New Stem Cell Research Raises Question: Is Living Longer Moral?

University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Arthur Caplan weighs in with a good column on the new scientific report of producing human stem cells from somatic cells. Caplan notes that the therapeutic promise of the research for increasing human longevity brings forward

"one of the key bioethical debates of the 21st century: Is it right to repair ourselves if it means that we live much longer than any human being has ever lived?"

The answer is easy: Yes. A long healthy life is a moral good. More life is better.  

Whole Caplan column here.  

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  • Abdul||

    one of the key bioethical debates of the 21st century: Is it right to repair ourselves if it means that we live much longer than any human being has ever lived?

    Anyone on the anti-long life side of the debate who doesn't jump on an errant ice floe at the age of 70 is a damned hypocrite.

  • ||

    Sorry for reposting, but:

    Does anyone really think the religious right will be able to mount a successful campaign to seriously set back scientific research in this field? Methinks the ageing baby boomers will "choose (their own) life" over "choose (some microbial) life"....

  • ||

    Ed; No.

  • jimmydageek||

    Well, if the "your body is a temple" thing applies, I'd assume keeping it healthy / living longer would be a good thing. Then again, there will always be opposition to modifying "God's creations"

  • SIV||

    I agree with you on this one Ron. I suspect The State will not which is why I reject that stuff about controlling the secondary market in gene-splicers and other bio lab equipment you posted about a while ago.

  • Jozef||

    I see no moral issue with trying to live forever. After all, we were created in god's image, and she's not about to die anytime soon.

  • ||

    Then the Singularity is Near(er).

  • Episiarch||

    Anyone on the anti-long life side of the debate who doesn't jump on an errant ice floe at the age of 70 is a damned hypocrite.

    Won't the red gem in your hand start blinking well before then?

  • Reinmoose||

    If living longer isn't moral, at what age is it most moral to die? 100 years ago the average life span was lower. Were those people more moral than us?

  • ||

    Seeing that overpopulation of the planet is the root cause of a whole host of problems, I do see longer lifespans as a problem as it will just exacerbate that problem.

  • ||

    Man, NARAL is going to be pissed at this news.

  • ||

    If by living longer you mean, having another go at your 20's, 30's, and 40's, then yes it is inherently good. If by living longer you mean, spending decades in your deathbed, then not so much.

  • VM||

    "Were those people more moral than us?"

    yes, because their carbon footprint was smaller.

  • ||

    Someone thinking seriously about the issue would not conclude that the moral question raised is "Is it better for people to live or die?"

    If you think that the only way to arrive at a position contrary to your own, one that a considerable number of people hold, is to be a moral monster without the soul necessary to understand that the loss of human life is a bad thing, then you probably don't understand the issue or your opponents' position very well.

    The question isn't about increased lifespans all by themselves, but about the consequences of those increased lifespans.

  • ||

    Seeing that overpopulation of the planet is the root cause of a whole host of problems, I do see longer lifespans as a problem as it will just exacerbate that problem.

    I agree; there are way too many brown people on Earth.

  • ||

    "Soylent Green is people!"

  • Guy Montag||

    Um, at the risk of being called a "fundie" for actually knowing something from the Christian Bible*, we are a long way off from living longer than 900+ years. I really see no moral problem with living longer than that either.


    *And for capitalizing that.

  • ||

    After thinking about it, the only way I want to live longer is if I can put my head onto a shiny robot body, RoboNixon-style. Just think of all the smashing I could do...

  • ||

    I think you should live as long as you want to/can afford to.

    Of course, once you start adjusting nature and societal balance, who knows what could happen.....

    Also, there can be only one Highlander...

  • ||

    Guy,

    Fundie...

  • ||

    Warren,
    If I choose to spend decades on my deathbed, then I obviously think it is a good thing for me.

  • Guy Montag||

    There is only one way to see how pr0n will evolve in the future, one must be there!

    The simple way is to live a long time. The other way is difficult and is why I stopped doing it 35 years from now.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Yes. A long healthy life is a moral good. More life is better.

    I don't see how quantity, a single parameter, is of much consequence in the moral calculus.

    Wouldn't want any nuance brought to a discussion of a complex topic.

  • ||

    the consequences of those increased lifespans.

    Let's see, life expectancy in 1500 was about 32 years. And life expectancy today is pushing 80.
    The consequences appear to be progress, the rise of civilized societies, free online porn and "Halo 3."
    I'm totally all for this increased life-expectacy stuff.

  • VM||

    Jamie:

    downside of this life expectancy stuff:

    Hugh Jackman
    Dane Cook
    DUNDEROOOO.

  • Neu Mejican||

    The answer is easy

    Ah. The abundant easy answer... a favorite species of many a Reason writer.

  • Episiarch||

    I predict that any significant lengthening of human life will bring on a nanny state that will make today's bullshit look like caveman times.

    If the only way to die is through unnatural means, such as accidents or murder, people are going to get ultra paranoid about dying that way. No longer will it be "nobody lives forever", it will be "I can live forever unless one of the 50 airbags in my car fails."

  • ||

    Deathbed, wheelchair, whatever - that's up to you to decide the quality of life you'll tolerate. But you have to pay for it yourself, not expect the taxpayers to keep you alive indefinitely.

  • ||

    Neu: May I modestly suggest that you read Liberation Biology for a more nuanced discussion of the moral good of longer human life? I just provided the bottom line answer in my blog post.

  • Neu Mejican||

    A nice fictional treatment of the issue. . .

    Old 20th by Joe Haldeman.

    Those that can afford immortality treatments end up in the ultimate class warfare with those who can't. I believe the William Burroughs' line from the now immortal president sums it up...

    "Fuck you, I got mine."

  • ||

    I think extending life is great as long as you are not a burden on anyone.

