TCS Daily

Rebel with a Cause: The Optimistic Scientist

By Benny Peiser - April 10, 2007 12:00 AM

Editor's note: Freeman Dyson is professor emeritus of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 2000 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for progress in Religion. He is the author of a new book, "The Scientist as Rebel." Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University recently interviewed Dyson about his views on science, hope and the future.

Benny Peiser: In your book "Infinite in all Directions" (1988) you discuss eschatological questions surrounding the theoretical issue of the end of the universe. As one of a very small number of optimistic cosmologists, you have developed a scientific theory of infinity. You write: "I have found a universe growing without limit in richness and complexity, a universe of life surviving forever and making itself known to its neighbors across unimaginable gulfs of space and time." This hopeful cosmology contrasts sharply with the apocalyptic Zeitgeist. What would you say are the most important intellectual principles and ideas that have sustained your optimism?

Freeman Dyson: My optimism about the long-term survival of life comes mainly from imagining what will happen when life escapes from this planet and becomes adapted to living in vacuum. There is then no real barrier to stop life from spreading through the universe. Hopping from one world to another will be about as easy as hopping from one island in the Pacific to another. And then life will diversify to fill the infinite variety of ecological niches in the universe, as it has done already on this planet.

If you want an intellectual principle to give this picture a philosophical name, you can call it "The Principle of Maximum Diversity." The principle of maximum diversity says that life evolves to make the universe as interesting as possible. A rain-forest contains a huge number of diverse species because specialization is cost-effective, just as Adam Smith observed in human societies. But I am impressed more by the visible examples of diversity in rain-forests and coral-reefs and human cultures than by any abstract philosophical principles.

Benny Peiser: In the first chapter of your new book, "The Scientist as Rebel," you write that the common element of the scientific vision "is rebellion against the restrictions imposed by the locally prevailing culture," and that scientists "should be artists and rebels, obeying their own instincts rather than social demands or philosophical principles."

Contrary to this liberal if not libertarian concept of scientific open-mindedness, there has been growing pressure on scientists to toe the line and endorse what is nowadays called the 'scientific consensus' - on numerous contentious issues. Dissenting scientists frequently face ostracism and denunciation when they dare to go against the current. Has Western science become more authoritarian in recent years or have rebellious scientists always had to face similar condemnation and resentment? And how can young scientists develop intellectual independence and autonomy in a bureaucratic world of funding dependency?

Freeman Dyson: Certainly the growing rigidity of scientific organizations is a real and serious problem. I like to remind young scientists of examples in the recent past when people without paper qualifications made great contributions. Two of my favorites are: Milton Humason, who drove mules carrying material up the mountain trail to build the Mount Wilson Observatory, and then when the observatory was built got a job as a janitor, and ended up as a staff astronomer second-in-command to Hubble. Bernhardt Schmidt, the inventor of the Schmidt telescope which revolutionized optical astronomy, who worked independently as a lens-grinder and beat the big optical companies at their own game. I tell young people that the new technologies of computing, telecommunication, optical detection and microchemistry actually empower the amateur to do things that only professionals could do before.

Amateurs and small companies will have a growing role in the future of science. This will compensate for the increasing bureaucratization of the big organizations. Bright young people will start their own companies and do their own science.

Benny Peiser: In a Winter Commencement Address at the University of Michigan two years ago you called yourself a heretic on global warming, the most notorious dogma of modern science. You have described global warming anxiety as grossly exaggerated and have openly voiced your doubts about the reliability of climate models. These models, you argue, "do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields, farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in." There seems to be an almost complete endorsement of the world's scientific organisations and elites of these models together with claims that they reliably epitomize reality and can consistently predict future climate change. How do you feel belonging to a tiny minority of scientists who dare to voice their doubts openly?

