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Modern Babykilling

From the nation that defeated Nazi Germany comes news from the front lines of medical-ethical progress: [1]

The article [2], published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.

The journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said the article’s authors had received death threats since publishing the article. He said those who made abusive and threatening posts about the study were “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society”.

The article, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?”, was written by two of Prof Savulescu’s former associates, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.

They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. They explained: “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’.

You have to laugh at the irony of a man responsible for publishing an article calling for infanticide taking umbrage at the outraged, in the name of defending liberal society. The grim Savulescu continues:

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he added: “This “debate” has been an example of “witch ethics” – a group of people know who the witch is and seek to burn her. It is one of the most dangerous human tendencies we have. It leads to lynching and genocide. Rather than argue and engage, there is a drive is to silence and, in the extreme, kill, based on their own moral certainty. That is not the sort of society we should live in.”

The lack of historical awareness beggars belief. From Robert J. Lifton’s history of the Nazi genocide, excerpted in the New York Times Magazine in 1986 [3]:

The Nazis, however, used the term ”euthanasia” to camouflage mass murder. Just how the Nazis were able to do that has been made clearer by recent historical research and by interviews I was able to conduct during the last decade with German doctors who participated in the killing project.

Nazi medicalized killing provided both the method – the gas chamber – and much of the personnel for the death camps themselves. In Auschwitz, for instance, doctors selected prisoners for death, supervised the killings in the gas chambers and decided when the victims were dead.

Doctors, in short, played a crucial role in the Final Solution. The full significance of medically directed killing for Nazi theory and behavior cannot be comprehended unless we understand how Nazi doctors destroyed the boundary between healing and killing.

The Nazi principle of killing as a therapeutic imperative is evident in the words of the Auschwitz S.S. doctor Fritz Klein. Klein was asked by an inmate how he could reconcile Auschwitz’s smoking chimneys with his purported fealty to the physician’s Hippocratic oath, which requires the preservation of life. ”Of course I am a doctor and I want to preserve life,” replied Klein. ”And out of respect for human life, I would remove a gangrenous appendix from a diseased body. The Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind.”

As is the unwanted newborn, according to Giubilini and Minerva. More Lifton:

The Nazis justified direct medical killing by use of the simple concept of ”life unworthy of life” – lebensunwertes Leben. While this concept predated the Nazis, it was carried to its ultimate racial and ”therapeutic” extreme by them.

Of the five identifiable steps by which the Nazis carried out the destruction of ”life unworthy of life,” coercive sterilization was the first. There followed the killing of ”impaired” children in hospitals, and then the killing of ”impaired” adults -mostly collected from mental hospitals – in centers especially equipped with carbon monoxide. The same killing centers were then used for the murders of ”impaired” inmates of concentration camps. The final step was mass killing, mostly of Jews, in the extermination camps themselves.

Once in power – Hitler took the oath of office as Chancellor of the Third Reich on Jan. 30, 1933 – the Nazi regime introduced an early sterilization law with a declaration that Germany was in grave danger of Volkstod -”death of the people,” ”nation” or ”race” – and that, to combat it, harsh and sweeping measures were imperative.

Mandatory sterilization of those termed the ”hereditarily sick” was part of the Nazi vision of racial purification. No one knows how many people were sterilized; reliable estimates range from 200,000 to 350,000 people.

For a doctor, there is a large step between ligating spermatic cords, cutting fallopian tubes, even removing uteri, and killing or designating for death one’s own patients. But, by the time the Nazis took power in Germany, some of the philosophical groundwork allowing for this transition had already been laid.

The crucial theoretical work was Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens, or ”The Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life.” Published in 1920, it was written jointly by two distinguished German professors, the jurist Karl Binding, retired after 40 years at the University of Leipzig, and Alfred Hoche, professor of psychiatry at the University of Freiburg.

Hoche argued in the book that a policy of killing was compassionate and consistent with medical ethics. He pointed to situations where doctors were obliged to destroy life – interrupting a pregnancy to save the mother, for example. He went on to claim that various forms of psychiatric disturbance, brain damage and retardation indicated that the patients were already ”mentally dead.” He characterized these people as ”human ballast” and ”empty shells of human beings” – terms that would later reverberate in Nazi Germany. Putting such people to death, Hoche wrote, ”is not to be equated with other types of killing.” It is, he wrote, ”an allowable, useful act.”

Binding and Hoche turned out to be the prophets of direct medicalized killing. Prior to the Nazis’ assumption of power, such thinking was not a majority view in German psychiatry and medicine. But under the Nazis, there was increasing discussion in medical and political circles of the legitimacy of mercy killing, of Hoche’s concept of the mentally dead, and of the enormous economic drain on German society caused by the large number of impaired Germans. A mathematics textbook of the period even asked students to calculate how many government loans to newly married couples could be granted for the money it cost the state to care for ”the crippled, the criminal, and the insane.”

And:

The child-killing program began with newborns, then proceeded to children up to the ages of 3 and 4 and soon to older ones. The authorization for the killing project was, at first, oral, secret and ”kept in a very narrow scope,” covering ”only the most serious cases,” according to Karl Brandt’s Nuremberg trial testimony. It later became loose, extensive and known among a wider and wider circle of physicians and officials.

… The actual killing was done in children’s institutions whose chiefs and prominent physicians were known to be politically reliable and ”positive” toward the goals of the Reich Committee. These killing centers were grandly referred to as ”Reich Committee Institutions,” ”Children’s Specialty Institutions” or even ”Therapeutic Convalescent Institutions.” Doctors, administrators and Reich officials proceeded as if the children were to receive the blessings of medical science.

No such separate institutions existed, of course. The children marked for death were usually dispersed among ordinary pediatric patients at children’s hospitals.

The falsification was clearly intended to deceive the children, their families and the general public. But, by expressing literally the Nazi reversal of healing and killing, the deceptions also served the psychological needs of the killers. A doctor could tell a parent that ”it might be necessary to perform a surgical operation that could possibly have an unfavorable result”; or he might explain that ”the ordinary therapy employed until now could no longer help” their child, necessitating ”extraordinary therapeutic measures.”

Read the whole thing. [4] It’s important. The killing of newborns is a bright red line. We know this. We are monsters if we forget it. We are four years away from the centenary of Hoche and Binding’s seminal work. And yet, a leading medical journal in the United Kingdom dares to publish an essay calling for the extermination of life unworthy of life.

The authors of the modern essay at issue, says Dr. Savulescu, advocate for after-birth abortion “in consideration of maternal and family interests.” Ah yes. Tenderness leads to the gas chamber.

