I see some of the heavy-hitters (or at least the eager-beaver Web-wide movement spin controllers) have weighed in on Jones' post. Giulio Prisco sez "What's the matter with wishful thinking?" and Luke Parrish sez "Honestly, I think you're reading too much into this [i.e., the connection between contemporary transhumanism and age-old religious aspirations]."Part of what intrigues me in those comments to which you have drawn our attention is the extent to which some transhumanists now seem to be conceding as obviously, commensensically true points they used to describe as nothing but ad hominem attacks on my part when I made them.
Prisco assertively avows here (and has done for some years now) the indispensability of faith and New Age-mystical norms and forms in transhumanist/ singlaritarian/ techno-immortalist futurologies. Parrish avows (as if this is the most natural thing in the world) that transhumanist "thought-leaders" are just slapping together anything that sells more books and he also simply assumes that fear of death drives quite a lot of techno-transcendental belief and energy. Needless to say, I agree with all of these observations.
For years now I have pointed to the tonalities of religiosity, PR-hype, and death-denialism lodged in the assumptions, aspirations, and arguments of so much futurological discourse. As you know, these charges tend to have been greeted with outrage, righteous denial, denunciation, charges that I am indulging in name-calling rather than criticism, and on and on and on.
Although I am an atheist myself, I have no particular interest in denouncing the aesthetic idiosyncrasies of the variously faithful.
It is when religious faith tries to trump the verdicts of science or pretend it is simply an alternative kind of science or policy framework that I expose its falsities and dangers.
It is when religious moral practice tries to trump the reconciliations of politics or pretend it is simply an alternative kind of politics (let alone a democratizing politics) that I expose its falsities and dangers.
If the transhumanists are just an idiosyncratic and marginal faith-based community I might giggle at a South Park parody of their beliefs and I might worry about abuses if they assume authoritarian tonalities in their defensiveness, but apart from that I could scarcely care less how their members pursue their private perfections.
If the transhumanists are just another fandom for futurological pop texts -- that least creative and least original and least demanding of the sf genres -- I might use them as a sad symptom of acquiescence to corporate-militarist gizmo-fetishizing consumer pseudo-culture, but apart from that I could scarcely care less about what people want to be excited about to get them through the night (if I can celebrate Janeway-7of9 shippers, I can give a thumbs up to those who want to navel gaze over fictional traversible wormholes, Holodeck Heavens or magic nano lamps).
And so, I do indeed critique the regular efforts of Robot Cultists to peddle their shenanigans as a warranted science practice or legitimate policy discourse or real identity politics rather than as a loose constellation of faith-based sects and consumer fandoms.
To the extent that some transhumanoid/singularitarian membership organizations have attracted serious corporate funding (Thiel, Musk, Google) or legitimate institutional support (Oxford, Stanford, Google), I think it is important to be vigilant about the Robot Cultists: As I often say, the lesson of the Neocons is that palpably silly ideas with money and plutocratic networking behind them can still do flabbergasting damage in the world if you don't pay attention to them and connect the dots in ways that expose the players and limit their impacts in real time.
But most of all, I also think superlative futurological discourses are clarifyingly illustrative extremities of what are more prevailing justificatory corporate-military discourses playing out across the public field of deceptive, hyperbolic PR forms (age-defying skim kremes, cars as cyborgic agency amplifiers, get rich quick schemes, sociopathic self-esteem and management seminars) to neoliberal/neoconservative think-tank rationalizations (global digital finance scams, global development as hi-tech boondoggle investment debt coupled to deregulatory looting, global free market boom pitches backed by US military robo-info-biowar hardware).
I do think these mainstream reactionary, reductionist, fetishistic, triumphalist, immaterialist, industrialist, eugenic, technocratic ideologies do incredible harm both to real people's lives and to our efforts to make sense of what is really happening in the world. Exposing ridiculous robocultism to ridicule can help expose what is ridiculous and pernicious in these mainstream discourses which often seem unassailable and even invisible so prevalent, so hegemonic, so commonsensical have they become.
For a more fully elaborated but still relatively concise formulation of this critique, read my Futurological Discourses and Posthuman Terrains in Existenz.