Freeman Dyson: I am always happy to be in the minority. Concerning the climate models, I know enough of the details to be sure that they are unreliable. They are full of fudge factors that are fitted to the existing climate, so the models more or less agree with the observed data. But there is no reason to believe that the same fudge factors would give the right behavior in a world with different chemistry, for example in a world with increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

Benny Peiser: In a chapter about the scientific revolutions in modern physics and mathematics, you describe the deep intellectual confusion in Weimar Germany in the aftermath of the First World War. You portray a society troubled by a mood of doom and gloom, a milieu that was conducive for scientific revolution as well as political upheaval. Unmistakably, the Great War set off a major shift in German thought, from the idea of progress and technological confidence to cultural pessimism and apocalypticism. As we know, the consequences of this mood of despair was calamitous. Do you see any comparison with the gloomy frame of mind that seems to be on the increase among many Western scientists today?

Freeman Dyson: Yes, the western academic world is very much like Weimar Germany, finding itself in a situation of losing power and influence. Fortunately, the countries that matter now are China and India, and the Chinese and Indian experts do not share the mood of doom and gloom. It is amusing to see China and India take on today the role that America took in the nineteen-thirties, still believing in technology as the key to a better life for everyone.

Benny Peiser: One of your most influential lectures is re-published in your new book. I am talking about your Bernal Lecture which you delivered in London in 1972, one year after Desmond Bernal's death. As you point out, the lecture provided the foundation for much of your writing in later years. What strikes me about your remarkably optimistic lecture is its almost religious tone. It was delivered at a time, similar to the period after World War I, when a new age of techno-pessimism came to the fore, reinforced by Hiroshima and Vietnam.

It is in this atmosphere of entrenched techno-scepticism and environmental anxiety that you advanced biological, genetic and geo-engineering as industrial trappings of social progress and environmental protection. At the height of ecological anxiety, in the same year as the Club of Rome proclaimed the "Limits to Growth," you envisaged endless technological advancement, terrestrial progress and the greening of the galaxy, famously predicting that "we shall learn to grow trees on comets."

At one point towards the end of your lecture, you christen your speech a "sermon." Indeed, your entire lecture reads as if it was written for a tormented audience searching for a glimmer of hope. In his book "The Religion of Technology", David Noble claims that the whole history of technological innovation and advancement has been primarily a religious endeavour. Noble claims that even today your ideas of technological solutions to terrestrial problems constitute in essence a religious conviction. How much of your cosmological view of the world has indeed been shaped by Judeo-Christian traditions? And do you see that there is an inherent link between your religious and your philosophical optimism?

Freeman Dyson: It is true that the tradition of Judeo-Christian religion is strongly coupled with philosophical optimism. Hope is high on the list of virtues. God did not put us here on earth to moan and groan. As my mother used to say, "God helps those who help themselves."

I am generally optimistic because our human heritage seems to have equipped us very well for dealing with challenges, from ice-ages and cave-bears to diseases and over-population. The whole species did cooperate to eliminate small-pox, and the women of Mexico did reduce their average family size from seven to two and a half in fifty years. Science has helped us to understand challenges and also to defeat them.

I am especially optimistic just now because of a seminal discovery that was made recently by comparing genomes of different species. David Haussler and his colleagues at UC Santa Cruz discovered a small patch of DNA which they call HAR1, short for Human Accelerated Region 1. This patch appears to be strictly conserved in the genomes of mouse, rat, chicken and chimpanzee, which means that it must have been performing an essential function that was unchanged for about three hundred million years from the last common ancestor of birds and mammals until today.

But the same patch appears grossly modified with eighteen mutations in the human genome, which means that it must have changed its function in the last six million years from the common ancestor of chimps and humans to modern humans. Somehow, that little patch of DNA expresses an essential difference between humans and other mammals. We know two other significant facts about HAR1. First, it does not code for a protein but codes for RNA. Second, the RNA for which it codes is active in the cortex of the human embryonic brain during the second trimester of pregnancy. It is likely that the rapid evolution of HAR1 has something to do with the rapid evolution of the human brain during the last six million years.

I am optimistic because I see the discovery of HAR1 as a seminal event in the history of science, marking the beginning of a new understanding of human evolution and human nature. I see it as a big step toward the fulfilment of the dream described in 1929 by Desmond Bernal, one of the pioneers of molecular biology, in his little book, "The World, the Flesh and the Devil: An Enquiry into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul". Bernal saw science as our best tool for defeating the three enemies. The World means floods and famines and climate changes. The Flesh means diseases and senile infirmities. The Devil means the dark irrational passions that lead otherwise rational beings into strife and destruction. I am optimistic because I see HAR1 as a new tool leading us toward a deep understanding of human nature and toward the ultimate defeat of our last enemy.