    Better be as nice as you can right now while you are young and able to take care of yourself.

    When you get old and need to have someone clean shit off your ass they will remember what kind of a person you are and will act accordingly.

  • Guy Montag||

    Does this stem cell research have a promise of bringing Joan Collins back to her 1970s hottieness?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    I just provided the bottom line answer in my blog post.

    With the tag: "easy answer."

    Makes me skeptical about the nuance in your book length treatment, I must admit.

    Care to give me some of the potential downsides that you consider?

    (fwiw, I agree that it is probably good in the long run, but it is certainly not a morally simple question).

  • ||

    "downside of this life expectancy stuff:

    Hugh Jackman
    Dane Cook
    DUNDEROOOO."


    Scientologists
    Fundies of any stripe
    Lou Dobbs
    Rush Limbaugh

  • Episiarch||

    Christopher Rowley's The War for Eternity has an interesting take on immortality drugs.

  • ||

    Neu: Surely you are not suggesting that "nuanced" necessarily means that the "downsides" trump the "upsides"? In any case, I discuss the "downsides" you would normally expect people to bring up, e.g., the nursing home planet, overpopulation, social sclerosis, and so forth.

  • Neu Mejican||

    More Burroughs

    http://www.interpc.fr/mapage/westernlands/immortality.html

    And here is Mr. Rich Parts. He is three hundred years old. He is still subject to accidental death, and the mere thought of it throws him into paroxysms of idiot terror. For days he cowers in his bunker, two hundred feet down in solid rock, food for fifty years. A trip from one city to another requires months of sifting and checking computerized plans and alternate routes to avoid the possibility of an accident. His idiotic cowardice knows no bounds. There he sits, looking like a Chimu vase with a thick layer of smooth purple scar tissue.

  • ||

    Episiarch,

    i shudder at how right you could be...

  • Handsome Dick Manitoba||


    I don't see how quantity, a single parameter, is of much consequence in the moral calculus.



    In my book Quantity IS Ouality!

  • Guy Montag||

    Ron,

    Neu: Surely you are not suggesting that "nuanced" necessarily means that the "downsides" trump the "upsides"? In any case, I discuss the "downsides" you would normally expect people to bring up, e.g., the nursing home planet, overpopulation, social sclerosis, and so forth.

    Don't forget the upside of, um . . . , let me get back to you when I remember what it was.

  • ||

    Care to give me some of the potential downsides that you consider?

    Looking for few easy downsides?

  • ||

    Jamie Kelly,

    Life expectancy (how long a person can expect to live at birth) is a very different subject from lifespan (how many years a person can expect to live absent death of injury).

    Lifespan has remained remarkably constant for the past couple of thousand years (people who survived childhood frequently lived to about 70-90 in the Roman Empire, just like us today), but life expectancy has increased as you say (death from childhood disease is a tiny fraction now compared to what it was two hundred years ago).

    We've certainly seen tremendous improvements in our lives from people being less likely to get sick and die young. That's not quite the same thing as whether we'll see improvements from people's "golden years" being extended from about 20 years to, what, 100 years? 1000 years?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    Surely you are not suggesting that "nuanced" necessarily means that the "downsides" trump the "upsides"?

    No, I am not.

    Nuanced would require that they are considered, however.

    Face it Ron, it is not an "easy answer."
    If you hasd gone with "short answer" I might have been more willing to buy into the idea that you have carefully considered the subtleties.

  • Episiarch||

    Neu Mejican, do you think you could pick that nit a little harder?

  • ||

    Episiarch | November 20, 2007, 12:35pm | #

    That is a very insightful comment.

  • ||

    Although I wouldn't call the entirety of the subject "what are the downsides of greatly lengthended lifepans" a nit.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    I discuss the "downsides" you would normally expect people to bring up

    And this indicates that your book is a nuanced discussion how?

    Think I'll skip it, sorry.

  • SIV||

    Does this stem cell research have a promise of bringing Joan Collins back to her 1970s hottieness?


    I'd prefer Joan from the her late 1950s hottiness.

  • ||

    What are the upsides of euthanizing every person at age 50?

  • Reinmoose||

    For those of you citing the upsides and the downsides, what is the effect of those things on whether or not living longer is moral?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Reinmoose,

    I, actually, am trying to make the point that length of life, taken in isolation, is essentially amoral. Without considering how that life is manifest, you have nothing to hang a moral argument on.

  • Neu Mejican||

    What are the upsides of euthanizing every person at age 50?

    Easier to schedule funeral services?

  • Guy Montag||

    SIV,

    She was a little too young for my taste in the 1950s. But I would not be disappointed with the 1960s Ms. Collins from Batman, no not a bit. However, my favorite Collins era was the late 1970s.

  • K.||

    Of course more healthy life is better. I don't see these idiots stopping using modern hygiene and medical technologies so they can live about 20-30 like humans did for most of our presence on this planet.

  • ||

    No, it's a drain on society, the planet, and the children of the old people. Let nature take it's course... or at least, don't claim medicare and social security if you're into prolonging life.

  • SIV||

    I thought Joan looked hottest as Edith Keeler in City on the Edge of Forever.

    I'd be happy if the stem cell research led to this Joan Collins

  • Guy Montag||

    Let nature take it's course...

    Humans performing research and applying it is natural.

  • ||

    Neu: Oh well, your loss. I suppose I should just skip over the normal objections that most people bring up about increasing healthy human lifespans and get right to the obscure and irrelevant ones.

    For a shorter version, see my report of my debate with Francis Fukuyama.

  • ||

    Neu: What an odd notion that longer life is amoral. You must wonder why people go on so about murder, war, lack of universal health care and the like.

  • SIV||

    I, actually, am trying to make the point that length of life, taken in isolation, is essentially amoral.

