Beating a dead horse?(Was: Transhumanist Principles)

Michael Scarazzo (
Wed, 8 Apr 1998 10:10:09 -0700 (PDT)

Hello all. I have been reading this list for some time so that I might
learn what all of the participants stand for collectively and
individually. The extropian and transhumanist principles, at least what I
have learned about them, intrigue me greatly. In reading the list I
followed for a while the thread that pitted Reilly Jones against the
majority of the list over what amounted to a discussion of the morality
of abortion. I would like to make some comments to everyone, and most
importantly, to Reilly.

I think that a discussion resulting in the creation of an "us and them"
dichotomy, fails to exemplify and to encourage thought based on the
principles of extropy. Here is a quote directly from the Extropian
Principles on Dynamic Optimism:

"Problems technical, social, psychological, ecological are to be
acknowledged but not allowed to dominate our thinking and our direction.
We respond to gloom and defeatism by exploring and exploiting new

Continuing to argue about a social problem such as the debate of the
morality of abortion does nothing more than perpetuate the problems
associated with the topic. Reilly, why not try to examine the issue from
a few different perspectives. There are few things more elusive as the
idea of absolute truth, which is the impression I have regarding the
anti-abortion position I have seen expressed on this list. I am not
taking the Extropian Principles as truth, but more as a set of guiding

---Reilly Jones <> wrote:
> Anders Sandberg wrote 4/7/98: <My current definition of transhumanism is:
> "The idea that the human condition can be improved above and beyond the
> current stage, through rational means in a life affirming way".>
> This is a good stab at a definition. As you know from past list
> discussions, definitions are critical to communication, which is critical
> to developing a consensual moral polity, which is critical to achieving
> great aims in the future. It seems to me that defining what a human is,
> has not met with consensus and that defining what a transhuman is,
> therefore, is putting the cart before the horse.

You have a valid point. However, something more to consider is, "what is
life?" Is life, human or transhuman, meant to be simply existence?
Should transhuman life be happy, or should it simply be existence? I
believe that life should be happy, or at least that a human has the
intrinsic right to have happiness from the beginning of that existence,
and even to the frequently unfortunate end.

> That said, since speculation for fun is the lifeblood of e-lists, I would
> like to offer that "rational means" is wedded to the concept of "truth,"
> and "a life affirming way" is wedded to the concept of "good." All you
> missing is some part of your definition that is wedded to the concept of
> "beauty." "Beauty" should enter in as an aim, what transhumanism aims

Wedding rational means and truth is rather difficult. All things,
events, and thoughts are relative. Truth relates to reality and each
person has his/her individual reality. "Rational means" is a way to
improve the human condition as Anders defined the idea. Linking "a life
affirming way" and "good" is also very subjective and difficult, because
good is greatly open to interpretation as I will later prove by example.
I hate to use the cliche, but Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What
you see as beautiful may or may not correspond to what another person sees.

> Across all scientific endeavors, at all scales, spatial and temporal,
> preferred branches of development reveal themselves. Transhumanism
> be aiming at maximizing chances of successful speciation by learning
> these preferred branches are located. I like the idea of defining
> transhumanism as an "idea" because it avoids getting bogged down in
> prescriptive or normative ethics, i.e., it doesn't come across as a
> "program" or a utopian manifesto. Optionally, you might bring in some
> concept wedded to "adventure," something relating to the vitality of
> pursuing enhanced consciousness and indefinite longevity.
> The inclusion of "a life affirming way" naturally excludes enthusiasts of
> abortion, infanticide and euthanasia since these are all life devaluing,
> not affirming. Freedom to murder is not liberty, it's license. These
> enthusiasts, who sanction predatory behavior against the weak, the sick

If, by "enthusiasts of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia" you mean
those who support the right for the women to decide individually whether
she should continue a pregnancy and those who believe that each person
has the right to decide that his or her existence must not continue, then
I contend that those people are not "naturally excluded." Your emotions
have greatly confused your ability to discern between those who support a
right to an action or a procedure and those who seek to expand its

I do not believe in using abortion as a means of birth control. Imagine
there is a young woman who cannot possibly support, nurture, and provide
the happiness that the new life she helped to create should have. I am
not going to stop her from using an "artificial miscarriage" I would
rather have one unhappy person weeping for the child that could never be
in her reality, than to have two unhappy people as the child grows into a
world that it comes to despise because it is not happy.

> the old, who adhere to the "might makes right" ethic of entropic
> death-worship, are essentially ape-like thugs who aim no higher than the
> next tree branch up in a fetid jungle. They may masquerade as
> transhumanists or extropians, but they live an ugly lie, incoherently and
> irrationally posturing as if they "affirm life" and mouthing vapid
> platitudes about "non-coercion" while forcing everyone to tolerate their
> endorsement and practice of butchery.

What is affirming life? I take this phrase to mean more than affirming
an individual life. Life can refer to the general human condition, for
which the extropians and transhumanists stand to improve. If refusing to
stop abortion improves the general human condition, which includes the ~6
billion beings already in existence, by reducing the number of unhappy
people, then those who "live an ugly lie" are in effect promoting life

Reilly, you are the person who wishes to force your beliefs and your
truths upon everyone else. By saying that others are trying to make you
tolerate says that because you do not tolerate those beliefs, they should
not be allowed to continue. THAT is forcing beliefs on others. Ask
yourself, Reilly, what is your true goal? Do you not think that there
are already enough unhappy people in the world? Why refuse individuals
from stopping the development of another few undifferentiated cells into
an unhappy person?

I personally believe that abortion, particularly late-term, should be
avoided at all costs, unless there are dire circumstances, such as the
threat to a woman's life. People should ideally, to me, determine that
they can support a child before they proceed to do so, or they should
preempt the problem by simply using effective birth control. A pregnant
woman should also be able to determine long before the fetus becomes
viable whether she should continue. However, I am not a woman, and I
cannot speak for everyone. Nobody can.


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