Leon Kass, is an ass


People living a long time is a bad thing, apparently.

The desire to live for a long time is bad… it reflects poorly on culture. I hold anyone who is associated with this in disdain. I have no issues with the scientific side of it, however, and I’m a major and unequivocal supporter of all genetic and pharmaceutical research and applications.

This is something I wrote 5 or 6 years ago on the subject…

I was talking with a Survivalist the other day. He told me of the grave importance of survival and how the entire human history is based on it. “All glory is to the survivors!” he proclaimed. “The strong survive and the weak perish!” he jubilantly spoke. He noted that his primary goal is to maintain his life indefinitely (reverse aging processes and cryogenics eventually) and thus serve his values to the fullest. Humans living to 200… 300… 400… 500!

I’ll make the Destruction of Survivalism more complete by destroying it by various paths.

Path #1: Why humans continue to live

Survivalism states that the best humans live a long time and the worst humans live a short time. Yet… why live at all? And for living humans… why continue to live? Is it not… to fulfill as yet unfulfilled goals? Humans seek to fulfill their goals, and the successful ones run out of goals to fulfill. The successful humans thus live only as long as they need to live to serve their goals. Unsuccessful humans never achieve their goals, and thus desire to live forever so that one day they may be successful. Survivalism thus values the lack of success in achieving your goals.

Path #2: The Greatness of Urgency

A man who lives to 500 would have a lot of time, he would be exceedingly wealthy in time. Yet time cannot be given away or traded away, so a human must use all the time that he has. Urgency drives humans. They must reproduce while they still can, must war while they are still able, must generate reality while their ability exists. Thus humans do a great many things, because they have little time to do them. And by the time humans can no longer do these things, they die… this is not coincidental.

Path #3: The Hierarchy of Meaning (The Hierarchy of Reality)

Humans focus on and give attention to the most basic thing in their existence that they cannot take for granted. As the goal for humans is to extend themselves, the greatest humans are able to take a great deal for granted. Survival is the most basic human reality, and thus the least successful humans focus on it. The only thing more basic than survival is nothingness, so survivalists are only one step away…

Path #4: The Extensions of Self

The ways in which humans extend themselves are through sexual reproduction, art and philosophy, and war (collectively known as the generation of reality). These are the human values, which are on a level above that of survival in the Hierarchy of Reality. Survivalists cannot pursue extensions of self (cannot generate reality) since they cannot take their own existence for granted.

Yeah, but what about the Corbomite Maneuver?

I hate it when I start to read a post, encounter a statement so baffling that it’s difficult to believe it was uttered by a human being at all rather than, say, the Chomskybot, glance up at the poster’s name and realize that, unawares, I’ve stepped into a pile of Koontz. Ew.


Actually, one could make an argument that there’s a tradeoff between quantity and quality of life, and that the latter is preferrable. But I’m afraid that not being Brian Koontz is a prerequisite for making that argument.

That’s not at all what I got from reading the linked article. It sounded more like - “any sudden change to biological systems brought about through technology could have unintended and unanticipated side effects that may be difficult to fix later” - so let’s think about them now before we have to try and fix them.

Sort of like how nobody anticipated global warming as a possible side effect of the industrial revolution when it began a century ago.

Some ecologists believe that there are already more humans living than the biosphere can sustain. Does that make increasing the number of humans through biotech lifespan enhancement a good thing or a bad thing?

What happens when only millionaires can afford the treatment? Does this further emphasize the divide between those who have (and live for centuries) and those who have not (whose lives are nasty, brutish, and short)? Would that be a good thing or a bad thing?


The fact remains that our society is not structured to handle an entire generation reaching 90 years of age or more. We retire workers at 67, but the system is set up to only expect them to live another 10 years or so. We already know Social Security will not be able to support the baby boomer generation, let alone subsequent generations. If people regularly live past 100, that means they’ll need to remain in the work force longer, competing with younger workers for jobs.

Even worse are the social implications. Many families move their surviving parent into their house so they can live their final years in relative comfort. But what if that parent makes it another 40 years? The personal and societal strain is enormous. Ever see a 60 year old walking around with their 90 year old parent? Notice how miserable the 60 year old is?

I don’t have any answers but I know the next 30 years are going to be very trying times, and will redefine societal dynamics as we know them.

Oh, he doesn’t phrase it as “people should volunteer to die early,” but he kind of begs the question. Tons of stuff about how bad it’ll be for everyone to live a long time.

Well, people aren’t about to start volunteering to die for the “good fo society”. So, the only solution will be a sea change in how we deal with aging, and the elderly.

I can’t remember where I saw it, but I do think a while back Kass said we should basically agree not to research certain things because man wasn’t supposed to live that long.

And that’s lovely, but Kass is a moron if he thinks researchers are going to forbear work in the field of eugenics because Leon Kass thinks it’s bad for people to live long. It’s not inherenty bad - it’s just inherently bad in light of our current relationship with old age. Science will not forbear, so the obvious solution is that our society will have to enter into a new comprehension of what certain ages mean.

Wow, I didn’t get that at all from the article. In fact, the article stressed that LARGE, BIOLOGICAL factors weren’t really as likely to be harmful as they’re made out to be. The emphasis definitely seemed to be on the social. I’m certainly happy to see people make efforts to see the more indirect effects things can have.

And the issue didn’t seem to be quality v quantity to me, either. It’s not like we’re talking about people giving themselves painful treatments early in life so they can eventually have a bit more life-- that’s called “exercise.” A lot of quantity at the expense of quality is easily fixed. Thanks Kevorkian!

The most cohesive argument, as far as I can tell, boils down to, “If we let people do and have whatever they want, they’ll actually be less happy, because they’ll do and have stuff that will make each other’s lives more miserable.” Which isn’t wholly nuts. What’s the article say? “Think of the color-blind who have made tremendous contributions to the world.” But were their contributions really because they were color-blind, or was that just a coincidence?

And this whole, “Would happy pills REALLY MAKE US HAPPY??” question smacks of total bullshit to me.

I don’t think Kass is convincing. He demonstrates his own medical parafascism, by saying that individual choice isn’t as important as “society”. Which, don’t get me wrong, is okay-- it’s just not my thing. He obviously doesn’t like the idea of killing the unborn mongoloids, and he’d like us to pretend that it’s because he’s really smart, not because he’s a politically conservative Christian. And, of course, he buys into this whole idea of social progress. Again-- just not my thing.

My ethics: get yourself fixed, and use the world up guiltlessly.

Koontz… no one gives a rat’s ass what you do or don’t hold. As usual, your supporting reasons given in your rambling, poorly constructed post smack of high school amateur philosophy.