    Neu,

    From "Societies" perspective you are right. From an individual perspective one's own survival is inherently moral.

    "This is a libertarian blog's comments........"

  • R C Dean||

    The question isn't about increased lifespans all by themselves, but about the consequences of those increased lifespans.

    I fail to see how this doesn't ultimately all collapse back into the question of whether it is better for people to live or die. joe justs recasts the questions as "is it better for people to live or die (all things considered)".

    don't see how quantity, a single parameter, is of much consequence in the moral calculus.

    Its not merely quantity that is being promoted here, it is existence, which is the fundamental basis of all moral calculus. No existence, no moral good or potential for moral good.

  • ||

    The problem with increased life-spans is that it will produce cultural changes that are difficult to predict.

    Change is scary.

    Personally, I don't worry; more healthy people => more wealth creation => richer more pleasant societies.

    Additionally, I suspect women with longer life spans, if their reproductive window is also lengthened, will choose to delay child-bearing, and resulting in a significant reduction in the birth rate, particularly if significant numbers decide that child-rearing isn't worth the bother. Thus, I don't think we'll find ourselves in some malthusian trap where the entire earth is a squirming mass of humans packed cheek to jowl.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    I think that this means that pedophiles are the most moral of all. They're just trying to get closer to stem cells.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    Change is scary.

    Change is only scary for people who are already scared. For the rest of us, change is the stuff of life.

  • ||

    "Change is scary." But it can be exciting. And for many people change is scary because it means something is going to end. This means something is going to go on longer. That something? Life. Good.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    Neu: What an odd notion that longer life is amoral. You must wonder why people go on so about murder, war, lack of universal health care and the like.

    Longer life without considering other factors is amoral.

    Murder/war involve an overt act to shorten someone else's life.

    A much different question than overt acts to lengthen your own or another's life.

    If those acts come with costs (and which don't?), they need to be considered in any moral calculus.

    Is choosing not to smoke moral, while choosing to smoke is immoral?

    If longer life is inherently good, then can't I claim the moral high ground by forcing you to increase your own lifespan? Am I being moral in preventing your suicide? Keeping you on life support? Am I immoral to follow through with your "DNR" request?

    For SIV, costs can be to you or to society. This isn't, necessarily, a individual versus society question.

  • ||

    "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying." Woody had it right.

  • ||

    Neu:

    You write:
    A much different question than overt acts to lengthen your own or another's life.

    Just curious, but is it an "overt act" to shorten my life (and the lives of countless millions of others) by preventing or slowing various kinds of biomedical research in the service of one's own peculiar morality?

  • MattXIV||

    joe,

    Someone thinking seriously about the issue would not conclude that the moral question raised is "Is it better for people to live or die?"



    Actually, this is the core question. It's just another Repugnant Conclusion scenario.

    This is the problem with population ethics in general - depending on how you calculate population welfare, you will either conclude that we should stop reproducing and start harvesting the unhappiest people in society for their organs or you will conclude that we need to keep churning out babies until we reach a bare subsistence standard of living. This is just an example of the former line of reasoning - it's even less ethically complex that most formulations of the problem since we're dealing with eliminating extant lives instead of potential ones. Granted most people arguing this position won't have embraced the entirety of the implications of the less-lives line of reasoning, but there is no reason to stop at prohibiting people from recieving life-saving medical treatment as opposed to any other milestone on that path and I don't see Bailey implying anything other that that they're wrong. Should one refrain from rejecting a bad line of ethical reasoning simply because Very Serious People have held that it was worth entertaining?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    Just curious, but is it an "overt act" to shorten my life (and the lives of countless millions of others) by preventing or slowing various kinds of biomedical research in the service of one's own peculiar morality?

    Well "preventing" seems pretty overt

    (although what is being prevented is pretty obscure since you are assuming that the desired results will be achieved...is it immoral to pursue immortality/longer lifespan fruitlessly? Could that energy be more morally spent?).

    Now "slowing" seems a bit less clear. Am I "slowing" the progress of science by not supporting it actively?

  • Guy Montag||

    If this research can keep skinny immigrant chicks skinny, then I am double-plus for it!

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    You bring up an interesting juxtaposition of ideas in your last couple of posts...

    by preventing or slowing various kinds of biomedical research in the service of one's own peculiar morality?

    AND

    Universal Health care

    How does a libertarian world view justify the overt act of "denying" someone medical services? Usually the concept of positive and negative rights is invoked.

    How do those ideas get tangled into your question about "overtly" preventing or slowing an outcome that is only potential in nature?

  • ||

    RC Dean,

    I fail to see how this doesn't ultimately all collapse back into the question of whether it is better for people to live or die.

    It does ultimately come back to that. However, "people" is a different subjec from "I."

    Will your extended lifespan causes other people to die sooner or suffer more - THAT is the question. Thinking that only the life span of the individual that can get the life-extending treatments is a factor worthy of moral consideration is the problem NM and I are trying to get at, and that Bailey seems so determined to bob and weave around.

    Matt XIV,

    depending on how you calculate population welfare, you will either conclude that we should stop reproducing and start harvesting the unhappiest people in society for their organs or you will conclude that we need to keep churning out babies until we reach a bare subsistence standard of living. That's just not true. There are numerous other conclusions one can come to.

  • Neu Mejican||

    If longer life is the moral choice.

    It is immoral for me to deny someone what they need for longer life.

    That would include:
    Food.
    Shelter.
    Medical care.

    "A long healthy life is a moral good. More life is better. " = justification for a positive right to that which is needed to extend life?

  • ||

    Joe,
    The question isn't about increased lifespans all by themselves, but about the consequences of those increased lifespans.


