by Eric Steinhart
Department of Philosophy
Journal of Evolution and Technology
Vol. 20 Issue 1 - pgs 1-22
Omega Point Theology Being Used As Framework For
Nephilim As Spiritual Leaders Of New Global Order
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 Internet).
advocates 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
course, Teilhard’s Omega Point Theory is deeply
Christian, which may be difficult for secular
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.
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 posthuman
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
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.
discusses the spread of human intelligence into the universe and its
amplification into a cosmic-intelligence.
The second reason for
transhumanists to study Teilhard is that his thought has influenced
transhumanism itself. In particular, Teilhard develops an Omega
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, 389-390)
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 politically costly.
Transhumanism and Christianity are not essentially enemies.
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.
study of Teilhard can help transhumanists to locate and carefully
cultivate friends in that network and to locate, and carefully defend
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.
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
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 the West.
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.
study of his work can help transhumanists develop nuanced
strategies for defending against attacks from conservative
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
study of Teilhard’s work may help transhumanists to explore the
ways that transhumanism can obtain support:
from Christian millenarianism (see Bozeman, 1997; Noble,
from Irenaean and neo-Irenaean theodicies (see Hick, 1977;
from liberal Protestantism (see Arnow, 1950)
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
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 conceptually
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
thereby hope to make his ideas accessible and to encourage further study
of Teilhard among transhumanists.
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
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 physical scale.
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.
(Teilhard, 1959, The Future of Man, page 98;
henceforth abbreviated FUT.)
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
(Bennett, 1990: 142.)
Teilhard observes that increasingly complex systems are emerging in
our universe over time.
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 MFV). 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.
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.
is Teilhard’s Law of Complexity – Consciousness:
“Whatever instance we may think of, we may be sure that everytime
a richer and better organized structure will correspond to the more
(Teilhard, 1955, The Phenomenon of Man,
pages 60-61, 301; henceforth abbreviated
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
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.
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 powerful computers.
Teilhard’s writings outline a
series of epochs of complexity. These closely resemble the six epochs of
complexity described by Kurzweil (2005: 7-33).
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 (2005: 15).
the epoch of physics and chemistry
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 wakes
3. First epoch:
information in atomic systems
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 hydrogen atoms.
Gravity now pulls hydrogen into stars.
Stars fuse hydrogen
into helium and then fuse lighter elements into heavier elements:
“In the stars... the degree of complexity rises rapidly... the
stars are essentially laboratories in which Nature, starting with
primordial hydrogen, manufactures atoms”
time goes by, the elements become more complex:
“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
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.
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 computation.
Chemistry is computation-friendly.
4. Second epoch: information in biological
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”
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
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
Self-reference is what Teilhard calls involution
(something turns inwards towards itself).
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.
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 organisms:
“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”
the complexity of living systems increases, so too does their
“the higher the degree of complexity in a living creature, the
higher its consciousness, and vice versa”
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
see the emergence of the first networks of social
5. Third 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.
develop towards greater self-relation.
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
argues that there are two main lines of neural development. These are the
insects and the mammals (PHEN: 153).
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.
of intelligence goes hand in hand with three other features:
the emergence of social networks (computer networks)
the emergence of signaling systems
the emergence of exosomatic organs
These three features are found in the social insects, in
intelligent birds, and in the primates.
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.
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.
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.
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 hardware.
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”
course, we must bear in mind that there are other lines in the tree of
earthly life that are leading to this self-awareness.
it is entirely possible that life on other planets has also led to
6. Fourth 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 artificial brains).
Tools are organs outside of the body (Turner, 2000). They are
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 terms.
“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; Kurzweil, 2005).
artificial intelligence technologies
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 technologies.
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,
generalized nervous system, emanating from certain defined centers and
covering the entire surface of the globe”
(FUT: 125; PHEN: 244)
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 universe.
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
Teilhard also talks about genetic and
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
(PHEN: 250; MFV: 181)
argues, further, that human intelligence should guide human evolution via
is thus arguing for an ethically appropriate form of eugenics:
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
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.
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 neo-life”
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.
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).
might see here a primitive version of 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 principles”: 148)
convergence of genetic and information technologies aims at the perfection
of human intelligence:
“Thought might artificially perfect the thinking instrument
7. Beyond the
observes four epochs of self-organization:
the emergence of stars and stellar nucleo-synthesis
the emergence of planets
the emergence of living things and biological
the emergence of intelligence (in nervous
form of self-organization gives rise to the next. Evolution is thus
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.
“wherever there are life bearing planets in the Universe, they
too will become encompassed, like the Earth, with some form of
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
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).