Benny Peiser: Britain's leading cosmologists seem to be particularly gloomy about the future of civilisation and humankind. The so-called Doomsday Argument seems to have had a significant influence on many Cambridge-based scientists. It has induced among them a conviction that global catastrophe is almost imminent. Martin Rees, for instance, estimates that there is a 50% chance of human extinction during the next 100 years. How do you explain this apocalyptic mood among leading cosmologists in Britain and the almost desperate tone of their pronouncements?

Freeman Dyson: My view of the prevalence of doom-and-gloom in Cambridge is that it is a result of the English class system. In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status. As a child of the academic middle class, I learned to look on the commercial middle class with loathing and contempt. Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher, which was also the revenge of the commercial middle class. The academics lost their power and prestige and the business people took over. The academics never forgave Thatcher and have been gloomy ever since.

Benny Peiser: Finally, let me ask you about your thoughts regarding Britain, the country of your birth, the USA, the country of your choice, and the future of the Western democracies. At the end of your new book you write that "without religion, the life of a country would be greatly impoverished." Perhaps nothing symbolises the glaring differences between Britain and the USA more than the gradual fading of religion in the cultural life of the UK and the profound permeation of religion on public life in the US. Sometimes I wonder whether both extremes may be detrimental to a stable, liberal and open-minded society. In a world of mounting intellectual dogmatism, is there, in your view, a middle way between the Scylla of nihilist despair and the Carybdis of fundamentalist unreasonableness?

Freeman Dyson: I do not agree with your assessment of religion in Britain and the USA. The extremes of religious dogmatism in the USA and of atheistic dogmatism in Britain are greatly exaggerated by the media. In both countries, the average atheist and the average Christian are not dogmatic or unreasonable. So far as I can see, there is about the same variety of beliefs on both sides of the ocean. Certainly we do not need any accurate navigation to find a middle way between the two extremes. Probably ninety percent of the population are somewhere in the middle.

It is also interesting in this connection to observe the similarity, in optimistic mood and rapid material progress, between China and India. Although China is traditionally non-religious and India is traditionally permeated with religion, this does not seem to make much difference. In both countries, rapidly growing wealth and technological progress create a mood of optimism, with or without religion.

Benny Peiser: Thank you.

Freeman Dyson: Thank you.

Editor's note: A longer version of this interview first appeared at CCNet.



Rising and falling societies
Various societies have risen and fallen during the 10,000 years of human history. Societies that are on the rise possess a cultural self-confidence that manifests as a "can do" mentality. Freeman Dyson's attitude, as well as the attitudes of the so-called "techno-optimists" (transhumanism is one flavor of this) are examples of the "can do" mentality.

A society that is in decline mode, on the other hand, lacks cultural self-confidence, which results in a "can't do" or "should not do" mentality. Examples of such a defeatist mentality is the "limits to growth" mantra of the liberal-left as well as the "technology is a threat to traditional social order" matra of the social conservatives.

In the context of the West, both the liberal-left and the social-conservatives represent such a defeatist mentality that, in turn, is symptomatic of a declining society. Both of these world-views represent a "turning inward" that I consider to be cultural suicide for the West. I want to make it clear that I do not consider any of these defeatist ideologies to have any connection to underlying reality. They are only and exclusively the manifestation of the culture that has lost its self confidence and are, therefor, utterly contemptable.

Freeman Dyson, in his interview, reflects what many of us believe, in the sense that we seek to create and be a part of an open, dynamic society that has the cultural self confidence to believe that it can achieve anything that it wants.

If the West is to turn inward and pass the torch of progress and achievement to East Asia, then it will be the East Asians that will go to the stars. The West (in such a case) will deserve not simpathy, but only contempt.

I have said it before and I will say it again. I believe in freedom, openess, creativity, and pioneering. I am a libertarian and a transhumanist. These are the values that are important to me and are essential to the continued growth and prosperity of the West (which I furvently hope for)

I am not and will never be or believe in anything other than these values. Do not ask me to do so because I consider it nothing but offensive. I do not and could never have use for any other believe or value.