    The classic case of the performative contradiction: asking about the consequences of longer lifespans would immediately call into question the arguer's own lifespan by its logical extension. So, do you REALLY want to set the example and fall over a cliff?

    Mexicano Nuevo (or Neu Mejican, whatever)
    If longer life is inherently good, then can't I claim the moral high ground by forcing you to increase your own lifespan?

    No, you cannot. Forcing your will on someone else is an initiation of force. Improving lifespans should be offered through the marketplace and not by someone's fiat... you should know that by now.

  • ||

    Frrancisco,

    First of all, I haven't ventured an opinion on the subject, other than to say that it should be discussed honestly.

    Second, I daresay there is quite a bit of room in between leaping off a cliff and utilizing biotech to pursue immortality.

    The question is not whether we should end our lives before their "natural end" (scare quotes to acknowledge the problematic nature of that concept), but whether we should extend them beyond them, and how far beyond them, and how to go about answering that question.

  • ||

    If longer life is the moral choice[,] [then] [i]t is immoral for me to deny someone what they need for longer life.

    False. It is immoral from you to hinder a person (through initiation of force) to achieve a longer life (like stealing from him, killing him, maiming him, kidnapping him, et cetera). However, that does not mean that such a person has a right to RECEIVE such an improvement from you (like food, shelter, medicine, et cetera), because that would also constitute an initiation of force on his part. You are arguing from positivism here, Mexicanito Nuevo. What is being argued is that no third party has a right to hinder you or me from obtaining such life-enhancement items through voluntary exchange with a second party.

  • ||

    Excellent response Francisco Torres. Neu Mejican doesn't understand libertarian ethics

  • Neu Mejican||

    Frank Towers (Francisco Torres, whatever)

    You sling around "should" pretty loosely in a discussion of morals.

    What is the justification for saying that the morality of "more life is better" is inherently of a lower order than the morality of "don't initiate force?"

    There is a reason for the idiom: "forcing him to do it for his own good."

  • ||

    Joe, I was not criticizing your opinion but your question/argument.


    ... but whether we should extend [our lifespans] beyond them, and how far beyond them, and how to go about answering that question.

    The question is answered by leaving that choice to each individual, Joe, and not ask what "we" should be doing - it is not MY business nor YOURS to think for others. It is a matter of principle, Joe. It is like asking if torture should be allowed or not - the question should not even be posited, since by principle, torture IS immoral.

  • Neu Mejican||

    james,

    I understand libertarian ethics fine.
    (I also predicted the exact wording of Frank Tower's response).

    I disagree that they result in a system that can be consistently applied to real world situations.

    lil Frank Towers,

    It is immoral from you to hinder a person (through initiation of force) to achieve a longer life

    So it is immoral for you to stop me from taking an apple from your apple tree to ward off starvation. Got it.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Lil Franky,

    What is being argued is that no third party has a right to hinder you or me from obtaining such life-enhancement items through voluntary exchange with a second party.

    FWIW, you are the first one to bring this point into the discussion. It is not "what is being argued."

    What is being argued is whether or not extending life is in and of itself a moral good.

  • ||


    What is the justification for saying that the morality of "more life is better" is inherently of a lower order than the morality of "don't initiate force?"


    Mexicanito, or whatever ("Neu Mejicano" makes my blood boil, being Mexican and all...), they are not one above the other: One is prerequisite for the other, since initiation of violence against another individual hinders that individual's life. This is why stealing, killing, and taxing is immoral.

  • ||

    Francisco Torres,

    If the consequences of an individual, or lots of individuals, choosing to do this is to cause harm to others, then no, allowing each individual to decide for himself is not the right answer.

    A libertarian should understand the point about swinging one's fist and the ends of others noses.

  • ||

    What is being argued is whether or not extending life is in and of itself a moral good.

    N.M., again, you make a performative contradiction by implying that it may NOT be (by asking if it is). You would have two responses: either it is, or it is not. That is ludicrous, since if extending our own life is NOT a moral good, then by extension your own lifespan cannot be a good (where do you begin to call an extension in life, "an extension")? That would imply ipso facto that you own lifespan is not a moral good, if it happens that an increase in your lifespan is not a good.

    What should be the question is if a person will find that desirable. That is for a person to decide. But the question cannot be if an increase in lifespan is in itself a good: can you REALLY conclude that it is NOT? Let me know this.

  • ||

    What is being argued is whether or not extending life is in and of itself a moral good.

    Yeah, what he said, Frankie.

    Bailey didn't make a point about the morality of non-initiation of force - he made a point about the inherent morality of living longer.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Francisco,

    "Neu Mejicano" makes my blood boil, being Mexican and all...

    Don't take it personally.
    I am from New Mexico.
    Germanic (Neu = new)
    English ("an" being the ending to indicate "from" in English")
    My real name has a "j" in it
    and "Mejico" was historically an acceptable spelling.

    One is prerequisite for the other, since initiation of violence against another individual hinders that individual's life.

    How do you equate "extend" with "hinder" in this particular situation. I am forcing you to live longer...and that is hindering your life?

    Your liberty, maybe.
    So, then, does liberty trump life in your moral calculus?

  • ||

    Neu Mejican you would be wrong though. Francisco Torres has it exactly right and if you really understood libertarian ethics you would understand why his viewpoint is the correct one. We have a right to live our lives as we see fit as long as we don't infringe on others' rights to do the same that is the bottom line of libertarian ethics. And to say that they don't speak to "real world situations" speaks loudly to your lack of understanding.

    If you take an apple off of my tree you are stealing. Unless you ask for permission I am within my rights to prevent you from eating my fruit.

    See your understanding of libertarian ethics is as faulty as that analogy.

  • ||

    That is ludicrous, since if extending our own life is NOT a moral good, then by extension your own lifespan cannot be a good (where do you begin to call an extension in life, "an extension")?

