DEBATE FORUM: Should foes of Immortality be ridiculed as “Deathists” and “Suicidalists”? - ImmortalLife.info

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DEBATE FORUM: Should foes of Immortality be ridiculed as “Deathists” and “Suicidalists”?

Posted: Mon, March 18, 2013 | By: DEBATE



Should Immortalists slur their opponents as “Deathists” and “Suicidalists”? Or is this counter-productive? 

Deathist” is an oft-used derogatory term, utilized to mock people who oppose Immortalism. 

Hurling it conveys the wrath that many life extensionists feel towards their opponents -  who they also define as murderers…

Anti-Immortalists don’t want budget reforms to advance age-ending research.  They want death to continue, for everyone…

Should Immortalist-Activists hurl “Deathist”, “Vitaphobe” and “Suicidalist” slurs at their enemies? 

Is it accurate and productive to rudely ridicule the oppositional belief system?  

Should memes that humiliate anti-immortalists be created and distributed?

Is there a backlash when immortalists are antagonistic? 

It is extremist? Is it effective?

Should a kind, patient method of dialogue be established, instead?

What strategy is the best, to achieve the ultimate goal? 

Vicious attack? Or gentle persuasion?

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Comments:

A person’s life belongs only to that person.  The decision to extend or end that life cannot be made others or forced upon someone, either.

It’s called “freedom” and personal responsibility.

By James Smith on Mar 18, 2013 at 9:35am

I would say it is not a smart thing to ridicule the opposite belief system, provided that belief is simply a refusal to accept that immortality is possible. I would oppose anybody who would stand in the way of advances in medicine or anything that makes life better and/or of longer duration. I would not ridicule or even really be able to argue with anybody who says immortality is as impossible as perpetual motion, because- unless there is some radical revision of our understanding of the laws of physics- either one really IS impossible. In fact, if you really press so-called immortalists on this issue most do concede that they do not really mean life everlasting but rather death being postponed for a very long time.

Having said that, I would not want us giving up on questioning our fundamental theories and looking for possible loopholes that immortalists might exploit in the quest to keep death at bay. But simply raging against dying and those who, for whatever reason, have made their peace with their mortality does nothing but diminish the enjoyment of the time I have left. So why do it?

By Extropia DaSilva on Mar 18, 2013 at 9:52am

Having been in elected office as a member of the Maryland Legislature and having been in many intense debates over a variety of issues including abortion,taxes,state budgets and many others,I would contend that negative comments are ultimately counterproductive.In other words you don’t build yourself up by tearing others down!
Obviously,death is an emotional issue and after all is said and done most people prefer honey to vinegar and most members of an audience want information not invective.
By remaining positive and on topic people will have the opportunity to evaluate the arguments made on the merits of your case not the vitriol of your rhetoric.

By Tom Mooney on Mar 18, 2013 at 9:59am

Hank, you know by natural instinct leans more toward the “gentle persuasion” strategy. That said, I do NOT say that more vitriolic approaches can’t be effective, in the right circumstances, and in the right doses.

Of course, “effective” is not synonymous with “ethical”. This (unlike IEET for example) is not an ethics blog, but on the whole I prefer to interpret questions with the word “should” in them as being ultimately questions about ethics.

You also know that with regard to my ethical framework I lean towards utilitarianism, and with regard to meta-ethics I’m a moral subjectivist, which means I see ethics as a choice, rather than a matter of truth. So as an ethical response, this one reflects my own values. What is effective is an empirical question; what is ethical is not.

Recently I’ve become more aware of some of utilitarianism’s limitations, but I still think it is a highly useful framework, and against that perspective I think we need to be more cautious in using vitriol than we might otherwise want to be in order to maximise our effectiveness. But again, I’m not saying we should eschew it altogether. If conquering death is something with striving for at all, then it is certainly worth offending a few people in order to achieve it. Just as long as we remember to apply the brakes.

By Peter Wicks on Mar 18, 2013 at 10:59am

Before anything else “immortalists” should stop labelling themselves thus.  It is at best a semantic imprecision and at worst a quasi-religious pipe dream.  This will narrow the space for conflict already.

