How the Pro-Engineered Longevity Bioethicists Think

The writing of Collin Farrelly is a reasonable median point in the range of views amongst bioethicists in favor of engineering far greater human longevity through medical science. Arthur Caplan might be another good median example.

Personally, I'm not fond of bioethics as a field - its members all too often serve as no more than useful mouthpieces for those who work to suppress freedom of research and development. There will always be demagogues and popular opinion-mongers, but that arena would much more constructive in the absence of empowered bureaucrats and political appointees who delight in shackling a ball and chain to progress. As things stand, modern bioethics all has the air of supplicants to majesties, of begging for scraps and the simple freedom to make progress.

If unelected, unaccountable, uncaring government employees didn't have the power to control the future of your access to medical technology, you could cheerfully ignore bioethicists as another bunch of crazies - men and women busy overthinking the issue of common sense - if you so decided. The world would be a better place for that freedom.

In any case, take a look at this piece that references the Longevity Dividend Initiative:

Given that many people see longevity science itself as unethical, it is not surprising that proposals to invest greater funding into tackling aging, rather than research on specific diseases, will likely be met with strong opposition and protests that this is unfair. For the latter proposal implicates the allocation of scarce resources, and thus it raises complex questions of distributive justice. Is it fair, the critic will ask, to divert resources dedicated to saving lives (e.g. with possible treatments for cancer, AD, etc.) to medical research that seeks to merely extend lives? Let us call this the Fairness Objection to prioritizing aging research.

In this paper I will examine, and critique, this Fairness Objection to making aging research a greater priority than it currently is. The Fairness Objection presumes that support for the Longevity Dividend is limited to a simplistic utilitarian justification. Utilitarians invoke a mode of justification that is, at base, aggregative. Thus the critics of utilitarianism charge that it is a moral theory that maintains that imposing high costs on a few could be justified by the fact that this confers benefits on others, no matter how small these benefits may be as long as the recipients are sufficiently numerous.

On the other hand, given that the course of one's life is a private matter, how about we all just get on with supporting, advocating, fundraising, and conducting longevity research as we see fit? Unfortunately, that delightful thing called government allows naysayers to grab the reins of power and interfere in every private endeavor. Plurity of choice is crushed beneath the battle over control. It is a despicable state of affairs, and I don't see how playing within the system - according any legitimacy to those who would use force to remake your every private choice - will make things better in the long term.


There's no reason that bioethics couldn't be a really positive force for good in the world. In fact it's wholly ironic that ethicists pose such a threat. Their entire purpose is predicated on the application of moral philosophy in public life, and in principle I agree with that mission. They should be championing medical progress, not holding it up. To do so is unethical.

Posted by: Ben at August 19th, 2008 4:09 AM

I recommend the article by Objectivist Alex Epstein on the philosophical corruptions of the bioethicists, and the threat they pose to scientific progress:

"Biotech vs. "Bioethics": The Technology of Life Meets the Morality of Death"

Posted by: Adam Spong at August 24th, 2008 10:33 PM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.