Harari’s Hackable Animals and Fictional Human Rights

Street Theologian
12 min readJan 31, 2024
Children set aside for a medical experiment for Joseph Mengele before being liberated by the Red Army in WW2. All images from Wikimedia Commons unless noted otherwise

Harari, Trans-humanism and the Moral Argument for God

What are human rights? What is an example of something moral or immoral?

No.. genuinely.. These are serious questions.

A MEANINGLESS EXISTENCE, NO REAL HUMAN RIGHTS, HACKABLE ANIMALS AND A BRAVE NEW WORLD

Why define morality as human flourishing when you can have transhuman flourishing instead?

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1. Harari and human rights

2. The moral argument for God

3. Objections to the moral argument

Famous author of Sapiens Dr. Yuval Noah Harari notes, “As far as we can tell from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose…Hence any meaning that people inscribe to their lives is just a delusion.” Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, p.438.

Goodreads

In effect, there are no human rights. If matter is all there is, humans are just matter held together in a more complex manner than other material objects.

Humans rights are a fiction like God?

As Harari elucidated at TEDGlobal, “Today, most legal systems are based on a belief in human rights. But human rights are a fiction, just like God and Heaven. In reality, humans have no rights, just as chimps or wolves have no rights. Cut open a human, and you won’t find there any rights. The only place where human rights exist is in the stories we invent and tell one another.

Concept of a human is also evolving

Besides.. The concept of a human is also evolving. Some have evolved more than others.

If we merge humans with technology through trans-humanism to usher in the next phase of evolution, would it be “moral” to discriminate against or extinguish humans who are not joined to technology networks?

Bio-digital trans-humans flourishing beyond humans- why hold on to humans?

Surely it’s about survival of the fittest (trans-humans) and the flourishing and development of the human race.

Why hold on to people holding us back? Won’t killing less developed humans be no different from a lion eating a zebra?

Morality as illusion?

After all.. Morality is an illusion for us to function better as a society and if people who don’t embrace new technology are holding us back and not helping us function better, why do we need them around?

The gene-edited alpha class

Even in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the elite class of society, the alpha class, through means of technology, science, and gene editing are the superior class of what is in effect a scientific caste system ruled by a scientific and technological dictatorship.

The epsilon class, for example, are engineered not to have the same quality of traits as the alphas.

TV Insider Brave New World

Why is this wrong? If the “world controllers” in Huxley’s world are in a position to decide what they think is best for humanity (aka human flourishing), you mightn’t like their utopia (or dystopia depending on your view) but is it immoral?

What if the next stage of evolution is the intelligent design of the gene-edited trans-human species by scientists and government officials?

It is what it is.

How do you derive an ought from an is?

The quotes below from Harari help us further explore these ideas.

The new divine creators

Harari explained regarding the next phase of evolution at the World Economic Forum in 2020, “Our intelligent design is going to be the new driving force of the evolution of life and in using our new divine powers of creation we might make mistakes on a cosmic scale.”

No unalienable rights

Regarding human rights, Harari adds in Sapiens altering the “most famous line of the American Declaration of Independence” (p.122), “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men evolved differently, that they are born with certain mutable characteristics, and that among these are life and the pursuit of pleasure” (p 123).

This is, of course, a major variation from what was declared in Congress on July 4, 1776:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Not mysterious souls but hackable animals

Furthermore, Harari highlighted his view of humans as hackable animals that can be embedded in a technological system in a WEF speech in Davos in 2020, “A system that understands us better than we understand ourselves can predict our feelings and decisions, can manipulate our feelings and decisions, and can ultimately make decisions for us… But soon at least some corporations and governments will be able to systematically hack all the people. We humans should get used to the idea that we are no longer mysterious souls — we are now hackable animals. That’s what we are.”

Free will, that’s over

Elsewhere he echoed a similar idea, “Humans are now hackable animals… The whole idea that humans have this soul or spirit, and they have free will, and nobody knows what’s happening inside me, so whatever I choose whether in the election or whether in the supermarket, this is my free will, that’s over.”

