to my computational interpretation of Teilhard, a
particular human individual is resurrected when its body-program
begins to be realized by some network of machines in the pleroma.
The realization of a body-program by
some network of machines in the pleroma is the resurrection body. If
this is right, then our resurrection bodies are purely
informational. They are spiritual bodies. They are the soma
pneumatikon of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15). Although they are not
material, they are still physical. These bodies are likely to evolve
into posthuman forms.
For example, they may evolve into forms
like Moravec’s bush robots (1988: 102-108; 2000: 150-54). Moravec
observes that a human body has a recursive sticks-on-sticks pattern.
The body has a level 0 stick (the chest).
At each free end, the
level 0 stick sprouts two sticks at level 1 (arms and legs). At each
free end, the level 1 sticks sprout five sticks at level 2 (fingers
and toes). This pattern can be regularized and extended. A bush
robot starts with a level 0 stick. At each free end, each level n
stick sprouts 2^(n+1) sticks at level n+1.
Just as our fingers are shorter and
thinner than our arms, so the sticks at each level are shorter and
9.4 The universality of the
Teilhard believed that human life
and intelligence would break free from the constraints of material
realization and become spiritual.
On this account, our descendants
here on Earth will evolve to the cosmic level (the sixth epoch). One
might object that such a future does not look very likely for
humanity. Humanity is one species on one planet orbiting one star.
The odds are that humanity will fail
before translating itself into the pleroma. And even if our
descendants become spiritual bodies, we and our ancestors are likely
to be dead.
We need an argument that we will be
resurrected no matter what happens to the Earth.
Teilhard often affirms the existence of many extra-terrestrial
civilizations (PHEN: 286; FUT: 90-117; Teilhard 1974: 36-44). We can
argue that if any civilization becomes cosmic (if it enters the
pleroma), then every human will be saved.
The argument goes like this:
the emergence of some cosmic
civilization is probable in the future of our universe
a cosmic civilization will be
able to simulate all civilizations with lesser intelligence
a cosmic civilization is
obligated both by ethics and its desire for omniscience to
simulate all lesser civilizations (see Tipler, 1988: 44;
Tipler, 1995: 245-50)
a cosmic civilization is
sensitive to its ethical and epistemic obligations
therefore, a cosmic civilization
will simulate all less complex civilizations and will also
guide their evolution to the cosmic level. If human
civilization is less complex, it follows that
a cosmic civilization will
simulate human civilization and will guide its evolution to
the cosmic level. This is one of the scenarios contemplated
in Bostrom’s well-known simulation argument (2003).
If our future descendants (or the
members of some other cosmic civilization) break through into the
pleroma, they will be able to recover every past intelligent living
thing by the brute force simulation of all programs (see Moravec,
1988: 122-24; Tipler, 1995: 220).
Hence they will run our body-programs
again and resurrect our bodies.
10. The Omega
10.1 The Omega Point as a universal
Teilhard argues that the universe
is convergent (PHEN: 259).
World-history converges to a final state.
He refers to this state as the Omega Point. According to Teilhard,
the souls of humans somehow meet in the far future at the Omega
Point (PHEN: 272).
Barrow and Tipler offer a computational
interpretation of Teilhard’s idea. They say the soul is the
body-program and that the Omega Point is a super-computer formed in
the Big Crunch at the end of time.
Tipler (1995: 249-50) is explicit:
“the Omega Point in Its
transcendence is in essence a self-programming universal Turing
machine, with a literal infinity of memory.”
To say that all souls meet at the Omega
Point is just to say that the Omega Point runs all possible human
I agree with Barrow and Tipler that the Omega Point
is a super-computer that runs all possible human body-programs. But
I do not believe the Omega Point is formed in some Big Crunch at the
end of time. Rather, I think of the Omega Point as the final or goal
state of the pleroma.
Teilhard interprets the Omega Point in both Christian and
At the Omega Point,
“as St. Paul tells us, God shall be
all in all. This is indeed a superior form of ‘pantheism’... the
expectation of a perfect unity, steeped in which each element
will reach its consummation at the same time as the universe”
Teilhard defends himself against the
charge that such pantheism is non-Christian:
to put an end once and for all to
the fears of “pantheism”, constantly raised by certain upholders
of traditional spirituality as regards evolution, how can we
fail to see that, in the case of a converging universe such as I
have delineated, far from being born from the fusion and
confusion of the elemental centers it assembles, the universal
center of unification (precisely to fulfill its motive,
collective and stabilizing function) must be conceived as
pre-existing and transcendent.
A very real “pantheism” if you
like... but an absolutely legitimate pantheism – for if, in the
last resort, the reflective centers of the world are effectively
“one with God”, this state is obtained not by identification
(God becoming all) but by the differentiating and communicating
action of love (God all in everyone). And that is essentially
orthodox and Christian.
