Physicalism’s Ugly-Contest, Round Two

In Bridging the God Gap I contend that intelligent and well-informed theism and intelligent/well-informed atheism are both legitimate viewpoints. Atheism typically maintains that the universe is entirely physical, and some people think this reduces human beings to the status of “mere” machines. In my previous post I embedded two blankly robotic images from the covers of books about physicalism, and asked, “Who would want to be like that?”

I’ve just received the latest edition of The Philosopher’s Magazine, an excellent publication that opens a window into the world of contemporary philosophy. The cover theme is “Building better humans,” so presumably the cover attempts to depict an improved version of homo sapiens. Check this image and ask yourself, “Does this look like an improvement?”

http://www.exacteditions.com/browse/394/431

(This URL will probably bring up a list of sites. Click on “Exact Editions – The Philosophers’ Magazine.”)

Is this a positive image? It does look rather formidable. But it falls into a long tradition of sci-fi imagery, portraying future humans as robotlike. Notice that the eyes are blank, as if devoid of emotion or motivation. I’m reminded of lines about another robotlike fellow, from W.H. Auden’s poem, “The Unknown Citizen.”

“Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.”

The Philosophers’ Magazine certainly has no reason to make physicalism look ugly. Perhaps without knowing it, cover illustrators use the “scare ‘em to make ‘em look” strategy.

Have any of you seen highly positive images of humans-conceived-as-physical or humans-of-the-high-tech-future? Is so, I’d love to see them.

Roger Christan Schriner

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