Again: we know this. 

We are responsible!

UPDATE: This story is from 2012, please note. It was sent to me today.

UPDATE.2: As I point out to a reader in the comments below, even though this is story is three years old, I’m leaving it here because the principles at stake are ever-relevant. Here, for example, is a Newsweek cover story from February, 2015, about the spread of euthanasia in Europe. [5] Excerpt:

What she wants, if the circumstances merit it, is doctor-assisted euthanasia, which is booming in the Netherlands. In 2013, according to the latest data, 4,829 people across the country chose to have a doctor end their lives. That’s one in every 28 deaths in the Netherlands, and triple the number of people who died this way in 2002. The Dutch don’t require proof of a terminal illness to allow doctors to “help” patients die. Here, people can choose euthanasia if they can convince two physicians they endure “unbearable” suffering, a definition that expands each year. Residents here can now choose euthanasia if they’re tired of living with Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis, depression or loneliness. The Dutch can now choose death if they’re tired of living.

More:

The march toward euthanasia mirrors a trend spanning continents today: a growing number of countries are placing more value on individual freedom. This worries religious leaders, ethicists and disability advocates. Assisted suicide may ease suffering, they say, but it threatens our most vulnerable citizens—the elderly and the disabled, who already struggle to justify their lives. “I like autonomy very much,” says Theo Boer, a professor of ethics at the Theological University Kampen in the Netherlands. “But it seems to have overruled other values, like solidarity, patience, making the best of things. The risk now is that people no longer search for a way to endure their suffering. Killing yourself is the end of autonomy.”

And:

In 2005, lawmakers decriminalized another form of euthanasia—for babies. In recent years, the number of cases of newborn euthanasia has declined—because parents are acting sooner. The country introduced a new system of prenatal screening that allows parents to terminate pregnancy if ultrasound results reveal severe congenital malformations within 20 weeks of conception.

The Dutch didn’t stop at babies. Minors in the Netherlands are now allowed to choose euthanasia, too. Children ages 12 to 15 may ask to die if they can get parents’ permission. After age 16, young people can make the decision with only “parental involvement.”

Pediatrician Eduard Verhagen helped establish the Dutch euthanasia guidelines for infants. He says the law should go further. “If we say the cutoff line is age 12, there might be children of 11 years and nine months who are very well capable of determining their own fate and making their own decisions, but they’re not allowed to ask for euthanasia.”

It is hard to imagine an American pediatrician making that argument. But no one envisioned euthanasia in the Netherlands would expand the way it has in the past 13 years. Perhaps the U.S. isn’t far behind.

It’s all connected. The passage of three years since the publication of the British paper does not obviate its relevance to the present moment.

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100 Comments To "Modern Babykilling"

#1 Comment By The Wet One On April 16, 2015 @ 4:38 pm

On a somewhat related matter, there’s this: [6]

I see this as both a moral and practical concern.

There are people out there who have this response to this kind of concern:

” Species come and go all the time and mass extinctions are simply a part of life that nobody on earth can really control. If animals are going to go extinct, they’re going to go extinct no matter how loud the special interest environmentalists and activists scream. I see mastodon teeth and skeletons in museums all the time. Humans have gotten along just fine for thousands of years without that animal, even though it became extinct while humans were roaming about the earth. The same thing’s true of thousands of other animals extinct now. As long as our domesticated “meat” animals like cows, chickens, and pigs stick around, I don’t see what the problem is. We’re even getting better at being able to raise some food animals like fish in captivity. I never read about any of these animals we enjoy at dinner being in danger of going extinct worldwide”

And, upon further questioning of the foregoing:

“Yes I do stand by that but I only listed a few of the food animals that we would need to keep around in order to keep humans alive. For example even though we don’t eat them directly I think bees are food animals since they help grow a few of our food plants. So we would need to protect a little more then just the four animals you listed? Except most of our food animals are domesticated, which wouldn’t be hard to make sure they stick around since they already depend on human hands to keep them alive. My main issue is with the extreme leftists and progressives who always seem to be out to take more of our money and our freedoms. They yell extinction and climate change at the top of their lungs but if an animal humans have no use for or if only 1% (if that) of the world’s population has ever even heard of goes extinct what does it matter for the vast majority of us who are just trying to live our lives free from government overreach and could care less? To borrow Hilary’s famous words “what difference does it make?” It reminds me of the saying about a tree falling in a forest and nobody around to hear it. Just not a big deal in the big picture where we are all trying to provide the best lives we can for our families and children.”

To me, this is a seriously chilling perspective and one that is highly immoral. Given the way people actually behave, this is about as widespread an opinion as one can imagine (far more widespread than pro-abortion viewpoints).

In the long run, this viewpoint will have far more consequence than our pro-abortion views too I’m rather sure.

But meh. Whatevs. Like I said earlier, morality as such, isn’t actually all that important to what actually goes on in the world. The problem (if there is one) will solve itself.

#2 Comment By grumpy realist On April 16, 2015 @ 4:48 pm

Talking about costs, here’s an analysis of the costs of keeping that Texas dead-brain mother on life support until a viable birth could occur: [7]

There was another case (my Google-fu isn’t working enough to find it) where a hospital was insisting on pulling the plug on a disabled infant because they couldn’t afford to provide support any more. (Mom was on welfare and no one else was volunteering to pick up the bill.)

There’s already been discussions about the morality of parents who go in for fertility treatments, have Octomom-like births; the kids get stuck in the NICU for months on end, and the cost for everything is shoved off on the taxpayer.

(Now–I myself would MUCH prefer as a taxpayer that my money go for this sort of stuff than for guns ‘n wars ‘n bombs, but good luck convincing the neocons to go along with that.)

#3 Comment By marysue On April 16, 2015 @ 4:50 pm

“epater les bourgeoisis by the transhumanists”

That’s a good way of putting it. I consider myself a transhumanist, and it takes “radical” ideas like the ones we support a long time to catch on. Thankfully it seems like transhumanism is finally moving into the mainstream. Google’s Calico company aims to cure aging, Nick Bostrom is being taken seriously by tech elites, and our society is finally asking itself what we should aim for given that we have lost our collective belief in god. Transhumanism will define the next few decades due to the advances in fields like biotechnology, and it’s just silly to pretend otherwise.

As an example, it was recently revealed that scientists had successfully used CRISPR to alter the human germline. Given that the price of sequencing human genomes is decreasing at an exponential rate we can expect designer babies fairly soon-go us! The fact that religious traditionalists can be expected to oppose the posthuman project is one of the primary reasons I take a hardline on religious issues.