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.
the Strong Anthropic Principle (SAP) certainly
“The Universe must have those properties which allow life to
develop within it at some stage in its history”
(Barrow and Tipler, 1986: 21)
Final Anthropic Principle (FAP) is even more controversial.
“Intelligent information-processing 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
further says that,
“The only universe capable of containing the human person is an
irreversibly ‘personalizing’ universe”
is difficult to defend any version of the FAP. And therefore it is
difficult to defend any Omega Point Theory.
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); therefore,
the FAP is more likely to be true than
this argument is very weak.
course, for Teilhard the anthropocentric version of the FAP is a matter of
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
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.
what follows, I will assume that human civilization will make progress
into the fifth and sixth epochs.
epoch: the merger of humanity and technology
As already mentioned,
Teilhard recognizes that the pace of technological advance is
argues that this acceleration will lead to the emergence of a global
“all the machines on Earth, taken together, tend to form a
single, vast organized mechanism”
These machines begin to operate on themselves,
“thus accelerating and multiplying their own growth and forming a
single gigantic network girdling the Earth”
self-direction of technological evolution is the next type of involution
(after self-replication and self-consciousness).
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,
future period during which the pace of technological change will be so
rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly
(Kurzweil, 2005, The Singularity is Near,
page 7; henceforth abbreviated SING)
Kurzweil says the Singularity will transform humans into
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
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 Earth
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).
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:
universal computational medium will cover the Earth. A human
super-consciousness will emerge within this computational
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.
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).
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
Living thinking things will merge with the
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.
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
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
live in a virtual reality simulation of their past ecosystems. But this
virtual reality is not unreal. It is made of real
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 Earth”
spirit of the Earth is the totality of (human and non-human) software
processes running on the planetary super-computer:
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.
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 elements.
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 was born.
not this what is happening at the present time – the closing of this
spherical thinking circuit?
technosphere will become the noosphere.
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”
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 super-organize matter”
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
Elsewhere, he says,
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 material phenomena.
Consciousness would thus finally construct itself by a synthesis
of planetary units. Why not, in a universe whose astral unit is the
material expansion of the noosphere into the universe has several
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
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
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:
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.
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 Big 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
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
[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.
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).
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
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
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.
Sixth epoch: the universe wakes up
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).
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 intelligence:
“In our time Mankind seems to be approaching its critical point
of social organization”
(FUT: 31, 47)
refers to the critical point as “the entry into the super-human” (PHEN:
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
Teilhard identifies the critical point with the
Christian notion of the parousia:
“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”
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
writes that when future human intelligence passes through the critical
“will penetrate for the first time into the environment which is
biologically requisite for the wholeness of its task”
critical point (identified with the parousia) is the Teilhardian
expansion into the universe
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”
repeatedly says that future human intelligence will leave the Earth
spiritually (PHEN: 272, 273, 287; FUT: 116, 175, 303-304).
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 pleroma (Teilhard,
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).
says the pleroma is spatially “extended to the galaxies” (174:
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,
“by translation or dematerialization, to another sphere of the
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.
pleroma is physical, but its physicality is deeper than
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).
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
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).
suggest that the most precise way to think of Teilhard’s
pleroma is to think of it as the Network.
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 purely informational.
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 cosmos.
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
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.
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
will have become spiritual.
resurrection of the body
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”
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 molecular level.
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).
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
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 the body”.
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)
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 an emulation.
“the physical mechanism of individual resurrection is the
emulation of each and every long-dead person – and their worlds – in the
computers of the far future”
(1995: 14, 220)
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 the material.
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.
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.
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.
as our fingers are shorter and thinner than our arms, so the sticks at
each level are shorter and thinner.
The universality of the resurrection
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
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.
need an argument that we will be resurrected no matter what happens to the
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.
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
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).
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
The Omega Point
10.1 The Omega Point as a universal Turing
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
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
say that all souls meet at the Omega Point is just to say that the
Omega Point runs all possible human body-programs. 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.
interprets the Omega Point in both Christian and pantheistic terms.
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
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
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 interpretation.
pleroma is a network of infinitely complex computers. I have
suggested that each computer is an accelerating universal Turing
machine with infinite memory (an AUTM). Just as an infinite set
contains infinitely many infinite subsets, so an AUTM can exactly simulate
infinitely many other AUTMs.
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).
might say that every resurrection body runs all the others in its
imagination (see Moravec, 1988: 178-79).
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
all these persons are distinct programs.
10.2 The Omega Point as a self-representative
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
this is right, then Teilhard’s Omega Point is Royce’s Absolute
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.
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
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 other
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.
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
Teilhard’s thought has influenced transhumanism, and
several important transhumanists have developed Omega Point
Teilhard works out his transhumanist ideas in a
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 technical progress.
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.
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 research expeditions.
 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
 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).
This 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: