Bioethics Discussion Blog: Immorality,Immortality: Just One Letter Apart or Something More?

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Immorality,Immortality: Just One Letter Apart or Something More?

There is much discussion in society and ethical circles today about the morality of cloning and the issues of the destruction of embryos. This discourse is about the morality of procedures at the beginning of life and how a personhood begins. After this beginning, the term immortality is often used as recognition of a person’s accomplishments beyond death. This immortality is usually ascribed to artists, writers, poets and others whose acts in life are preserved through future generations. Woody Allen allegedly said "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it through not dying." The other use of the term immortality is that of living forever. Therefore what should also be discussed in society is about the morality of the goal of attempting to live or maintaining life perhaps forever. What is the morality of attempting immortality? This consideration becomes pertinent if one considers that the current studies on the genetic factors that cause everyone to die could eventually lead to developing genetic changes so that everyone could live and live and live. Is it ethically wrong to want or make it possible to live forever? Moral considerations might include who or which groups of people would be given the chance to live forever or would this be available to all persons? Where would the increasing numbers of people live and what resources would be available to all so that their lives would be worth living? There could be more questions. And what do the answers say to the question could immortality be immoral? ..Maurice.

6 Comments:

At Thursday, December 29, 2005 9:31:00 AM, Anonymous Moof said...

I don't believe you can ascribe "morality" or lack of it to wanting to live on ...

Morality comes into question when man begins to play "God" by deciding, as you said, "[...] who or which groups of people would be given the chance [...]"

With mankind's track record so far, I don't think we're ready for that sort of challenge ...

 
At Thursday, December 29, 2005 9:43:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Moof, society better start thinking about the consequences of greatly prolonging life or even immortality. Injustice could be a consequence. First one might worry that only the rich will be able to afford the genetic manipulation. But to me, even more worrisom is that there could be a selection process screening for those people who will not be allowedlife prolongation or immortality. What do you think? ..Maurice.

 
At Friday, December 30, 2005 1:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To what extent do you think the wish for long life and immortality also is a wish for youthfulness? We live in a youth-obsessed society, after all. I mean, why live to an extremely advanced age if you're going to be... well, old?

Imagine the social consequences of creating a whole new generation of the super-aged - 200-year-olds who have been genetically engineered to function like they're 20 or 50 or 100 or whatever age you choose. Do we really want this? And what about those who fail to super-age gracefully and in good health? Might they not be selectively eliminated as well? It is a very slippery slope...

 
At Friday, December 30, 2005 2:01:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

Maurice ... like so many other ways that man already arrogates the "rights of God" to himself, yes, I believe that he would (will?) also do the same if (when?) this comes about.

It should be quite interesting - man terminating life at its inception, abbreviating it before its natural conclusion ... and in between, deciding the value of individual lives according to some sliding scale.

Imagine what Aldous Huxley could have written if he'd had a tiny glimpse of tomorrow!

I know of someone who has been talking along these lines for a long time. We've discussed some of the ways we see to make this work for everyone. He seems to think it can be done - while I'm not so sure.

Furthermore, I also don't believe it should be done - but then again, if it can be accomplished, someone will do it. When that happens, I think that mankind with find himself caught in a nightmare inter spem et metum.

Who will benefit? Who will not? Why? Who will choose? Why?

I think we'll find more death in immortality than we can imagine. Tomorrow is really a very bad dream ... :p

 
At Saturday, December 31, 2005 10:59:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

For more reading on the issues involved in the prolongation of life, here are some references as provided by James Hughes Ph.D.
Executive Director, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
http://ieet.org
Editor, Journal of Evolution and Technology
http://jetpress.org

..Maurice.

___________________________________________________

"Aging, Death, and Nanotech" by Mike Treder

Responsible Nanotechnology December 28, 2005
***


"Life extension, human rights, and the rational refinement of
repugnance" by Aubrey de Grey

Journal of Medical Ethics 2005;31:659-663 November 18, 2005
***


"Live Long and Prosper: A Program of Technoprogressive Social Democracy"
by Dale Carrico

Amor Mundi July 31, 2005
***


"Prospective Age and the Effect of Life Extension" by Jamais Cascio

WorldChanging June 14, 2005
***


"Life Extension and Overpopulation" by Ramez Naam

An Excerpt From More Than Human May 31, 2005
***


"Should We Fear Death? Epicurean and Modern Arguments" by Russell
Blackford in
The Scientific Conquest of Death: Essays on Infinite
Lifespans (reprinted October 14, 2004)

***


"Cover Everyone and Cure Aging: Counterintuitive answers to healthcare
inflation" by J. Hughes

BetterHumans October 14, 2004
***


"The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant" by Nick Bostrom,
Journal of Medical
Ethics, 2005, Vol. 31, No. 5, pp 273-277

 
At Wednesday, January 04, 2006 3:44:00 AM, Anonymous steve latham said...

Bernard Williams has a challenging article about the undesirability of immortality, “The Makropoulos Case: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality”, in his Problems of the Self (Cambridge: CUP, 1973), pp. 82-100. He argues that immortality would not actually be a form of personal survival. Individual character would eventually be eliminated by the eternal parade of experiences. The immortal would cease to be drawn to or affected by anything. Immortality would--eventually--prove so boring as to make life not worth living. A stimulating argument--but only for mortals!

 

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