April 15, 2011 issue of Catholic San Francisco
This is an excerpt from a talk by French philosopher Fabrice Hadjadj March 24 in Paris at an event that was part of a Vatican-sponsored initiative to create dialogue among Catholics and atheists and agnostics in Europe, called the Courtyard of the Gentiles after a section of the ancient Jewish Temple that was accessible to non-Jews. He contrasts the “trasumanar,” or openness of heaven, of Dante’s Paradiso and the “transhumanism” of the first director general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Julian Huxley. Rome journalist Sandro Magister published an English translation of highlights of the talk on his website, chiesa.espressonline.it.
“Transhumanism” was coined in 1957 by the biologist Julian Huxley, the first director general of UNESCO. What is interesting is that this first director general of UNESCO did not at all mean what Dante did by “transhumanism.” His thought, in fact, goes radically against that of the “Divina Commedia.” But it has the advantage of making manifest the only alternative that is posed today in the modern world.
Brother of Aldous Huxley, the author of “Brave New World,” Julian Huxley might have been expected to be inoculated against any temptation to eugenics. Instead the opposite is true. Not that Julian Huxley was inconsistent; no, he was consistent in the extreme. In 1941, at the very time when the Nazis were gassing the mentally ill, Julian Huxley wrote with a certain audacity: “Once the full implications of evolutionary biology are grasped, eugenics will inevitably become part of the religion of the future, or of whatever complex of sentiments may in the future take the place of organized religion.” These statements were written in 1941. But it was in 1947 that they were published in French, when he was already director general of UNESCO. Not one line was changed on that occasion. Of course, Huxley was anti-Nazi, social democratic, and above all anti-racist. But he presumed to replace the traditional religions with biotechnology.