When quantity of life surpasses quality of life, one must
concede that life has no more usefulness, and therefore must end.
So end it. What's the problem? How many people right now are kept alive by life support? Kidney dialysis? Medication? And if those people choose to
unplug the dialysis machine, or stop taking the pills, what's the problem?
As I pointed out in my opening post, this is not some magic genie we're talking about. Nobody is going to be condemned to live forever. The debate
topic clearly reflects that in its phrasing of making "human life expectancy potentially
unlimited." As in, we want to use medical
means, not magical
means, to remove the aging barrier to life expectancy. Biological systems have the ability to self-repair. The human liver,
for example, can regenerate itself from as little as 25% of its
. But, the human repair and cell replication process is imperfect. If the human body could continue to replace cells as precisely as it
made them in the first place, there would be no reason for people to age or die from aging. Their lifespan would be "potentially" unlimited. You'd
still be able to die by other causes.
Begin lengthy technical dissertation
You mentioned stem cells earlier. That's how they work. They can self-replicate indefinitely without losing the
at the ends of the their chromosomes. Compare to regular "mature" cells, in which
is inactive, and consequently are unable to synthesize replacement telomeres.
Since I don't really expect anyone to read through those links, to summarize, chromosomes contain redundant "protective" structures at their ends
which slowly shorten with succesive cell divisions. Except
in stem cells, which are able to "replace" those structures. Stem cells don't
age, and they're not differentiated into different cell types. e.g. "liver cells" "heart cells" "skin cells" etc. Rather, they're simply
"stem cells" which are able to form any other type. This is how your body is able to grow from a single zygote into an entire body composed of
trillions of cells of various types.
This, incidentally, is the primary difference between embryonic
stem cells and adult
stem cells: both are able to replace lost
telomeres, but the embryonic stem cells are ultimately able to differentiate into any
cell type, whereas adult stem cells generally aren't.
Adult stem cells are already differentiated. An adult olfactory stem cell, for example, will generally only replicate more olfactory cells. But for
our purposes, this distinction is unimportant. You're not a zygote anymore. You don't need to grow an entire body. If all the various parts of your
body could continue replacing cells as efficiently as stem cells, there would be no chromosome degeneration, and theoretically, no aging. However, in
a fully grown human body, very few cells are stem cells, and when non-stem cells replicate, each successive generation gradually loses the protective
telomeres in its chromosomes, and thus more "degenerated" cells are introduced into the body.
Agelessness and functional immortality might simply be a matter of inducing all
cells in your body to properly synthesize replacement telomeres
like your adult stem cells do. No borg implants required.
End lengthy technical dissertation
my point in this debate is that it's simply immoral to never die.
Is that really the extent of your point? Because even if I were to agree, as has been mentioned repeatedly, it's totaly irrelevant. We're not
talking about rubbing a magic lamp, wishing for immortality and being locked in a statis box while a laughing genie returns to the city of brass.
We're talking about removing biological limits on lifespan via medical technology
. People who jump out of an airplane but forget to pull their
ripcord are still going to die. Nobody is going to be forever "locked" into this.
, since you've made the assertion...
Socratic question #1
Why is it immoral to never die?
Cheating death is not the natural order no matter what form it comes in.
? No matter the form? If someone has corrective heart surgury for a condition that would otherwise be fatal, wouldn't that constitute
"unnaturally" cheating death? But does it being "unnatural" make it "immoral" or "wrong" in any way? Because if you say yes to that
then a massive house of cards is going to totally collapse. Office buildings and cars are also "not natural." Are office buildings and cars
therefore immoral? How far do you take that? Even if you just stick to the medical field, then by your reasoning anyone who is alive today because of
any medical intervention, surgury, or pharmaceuticals of any kind is "violating" your natural order. Do you really want to go there? And if
not...why are you even bringing it up? Being unnatural is no reason to not do something, and if you really believe it is, then take off your unnatural
clothes, stop driving your unnatural car and go find a nice tree to live in.
Socratic question #2
Are you seriously suggesting that things like cars and houses and medical procedures that save lives are somehow "immoral" simply because they're
Responses to Socratic questions
SQ1: Is suicide morally justifiable, when there
is no terminal illness involved?
In a situation where people are potentially living forever, I think it's resonable for people to choose to put a stop to it. I would differentiate,
for example, between a lovesick teenager who throws themselves off a bridge in a fit of angst, and a person who has lived several thousand years,
feels they've lived a full and complete life, and chooses to reunite with God. Or if you prefer a non-religious example, wouldn't it have been more
graceful for Brett Favre to have retired while he was still in his prime, rather than continuing to play year after year? Wouldn't you rather
remember a still healthy and vital Elvis than the fat, balding, dying Elvis?
There is more dignity in choosing
to stop than in being compelled
to stop through inability to continue. The only reason we don't apply
this to human death is that human life is too short. It is perceived as wasteful
for a teenager to throw away decades of life because of a
moment of heartfelt tragedy. But if everybody could live as long as they wanted, then we could all have graceful and dignified deaths. I don't want
to die slowly in a hospital bed, watching my family and friends grieve over my imminent death. I don't want them to feel guilty over having to choose
whether to stay by my bedside or live their own lives. And I don't want to lay there helpless, regretting all the things I never got around to doing.
I would much rather have the time to do anything and everything I want in life, remain vital and healthy through all those years and end it when I'm
good and ready to end it, by throwing a farewell party and saying goodbye to everyone on my own terms.
And if some people decide to live for thousands of years before they reach that point, or for millions of years, or forever...I have no problem with
that. "Potentially forever", not "magic genie against your wishes forever"...but potentially
forever sounds awesome to me. Potentially
forever means "until you choose to stop."
Sign me up.
SQ2: How much of the body can be replaced before a
person can no longer be considered human?
If you're replacing human cells with humans cells, all of it. The human body is
constantly replacing cells
as it is. Interfering to make the replication process
more accurate would no more make someone inhuman than a child conceived by artificial insemination would be inhuman. Either way there's
"artificiality" involved in the origin of cells but the results are still human.
If you're replacing human cells with "borg implants" it's probably a bit more subjective. But as mentioned several times in this discussion, we
already have people with mechanical replacement hearts and limbs, and I don't see anyone suggesting that those people aren't human.
If you want to entertain an extreme example, say...uploading your memories into a computer and destroying the body...I think it would be reasonable to
think of such a person as no longer human. But it would also be pretty reasonable to think of them as no longer alive, so I don't think a procedure
like that would qualify as people potentially living forever.
SQ3: Is it justifiable to create a life, in order to
harvest from that life organs to save the life of another?
If you mean create a brain-dead clone and keep it in a vat for spare parts, personally I'd be uncomfortable with that.
But if you mean take a skin sample and use it to grow a replacement organ for transplant into the original donor so there is no tissue rejection, I
think that would be far preferable
to asking relatives to give up and donate their organs, or harvesting parts from people who die in car
crashes, like we do now. Remember being asked if you wanted to be an organ donor when you first got your driver's license? That's why they ask.
Socratic question #3
You've posed the question of organ replacement. So let's turn it around. If you needed a replacement liver and you had the choice of waiting around
for someone to die
so their liver could be cut from their dead body and put into you...or using a sponge to take a skin scraping from the
inside of your cheeks and growing a replacement liver from those cells...which would you
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