As for the question, of course within the context of public discourse slurs are always counter productive,  To even think of those with diverging or opposing views of “enemies” shows a mental flaw that disqualifies the ‘debater’.  Views of individuals and within social structures (should) evolve constantly.  If there appear possibilities for at least temporary collaboration or coalition they should be explored.

If however the view is encountered that longevity must be rejected for all persons as is prevalent in many religions, i have no hesitation to call it fascist,

By René Milan on Mar 18, 2013 at 12:07pm

@René
How is “fascist” not a slur? “Illiberal” would at least be more accurate. The truth, of course, is that slurs in public discourse frequently ARE effective, however much some of us might dislike that fact. Public discourse is not a soccer match: there is no referee to show you the red card. Slurs might disqualify a person in the minds of some, but Glenn Beck still has his listeners. Let us not conflate reality with what we would like it to be. To limit one’s effectiveness in relation to a cause because of ethical concerns is noble; to do so as a result of wishful thinking just leads to wasted opportunities.

By Peter Wicks on Mar 18, 2013 at 4:51pm

“Should Immortalists slur their opponents as ‘Deathists’ and ‘Suicidalists’? Or is this counter-productive?”

It is a non-starter, not enough people are interested. The overwhelming majority are far more concerned about their people, what’s for dinner, their cars, their houses, their vacations….
Calling opponents ‘Deathists’ and ‘Suicidalists’ is not significant enough to be counterproductive.
Reverse psychology is not ethical—it is devious yet is one method which works.. I tell bioconservatives if they aren’t interested in life extension and radical life extension (the Midwest+South thinks *immortality* is via Jesus Christ), it is a matter of indifference. I don’t much care how long they live, it’s no one’s business but theirs; they only care about their families- so why should the length of a rube’s lifespan mean anything to me? But then they begin to listen!: men are such pigheaded creatures, reverse psychology works every time.

By Alan Brooks on Mar 18, 2013 at 6:00pm

It is crucial to make a distinction between (i) people who simply hold the common “tragic worldview” – who accept their mortality as inevitable and try to “make peace” with it and (ii) people who actively work to stop life-extension technologies. The former are simply mistaken and can be reasoned with, persuaded, or at least led to gradually become more comfortable with life extension as it becomes ever more real. The latter, however, might not be open to persuasion and might pursue legislative action (or worse) to stop life-extension research. Every person’s arguments should be addressed civilly and intelligently. The label “deathist” is not uncivil per se, however, and has its place with regard to people who cannot be swayed by argument or evidence from a position that is actively hostile to life extension. These are not your rank-and-file skeptics of radical life extension, but rather people such as Leon Kass, Sherwin Nuland, Daniel Callahan, John Gray, and Nassim Taleb – who will not be shifted from their anti-life-extension views and who have made considerable amounts of money out of attacking pro-longevity ideas. Calling these people “deathists” is not aimed at persuading them, but rather at alerting possibly more objective third parties of the dangers of their views. If there is still the opportunity to persuade someone, then labels of this sort should not be directed at that person.

As for positive labels, I can proudly attribute the term “immortalist” to myself – not because I think that indefinite life extension will by itself bring immortality (it will not), but rather because I think that any condition that more closely approaches immortality is a desirable one. Thus, I support not only the lifting of upper limits on lifespans, but also major improvements in protection against asteroids, earthquakes, weather events, vehicle accidents, infectious diseases, and manmade conflicts. I oppose anything that can destroy an innocent human life.

By Gennady Stolyarov II on Mar 18, 2013 at 10:14pm

Gennady’s position works for me. Nicely put.

And I also like Alan’s “reverse psychology” point. It’s not just pig-headedness, it’s also that people crave attention. When they realise we’ve just stopped paying attention, THEN they will take what we’re saying more seriously.

I don’t mind so much that writers like Gray and Taleb are attacking our ideas. To some extent, it just draws attention to them anyway.

