Re: BBC Polemics: Help needed!

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Sat Jan 15 2000 - 19:58:49 MST

Here's a discussion of a trick question you're likely to encounter.
If anyone raises the question of immortal souls, "Why call them back
from heaven?" and all that, don't attack religion as a response. People
aren't going to suddenly stop believing because you tell them to. At
most, you might dare to sound unsure about the existence of souls; most
people will accept that you might have doubts because they have doubts
themselves, but they won't accept an atheist.

The correct trick answer to "What about immortal souls?" is "Well, even
if we have immortal souls, that doesn't mean we're living long enough.
We could still live longer, and for that matter, live free of old age in
the time that we have."

If they say that we don't need to live longer, that the time we have is
enough, that further extension is unnatural, point out that we already
live past threescore-and-ten, that we still don't have enough time to
learn and grow and fulfill our potential, and that this is the line of
thought that leads to banning reading glasses and polio vaccines. "Do
you really think God objects to our trying to improve our lot on this Earth?"

Whether you want to raise the question of true Greg-Egan-style
immortality, in the sense of not dying, ever, even after the Universe
collapses in on itself or freezes over, would be another question. You
might want to mention the possibility, although not argue it, to point
up that your own position is actually milder. "I've heard schemes for
genuine immortality, technologies that would let us actually outlive the
Universe. That's what immortality means, to quote Greg Egan. Not
'dying after a very long time'. Just not dying, period. But I'm just
talking about life extension, not immortality, so the questions about
souls and true immortality don't arise."

Hope this helps.

Yours in Singularity,
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Typing in Dvorak         Programming with Patterns  Writing in Gender-neutral
Voting for Libertarians  Heading for Singularity    There Is A Better Way

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