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Life Span Extension Research and Public Debate: Societal Considerations
Citation Information: Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology. Volume 1, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1941-6008, DOI: 10.2202/1941-6008.1011, December 2007
- Published Online:
The pace of a given strand of scientific research, whether purely curiosity-driven or motivated by a particular technological goal, is strongly influenced by public attitudes towards its value. In the case of research directed to the radical postponement of aging and the consequent extension of healthy and total lifespans, public opinion is entrenched in a "pro-aging trance" - a state of resolute irrationality. This arises from the entirely rational attitude to a grisly, inevitable and relatively far-off fate: putting it out of one's mind allows one to make the most of what time one has, free of preoccupation with one's demise, and it is immaterial how irrational the arguments that one uses to achieve this are, e.g. by persuading oneself that aging is not such a bad thing after all. As biotechnology increasingly nears the point where aging will no longer be inevitable, however, this studied fatalism has become a core part of the problem, making people reluctant to join the crusade to hasten that technology's arrival. An effective way to address this hesitation is to promote debate about the reasons people give for fearing the defeat of aging, most of which are sociological. Such debate exposes people to the glaring flaws in their own logic. Thus, the more the debate is sustained and promoted, the harder it is for those flaws to be ignored.
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