Teilhard’s synthesis of Christianity and
pantheism has a remarkably clear and elegant computational
The pleroma is a network of infinitely
complex computers. I have suggested that each computer is an
accelerating universal Turing machine with infinite memory (an
Just as an infinite set contains infinitely many infinite subsets,
so an AUTM can exactly simulate infinitely many other AUTMs.
It exactly simulates them by running
them as sub-programs. Each of these sub-programs is a virtual
machine. I have said that each resurrection body has the power of an
AUTM. Accordingly, while running its own body-program, each
resurrection body can also exactly simulate every other resurrection
body by running it as a sub-program (as a virtual body).
We might say that every resurrection
body runs all the others in its imagination (see Moravec, 1988:
Each resurrection body is conscious of
itself as itself while it is conscious of the others as others. A
community of AUTMs in which each exactly simulates every other is
one in which all persons formally interpenetrate. Each person is in
every other person as a living image (a virtual machine). Each
person is a mirror in which every other person is perfectly
But all these persons are distinct
10.2 The Omega Point as a
Teilhard has argued for an increase in self-reference (involution)
and self-representation (interiority) at every stage of evolution.
Thus, we can interpret the Omega Point as the maximum of
self-representation. It is a perfectly self-representative system.
Such a perfectly self-representative system was described by Josiah
Royce, who referred to it as the Absolute Self.
If this is right, then Teilhard’s
Omega Point is Royce’s Absolute Self.
To motivate his theory of the Absolute Self, Royce uses the
notion of a perfect map of England, located within England (1899:
502-507). Suppose there is a perfect map of England inscribed on the
surface of England.
Since this map is located at a place P
in England, there must be a place P* on the map that represents P.
The map must contain a representation of itself. There is a part of
the map that is a perfect copy of the whole map. And of course,
since this copy is perfect, there is a part of the copy that is a
perfect copy of itself. The map contains an endlessly nested series
of self-copies. It is infinitely complex.
The infinite self-nesting of copies is
analogous to a perfect self-consciousness. For a perfectly
self-conscious mind contains an exact internal representation of its
own self; and that exact internal representation contains a further
exact internal representation of its own self; and so on endlessly.
So the Absolute Self is a self-representative system.
A self-representative system can contain more than one self-map. For
instance, there can be many perfect maps of England on the surface
of England. Each one maps England from a different perspective. Each
contains a copy of itself, but it also contains a copy of every
other map. Thus each different perspective perfectly mirrors every
And there is only one maximal whole
(namely, England itself) that contains all these maps. The Absolute
Self is analogous to an England that contains many perfect
self-maps. Each different self-map is a different lesser self within
the Absolute Self (Royce, 1899: 546). Each lesser self has a
perspective on every other lesser self. There is exactly one maximal
Self that contains every lesser self.
We can link Royce with my computational
interpretation of Teilhard by equating Royce’s perfect
self-representative system with the Omega Point. The final state of
the pleroma, in which every body perfectly simulates every other
body, has the structure of the Roycean Absolute Self. Each
resurrection body is a perspective on the whole.
Hence Royce’s Absolute Self is a model
for Teilhard’s notion that at the Omega Point,
God is all in all
God is all in everyone
Transhumanism and Christianity
At the beginning of this paper, I offered five reasons for
transhumanists to study Teilhard:
Teilhard is one of the first to
articulate transhumanist themes
Teilhard’s thought has
influenced transhumanism, and several important
transhumanists have developed Omega Point Theories
Teilhard works out his
transhumanist ideas in a Christian context
transhumanism is likely to need
to defend itself against conservative forms of Christianity
the future success of
transhumanism may well depend on its ability to build
bridges to liberal and progressive forms of Christianity
Transhumanism and Christianity share
common themes and are likely to meet soon in a fateful way.
Conservative Christians stand ready to
condemn transhumanism as a heretical sect and to politically
suppress the use of technology for human enhancement. A study of
Teilhard can help in this defense. At the same time, a study of
Teilhard can help transhumanists find potential allies among liberal
and progressive Christians.
The last two reasons for studying Teilhard have a certain urgency.
As the cultural profile of transhumanism rises, conservative
Christian groups are beginning to notice it. There are two ways this
encounter can go.
On the one hand, the encounter can
involve mutual hostility. The transhumanists and conservative
Christians will denounce one another as enemies. Each side will
attack a cartoon version of the other. Such hostility could be fatal
for transhumanism in the West. On the other hand, the encounter can
be more diplomatic.
If transhumanists learn more about the
similarities between Christianity and transhumanism, they can
respond carefully and successfully to attacks.
