American Indians, Transhumanism and Cognitive Enhancement

Authored by: Thurman Lee Hester

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Science

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415492447
eBook ISBN: 9780203803516
Adobe ISBN: 9781136634178


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Though it is impossible to speak of American Indian culture monolithically, there are several cultural norms that are almost universally held, though they may manifest in different ways from nation to nation. These foundations of American Indian culture have endured through generations of boarding schools, missionaries, and government policies that have sought to “Americanize” them. While American Indian people have bent with the winds, they have not broken. The depth and breadth of practices maintained varies from individual to individual, and from nation to nation, but the fundamental core is still vibrant in many communities and only slowly fading in others. On a very basic level, American Indian people continue to be both pragmatic and what Euro-American philosophers might call “mystical.” For American Indians, everything is both mundane and spiritual. To live, we must eat. This is a very practical fact. To eat, we might kill a deer or raise corn. On one hand we take a life and on the other we nurture it, but both have profound spiritual overtones and consequences. In every element of life there are both practical answers and unfathomable mysteries. In providing the practical answers, American Indian people are very pragmatic, and well known for adopting the answers of other cultures in a kind of syncretism that often skips any attempt at reconciliation of belief. This is, in part, because belief plays a much less important role in Native American culture. Orthopraxy, among other things, provides the group cohesion and identity that orthodoxy gives most European cultures. So, American Indian nations and people are very likely to adopt emerging technologies that fill a practical need unless these conflict with other practices that are more central to their cultures. While ideas presented here are generally true, it should be remembered that there are literally hundreds of American Indian Nations and thus specifics will certainly vary.

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