Do you hold these views or live consistently with these views?

Now.. please do not get me wrong I’m not telling you to hold to these views. In fact, I’m confident you think there is value to human life.

However, many have argued, theists and atheists alike that these conclusions naturally flow from an atheistic worldview.

This is something we have discussed previously in this blog.

Robert Greene Meets with Andrew Huberman: The Search for God is Real

Do we Need God? The Loss of God and the Decay of Society Under the False Gods of Sex, Status, Science and State. Street Theologian Responds to the Academy of Ideas

Christian vs Atheist: Can God possibly exist? Refuting Edward Johns’ article response

To summarise, according to Harari, you are a hackable animal, can be completely manipulated by technology, have no free will and any meaning you ascribe to your life is just an illusion.

Do you have any issue with cosmic experiments, hacking and manipulating human life as if humans are really just hackable animals with no real meaning?

THE MORAL ARGUMENT- DO OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES EXIST?

Harari’s points raise the question, do human beings have any intrinsic worth? Are there any objective moral values? The moral argument for God goes as follows:

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist
  3. Therefore, God exists

By objective moral values we mean values which stand regardless of whether or not anyone holds to them.

For example, if the eugenicists of the 20th century were still in power and convinced everyone alive we should kill disabled people it would still be morally wrong.

Joseph Mengele

Even if raping and torturing little children made more people in society happy overall it would still be wrong under this view.

This isn’t a discussion about whether or not atheists can live moral lives, far from it! I have personally met many atheists open to honest dialogues and respectful discussions. Rather, this is a question of if any objective moral value exists.

Anything that transcends the mere chemicals colliding inside your head and is binding on someone else on the other side of the globe.

Do you think anything is really wrong? Let us know your thoughts.

ATHEIST COUNTERARGUMENTS

Atheists commonly object to the moral argument with the following:

1. Yes there are no objective moral values.

To which I would ask, have you really tried living like this and seen what happens? Ignore your conscience 100% of the time?

You might find you are a bit like a blind person who says there are no physical objects and still tries to walk around.

YOU CAN’T CRITICISE RELIGIOUS HARMS ANYMORE?

You also lose all rights to objectively criticise any immoral behaviour. Yes.. that includes all those acts you think are heinous that were done in the name of religion! They weren’t objectively wrong after all..

2. We have no free will, no such thing as duty anyway.

If we are simply particles and accidents then yes that would make sense. We are simply “fizzing” away to the chemicals inside our heads.

There’s no such thing as a mind which is separate from the brain which can override what the brain is causing you to do. However, let’s pause and ask “did you will to say that?”

If people have no free will why try and hold anyone to account for anything they have done?

Many have shamefully done many terrible things in the name of “God”. I can say, under my worldview, they did will what they have done and it is unacceptable. However, if one argues there is no free will anyway, how could they help what they did?

Further, how could you help or mean to ask about what they have done? You have no say over that either. Let’s be careful of falling into the “Bait and Switch” trap Plantinga warns of.

We do not have maximal autonomy (perfectly uninhibted free will), there are factors that impact our decisions but it is a big stretch to then say we have no will or intent or ability to alter our focus.

3. Objective moral values exist as “illusions” to aid human flourishing.

What is human flourishing? Who defines it? Why human flourishing and not animal flourishing or transhuman flourishing? What if raping helps propagate your special genes or lying helps you survive?

Shall we kill off humans who don’t help the race flourish? What happens if human flourishing and transhuman flourishing clash? Which is more important?

Imagined order

This is what Harari refers to as an “imagined order” in Sapiens which will enable us “to create a stable and prosperous society.”

Anyone who has read Huxley’s Brave New World will recall “Community, Identity, Stability” is what the genetically engineered people further conditioned by state propaganda live by as the World State’s motto.