[8]

#4 Comment By The Wet One On April 16, 2015 @ 4:51 pm

Oh and BTW, were you aware that 1/2 of all animal life on earth has disappeared in the last 4 or so decades?

1/2 of all living things that aren’t microbes or plants are just gone, in a mere 40 years.

Astonishing isn’t it? Almost certainly immoral. But no great outrage. Heck, there’s barely even been any attention paid so far as I can tell.

One day, when our own well being is grievously threatened by the forces humanity has put in motion (which will threaten a whole lot more than just the chickens, pigs, cows and bees we need to keep we humans going in comfort), the immorality of our actions will become clear.

Ah well.

It is what it is.

P.S. Anyone have any idea what the minimum number of species humans require to be viable on this planet? Serious question. I personally have no idea and have never seen any research on it. I’m pretty sure that the number is greater than 5, and probably more than 100. It seems like this is something we should know before we let the thing I’m decrying get too far out of hand.

Thanks in advance for any reply or hint at where I might find an answer.

And if you think this is totally unrelated to the topic at hand, I’d note that when the 40 or so year time referenced began, there were 4 billion humans on the planet. There are now 7 billion. I suspect there is some linkage between these two observations.

#5 Comment By Irenist On April 16, 2015 @ 5:22 pm

@The Wet One:
“Infanticide was a pretty normal even in Christian Europe.”

However common in sinful, criminal practice, it was a crime by the state’s law and condemned by the religious intelligentsia, whereas partial birth abortion was quite recently legal, other methods of abortion are legal, and our bioethical intelligentsia is quite warm toward the infanticide-promoting likes of Singer and Savelescu.

#6 Comment By thomas tucker On April 16, 2015 @ 5:26 pm

killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. – Peter Singer

Says who? Peter Singer? Why does he get to decide? Hell, if it’s up for grabs, kill all people named Peter.

#7 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On April 16, 2015 @ 5:40 pm

“According to the same logic, why should homicide be forbidden? In the liberal/atheist mind, after death there is nothing, so one wouldn’t properly robbed of anything, as he can’t suffer his loss.”, said the Conservative.
“Yes, but their right of living with no fear while alive would be taken from then”, objected the Liberal Atheist.
At which point the Conservative answers: “but you don’t need to let them know. Just think about how many unhappy or anti-social people would be better dead, but they just don’t have the maturity or the honesty to admit it”.
“There is something in what you say”, said the Liberal Atheist, “Definitely, without some people the world would be a better place. If only we could find a silent and charitable way of doing away with them…”

#8 Comment By John Murray On April 16, 2015 @ 5:54 pm

I’m glad Rod reposted this appalling article. It is not the case that nothing has happened in this regard.

Look the article up on Google scholar to see what kinds of responses it led to. Several indicate that this barbaric practice is happening now. Giubilini and Minerva seek merely to rationalize the killing of the weak and inconvenient.

They seek to make abortion and neonatal euthanasia morally equivalent. Of course they are correct–they ARE morally equivalent. Here is one follow-up, Eduard Verhagen, J Med Ethics 2013, “The Groningen Protocol for newborn euthanasia; which way did the slippery slope tilt?” Abstract:

“In The Netherlands, neonatal euthanasia has become a legal option and the Groningen Protocol contains an approach to identify situations in which neonatal euthanasia might be appropriate. In the 5 years following the publication of the protocol, neither the prediction that this would be the first step on a slippery slope, nor the prediction of complete transparency and legal control became true. Instead, we experienced a transformation of the healthcare system after antenatal screening policy became a part of antenatal care. This resulted in increased terminations of pregnancy and less euthanasia.”

How civilized! Less euthanasia and more abortion! If in fact “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus” then it doesn’t matter when you kill them.

Another citing article argues for clearer legal permissions to commit “neonatal euthanasia.” That way the killers will gain legal immunity–for what apparently is already happening.

Rod is definitely right not to let this pass.

#9 Comment By Charles Cosimano On April 16, 2015 @ 6:11 pm

“In this culture, it’s hard to know if comments like this are parody or serious.”

In this case deadly serious. I know people who are thinking this way.

And I have to back to my college ethics class when one student responded to the question if abortion was killing a human being. “Of course it is, but have you ever known me to object to killing a human being?”

One could made a case that a human life has minimal value in and of itself, that it’s value lies only in relation to that assigned to it by people around it. If that is the case, then if that value is diminished there is no reason not to end that life. Once that argument is accepted, all bets are off. The answer to abortion taking human life becomes, “And your problem with that is?”

Now, let us understand that we already think that way as a culture. There are a lot of lives we assign little, no or negative value to, mostly in countries we feel like bombing today. The notion of human life being sacred in all cases, or in even many cases, is not one taken very seriously if push comes to shove. Thus the background for the argument is already there and the whole sanctity of human life thing is a house of cards just waiting for someone to blow really hard on it.

#10 Comment By Anne On April 16, 2015 @ 6:19 pm

Voices have been proposing euthanasia, especially of the newborn, as a merciful or practical option since Plato (and before), just as most societies have officially banned all such practices. Even St. Thomas More included it in his vision of Utopia. Bottom line: As ideas go, it doesn’t easily “fly,” not even in the so-called “post-Christian” societies of Western Europe, much less here in the still religiously vociferous USA. What’s one more proposal, more or less? If anything, calling newborn euthanasia “after-birth abortion” gives the pro-life opposition ammunition to down two birds with one handy stone.

#11 Comment By Lee Penn On April 16, 2015 @ 6:23 pm

The pro-infanticide argument has been public for many years. Such essays were included in collections for classroom study of health care ethics as far back as 1983-84, when I took such a class at UC Berkeley as part of my graduate work.

Here’s a link to an essay by Michael Tooley, titled “Abortion and Infanticide.” It’s just the first few paragraphs, and the rest is behind a pay wall.

[9]

This argument was marginal then, before legalization of abortion in the US, and it still is marginal, 43 years later.

There are slippery slopes, but we seem to have somehow avoided skidding down this one for more than 4 decades.

#12 Comment By Eamus Catuli On April 16, 2015 @ 7:16 pm

The fact that this turns out to be an old item points up something else: there’s apparently not as much out there for SoCons to get all upset about as they’d like to think. I mean, where’s the current story about a proposal to kill newborns? Why aren’t there lots of examples of people making similar proposals? Gee, you’d almost think this one was maybe an aberration, not further proof of the coming apocalypse.