    That beer was good. I think I'll have 50, because that will be even better.

    Putting the phrase "ipso facto" in there doesn't make B follow A.

  • ||

    If the consequences of an individual, or lots of individuals, choosing to do this is to cause harm to others, then no, allowing each individual to decide for himself is not the right answer.

    Really? What kind of harm? What possible harm can come from extending your life, Joe? Or Mine? Consider this: Are you harming someone by taking care of yourself? The other point (the one I highlighted) is really scary, Joe: Are you willing to place your life in the hands of others? Because that is what is being implied here.

  • ||

    Arguing about the non-initiation of force tells us nothing about the inherent morality of pursuing immortality.

    I keep seeing libertarians insisting "We don't reject morality, we just don't want to see force used," but when faced with a question of morality, the only moral reasoning many of them seem to bring to the table is to note that force is bad.

    OK, it would be bad to force people to shorten or lengthen their lifespans. This tells us nothing about the morality of choosing to extend one's lifespan.

  • ||

    Really? What kind of harm? What possible harm can come from extending your life, Joe? Or Mine?

    Finally, we get to the actual question - would the adoption of these technologies and the creation of a world where some or all will live centuries or millennia cause harms?

    My answer to your question is, I don't know, Francisco.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Francisco,

    if a person will find that desirable. That is for a person to decide. But the question cannot be if an increase in lifespan is in itself a good: can you REALLY conclude that it is NOT? Let me know this.

    Remember, my point is that length is not an inherently moral aspect of your life.

    I note that you have equated "desirable" with "good." Hedonism is certainly a moral system, but I don't see it fitting nicely into the libertarian system.

    To take "whatever makes one happy" as a guide to action means: to be guided by nothing but one's emotional whims. Emotions are not tools of cognition. . . . This is the fallacy inherent in hedonism--in any variant of ethical hedonism, personal or social, individual or collective. "Happiness" can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. The task of ethics is to define man's proper code of values and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness. To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that "the property value is whatever gives you pleasure" is to declare that "the proper value is whatever you happen to value"--which is an act of intellectual and philosophical abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics and invites all men to play it deuces wild.

  • ||

    I am forcing you to live longer...and that is hindering your life?

    There is no need to argue this one, Neu. Any initiation of force is a hindrance. If a person decides to live LESS by enjoying certain pleasures (smoking, drinking, drugs, et cetera), then that person has made a CHOICE for him or herself about how to enjoy his or her life. Extending his/her life could be tantamount to impose a living hell on that person.

  • ||


    I note that you have equated "desirable" with "good."


    Well, we can play the "gotcha!" game all day long, Neu, but the word "desire" here in this context means "choose". A person will choose one thing over another, meaning: He or she will desire one over the other.

  • Neu Mejican||

    james,

    I notice that you cast your view of ethics as the "correct" interpretation.

    At its center sits a concept of property rights that says I have done violence to you by eating an apple off of your apple tree.

    That, my friend, according to many other logically consistent ethical systems is not an immoral act, it is not an act of violence, and it is not an initiation of force against you. (there are even "libertarian" ethical systems that hold a much different view of property).

    You are not your property.

    Property rights are an important concept.
    It is, arguably, immoral, however, to place them on the same level as the right to life.

    In ethics, stating that you have the "correct" view is not, really, a very convincing argument.

  • Russ 2000||

    Reincarnation renders the title question moot.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Francisco,

    I will note these two sentences without comment.

    Extending his/her life could be tantamount to impose a living hell on that person.

    But the question cannot be if an increase in lifespan is in itself a good: can you REALLY conclude that it is NOT?

  • ||

    Neu Mejican,

    If longer life is the moral choice ... it is immoral for me to deny someone what they need for longer life.

    The thing I find consistently baffling about this subject is how the way the dilemma is phrased produces completely different outcomes.

    Ask someone if murder is wrong and chances are, they'll say yes.

    Ask someone if allowing a murder to occur is wrong and they'll likely say yes to that as well.

    Ask someone if allowing another person to die of starvation or a curable disease is wrong and many, perhaps most, people will say yes to that.

    Many people would even accept that it is only right and proper to try to find cures for traditionally lethal illnesses ... as long as they're things that have been recognized and pathologized already.

    However, ask somebody if it is right and proper to use SCIENCE! to extend the human lifespan past the limitations previously imposed by biology, and suddenly you're Dr. Frankenstein. Never mind that in most cases, what that entails is ... finding cures for traditionally lethal illnesses.

    It's easy to accept the preservation of human life as a value when it's your own and those of your family and friends. At some point, however, the perception of a distant human life becomes too abstract to care about, and fear of offending the gods (viz. "nature") overwhelms what is usually at the center of moral concern.

    Expect a large number of people to change their positions on this radically and immediately the moment it is relevant to themselves or their loved ones.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Francisco,

    Longer life does not equal better life.
    It takes more than extending my lifespan to make my life more "desirable" let alone "a moral good."

    A longer life filled with immoral acts is not inherently morally superior to the shorter version of that same life.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ask someone if allowing another person to die of starvation or a curable disease is wrong and many, perhaps most, people will say yes to that.

    I see you skirting that positivist morality here.

  • ||

    Finally, we get to the actual question - would the adoption of these technologies and the creation of a world where some or all will live centuries or millennia cause harms?

    My answer to your question is, I don't know, Francisco.


    I do not know either, Joe. But since I cannot prove a negative, nor do I think anybody can, I cannot simply use a "precautionary principle" (which is a logical fallacy) and call for a ban on life extensions. This is why I find some of the questions posited here bothersome. I do not know if you agree with this.

  • ||

    Never mind that in most cases, what that entails is ... finding cures for traditionally lethal illnesses.