But perhaps the fundamental point is that people always want to hang on to what they have, or recover what they have lost, more intensely than they want something new. Having seen The Master the other day, I wonder if this is part of the attraction of Scientology, something that had previously been a bit of mystery to me. By portraying the human spirit as having been something glorious in the past, our current travails (such as mortality) can be seen as an aberration.

This can be a trap, however. Every time we weave delusions in the hope of persuading people, we risk becoming associated with those delusions and weakening our message in the long term. This is a problem I have with religious transhumanism generally: it invites excessive emotional attachment to beliefs.

On the whole, rather than ridiculing opponents it is surely going to be better just to focus on what we aspire to, and communicate a positive message around that. Once that message starts to gain traction, there will be plenty of people getting angry and “uncivil” in support of it. We don’t need to pre-empt or encourage them.

By Peter Wicks on Mar 19, 2013 at 7:54am

@Peter “How is “fascist” not a slur?” - in that it attempts to express a factual statement,  It is admittedly an imprecise, and therefore unfortunate, term, but i could not and still can not think of another that succinctly describes a person trying to deny choice to others without the justification of demonstrable societal benefit (such as with regulation of violence and commerce), for purely ideological andor religious reasons.  Only national socialists and their ilk openly ration healthcare by affiliation, ‘race’, class or nationality.  Many countries, among the rich foremost the u.s., thinly veil this behaviour through privileged resource allocation.

‘Authoritarian’, being an attitude rather than a principle, is too weak, and ‘totalitarian’ too general and all encompassing.  ‘Illiberal’ is very imprecise itself, mostly used in the context of DINOs (democracies in name only) and it would, at least in the u.s., be mistaken for a compliment by many.  Come to think of it it is strange that no concise term exist; or maybe i just can not think of one.  Suggestions welcome.

“slurs in public discourse frequently ARE effective” - yes, i saw an article on a study where they found what they call “the nasty effect”:
“The results were both surprising and disturbing. Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/opinion/sunday/this-story-stinks.html). 

The question becomes if and how we should utilize this effect.  I am disinclined as i am not interested by results achieved through rhetorical trickery, believing them to be fleeting, may be good enough to win an election, but not to achieve real change.  And Beck’s followers will be just as hard to sway by insults as by reason.

By René Milan on Mar 19, 2013 at 9:04am

@René
I certainly agree that rhetorical trickery tend to work better in the short term than in the long term. Here’s a funny thing: I was going to add “but don’t forget that in the long run we’re all dead”, temporarily forgetting that that’s precisely what we’re trying to avoid! The point stands though: you can’t survive long term if you haven’t survived short-term, and for short-term survival (rapidly increased dedicated research into defeating the ageing process, technical fixes, regenerative medicine, innovations to promote commercialisation, uptake and affordability of age-busting technology, and so on) a degree of rhetorical trickery could come in very handy.

Re what to call it when people try to deny choice without demonstrable societal benefit, I find “illiberal” the most technically/etymologically correct, but I take your point that it could be misunderstood. By the way, I also get annoyed by the opposite extreme: the strict libertarian position that one should never deny choice even where there IS demonstrable societal benefit. I have frequently seen arguments to the effect that concepts like the “common” or “greater good” are traps, just excuses for authoritarianism. Whereas the original liberal and utilitarian position was precisely that free choice should be the default, to be restricted if and only if societal benefit can be demonstrated.

By Peter Wicks on Mar 19, 2013 at 3:46pm

Peter, I completely agree with your ¶ 2.

I do not even like to communicate with people susceptible to rhetorical trickery, and, call me old fashioned, i do not want to be known as one who perpetrates it, especially by myself.  Karl Rove is a master of that skill, but to me he will always be a lying criminal regardless of his ‘successes’.  But he is also an example of the impermanence of the immediate effects of his tactics as we saw last november.

However i concede that if the devastating effects he had on the the minds and bodies of millions between 2001 and 2008 (and continuing) could have been counteracted and avoided by applying similar tactics they should have.  Maybe the answer is to develop propaganda bots to apply memetic precision strikes based on a thorough understanding of how unthinking minds are affected by agitprop.

By René Milan on Mar 21, 2013 at 7:47am


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