If I had a blog and was equally willing to pick and choose news items in the interest of trolling on behalf of secular liberalism, I would have plenty of material at hand as well. Just in the past few days, I could have blogged about:

> the neo-Nazi in North Carolina who declared that he hates gays, and who shot and killed his gay boss;

> the Tennessee House voting to make the Bible the official “state book”;

> the bill pending in the NC House to deny medical students at state universities training in performing abortions, thus putting at risk the accreditation of the state’s OB-GYN programs (because fully trained OB-GYNs are supposed to know this stuff).

And that’s before we even get to the RFRAs that are still floating around or to the hair-raising things that Republican presidential hopefuls have been saying. If I wanted to, I could issue grim daily forebodings about how America is hopeless, there’s a “new medievalism” abroad in the land, and the endarkenment is nigh upon us. In a huge, complex country and world, the news — selectively read — brings you daily proof of whatever point you want proven.

#13 Comment By Anne On April 16, 2015 @ 7:54 pm

Re the history of killing newborns: Unwanted babies were allowed to be put to death in the ancient world, including India and most of Asia, although the practice was banned elsewhere, such as in Mesopotamia. The Jews and Christians never allowed it, of course. Muslims either. The Romans sometimes “exposed” unwanted infants in a public place, so that strangers would have an opportunity to save them, which Christians often did. Even Christian mothers sometimes engaged in the practice after the empire became Christian, often leaving babies at monasteries, a forerunner to the tradition of convents taking in “foundlings.”

#14 Comment By MichaelGC On April 16, 2015 @ 8:01 pm

It is hard to imagine an American pediatrician making that argument. But no one envisioned euthanasia in the Netherlands would expand the way it has in the past 13 years. Perhaps the U.S. isn’t far behind.

Diane Rehm is all over it, is quite in favor of it, wishes the option were available for her recently deceased husband, and would like to see the movement grow here.

Also, I remember seeing a Nazi-era film about a young housewife and mother who came down with some degenerative disease. It extolled the virtue and nobility of suicide for such cases, if not necessity.

You have to wonder who else the government might like to put down if this catches on– perhaps some recalcitrant Christians, because, doggone it, they insist to question and disobey, slowing things, making policy changes messy and expensive.

#15 Comment By Acilius On April 16, 2015 @ 8:21 pm

I for one am impressed that you repeat yourself so infrequently, considering the posting schedule you have to keep up. And this is a story that bears repeating!

I do wish you would say a bit more about one point. Responding to publications with death threats is precisely the act of “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.” As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Freedom of thought is always freedom for the thought we hate.” Of course it is- how could you form an angry mob, or gain acquiescence to a state policy, to stop people saying things that don’t bother people?

And how can you demand Muslims coexist peacefully with Charlie Hebdo and same-sexers to coexist peacefully with the Westboro Baptist Church when you shrug off death threats against the authors of this article? If creeps who horrify us are fair game for this sort of thing, then creeps who horrify them are fair game, too. And if you leave it up to people in a fit of righteous indignation to decide who the creeps are, well, you can ask Crystal O’Connor what happens next.

#16 Comment By David J. White On April 16, 2015 @ 8:23 pm

Peter Singer also believes there is nothing wrong with bestiality as long as the animal is not harmed.

That reminds me of the old joke that the reason the Puritans banned bear-baiting, when they came to power in England in the 17th century, was not because it was cruel to the bear, but because it was pleasurable for the spectators.

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 16, 2015 @ 9:08 pm

The fact that this is three years old, and has not inspired a movement of fervent advocates, suggests that these voluntary straw-men for the self-styled “pro-life” movement are not exactly the movers and shakers of public opinion and policy. In fact, they are borderline Goofuses (anyone read Highlights magazine as a child?) who utter nothing but the dubious speculation their own muddled meandering minds.

There is precedent for their point of view, including the practice of putting deficient babies out on a convenient mountainside in ancient Greece. But these are not to my knowledge prevalent values of even the most decayed Western societies. (These practices may in fact be more common in some of those third world bastions of Conservative Christian Values I hear extolled opportunistically from time to time — some of which not only favor executing gays, but defend female genital mutilation as a sacred rite of devotion to God).

One must concede, however, that the authors merely take to its full conclusion the logic inherent in the pro-abortion position in the first place.

I do not concede that point in the slightest.

I am one.

Therefore, the statement is false.

(I would detail why and how I deny the self-serving statement, but I’ve done so many times, and I know this is one of those issues on which we can barely agree to disagree. Suffice it to say, that I have never thought of the womb as “geography.”)

Transhumanist… that’s a term with about as much meaning as “post modern.” Unless the man is a robot of course.

I would just barely agree that the proponents of this notion have a legal right to publish, and should not be subject to death threats, just as those who publish insipid pornography and cartoons gratuitously insulting other people’s religions should not be subject to armed attacks. But the authors deserve any form of contempt short of violence or deprivation of civil rights, including, if anyone is so minded, silent contempt in any non-commercial or non-governmental situation.

#18 Comment By sjay On April 16, 2015 @ 11:27 pm

I don’t think it is especially important whether this came out in 2015 or 2012 — moral issues like this are resolved in longer periods than years. In 1968, Joseph Fletcher, then a professor of Christian Ethics at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, MA, and founder of the 1960’s ethical school known as “situational ethics,” published this article in the Atlantic Monthly in which he said “[there is] no reason to feel guilty about putting a Down’s syndrome baby away, whether it’s “put away” in the sense of hidden in a sanitarium or in a more responsible lethal sense. It is sad; yes. Dreadful. But it carries no guilt. True guilt arises only from an offense against a person, and a Down’s is not a person.” [10] .
I think it is possible that Professor Fletcher’s article might garner more revulsion today than it did then. I think it reflected attitudes that might have been more prevalent then than now. In the 90s, a retired obstetrician told me that when he was training, probably in the early 60s, that if a child was born with severe defects, the attending physician “would take care of it,” and nobody would ask questions. His comment was made in response to a case that had occurred in which an OB had been reported to the medical board for an apparent (unsuccessful) attempt to “mercy kill” a hydroencephalic newborn. The attempt to kill the newborn, at first by smothering and then by neglect, was interrupted by the complaints of some of the delivery room nurses. During the investigation, there was an interview of an obstetrics professor who indicated that the mistake made by the attending OB was that he hadn’t arranged for an “experienced” team to be on hand after he learned that the baby was likely to be born with severe defects. There has always been a remnant of pagan attitudes, I suspect, in our handling of these cases.