    Actually, it doesn't. And that's the rub.

    As we've found cures to lethal diseases, our lifespan - not our life expectancy, our lifespan - has barely budged at all.

    People who are 90 don't have a higher death rate than people who are 27 because their luck ran out and they caught a lethal disease that they were equally likely to get at 27.

  • MattXIV||

    joe,

    I was being a little flip about the exact conclusions, but once you embrace the premise that population welfare is the basis for ethical judgements, no matter what formula you use for population welfare, there will always be a case where population welfare can be increased either by killing off a single member or by bringing a new but completely immiserated member into the population.

    If I'm wrong, it should be a simple matter for you to produce a counter example. You and Neu Meijican are producing a lot of noise about how there must be some well-reasoned ethical objection to deploying life-extending technology in and of itself, but you haven't delivered a single example of one.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Francisco,

    This is well said.

    It's easy to accept the preservation of human life as a value when it's your own and those of your family and friends. At some point, however, the perception of a distant human life becomes too abstract to care about, and fear of offending the gods (viz. "nature") overwhelms what is usually at the center of moral concern.

    But within it lies a criticism of the libertarian ethical system that will allow certain individuals to claim that my right to an apple when I am starving is superseded by the property rights of the owner of that tree.

  • ||

    Francesco,

    No one is being asked to prove a negative, or to apply the Precautionary Princple - which you misapply in your comment.

    As people extend their lifespans a little here and there, we will see if doing so has pernicious effects, and we can react to them.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican it is the correct view as long as you are not harming anyone else and I mean a physical harm (attacking my person or my property is a physical harm) not an emotional harm. Then you have the right to do what you want period provided again that you don't infringe on anyone else's rights to do the same.

    Again read about libertarian ethics and you will understand why your taking something from me without my permission is a violation of my rights and is an act of violence. Forcing me to do something against my will can only be considered an act of violence. What would you call it?

    I am my own property if I don't own my self at least then the concept of ownership is rendered meaningless. You are educated but you lack understanding.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican,

    I see you skirting that positivist morality here.

    Oh, don't misunderstand me, I am not advancing a moral position here. In fact, I haven't got one yet; this is an area in which my opinion is truly of little or no consequence, so I am waiting for more information.

    I do see an inconsistency between a morality that values the sanctity of life but regards preserving life as not just immoral but morally ugly (that is, doesn't just from a pragmatic, consequentialist position like the one joe is taking). I am trying to understand the psychology of that inconsistency.

  • Neu Mejican||

    MattXIV,

    You and Neu Meijican are producing a lot of noise about how there must be some well-reasoned ethical objection to deploying life-extending technology in and of itself, but you haven't delivered a single example of one.

    Nope. I have been saying that in and of itself life-extending is amoral. The ethical question arise when the costs of deploying that technology are considered. Those costs do not have to be societal in nature. They can be costs that are born only by the individual making the choice.

  • Neu Mejican||

    james,

    I am my own property if I don't own my self at least then the concept of ownership is rendered meaningless. You are educated but you lack understanding.

    Cute.

    You have understanding but you lack wisdom grasshopper.

  • ||

    Matt XIV,

    That's much better phrases. Two points:

    1) "there will always be a case where" does not equal "all of the cases will be." It is entirely possible to talk about population welfare, and even act in its name, without getting into those cases. Population welfare was advanced through the use of vaccinations, for example.

    2) Recognizing one moral imperitive does not mandate the exclusion of other moral imperitives. Recognizing populatin welfare as a moral good does not exclude the recognition of individual welfare as a moral good. Sometimes they may conflict, and we'll have to figure out what to do about that.

    You and Neu Meijican are producing a lot of noise about how there must be some well-reasoned ethical objection to deploying life-extending technology in and of itself, but you haven't delivered a single example of one. Actually, after much arm-twisting by Neu Mejican, Bailey himself dropped in and named a few, upthread.

  • MattXIV||

    joe,

    3:30pm is just an appeal to nature. The same objection can be raised to the technologies that prevent diseases decreasing the traditional levels of disease-related mortality.

  • ||

    Longer life does not equal better life.

    I agree with you that it does not mean the same for SOME. However, again, that is subjective valuation, best left to each individual's volition and not some potent overseer, as statists would like.

    However, I detect contradiction in your statements (or rather, a lack of cohesion):

    Neu: I am forcing you to live longer...and that is hindering your life?

    Let me put it this way: Extending life is a moral good. Extending a person's life BY FORCE is unethical, because morality implies CHOICE by the individual, so an extension of life made by someone else's fiat CAN NOT be a moral good. At the same time, using violence to hinder a person in his or her search for life extension (that is, by force) is immoral, because it would imply initiation of force. That means that life extension should only be a matter of choice, by the individual, and not by imposition or fiat.

    I hope this made matters clear.

  • Neu Mejican||

    james,

    Share your understanding.

    not an emotional harm

    How is an act against your property, which are external to you, a valid case of harm, when an act against your emotional state, which is intrinsic and, perhaps, definitional of "you," is not a valid case of harm?

  • ||

    Concerning the first part of your post at 3:24 PM. You can only make that determination for yourself not for others.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican,

    Are you really saying that extending life, in and of itself and without considering other effects, is not a moral good?

  • ||

    joe,

    As we've found cures to lethal diseases, our lifespan - not our life expectancy, our lifespan - has barely budged at all. People who are 90 don't have a higher death rate than people who are 27 because their luck ran out and they caught a lethal disease that they were equally likely to get at 27.

    "Illness" and "disease" mean the same thing etymologically, but the implication behind your statement is that the only curable killers are illnesses caused by pathogens, so I'll allow "disease" to mean those and by "illness" refer to others. A 27-year-old is flatly not as likely to develop illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, cystic fibrosis, immune deficiency, neurodegenerative disorders or organ failure as an elderly person. When a person is said to have died from "natural causes," it is typically one of these. Needless to say, finding long-term treatments for these illnesses could increase the average duration of human life considerably - is that morally repugnant?