If it’s only an imagined order what do you tell someone “immoral” who doesn’t believe your illusory, imagined order? Do you tell them they are the same as someone who wears sandals with socks or wears a tie with football shorts? Different yes, immoral no. As Dawkins remarks in the Selfish Gene:

Much as we might wish to believe otherwise, universal love and the welfare of the species as a whole are concepts that simply do not make evolutionary sense… My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop it being true.

4. Moral values are what make the most amount of people happy.

This is similar to point 3. The issue with this is what makes the most amount of people happy varies over time. In that sense, if burning witches, or raping kids made more people happy than it did sad, back at that point in time you have no right to say it was wrong.

What makes us happy has arbitrarily changed since then and can be arbitrarily different between different countries and cultures today! There might be things we like now that will be wrong in the future and vice versa.

5. Moral values have progressed purely through Neo Darwinian evolution.

Ok.. under this moral values are arbitrary. If we evolved differently we’d have a different set of “values” if we even existed or had intelligence that is.

As Stephen Jay Gould wrote in Wonderful Life, “Wind back the tape of life to the early days of the Burgess Shale; let it play again from an identical starting point, and the chance becomes vanishingly small that anything like human intelligence would grace the replay” (Gould, 1989, p. 45).

What would grace the replay of evolution?

In a similar fashion one could argue, it would be very unlikely anything like our “morality” would “grace the replay” even if by another fluke we or similar happened to exist again. Furthermore, the fact something develops through time does not alone show evolution is the cause of it.

Evolving to the immaterial?

If the eyes and body have evolved in response to the sun and air rather than causing the existence of the sun or air, our knowledge of maths has arguably developed in response to mathematical truths or “mental air”, could it be the same for moral truths that we are learning or adapting to what already exists?

Besides against which benchmark do we measure progress? An objective benchmark? Any sort of benchmark would need to exist outside of the purely material, mechanistic, chemical process.

6. Morals help with survival of the fittest and propagating DNA.

Animals do a better job at propagating DNA than us, they also rape each other and act like friends soon afterward. What’s wrong with that if they’re propagating DNA? Harari admits in Sapiens, “from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural” (164).

7. Objective morals are just brute facts with no deeper explanation.

Is the material world all there is? If yes, it’s highly ironic to think purposeful, immaterial moral duties applied to persons came from a purely impersonal material process with no purpose behind it.

If you think the material world is not all there is then be my guest and assume logic, mathematics, the rational intelligibility of the universe, transcendent beauty and art and music are all just brute facts to be assumed as well!

What about not multiplying the number of causes beyond what is necessary under Ockham’s razor?

It makes more sense to think an immaterial personal mind is the Source of immaterial values applied to persons as opposed to an impersonal force!

So what are your thoughts on this?

CLOSING IDEAS

“The idea that one species of organism is, unlike all the others, oriented not just toward its own increased prosperity but towards Truth, is as un-Darwinian as the idea that every human being has a built-in moral compass-a conscience that swings free of both social history and individual luck.” Richard Rorty, Untruth and Consequences

“The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

Is there right and wrong regardless of the tides of time, human and trans-human trends?

Are morals similar arithmetic, transcendent and right regardless, yet with moral implications (you don’t get jailed for doing your sums wrong at school!)?

Is there even anything transcendent, immaterial and objective at all? What do we make of the following from atheist Daniel Dennett, who raised these questions in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,

“Suppose SETI [search for extra-terrestrial intelligence] struck it rich, and established communication with intelligent beings on another planet. We would not be surprised to find that they understood and used the same arithmetic that we do. Why not? Because arithmetic is right. The point is clearly not restricted to arithmetic, but to all “necessary truths” — what philosophers since Plato have called a priori knowledge.”

Do objective moral values exist or not? Are morals more like arithmetic (immaterial, objective except with moral implications!) or more like fashion choices?

If torturing a disabled person or a child made 7 billion people happy would it still be objectively wrong?

Is there an intrinsic worth to being a human, that intelligent life would understand as they see humans interact with each other or is any worth associated with humans flexible, hackable, illusory and able to be manipulated as Harari purports?

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Street Theologian

Theology and apologetics for those who want to get their hands dirty