#19 Comment By Rombald On April 16, 2015 @ 11:48 pm

Actually, in English law, infanticide, the killing of an infant under 6 months by its mother, is a different crime from, and much less serious than, murder. This is an ancient law, not a new development.

#20 Comment By Gretchen On April 17, 2015 @ 1:26 am

Here’s a story from yesterday about a pastor who thinks homosexuals should literally be stoned to death, because that’s what the Bible says: [11]
So, Rod, do you think it’s fair that you should have to defend this guy’s premise because you’re both conservatives who are opposed to gay marriage? Or should you be able to say he’s a crazy outlier, and he doesn’t speak for the rest of us.
Then you pull up a story about a crazy outlier, and say he speaks for the rest of us liberals. This guy isn’t writing for Nature or the New England Journal of Medicine. He’s writing for a little self-published journal that nobody has every heard of and nobody pays attention to. You use the slippery slope argument, that other people are going to sign on to his beliefs. You’ve been monitoring this issue for three years, and have found three people who share these beliefs. And it turns out they’re all the same guy. The same crazy outlier guy to whom nobody at all, nobody at all, is paying any attention. Yes, there are crazy outlier people who espouse positions that could be tangentially tied to more mainstream liberal, or conservative, positions. But they are crazy outliers, and they don’t inform anything of the many people who hold a position that is shared by at least one other person. Finding a crazy person who has a sort-of liberal position doesn’t undermine the actual liberal position, like maybe a fertilized egg isn’t the same as a 12 year old. Just like finding a crazy conservative person who has a sort-of conservative position, like let’s have public stonings of gay people, doesn’t undermine the position of someone who says maybe gay marriage isn’t a good idea.

#21 Comment By DeepSouthPopulist On April 17, 2015 @ 8:05 am

The fact that this is three years old, and has not inspired a movement of fervent advocates, suggests that these voluntary straw-men for the self-styled “pro-life” movement are not exactly the movers and shakers of public opinion and policy.

All of these issues are interrelated. The fact that these sick ideas were even published, rather than earning the author two to the back of the head, tells you a lot about the state of western society.

It has only been a few years. So what? Give them time. We are dealing with liberal intellectuals who operate on very long time horizons. Sure, they get can’t get legalized pedophilia, incest, bestiality and infanticide today, but they can at least start the conversion on normalizing and plant the seeds for legalization down the road. And on infanticide, pedophilia and bestiality, that is exactly what they’ve done.

You have to start somewhere. The Nazis started in the early 20s and didn’t get moving on the exterminationist portion of their agenda until the early 40s. And, again, not too long ago, homosexuality was regarded as a loathsome perversion by most people. SSM is only an early stop on a long train ride.

#22 Comment By Grumpy realist On April 17, 2015 @ 8:14 am

Arguments about the evil of euthanasia and being pro-life would get a better reception if people didn’t get hysterical over idiots like these. Pete Singer and his ilk are nothing more than trolls with Ph.Ds.
The argument for lifeboat ethics has always been: what do you do with limited resources when there’s not enough to sustain everybody? In the case of abortion, the argument has been one of competing rights: fetus or woman carrying said fetus? Here, there’s no competition whatsoever–it’s talking about pushing granny off the cliff just because you feel like it.
(I’m also wondering if Peter Singer has ever encountered a baby in his life.)

#23 Comment By Grumpy realist On April 17, 2015 @ 8:30 am

P.S. Irenist–it seems to me that Christian Europe was trying to have its cake and eat it as well. The religious and secular authorities may have wagged their fingers about the Evils of Infanticide, but they seem to have turned a pretty blind eye to baby-farming and other practices with a 90% death rate.
Which seems to be a heck of a way to run a railroad.

#24 Comment By Irenist On April 17, 2015 @ 10:03 am

Siarlys, transhumanists’ speculations are often muddled (e.g., “mind uploading”), but some of their ideas are doable, dangerous, and influential with elites.

marysue writes:

I consider myself a transhumanist, and it takes “radical” ideas like the ones we support a long time to catch on. Thankfully it seems like transhumanism is finally moving into the mainstream. Google’s Calico company aims to cure aging, Nick Bostrom is being taken seriously by tech elites, and our society is finally asking itself what we should aim for given that we have lost our collective belief in god. Transhumanism will define the next few decades due to the advances in fields like biotechnology, and it’s just silly to pretend otherwise.

As an example, it was recently revealed that scientists had successfully used CRISPR to alter the human germline. Given that the price of sequencing human genomes is decreasing at an exponential rate we can expect designer babies fairly soon-go us! The fact that religious traditionalists can be expected to oppose the posthuman project is one of the primary reasons I take a hardline on religious issues.

[8]

Let’s unpack that, shall we, Siarlys?

Google is sympathetic to transhumanist thinkers. It’s not just their Calico project. They’ve also hired Ray Kurzweil.

Paypal founder Peter Thiel funds the MIRI/Less Wrong crowd. Transhumanists Nick Bostrom and Julian Savelescu are influentially perched at Oxford. In Savelescu’s article from 2015 (not 2012), hosted at an Oxford blog, linked by marysue, Savelescu argues for eugenic germline engineering: the genetic alteration of future generations of humans to eliminate undesirable traits. In fairness, Savelescu only mentions knocking out genes for Alzheimer’s and cancer: the eugenic intent is muted. But the technology could easily be applied, once mastered, to try to eliminate Downs, autism, or homosexuality from the population.

And marysue is right that biotech is advancing. Not fast enough to let Kurzweil (or anyone reading this) live forever, but more than fast enough for the likes of Savelescu to do great damage.

Note, too, that marysue says that her harshness toward religion–she mentioned wanting to “crush” religious traditionalists in an earlier comment–stems from religious opposition to the brave new world she desires. Now, transhumanism itself, with its technically ungrounded fantasies of an imminent Rapture-like Sigularity upon creation of a benevolent supersmart A.I. god, eternal life through either Kurzweilian medical intervention (which is biologically impossible) or cybernetic “uploading to software” (which is both technically and metaphysically impossible), has some characteristics of a goofy religion itself. But so does Scientology, and it does damage. Worse, the ideology of the Nazis was goofy, and obsessed with futurism, eugenics, and hi-tech innovation, but it surprised the world by becoming influential. Now, in fairness, the transhumanists aren’t Nazis. Neoreactionary corporatists sometimes, but not Nazis. But they are likely to be among the chief enablers of what conservative James Poulos calls the Pink Police State, a Marcusian regime of “repressive tolerance” in which we are ever more cyber-surveilled, SWAT-policed, and drone-bombed, but we are lulled by porn, drugs, video games, tv spectacle, sex, biotech enhancement, new hi-tech toys, fancy food, imported servant labor, and the “game-ification” of everyday life to remain compliant tools of corporate capital and its cybertechnical and biotechnical projects of ever deeper neoliberal domination of every potential cell (family, church, club) of resistance. Such a brave new world wouldn’t be anything as clumsy as a 1984-style dictatorship. Just a hegemonic culture of private libertinism and public corporate domination.

