Re: French Anderson & GATTACA

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Sun Mar 25 2001 - 00:13:38 MST

"Bryan Moss" <> writes:

> Anders Sandberg wrote:
> > If you sit silent the other side gets space to fill the air
> > with their views. First they get to make then known. Then
> > they will seem reasonable. Then they are turned into law.
> > And then you will not be allowed to develop or use the cool
> > gene tech.
> I don't know. Some things really aren't worth arguing. I'm
> doubtful the process of converting baseless arguments into
> laws will be as smooth as your account suggests, it's like
> building houses out of imaginary bricks.

Well, Sweden actually outlawed cloning of humans in 1991 - many years
before it was even seen as theoretically possible! It was still
regarded as unethical by a comission on genetic engineering, which
also suggested (and got its will through) on a number of bans on
research into human genetic modifications. And when you hear that
members of the parliament in the post-Dolly cloning debate bring up
obviously wrong and misunderstood arguments (such as the grave danger
of Saddam cloning an army) which are not refuted, then you get

It might not be worth arguing with the person that makes the silly
claims, because they will not listen. But it is definitely worth
making the arguments for the benefits of all the listeners, who have
not yet formed an opinion.

> > Transhumanists in general need to participate in public
> > debate more often. That our opposition uses silly arguments
> > might make them a bit boring for the moment, but that is
> > also a sign that they never get any hard opposing questions
> > - it is easier to shred the arguments with a well formulated
> > counterargument.
> It's not an easy job; the unprepared can often do more harm
> than good. I'm doing everyone here a favour by *not*
> participating in public debate

Well, that might be a good thing sometimes too. With friends like Hugo
de Garis and Dr Seed, who needs enemies? It is often more painful to
hear bad arguments for your own side being expressed that you know are
going to be misunderstood and used against you, than to hear silence
from your supporters or good arguments from your enemies.

>, I no longer have the slightest
> clue of how to communicate with the uninitiated, I just look
> bemused and, when I'm feeling talkative, ridicule them.

Just a thought, maybe you should see if a change of tone works. People
react badly to what they consider condescension (I don't know if you
speak that way, but the above sentence reeked of it).

> Occasionally I try to win a convert, they nod in agreement as
> I step them through my meticulously thought-out argument and
> then accept the conclusion with the caveat that "oh, well, I
> dunno". Nothing changes. With public debate, I imagine, it's
> the audience members you're trying to win over; the ones who
> haven't really thought about it, sort of agree, and now have
> something concrete to work with ("oh yeah, well I heard this
> guy on the radio the other day and he sez..."). This is all
> very difficult when faced with a debate opponent who doesn't
> quite share our respect for rationalism.

Ah, the "logic is just a rhetorical weapon" people. Yes, arguing
against them is hard and messy. I think the best way to deal with them
is to give examples and simple, clear explanations that make it very
easy to see where the non-rational approach doesn't work.

> However, I do appreciate the efforts of those of you who are out
> there spreading the word, I just (naively) wish that it wasn't
> necessary. Our opponents, for all their hand waving, offer the
> world nothing.

If you have nothing to offer, wave your hands faster. :-)

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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