  • ||

    Matt XIV,

    My comment at 3:30 contains no moral argument whatsoever. It's just a statement of objective fact about the difference between life span and life expectancy, and the biological difference between efforts to extend the one (cure diseases) and efforts to expand the other (extend lifespan) differ.

    I don't how you read any normative statement into that descriptive comment.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Francisco,

    Unless I misunderstand you, you are saying you agree with me that the length of lifespan is not sufficient to determine the moral value of that life. Correct.

    I hope you recognize that many of the contradictions you are attributing to me, are contradictions in RB's "easy answer" that longer life is inherently a moral good. I have not, I think, taken a position beyond saying that length of lifespan is essentially amoral in nature.

  • Neu Mejican||

    joe,

    I am saying that its length is not a moral characteristic of a life.

  • ||

    I have been saying that in and of itself life-extending is amoral.

    It cannot be amoral, Neu. If a decision to extend your life is made by you, it is a moral decision. If you decide NOT to extend your life, yours is a moral decision.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican you really, really, don't get it. If you don't own yourself who does? It is thinking like yours that is the basis of the WOD and all the other infringements on our liberty by the state and those who run it.

  • ||

    hale,

    but the implication behind your statement is that the only curable killers are illnesses caused by pathogens That was not my intent.

    A 27-year-old is flatly not as likely to develop illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, cystic fibrosis, immune deficiency, neurodegenerative disorders or organ failure as an elderly person. Yes, I know, I made this point myself.

    Needless to say, finding long-term treatments for these illnesses could increase the average duration of human life considerably - is that morally repugnant?

    In and of itself, no. I am concerned that greatly extending the human lifespan could have negative consequences, but there is nothing immoral about people living longer - if anything, that would be a moral good.

  • ||

    NM,

    You gave it the old college try, but I think you're going over their heads.

    I don't think your interlocutors are going to understand that you are talking about an issue distinct from using force against others.

  • ||

    Is it moral to screw sheep?

    It is wrong to force people to screw sheep, and it is wrong to force people not to screw sheep.

    OK, but is it moral to screw sheep?

    I just don't think you get the libertarian ethical argument about the use of force.

    Ad infinitum.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican regarding the idea of emotional harm I suggest you read the works of Szasz. He has a website that has the listings of his books as well as some essays that he has written.

    If emotional harm is more real than harm of my property and person. I should be able to sue every woman who has every broken my heart. I should be able to go after my parents for thwarting my desires to do what I want because it caused emotional harm. Maybe I feel harm from your not understanding where I am coming from can I sue for damages.

  • ||

    joe you don't get it either. Mises has an article concerning the state of education written by Albert Jay Nock. It's titled "The Theory of Education in the United States"

    "Perhaps we are not fully aware of the extent to which instruction and education are accepted as being essentially the same thing. I think you would find, if you looked into it, for instance, that all the formal qualifications for a teacher's position rest on this understanding. A candidate is certificated - is he not? - merely as having been exposed satisfactorily to a certain kind of instruction for a certain length of time, and therefore he is assumed eligible to a position which we all agree that only an educated person should fill. Yet he may not be at all an educated person, but only an instructed person. We have seen many such, and five minutes' talk with one of them is quite enough to show that the understanding of instruction as synonymous with education is erroneous. They are by no means the same thing."

  • ||

    joe I didn't mean to post under your name my bad

  • MattXIV||

    Neu Meijcan,

    The extension of options is always at least ethically neutral and almost always ethically positive. Think of an unspecified function with any number of parameters that you're trying to maximize. You can never increase the obtainable maximum by setting one of those parameter to a constant. A choice is always at least as good as no choice.

    Note that this doesn't rely on any libertarian ethical premise - the choice can be in the hands of any kind of welfare maximizer, from the individual to a philospher king.

    Given that there's good evidence that moral goods could come of exercising the particular choice under consideration, it can be said that the presence of the choice iself is a good.

  • ||

    james,

    I haven't the foggiest idea what you are trying to accomplish, or how it relates to anything anyone has said in this thread.

    You certainly didn't put together a response to any of the points I made.

    Typing my name into the wrong field is the least of that comment's problems.

  • MattXIV||

    joe,

    Apologies regarding misinterpreting your 3:30 then. I assumed that you intending to draw an ethical distinction, since I didn't see any other reason to bring the point up.

  • ||

    Hey TBone...You got that right! Definitely something to consider. LOL

  • Neu Mejican||

    james,

    Szasz, despite making some interesting points regarding the interface between mental illness and criminality, is essentially a crank.

    Or to keep in the spirit of his writings, I should say he is a "metaphorical expert."

    If emotional harm is more real than harm of my property and person.

    To be sure you are clear on my point...the harm of which you speak when I harm your property is distinct from the harm to your body primarily because it occurs only in the realm of your emotions.

    Unless I deprive you of property that will preserve your life/prevent physical harm, the mechanism for harm in a case of "property crime" is the emotional harm it creates. My taking that apple off the tree (let us assume you have enough apples to live/make a living) only harms you because it hurts your feelings....

    "Hey that's mine!!!!"

  • Neu Mejican||

    MattIV,

    The extension of options is always at least ethically neutral

    If the extension of life is seen as an "extension of options," then I am going with the position that it is "neutral."

    "Given that there's good evidence that moral goods could come of exercising the particular choice under consideration, it can be said that the presence of the choice iself is a good."

    The presence of the choice is good?
    I can choose to kill or not, that is good?
    Seems to me that it is not until the choice is made that you have anything to hang a moral argument on.