It doesn’t take an A.I. antichrist or a eternal life nano-pill or any other transhumanist fantasy for their ideology to be dangerous, or likely to move from fringe to influential. Transhumanist James Hughes once said that he saw the 21st century being importantly influenced by bioethical and biotech arguments between transhumanist-type ideologies and groups like the Catholic Church. I agreed with him when I read that back when I was a transhumanist. And I agree with him as a Catholic now.

Endless healthy life through biotech is a nutty eugenic idea. But Aryan purity was a nutty eugenic idea. Ideas don’t have to be sound to be influential, or dangerous. Transhumanism is a LOT more influential now than it was in the early twentieth century days of Julian Huxley, or in the 1970s of FM2020 (as he legally named himself), or in the 1990s Extropianism of California techno-libertarians. But it’s still not THAT influential. But that just means that the time to argue with it is now, while it’s still small enough to counter.

Religious traditionalists should have been thinking about how to live in a world of triumphant SSM back when Andrew Sullivan wrote his out-of-left-field TNR piece. It might have kept us less overbearing on issues like DOMA and civil unions, for one thing, and better positioned us for where things are now.

I’m not saying it’s time to demonize transhumanists, or panic about them. They’re not Nazis, and their desired brave new world is not some New World Order. But it does align very much with Pink Police State trajectory of contemporary capitalism, and we need to be responding to it now, not when it’s hegemonic.

#25 Comment By marysue On April 17, 2015 @ 10:15 am

“One day, when our own well being is grievously threatened by the forces humanity has put in motion (which will threaten a whole lot more than just the chickens, pigs, cows and bees we need to keep we humans going in comfort), the immorality of our actions will become clear.”

Homo sapiens will be extinct within 100 years anyway. We will either go extinct because of the dangers associated with advancements in biotechnological engineering, AI, and nanotechnology or else heavily alter ourselves to the point that we are no longer the same species. As Yuval Harari said in his book Sapiens, history began when mankind invented gods and will end when we become gods. People think transhumanism is some sort of fantasy, but it’s really the defining political issue of our time. It would be impossible to stop with politics even if people did take it more seriously, but the fact that they don’t means there is no hope of preventing this sort of thing from happening.

#26 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 17, 2015 @ 11:25 am

I think Thomas Tucker knows that it would be both unfair and monstrous to kill all people named Peter merely because one person named Peter had expressed some ruthless and contemptible thoughts.

Infanticide is, incidentally, a NATURAL thing to do, evidenced by the facts that when a new alpha male chimp takes over a harem, he takes nursing babies from their mothers and smashes them against a tree, the better to enjoy his own newly-won prerogatives. (I don’t know if its prevalent, but its been observed.)

Natural is not always good.

As to the elderly and fatally disabled… I can sympathize with the desire for death with dignity… but I think the best ballance is what to a great extent we now have in the United States. Dying patients can refuse intrusive care, but cannot ask for a fatal dose of barbituates. I lost both my parents in the last two years. They were in their 80s, so they had a good life. They both stuck to the end to their decision not to accept ventilation, tracheostomy, central lines, etc. My father went to the hospital once for rehydration and IV antibiotics — we didn’t regret that, but he refused to be sent there again, and died quietly and fairly peacefully in the skilled nursing wing of the senior home where he had an apartment.

I find this sort of voluntary choice and refusal of complex, expensive measure of doubtful efficacy to be appropriate, but actually prescribing suicide opens a Pandora’s box of potential abuse we had better keep closed.

#27 Comment By grumpy realist On April 17, 2015 @ 12:59 pm

Siarlys–I wish we had a better system set-up for dying. The last thing I want to do is spend my last days in some antiseptic hospital hooked up to machines. Let me die out in the open under the blue sky, with Bach in my ears, a good glass of single malt in my hand, and a dachshund snoozing at my feet.

#28 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 17, 2015 @ 3:22 pm

the genetic alteration of future generations of humans to eliminate undesirable traits

If this ends up happening (and I wouldn’t be that surprised if it did, though I also wouldn’t be that surprised if it didn’t), one of the first psychometric traits a reasonably foresighted government is going to eliminate is Openness. Which correlates with cultural liberalism, and has a genetic basis. A low-openness population is one that’s less likely to oppose or even question the government. (Of course, you can get people to be satisfied with their situation more cheaply through pharmacological means rather than genetic ones, which is more probably the tack that the great authoritarian states of the future are going to take. If Brezhnev had lived in the age of ubiquitous Xanax and Wellbutrin, he would have had a surefire way of quelling political subversion).

Which means, in other words, the end result of liberal transhumanism is going to be a world with very few liberals, and probably no transhumanists.

#29 Comment By The Wet One On April 17, 2015 @ 3:58 pm

Grumpy realist wrote:

“P.S. Irenist–it seems to me that Christian Europe was trying to have its cake and eat it as well. The religious and secular authorities may have wagged their fingers about the Evils of Infanticide, but they seem to have turned a pretty blind eye to baby-farming and other practices with a 90% death rate.
Which seems to be a heck of a way to run a railroad.”

Indeed.

Especially given how they treated heretics. The comparison in actions doesn’t reflect well.

#30 Comment By DeepSouthPopulist On April 17, 2015 @ 7:12 pm

For anyone who may be interested, Pinker threw very cold water on the idea human immortality is likely:

I’m skeptical, though, about science-fiction scenarios played out in the virtual reality of our imaginations. The imagined futures of the past have all been confounded by boring details: exponential costs, unforeseen technical complications, and insuperable moral and political roadblocks.

Some apparently unstoppable technological progressions can in fact be frozen in place indefinitely. An expert in the 1950s would be shocked to learn that sixty years later air travel would be no faster and in many ways less pleasant and convenient. The reasons are banal but decisive: people on the ground don’t like sonic booms; jet fuel became expensive; airliners are easy to hijack. Likewise, seventeen years after Dolly the sheep, no human has been cloned, because of the potential harm to the first experimental fetus and the dubious benefit to anyone of bringing the experiment to completion. Nor are we genetically engineering our babies, because we have learned that single genes with large beneficial effects probably do not exist. Segways did not revamp urban transportation, because city councilors banned them from sidewalks. And remember the Google Glass Revolution?