Since Teilhard is clearly in favor of
the use of technology for human enhancement, and since his arguments
for human enhancement are developed within a Christian framework, a
study of Teilhard can help transhumanists defend against religious
Transhumanists should also study other forms of liberal Christianity
with which they have much in common (such as process theology). A
dialogue with liberal Christian thought offers benefits.
One benefit is that transhumanists can
gain access to a greater audience. Another benefit is that
transhumanists may be able to use liberal Christian ideas to further
develop their own theories of social justice. A dialogue with
liberal Christianity also offers dangers. One is that exposure to
liberal Christianity will lead some transhumanists to rely more on
faith and less on the hard practical work needed to sustain
However, I believe this danger can be
met successfully if both groups stay focused on their common belief
that human brains and hands must help build the future. By studying
Teilhard, transhumanists can begin to argue that they are continuing
what is best and brightest in the Christian tradition.
It’s my hope the dialogue between
liberal Christians and transhumanists can enrich and strengthen
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 King (1996) provides an
excellent intellectual biography of Teilhard. The Teilhard de
Chardin Album (Mortier & Auboux, 1966) is an impressive
photographic record of Teilhard’s life, including his many
 There are many international organizations devoted to the
study of Teilhard’s thoughts and the realization of his ideals.
Among them are the American Teilhard Association, which has a
website at <http://www.teilharddechardin.org/association.html>.
The British Teilhard Association maintains a site at <http://www.teilhard.org.uk/>.
 A very brief sketch of the Irenaean theodicy is as follows.
The history of humanity is analogous to the development of an
individual human from childhood to maturity. Just as a child is
born into the world in an immature condition, so humanity first
emerges on Earth in an immature condition. And, much like
children, we are initially fragile creatures in a dangerous
world. When we meet these dangers, we are often hurt by them.
The dangers in this world should not be thought of as evil,
however, but as challenges we must overcome in our individual
and collective development. Overcoming these challenges is a
character-building or soul-making process. As we successfully
overcome them, we become more and more like God. Similarly a
transhumanist might argue that the ethical development of
technology is part of our collective process of maturation. It
is our most natural way to meet and overcome the challenges we
face. A deeper or more detailed discussion of Irenaean theodicy
is beyond the scope of this article. For more information, see
Hick (1977) or Walker (undated).
 If you have time to read only one short essay by Teilhard,
read “The formation of the noosphere” in The Future of Man
(1959). If you have time for only a few more short essays, read
“Life and the planets” and “From the pre-human to the
ultra-human: The phases of a living planet” also in The Future
of Man. If you have time to read a whole book, try The
Phenomenon of Man (1955). Then finish the essays in The Future
of Man. After that, you will be well-prepared to venture into
the rest of Teilhard’s work.
 Transhumanists are likely to be particularly interested in
several items published by the journal Teilhard Studies. These
items are short and accessible. Norris (1995) discusses
Teilhard’s work in relation to anthropic cosmological
principles, and particularly how Teilhard’s thought was taken up
by Barrow and Tipler. Dupuy (2000) discusses technology and
millenarian thought in Bacon and Teilhard. Salmon (1986) and
Duffy (2001) examine Teilhard’s evolutionary cosmology in light
of recent developments in the sciences of self-organization and
complexity. Issues of Teilhard Studies may be ordered from the
American Teilhard Association: see <http://www.teilharddechardin.org/studies.html>.
Salmon (1995) is an edited volume devoted to more recent
assessments of Teilhard’s thought. It contains an extensive
biography of work on Teilhard from 1980 to 1995.
 Teilhard hints at, but does not develop, an intriguing
argument from the principle of plenitude to the purposiveness of
evolution. His sketch goes like this:
“spirit is a constantly
increasing physical magnitude; there is, indeed, no discernible
limit to the depths to which knowledge and love can be carried.
But if spirit can grow greater without any check, surely that is
an indication that it will in fact do so in a universe whose
fundamental law would appear to be ‘if a thing is possible, it
will be realized’”
(1974: 109; italics are Teilhard’s).
argument has interesting links to the classical arguments from
degrees of perfection to the existence of God (Anselm,
Monologion, ch. 4; Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part 1, Q. 2, Art.
3). I cannot, however, further pursue those links here.
 Since I am not presently concerned with Teilhard’s theology,
I cannot enter into a full discussion of his conception of the
pleroma. I can only point out that Teilhard stresses the
physicality of the pleroma (in 1974: 67–72). He equates it with
the consummated Christ and insists that those who are saved will
be “physically incorporated in the organic and ‘natural’ whole
of the consummated Christ”(1974: 70; italics are Teilhard’s).
Teilhard also says that Christ has “a cosmic nature, enabling
him to center all the lives which constitute a pleroma extended
to the galaxies” (1974: 236).