What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? – Hamlet, Act II scene ii
Transhumanism is the focus of this week’s edition:
When have we stopped supplying nature and begun to supplant it? If there is nothing wrong – in principle – with improving on nature, then where do we draw the line when it comes to our efforts to improve (on) it?
When we design technology capable of anticipating our needs – and our desires – what do we risk losing?
Most importantly: what resources can we find within the Catholic tradition of thinking, to help us find our way across the troubled landscape of technological (r)evolution, with all its challenges and opportunities?
These were the focuses of my conversation with Fr. Philip Larrey, a priest of the Rome diocese and Professor of Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University, where he teaches logic and epistemology.
Talking with Prof. Larrey, by the way, is always great fun – but it is never easy: he knows the players, and the game, and the score – and he is fearless when it comes to engaging the ethical challenges of our technological age.
Be prepared to have him challenge you, as he challenges me every time we talk…
Read more in the show notes beneath the image – and don’t forget to subscribe to the show – we’re now available on iTunes!
Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
*********************** Show Notes **************************
Prof. Philip Larrey is a priest of the Rome diocese and Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Understanding at Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University. He is the author and editor of several books, including:
- Futuro ignoto: conversazioni sulla nuova era digitale
- Science and religion: an anthology. Selection of texts from Aquinas, Bacon, Galileo, Darwin and John Paul II
He is also the author of the forthcoming volume, Connected World: Talking About the Future With Those Who are Shaping it (Penguin, March 2017), to which our own Chris Altieri contributed a chapter.
Books mentioned during the course of the conversation:
- Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
- How to Create a Mind by Ray Kurzweil
- Our Final Invention by James Barrat
The “Core Values” conference was held in November of 2016 at the Pontifical Lateran University, and involved leaders from the communications and information technology industries, academics, and intellectuals from a host of fields.
The thumb ailment is apparently called “texting thumb”: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2012/08/13/texting-thumb-a-growing-health-condition/
Toward the end of the conversation, Prof. Larrey refers to a story he saw in the news recently about scientists, who claim to have discovered “the soul” and that “life after death really exists”: the Dec. 5, 2016 story in YourNnewsWire.com was based on a 2014 study conducted by researchers at the University of Southampton and published in the journal Resuscitation.
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Next week on Thinking with the Church, we’ll talk to a biologist and teacher of biology who designed – together with his students at Cristo Rey Prep in Houston – one of the experiments sent to space on the Space-X 9 and conducted aboard the International Space Station.
We’ll talk with a convert to Catholicism who came to the fullness of the faith through a conviction in the oneness of truth and the need to seek the truth intrepidly – and we’ll also talk to a commissioned officer in the United States Navy and with a Jesuit priest currently doing doctoral work in philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Fr. Brian Reedy, SJ, will be our guest next week.
Thanks to Executive Producer Ester Rita and to web guru Christopher Bauer Anderson of the web design company Life Site Ministries LLC – you can find them at:
Sean Beeson composed our theme – you can get ears on his brilliant musical stylings at