If our western society persists in turning inward and destroying itself on the basis of other than the above mentioned values, it will only result in a cultural extinction that will be richly deserved.

Don't take offense, but ...
Today's social conservatism is yesterday's society. So, if today's society is relatively prosperous, technologically advanced, tolerant and harmonious, then didn't yesterday's society contribute to this result? And if so, isn't preserving that victorious, successful and can-do society worthwhile? Why, then, are social conservatives defeatist, obstructionist and can't-do, in your mind?

See, the idea that limits, whether they be social, physical or psychological, deny human capacities ignores the fact that they enable others. Moreover, perhaps the ones they enable lead to good outcomes while the ones they limit lead to bad ones. So to declare all limits contemptible is to declare some human capacities, such as setting limits and valuing outcomes, contemptible without providing a value system explaining why this is so.

I'm not buying it.

More Details, Please
"...'technology is a threat to traditional social order' matra of the social conservatives."

Please provide examples of specific technologies opposed by social conservatives that are restraining a transhumanist future?

" "can't do" or "should not do" mentality."
What shouldn't we do?

Should we implant DNA to allow humans to grow wings and fly?

Or should we do all sorts of other DNA experiments?

You can experiment upon yourself all you want.

What becomes dangerous is when people have no choice.

And many, many science fiction authors have addressed these issues.

The recent movie, The Island, the wealthy bought clones to have readily available organs available. The wee bit of ethical problem was the clones, although human, were treated no better than animals.

I get the impression from you that you want to science to conduct illegal and unethical experiments to enhance YOUR life.

What if all the religious dogma is true and there is a higher plane of existence and much like a butterfly, must die to make the transition?

Or do you want to be like Kahn in the Star Trek episode/movie? Make yourself a super-human and dominate others?

And credit the Star Trek team to create the super-'human' android that wanted to be more human.

"Do not ask me to do so because I consider it nothing but offensive. "

Such tolerance! If you are so confident in your beliefs, why be offended if anyone challenges them?

Social conservatives
Although mot as negative as the liberal-left, the problem I have with the social conservatives is their hostility towards radical life extension. Such hostility has been expressed by the likes of Leon Kass, francis Fukayama, and others that I cannot name off the top of my head. It is well-known around the blogosphere that social-conservatives and advocacy of radical life extension do not mix.

There is absolutely no reason for this hostility as it is uttterly groundless and quite irrational. Extended youthful life span results in more opportunities for individuals as well as more economic growth. It is becoming apparent that breakthroughs in anti-aging medical therapies will yield a "prolongevity dividend" similiar to the "peace dividend" following the end of the cold war. So, radical life extension is good for both social benefit as well as increased personal liberty and opportunity. Hense, there is no reason for the social conservatives to be hostile towards radical life-extension.

Perhaps I am jumping the gun here in that my perception that the social conservatives' hostility towards radical life extension is not correct. In which case, Leon Kass and his ilk are a few "bad apples" that I should not use to judge all of the social conservatives by. If so, please say so and I will stand corrected.

Freeman Dyson's The World, The Flesh, and The Devil
Freeman Dyson's brilliant essay "The World, The Flesh, and The Devil" that he refers to in the interview can be read online (with permission of the author) here.

Opposition to radical life extension
The specific example that I cite is the opposition to radical life extension expressed by Leon Kass, Francis Fukayama, and other social conservatives. If you would like, I can certainly dredge up quotes and other stuff from leading social conservatives on the issue of radical life extension.

Here's the link
Great -- a hyperlink shows up in the preview at TCSDaily but not in the actual posting. Okay, here's the explicit link:

Straw man argument
I have no desire to nor have expressed any such desire to modify anyone other than myself. I believe that all of these options should be allowed to be developed and made available through the free-market system. This is the only way that these options are available for those who want them, but not forced on to people who do not want them. As long as it is based on individual free choice, the ethical problems that you cite will not occur. You are creating a "straw man" argument here.

Same goes for the religious dogma. I would be more open to the possibility of an afterlife if the people who claimed to believe in this possibility actually did. The reality is that they do not.

