I recently mentioned a little of the upside relating to public discussions of biological immortality (a state of agelessness, not invulnerability) - this in connection to the "suitable outrageous extreme." In essence, the presence of a serious discussion about the science of a cure for aging and a post-aging world creates an environment in which is is easier to gain support and raise funding for more modest research into extending the healthy human life span. This more modest research still happens to be the first step on the road to a cure for aging. Talking about the end goal speeds the journey by increasing public acceptance and thus driving funding. In that sense, I'm all for the responsible discussion of biological immortality through medical technology - curing aging, in other words. On the other hand, talking about immortality rubs some intelligent, well-meaning folks the wrong way right off the bat. Two good examples are here:
We can see that this fellow is so repulsed by something that is "obviously" fringe that he throws out or refuses to investigate associated facts and science - despite coming across as someone who would be sympathetic to a more subtle approach. For example:
To these concerns, de Grey would no doubt say, "Don't give me possible problems that might or might not happen. Give me the possibility of problems that might or might not be so bad that it's preferable to carry on condemning 100,000 people a day to death, forever."
If there's one thing I hate more than brute force, it's brute reasoning. I wonder how many of those people die from war, famine, car accidents, political prosecution, disease or other factors a genetic code for immortality wouldn't solve. Come to think of it, how are we supposed to get the secret of immortality to people who can't even get clean water? Or how are we going to stop wars? Sure doesn't look like finding immortality is going to do a lot to reduce that amazingly large questionably calculated number.
A few moments of research would uncover that, yes, approximately 100,000 people each and every day could be saved by a cure for aging and age-related degeneration. Another 50,000 each day die from violence, non-age-related disease such as malaria, and other consequences of politically-imposed poverty - but you can't hold back progress on account of poor distribution strategies and bad politics. That's simply reaching for all the old, disproved arguments against any new technology. A rising tide raises all boats, and the building of better boats is a separate topic from raising the tide.
There's much more in that and similar veins of course, the sort of thing an educated person would pick up from filtering the public opinions of scientists and a little knowledge of science through a prexisting bias that any talk of a cure for aging is "fringe" or "cultish." The question would be what we advocates can take away from this view point. What can we learn? From my observations, this sort of reaction is in a minority compared to more positive responses - especially when balanced against the "outrageous extreme" effect of a discussion of immortality on public support for near-term healthy life extension goals. Still, is there a good way to gain the support of people like this while continuing to educate the public about the possibilities offered by healthy life extension research and the fight to defeat aging?