Acceptable Deathism and Individual Choice

As I've said before, I have no problem with people who sincerely wish to age and/or die. Nor even to any great degree with those people who fail to think though through the path of future health and suffering, or choose to bury their heads in the sand, and thereby actively hurt the person they will one day be. Individual choice is vital and precious, and these folk are making choices.

There's nothing wrong with education and persuasion aimed at those who don't think much of healthy life extension or SENS research, of course, but in the end the choice of whether to reach for a longer healthy life is up to the individual.

When I point out the callousness of deathists, I am aiming my contempt for those who would force their choice of death and decrepitude upon others. The great evil is not that a person refuses to live longer, nor does it lie in persuading others to choose aging, or in refusing to step up to help defeat age-related degeneration and death. No, the great evil is to attempt to force an early death upon others against their will. There's a name for that, no matter how subtle the actions: murder.

Here's an example of one variety of what I might term acceptable deathism; those who choose to believe they are already immortal, but are generally willing to live and let live. Letting others to their choices and restricting oneself to persuasion without intent of force has always been a sadly thin strand in most religious traditions.

So just what is transhumanism? Well it means what the term implies: going beyond the merely human. Or as the WTA website says, “We support the development of and access to new technologies that enable everyone to enjoy better minds, better bodies and better lives. In other words, we want people to be better than well.” Sounds pretty good, on first reading. But it is not all as rosy as it first appears.

Indeed, some might still ask, what is wrong with all this? Well, there is nothing wrong, as such, with wanting to live longer and healthier lives.


This is all very utopian alright. As I mentioned earlier, this is ultimately about one thing: achieving human immortality. Now if you are a secular humanist, and a philosophical naturalist, as it seems most transhumanists are, you can see why this is such an important and urgent quest. If life ends at the grave, and that’s it, then sure, we may all want to extend this current life by any means possible. But that is the whole problem. Being based on a secular humanist worldview, transhumanism has the whole concept of life and immortality messed up.

The truth is, life extension is already a current reality. Indeed, we will all live forever. But there are just two destinies after the grave, and only one of those we should be striving for. The means to eternal life was accomplished by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago.

Choices, choices. That choice above - the important part of it from this consideration, being to believe that destruction of the brain is not oblivion - is ultimately fatal. From my vantage point, it is the will to self-destruction. No doubt the author might say the same of my point of view and actions. However, I value a world in which we're all free to think and choose for ourselves, and in which choice and consequences are respected.

Even if we could draft the masses to work to defeat aging, we should not do it; that would make us no better than those deathists who would set the agency of government to block research and mandate age-related death to their schedule.

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Posted by: Jaap at August 6th, 2007 6:04 AM

at the present time aging and death are not individual choices , but a default state. Whether you consciously choose death or decide not to think about it and not to choose it, you will still die. It would be a real choice only if a real cure for aging and death would already be available now.

believing in resurection by the supreme being some time in the future and believing in scientific abolition of aging and death some time in the future are not mutually exclusive.
one can believe in both. and i do.

so, persuading people who already believe in religious immortality to also accept scientific immortality it is not necessary to persuade them to abandon their religious beliefs.

Posted by: nick at August 7th, 2007 3:35 PM

I occasionally get into these debates with "religious" people on the net.

One of the most common complaints about the mechanistic world-view from religious people is that a purely mechanistic explanation of life somehow robs life of "meaning". They are obsessed with finding some meaning in life that exists independent of their own dreams and choices.

Transhumansists, on the other hand, are not so concerned with meaning. We create our own meaning in life and, thus, are much more focused on self-empowerment.

Posted by: Kurt9 at August 11th, 2007 11:33 AM

Name one thing you would like to do that REALLY takes more than 80 years. I suspect you will come up with something along the lines of "Visit all museums in the world", "learn 500 languages", "write 500 books" etc. But what can't you enjoy about the first museum (or language or book), and the second, and the third? Why should you insist on writing 500 books, rather than (along with 99 other people) 5 each? To demand to be personally involved in so much is nothing but a selfish and egotistical lack of willingness to share the experiences of life with other people (including those who do not yet exist). We all know about how small children often need to be taught to share things with others. Sorry to be blunt, but YOU GUYS ARE NO DIFFERENT!

Posted by: Nightvid Cole at November 25th, 2010 10:46 AM

New technology will allow us greater control of our minds and emotions. You could have the best day of your life every day if you wanted. You could hack your mind so that watching paint dry is the most interesting thing in the world to you. Who knows what wonders will be possible. Think outside the box.

Posted by: Kim at January 2nd, 2011 11:12 PM
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