Of course failures of the imagination cut both ways, and for exactly the same reason: real social revolutions depend on historical contingencies and psychological quirks and foibles that seldom enter into our technology-driven imaginations. Who foresaw, even a few years in advance, the women’s revolution, or the rise of social media?

I suspect that death will never be conquered (though our lifespans will continue to increase, at least for a while).Any cost-free longevity gene or easily tunable molecular pathway would have been low-hanging fruit for natural selection long ago. Senescence is baked into most of our genome because of the logic of evolution: since there’s a nonzero probability at any moment that an organism will die in an unpreventable accident, making genes for longevity moot, selection tends to sacrifice longevity for performance at every level of organization. This means we’d have to know how to tinker with thousands of genes or molecular pathways, each a tiny (and noisy) effect on longevity, to make the leap to immortality. The low-hanging fruit is in fact at the other end of the lifespan and income scale. We’ve made massive global progress in reducing maternal and infant mortality and premature death, but we’re not seeing a cohort of billionaire centagenarians.

Nor will we embed chips in our brains any time soon, if ever. Brains are oatmeal-soft, float around in skulls, react poorly to being invaded, and suffer from inflammation around foreign objects. Neurobiologists haven’t the slightest idea how to decode the billions of synapses that underlie a coherent thought, to say nothing of manipulating them. And any such innovation would have to compete against a free, safe, and intricately fine-tuned brain interface with a million-year head-start, namely eyes, ears, voice, and fingers.

It remains to be seen how far artificial intelligence and robotics will penetrate into the workforce. (Driving a car is technologically far easier than unloading a dishwasher, running an errand, or changing a baby.) Given the tradeoffs and impediments in every other area of technological development, the best guess is: much farther than it has so far, but not nearly so far as to render humans obsolete.

#31 Comment By DeepSouthPopulist On April 17, 2015 @ 7:13 pm

[12]

#32 Comment By Jones On April 17, 2015 @ 9:28 pm

In the vein of an anti-life culture, this article from the Atlantic:

[13]

““I could have afforded children, financially,” Shriver writes. “I just didn’t want them. They are untidy, they would have messed up my apartment. In the main, they are ungrateful. They would have siphoned away too much time from my precious books.”

“Shriver acknowledges that this attitude could be interpreted as selfish. But, it seems, her feelings are indicative of “a larger transformation in Western culture no less profound than our collective consensus on what life is for.” In other words, she’s saying, an existential shift in the way educated humans approach living—a switch from living for the (possibly celestial) future to enjoying the present—has led humans to think much more carefully about having children, since the drawbacks tend to outweigh the benefits.”

Talk about broader issues behind gay marriage. This is exactly in line with a comment I made recently recalling a conversation with my educated female friends, who were horrified by the irrationality of motherhood.

I just can’t see myself as belonging to the same ethical community as people who think like that. I refuse to have any part of it. Arms-length contracts; mutually beneficial transactions; amicable professional relations. But do we share a way of life? No.

[NFR: I’m with you. Theirs is a culture of death. — RD]

#33 Comment By Jones On April 17, 2015 @ 9:30 pm

Oh, I should add that the next sentences after the ones I quoted are just as good:

““As we age,” she writes, “we are apt to look back on our pasts and question, not, did I serve family, God, and country, but did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat? We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but whether they were interesting and fun.”

#34 Comment By Jones On April 17, 2015 @ 9:57 pm

I can’t just let this go, sorry. The view here is so disturbing I have to reassure myself that I share no part of the community, the ethics, the worldview of these people; that I’m surrounded by them but am not, can never be, from among them . . .

That passage really shows the stakes we keep talking about, the stakes behind the phenomenon of gay marriage, the whole “collective consensus of what life is for” reflected in it. That broader view is far more important than any particular manifestation of it.

To anyone who has actually been at or near a deathbed, the suggesting that we will be thinking about what was “interesting and fun” is laughable. Death is not “interesting and fun.” On your deathbed you will likely have forgotten everything that was interesting and fun. Pain and suffering have a way of focusing the mind on the important and essential aspects of reality. And a woman like that is much more likely, when reflecting back on her life, to conclude that it was a wasted life.

At times like that what you want, what you need, is to reach out your hand, and put it in the hand of someone you love. Someone who has been there for you throughout your life. And if you lack that, if when you reach out your hand you find yourself grasping at nothing, you will not be able to endure the pain. Few of us know that pain—because, by necessity, no one is there to see it.

These are not people who have thought life through to its brutal end. That end will put a bitterly ironic end to their egoism.

#35 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 17, 2015 @ 11:57 pm

grumpy, I think you can actually do that, if you have enough energy left to drag yourself out to the fields, or friends to help you get there and keep you company. My father’s last days were spent listeing to Beethoven string quartets on an iPod Touch, mp3 filed recorded from a set of LPs my mom got him before I was born.

It is curious that “killing babies” inspires only about one fourth the outrage that “gay marriage” inspires. I say that without prejudice to the honesty or mendacity, the pros and cons, of any given sloganeering on either subject.

#36 Comment By marysue On April 18, 2015 @ 12:25 am

Pinker isn’t necessarily right, and even he concedes that lifespans will continue to increase. Personally I don’t see how we don’t develop “amortality” treatments once we develop mature bio and nanotechnology. It just seems deeply implausible to me given the results we are already achieving. Once we are able to sequence human genomes more cheaply we will be able to run large studies and get a better understanding of how different genes work, and from there it’s primarily an engineering problem rather than something that requires great conceptual breakthroughs.

>Nor will we embed chips in our brains any time soon, if ever. Brains are oatmeal-soft, float around in skulls, react poorly to being invaded, and suffer from inflammation around foreign objects.

It is much more likely that we will simply emulate a brain. That is much easier than trying to implant electronics into one.

#37 Comment By Gretchen On April 18, 2015 @ 12:52 am

I’m having a bit of a double-take. This post declares that a woman who doesn’t want children is part of the “culture of death”. The next post worries that not enough women are becoming nuns, which once was a socially-acceptable way for women who didn’t want marriage and children to avoid them. So is it ok to not want marriage and children, or not? Or only if you say it’s because of your religious devotion.