Let me give you some background as to why I specifically reject the possibility of surviving physical death and why I think this is rubbish. When I was in high school and college, like most people, I believed that when you died you really did not die, but that you went on to an afterlife. Hense, I did not care about this issue. I assumed that the "high school senior" analogy for this issue. As you know, high school seniors have a good time being HS seniors, but also look forward to graduation and either going to college or going out in to the real world. If the afterlife were real, senior seniors would enjoy their lives, but look forward to death (another form of graduation) and moving on to the real afterlife world that exists beyond. I actually asked my parents about this when I was around 20 years old. They told me that it was not like this at all and that the high school graduation analogy of death was not a valid way of considering this. They said this in a manner clearly indicating that they did not want to talk about this issue, at least not in this context. I never discussed the issue with them again. However, I decided at that very moment that all of this talk about an afterlife was rubbish and that, if I wanted an open-ended future, that it would only be found through biotechnological life-extension, cryonics, and what not.

The fact that the people who claim to believe in an afterlife do not treat it as and look forward to it with the same eager anticipation as a high school senior looks forward to graduation makes it clear to me that these people really do not believe in the existance of this afterlife. Or maybe it is one of those hopefull wishful thinking things rather than as something that you can bank and plan on. If it is not bankable and plannable, then it is not real as far as I'm concerned.

Besides, if the religious and other touchy-feely types can't be convinced that it is real enough to look forward to, how can they expect a hard-core materialists as myself to buy into it? The number one rule of a salesman is to first believe in the product yourself. Either they don't believe in the product themselves, or they are lousy salesmen. Either way, they have "lost the sale" with me.

Events since this time have only re-inforced my world-view on this issue. The Teri Schaivo case, for example, not to mention the general attitude towards suicide on the part of conventional religion. If we really do survive physical death, then there is no reason why suicide should be considered "wrong".

As such, I consider the religious arguments to be speculous and irrelevant.

In any case, your arguments are irrelevant to the discussion at hand. History demonstrates that societies that are more outward-oriented end up dominating those that become introspectively inward-oriented. Afterall, this is what happened to China (and the rest of East Asia) for the 350 years of European contact and I think the Chinese have taken the lesson to heart.

Do realize that I travel often to East Asia for business. The few times I have had these kinds of discussion with people there have given me the impression that this is, indeed, the case.

I must admit, I've never heard of radical life extension or the controversy around it. Even so, I can probably guess at the issues.

I can see social conservatives not wanting the basic building block of society - people - monkeyed about with, for what will become of society if people change so fundamentally? However, I'm convinced the historical record shows that laws can't lock in a particular social state by thwarting all social change, so I don't buy objections to radical life extension on this ground.

But the idea of radical life extension leaves me uneasy, which means that I have to come up with reason if I'm to consider myself a thinking man. So here it is: There can be no value without cost, without scarcity, and without death; moreover, these limitations incite people to define the "good" as that which tends to save and improve life, to lead to prosperity, and provision the freedom from debt, want and need. Imagine how people would define the "good" without these limitations?

Some of mankind's greatest minds blew fuses looking in alchemy or new lands for the fountain of youth - the end of death - or the formula for turning base metals to gold - the end of scarcity (but not really - rather the beginning of inflation). To my mind, they sought power rather than enlightenment, that is, the capacity to command the universe rather than understand it. Imagine how many mental fuses will be blown in future looking for the end of death or scarcity in science and technology. Already one can see the sci-fi notion of "zero-impact man" (i.e. cost-free human activity) driving legions of Greens to distraction.

This is a long way of saying, "Consider carefully the costs of modifying man's deal with nature before signing the deal."


The cost is insignificant...
In my opinion, the aging process is sucky enough that I cannot see any valid argument for why we should not get rid of it, but that's just me.

In any case, a free-market system that allows people to make it as a matter of personal choice is the only way to go on this issue. The people who like openess and freedom (such as myself) can get free of the aging process and the people who see value in death (such as yourself) can freely choose not to modify their own aging process.

You did not answer the the question this time nor the last.
What do you want to do to yourself that is now illegal?

Who are you trying to convince, me or yourself?

(I don't really care.)

