Re: >H Hayflick on death and immortality

den Otter (
Sun, 31 May 1998 03:17:47 +0200

> From: Michael Nielsen <>

> On Sat, 30 May 1998, den Otter wrote:
> > Yes, Mr. Hayflick is apparently a couple o' bulbs short of enlightenment, as
> > are most other "great minds" & cultural icons. Could it really be that, of the
> > aprrox. 6 billion people on earth, only a couple of hundred or so really think
> > rationally ?
> By this, I presume you meant that a couple of hundred people think
> "rationally" all the time? Leaving aside the difficulty in defining
> "rational" in the present context [1], I doubt that there has ever been a
> human being anywhere who was always rational.

Ok, that statement may have been a bit vague. By rational I mean
"transhumanistsic", see also below. Of course no-one is purely
rational, or rational all the time, but one can be "basically rational".

> If you meant it in the more
> restricted sense of with respect to this issue, then you are wrong by
> many orders af magnitude. Based upon the best information known to
> them (which is usually very poor), the rational opinion for most people
> to have on this subject is either "I don't know whether immortality would
> be a good thing", or "I'd like it, but I don't think it's very likely".

So the rational reaction would be to investigate the possibilities (like
we did), instead of staying passive and ignorant. No-one really wants
to be stupid, sick, or grow old and die. Immortality and transcendence
are ancient human dreams, and one of the main reasons why people
have invented religion. What makes transhumanists more rational than
others is that they actively seek the most reliable method(s) to reach that
common human goal, instead of relying on fables, or accepting defeat
without even trying to fight. Because of the more or less common goal,
you *can* say that, for example, transhumanism is superior to religion;
it's a better tool for the job.

> These are both opinions which I've heard expressed or implied quite often
> by a wide variety of people.

So have I, but their fault is not their initial ignorance, but their refusal to
listen to sound arguments (let alone to do some research). Even if
you present the facts in the most clear, user friendly, completely
pre-chewed form they still won't listen. That is IMHO stupid.

> [1] It is quite possible to construct a value system which implies
> that immortality is a bad idea. If Hayflick's value system is of this
> type, then his conclusion is quite rational, although his stated
> reasoning is not.

A consistent stupidity is still a stupidity.