  • ||

    Matt XIV,

    There may be a moral distinction. There may not be.

    The reason I brought it up was to refute the argument that lifespan-extension is the same thing as disease-fighting, and therefore there are no further moral considerations.

    They are not the same, so the possibility remains that there are additional problems.

  • Neu Mejican||

    MattIV,

    You can never increase the obtainable maximum by setting one of those parameter to a constant. A choice is always at least as good as no choice.

    I would need to see a rigorous proof of this.
    It may be that interaction between parameters will be maximized when a particular parameter is held constant. Don't tell me you are positing some linear combination of "moral" functions.

  • ||

    Read the article joe then you will understand.

    Neu Mejican Szasz is not a crank. Read his work before you judge him.

    Both of you need to check out the sites of LRC and Mises if you want to better understand libertarian thought because obviously you are not comprehending it. Peace

  • Neu Mejican||

    MattIV,

    By the way, your post at 4:15pm is a very impressive job of making Ron Bailey's point ("more is better") with more complex language. It doesn't however, make it any more valid.

  • Neu Mejican||

    james,

    I could not have made the "metaphorical expert" dig at Szasz without having first read his works.

    The valuation of his work as that of a crank is based on reading his stuff.

    Since you are handing out reading suggestions...

    Try reading the work of the original libertarian.

    Proudhon.
    Start with What is Property? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government.

    Pay particular attention to chapter 4.

    =\;^) http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/ProProp.html

  • Neu Mejican||

    MattIV,

    The central problem I have with your formulation of this is that you are essentially saying, I think, is that the existence of the conditions for moral choices to be made is somehow morally good. In other words, the existence of conditions for judging moral valence have moral valence.

    This seems vacuous to me.

  • MattXIV||

    2) Recognizing one moral imperitive does not mandate the exclusion of other moral imperitives. Recognizing populatin welfare as a moral good does not exclude the recognition of individual welfare as a moral good. Sometimes they may conflict, and we'll have to figure out what to do about that.



    We know they conflict - they do by definition and they do in the question under consideration. What's important is how we actually relate them to each other. If we reject population ethics for some other standard (or visa versa) here, why not elsewhere? If we establish some exchange rate between the two, we don't escape the Repugnant Conclusion problems, we just change the level of tradeoffs at which we're willing to travel down that path.

  • ||

    Is it moral to deny someone the right to extend their life because you think more people living impose undesirable costs upon you? If you think that is moral, can you posit a government or society that forces people to not avail themselves of life-extending treatments that is not an amoral authoritarian monstrosity?

    Take a marginal view of it -- would a moral person force their neighbor to die by refusing them access to medical treatment, thus giving that moral person imperceptibly less traffic congestion, etc.? Of course not. Using government to prevent people from choosing to live longer is unambiguously wrong.

  • MattXIV||

    NM,

    What I'm going for is that as far as normative ethics are concerned, removing a choice that is not a bad thing in and of itself is never superior to some other ethical rule targetting something that is a bad thing in and of itself. At best removing the alternative is neutral - when the alternative is never ethically superior to the status quo. In other cases, it is inferior to the postulated other rule and its imposition in lieu of that rule is a moral bad.

    I think we talked past each other a bit earlier - I was trying demonstrate that extended livespans cannot themselves be a bad thing, while you were trying to demonstrating that they are not obligately a good thing.

  • ||

    I predict that any significant lengthening of human life will bring on a nanny state that will make today's bullshit look like caveman times.

    If the only way to die is through unnatural means, such as accidents or murder, people are going to get ultra paranoid about dying that way. No longer will it be "nobody lives forever", it will be "I can live forever unless one of the 50 airbags in my car fails."


    Interesting theory, episiarch, but I don't think it pans out. If you were to suddenly be given a medical that would allow you to extend your lifespan by two hundred years more, while maintaining the body and health of a 20 year old, would that cause you to turn into a raving nanny-statist who wants to ensure everyone else also avoided preventable deaths? If that lifespan extension happened to me, I'd take fewer risks, but I wouldn't be the slightest bit more inclined to foist that choice upon others who like to live more on the edge.

  • MattXIV||

    I would need to see a rigorous proof of this.
    It may be that interaction between parameters will be maximized when a particular parameter is held constant. Don't tell me you are positing some linear combination of "moral" functions.



    The set of for f(x,y,z) should contain all values of where C is a constant. Thus, you shouldn't have any maxima that are in the first set but not the second. It should hold for contiguous and discrete parameters and function results, including a physical model of a brain.

  • Neu Mejican||

    MatIV

    I think we talked past each other a bit earlier - I was trying demonstrate that extended livespans cannot themselves be a bad thing, while you were trying to demonstrating that they are not obligately a good thing.

    That sounds about right.

    The set of for[sic?] f(x,y,z) should contain all values of[sic?] where C is a constant. Thus, you shouldn't have any maxima that are in the first set but not the second. It should hold for contiguous and discrete parameters and function results, including a physical model of a brain.

    Maybe my brain is muddled today, but I don't follow your logic here. Fluxuations in some parameters have the potential to reduce the overall output of the system along some other parameter (let's say the one we are using as a metric of "moral good"). Holding those parameters constant should increase the "moral good" output by the system...

    Or am I missing something here?

    Are you simply saying that the case with the best results will be a member of the larger set of possible cases that result from varying all parameter values?

  • Neu Mejican||

    MattIV,

    To be clear.

    It seems you were trying to demonstrate that extended lifespans were not themselves a bad thing, while I was trying to say that they were neither a good nor a bad thing in and of themselves.

    I think you were just supporting a sub-domain of the territory I was trying to stake out.

  • ||

    Because what the world really needs is a two-hundred-year-old Ted Kennedy...

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