But what I do care about are people who are willing to sacrifice another's life to enhance their own.
Harvesting embyros is sacrificing another's life.

You must think very highly of yourself.

Why do you care what they think?

It seems you misunderstood the argument. The value isn't in death, it's in life. But with nothing to measure life against, such as a finite stretch of time with a beginning and ending, how does one ascertain its value, that is, quantify and qualify it? That's the problem I see.

Why is it that the young tend to take terrible risks with their lives? Some would argue they lack wisdom, but I argue there's an inverse correlation between the amount of life one perceives one has left and the value one places on it, such that the less life one has left, the more one values it, and vice versa. Logically it should be the other way around, but it doesn't seem to be. Why?

The problem isn't just one of value but also of changing the measures traditionally applied to quantify and qualify life. Moreover, utility plays a role: What's everlasting youth good for, and to whom? Science seems to lack the capacity to recognize and understand such problems because science can't reason from purpose. So more advice: Take whatever science tells you with a grain of salt - it's autistic.

Its no different than saving money
Advocating and practicing life-extension is no different than saving and investing money. It is simply a rational thing to do.

How rational are you about the risks you take?

If you fly a lot, you expose yourself to significant radiation.

Driving a car is very risky.

Depending upon where you go in Asia, there are quite a wide variety of critters that want to kill you.

What good is dying with $1million in the bank?

Nothing (yet).
There is nothing that I want to do that is currently illegal.

The attitudes towards technology and increasing capabilities expressed by a society will determine its future prospect (in response to the original article about Freeman Dyson). I believe that a society that has positive attitude towards technological innovation and human achievement in general exhibits a cultural self-confidence that can ensure its prosperity into the future. A society that lacks this (such as contemporary Europe) is a society manifesting a lack of cultural self-confidence. I do not expect such a society to exist in any recognizable form in the mid-term (100 years) future.

I have no desire to convince you of my ideas. I do believe that the sucessfull societies in the future will have more in common with my ideas than yours. I would also tell you that everyone loves a winner and hates loosers. Do you want to tie yourself to a looser?

I feel a common sense of purpose (and therefor loyalty) towards only those people who share my ideas. I do not feel any more commonality with people who share your world-view than I do with the salaymen I see when riding the Tokyo subway.

I think these conservatives who think that I should feel a commonality and loyalty with a particular people, not because they share my ideas and goals, but simply because they are the same ethnic group or happen to exist in the same geographical boundaries as I do, is just silly and bone-headed. Of course, this is a meaningless idea that I could not seriously consider.

I would not concern myself with the embryo harvesting, because it will never happen. Once we learn to de-differentiate regular cells into stem cells (the Japanese are working on this) and immortalize them, such embryo harvesting will become obsolete and irrelevant.

Personally, I don't care what people who do not agree with me think. I will always find a way to get what I want regardless of their silly objections. However, you cannot expect me to support any society that these people would want to create.

You misunderstand the context of my analogy. Perhaps you do not believe in saving money. In which case, my analogy of comparing life extension to saving money would be meaningless to you. My analogy is relevant to anyone (most people) who do believe in saving up a "nest egg".

Depends: Which GOD is The Only-GOD?
What does this tell you?

I mean YOU1
Santa Maria (CA) TIMES 4/6/07

April 2007AD

1. The Shroud has now produced three-dimensional images of a body moving in space. Please seek your own trustworthy sources of verification. vincit veritas

2. The scientific world of physics is now undergoing a revolutionary change: a paradigm shift of universe proportions and implications.

Sir Isaac Newton would not be surprised. Joel 3:14 kjv

Have a truly Happy Resurrection Day!

semper fidelis
Jim Baxter
Santa Maria, CA
+ + +

No misunderstanding...
No, I am not misunderstanding your argument. Your argument is a personal value statement and is, therefor, subjective. Not only is it meaningless and irrelevant to me, its subjectiveness renders it illegitimate as a subject of public debate.

Depends: Which GOD is The Only-GOD?
What does this tell you?

Depends: Which GOD is The Only-GOD?
What does this tell you?

President of SSI...
Freeman Dyson is the current president of the Space Studies Institute (, which was first created by Gerard O'neill in the 70's.