#38 Comment By Gretchen On April 18, 2015 @ 12:55 am

Jones, I’ve got to disagree. Someone who found life interesting and fun is the sort of person who had a lot of people in their life that they shared the interesting and fun with, and those are the people who are gathering around their deathbed. They’re not having fun at that time, but it’s the good times they had together in life that cemented their relationships. The dour, serious person who snarls at his companions “don’t you realize this is serious?” is probably not the guy who has friends and family weeping at his bedside. What a dark and dreary view of life, that if it’s interesting and fun it’s empty and meaningless.

#39 Comment By Gretchen On April 18, 2015 @ 1:09 am

Jones: Sorry, I can’t let go of this either. You mention one woman who doesn’t want children, and this is evidence of anti-life culture. Look around you. Do you see any children? Of course you do! Most people are still having children, while some people opt out. 100 years ago, everybody had kids, whether they wanted them or not, because there was no choice for those who didn’t want children, unless they became nuns, or sneered-at spinsters at the mercy of their married relatives. So many, many people who didn’t want kids had them anyway, and did a terrible job of it. My own father recounted that “I thought my mother hated me.” This, unsurprisingly, went along with life-long insecurity and unhappiness. Was it a good thing to force someone who hated children to have them anyway? I don’t think so, and I don’t think that represents a “culture of life”. People tend to look at the past with rose-colored glasses, seeing happy, intact, large families, and missing the abuse, suffering, and single parent families resulting from widowhood that were so common in the golden past. Now, people who like kids have kids, sometimes lots of them (like myself),and people who don’t like kids don’t have them, and play the part of benevolent aunts and uncles in the lives of the children of their childbearing friends. I’ve got those people in the lives of my children – they had absolutely no interest in kids of their own, but play a positive role in the lives of my children. I think the current arrangement is much better than the one-size-fits-all of the past.

#40 Comment By DeepSouthPopulist On April 18, 2015 @ 12:20 pm

Pinker isn’t necessarily right, and even he concedes that lifespans will continue to increase. Personally I don’t see how we don’t develop “amortality” treatments once we develop mature bio and nanotechnology.

Be careful what you wish for. Even if it happens, it will be a meaningless development for anyone not in the top 50% – 25% of the global 1%. The affluent are not going to share these technologies or make them affordable for masses. More likely, given their record of greed and cruelty, they will just exterminate all of the genetically inferior useless eaters.

#41 Comment By Gentillylace On April 18, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

Gretchen, I think that the belief is that sexually active women who refuse to have children are part of the “culture of death”, because they are (presumably) using contraception (and perhaps abortion as a backup when contraception fails) to insure that they not have children.

Celibate and chaste women who obey the norms of the Church — nuns, of course, but also laywomen who do not want to have children or get married — are not part of the “culture of death”, since they have no use for contraception or abortion.

#42 Comment By Howard On April 18, 2015 @ 8:14 pm

I am not against the death penalty, but I am opposed to lethal injection because it imitates medical procedures and is messy. If we give up lethal injection, given modern culture, we may lose the death penalty altogether; but that is tolerable.

#43 Comment By humanoid.panda On April 19, 2015 @ 2:24 am

” If Brezhnev had lived in the age of ubiquitous Xanax and Wellbutrin, he would have had a surefire way of quelling political subversion)”

He had vodka, which did nearly as much good in the short run, and very little good in the medium to long one.

#44 Comment By Joan On April 19, 2015 @ 9:23 pm

On your deathbed you will likely have forgotten everything that was interesting and fun. Pain and suffering have a way of focusing the mind on the important and essential aspects of reality. And a woman like that is much more likely, when reflecting back on her life, to conclude that it was a wasted life.

At times like that what you want, what you need, is to reach out your hand, and put it in the hand of someone you love. Someone who has been there for you throughout your life.

I really have my doubts about this. During the times of my life when I’ve been in serious pain, I have wanted to be alone. Face-to-face social interaction is always an effort for me, and a bigger effort when I’m in bad shape health-wise. The idea of having to make an effort to be sociable (as my mom used to put it when she was trying to cajole me out of a book) on my deathbed doesn’t sound at all pleasant.

When I’m on my deathbed, give me powerful drugs and a fast internet connection.

#45 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 19, 2015 @ 9:58 pm

Panda,

Modern psychotropics are better than alcohol in terms of accomplishing the goal (in the sense that they’re more narrowly targeted and have fewer side effects). Which makes sense, since unlike alcohol they were developed via scientific medicine.

#46 Comment By Aegis On April 20, 2015 @ 1:00 am

@ Gentillylace: “Celibate and chaste women who obey the norms of the Church — nuns, of course, but also laywomen who do not want to have children or get married — are not part of the “culture of death”, since they have no use for contraception or abortion.”

What difference does that make? They are nonetheless stony ground to the mustard seed.

#47 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On April 20, 2015 @ 6:09 am

marysue says:

I consider myself a transhumanist

Well, you better consider that it’s very unlikely that you are going to manage your ‘trasnhumanization’ on your own.

In all likelihood, it’s going to be managed on your behalf by those who have the money, the organization and the know-how to run the biogenetics industry and politics.

And you may not like the results.

#48 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 20, 2015 @ 12:21 pm

Aegis has a valid point, and one that an Orthodox Jewish scholar could easily grasp… since the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” does in fact preclude widespread resort to celibacy as an act of faith in Jewish tradition.

Howard, I’ve always said that if I am ever executed I hope its in Utah, where instead of messing with atrocities like electric chairs, lethal injections, and gas chambers, they simply give you a clean choice between hanging and firing squad. Its more honest, and I suspect, easier to take.

#49 Comment By JonF On April 20, 2015 @ 3:00 pm

Re: I suspect that death will never be conquered (though our lifespans will continue to increase, at least for a while

We are pretty much hitting the point of diminishing returns there too. Absent new transformative technologies (which could happen but are not champing at the bit yet on the horizon) the only improvements in life expectancy will be in very marginal improvements, often from things like improved trauma care that keep the young from dying prematurely, or from this or that new treatment that brightens the odds for those with potentially lethal cancers (e.g., Gleevac)

#50 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 20, 2015 @ 7:15 pm

JonF, what about cutting edge research on growing new organs from the patient’s own cells, tweaked to return to stem cell condition? That’s not going to be widely available in the next ten years, but there is plenty of promising research. It could drastic revise the way we look at longevity, retirement, inheritance… If my recently deceased father could have had stem cell replacement therapy for his retina, for the nerves afflicted by peripheral neuropathy, and for his inner ears, be might have had another several decades of rewarding life.

Its not off the table, even though it probably won’t be fully developed until well after my time.