The Prevailing Double Standard

Some thoughts on hostile attitudes towards cryonics from Depressed Metabolism and Mark Plus:

One of the mysterious things about cryonics is that some of the arguments that are invoked against it would be considered ridiculous, or even insensitive, if they would be raised in the context of other live-saving technologies.


Why do we call engineering efforts to solve a hard problem which haven't worked so far "failures," while some people call cryonics' attempts at intervening into the death process "denial?" The difference seems to involve a double standard. We don’t call other efforts to save human life "denial" when they don’t work in some cases, and not just in a medical context. The effort to rescue those trapped miners in Chile may not work, for example; but nobody I know of calls the rescue project "denial," wants to stop it as a waste of resources, and admonishes the doomed miners to "Get over yourselves," as one of Ted Williams's relatives has said to cryonicists.

The same goes for medicine in general. How would we react if authority figures scolded us for seeking health care for serious illnesses or injuries, saying that we should instead deal with our "denial" and "fear of death" issues through, say, strength of character, rather than trying to stay alive and functional through modern medicine?

Sadly this prevailing double standard is also in force when it comes to life science research aimed at reversing aging and thereby greatly extending the healthy human life span. When listening knee-jerk reactions against engineered longevity and apologism for the suffering and death caused by aging, it's helpful to imagine the objecting person transported back in time to 1800 or thereabouts, and spouting the same nonsense about accepting the longevity we have - in an era with a far lower human life expectancy.

A person who ages to frailty is no less suffering and no less dead in the end than one who dies through accident or disease at a younger age. So many people are instinctively hostile to the prospect of anyone managing to live longer, just as they are instinctively hostile to those who make far more money - and this jealousy is, sadly, an important aspect of human nature. We primate hunter-gatherers are hardwired to hate and stamp out inequality wherever we see it, a tendency that isn't helpful at all in this day and age of great cities and complex economies. When acted upon, these urges help to hold back improvement for all:

Life is unfair, make no mistake. People are unequal in opportunity, capacity and the hand they were dealt at birth. To think that this truth can be removed in any way, shape or form is to betray a profound ignorance of economics and the human condition. You cannot make life better at the bottom by tearing down the top; the top is where progress happens, progress that lifts the quality of life for everyone. Punishing success in order to reward failure has predictable results - more failure and less success. The wealthy of 1950 were far worse off than the poor of today precisely because progress brings economic rewards to the successful.

Great post! Please keep up the good work, Reason.

Posted by: Kip at October 8th, 2010 8:33 PM

The double standard is one example of how conventional medicine is a criminal enterprise.

Posted by: kurt9 at October 9th, 2010 12:31 PM

Its actually worse than this as the Federal government is duplicitous in this. The FDA refuses to classify aging as a treatable disease and therefor will not even consider the approval of any compound or therapy that successfully treats it. Yet, at the same time, I have read of age discrimination lawsuits where the plaintiffs have lost, in federal court, because the judge ruled that the aging process did affect the ability of the plaintiff's job performance such that the employer was justified in laying them off.

So, you have a Federal government that on hand refuses to recognize aging as a disease and on the other hand does recognize that aging is a disease such that it affects performance, in a precise manner to screw you over.

I do not know whose side the Federal government is on. But I can certainly tell you it is not on the side of you and I.

Sometimes I wonder if we would be better off without a federal government at all.

Posted by: kurt9 at October 11th, 2010 9:52 AM
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.