"I don't care what people who do not agree with me think."
If true, you would not be posting.

You want more people to agree with you.

What are you planning to do that is now illegal?

Freeman Dyson must not comment sitting in arm -chair
Iam inviting him to India, take a trip to Himalaya how climate change is affecting big river Ganga,?How carbon is making life unbearbal people of India? How huge population creating life so dangerious? How western countries taking advantage of poor labour and making them fool, this is new colonism.
Sitting in arm-chair and day dreaming is very easy and guilty free. that one tradition of western intelligent cute

Don't know what trans-humans want to do except live longer.
What is their purpose but to get rich and have fun?

Killing embroys is not illigal.
I meen that is understood, wright?

Wow! Nice recitation of relativist dogma! And they say schools don't practice propaganda anymore ...

Is there an objective, impersonal value statement? Does one exist, thereby rehabilitating value as a legitimate subject of public debate? Seems to me that public political debate is about little else.

Do try to understand
the root causes of things.

"how climate change is affecting big river Ganga"

Affects on the Ganges come principally from increasing human use.

"How huge population creating life so dangerious"

Human population growth may be having an effect but it is not an outcome of global warming. Moreover, India's population growth rate is declining largely as a consequence of urbanization.

"How western countries taking advantage of poor labour and making them fool, this is new colonism"

Let's see. India's economic growth rate is higher than any OECD nation. India's per capita income, while still low, is rising much faster than any OECD nation. Unemployment levels, while still high, are falling and wage rates, while still low, are rising more quickly in India than in any OECD nation.

So tell me how this all adds up to neo-colonialism.

Oh please
" The Shroud has now produced three-dimensional images of a body moving in space."

Utter drivel. The Shroud (of Turin presumably) has been dated to be a fake manufactured in the Middle Ages when thousands of crooks were in the business of faking religious relics. But it's fascinating nonetheless that all of you mystics seem to have an overpowering desire to see your visions manifested in material objects no matter how silly or irrelevant the connection. Perhaps not entirely sure of our Revealed Truth, are we?

"Please seek your own trustworthy sources of verification."

More utter drivel. Why would anyone bother to verify for themselves something already known to be fraudulent? Ah, but you don't provide the evidence yourself. I see the woowoos are out in force today, as it's a typical tactic from them: assert something and demand that sceptics disprove it.

"The scientific world of physics is now undergoing a revolutionary change: a paradigm shift of universe proportions and implications."

More mystical nonsense. Just what paradigm shift would that be? Of course it happens every week twice on Sundays that religious hysterics of dubious theology are always proclaiming end of the world/paradigm shift/coming miracle/plague of frogs and newts/Second Coming and other dementia. Funny how God never seems to deliver to their schedule. (Anybody out there remember the Millerites?) Prophets, like charlatan faith healers, astrologers and psychics, are typically characterized by how badly wrong they get their predictions.

I feel terribly, terribly sorry for you.

Thank you Kurt99
I think you've well explained yourself very well regarding a number of topics and on Dyson's article. And I'd like you to know that I'm appreciative for that.

I've read your HS graduation story, I can't help thinking though the whole time that it doesn't compare very well because I get hung on the fact that after HS you don't cease to exist on this planet anymore. Am I missing the point? You graduate and then do whatever next, your still on this earth walking, talking, thinking. People say: remember Kurt, he went on to the University, what a great guy and I'm going to see him when he comes home for summer break and then he'll be off again back to the University until I see him again. But when you die, there's no coming back, so you have your faithful and your doubters. The former would say I'll see him but only when I'm at the University (or when I die) but not before, and the latter would say something else, I don't know.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but maybe your parents are doubters themselves, or couldn't articulate in the context you put it to them. You would know, I can only speculate by the information given to me by you.

Other comments,

'Radical Life Extention', new phrase, same old philosophy. In the 1900's or earlier, I wouldn't want my life shortened by the commonplace or odd-ball killer of the day either. Right there I think most people would agree. Who wants to die from a toothache (coupled by an exposed root exposure, swelling, infection, all the while severe acheing)? There's a long list of things such as this that a person or group of people have overcome to the immense benefit of every proceeding generation. Simple things to complex that have done there part to increase the average life expectancy.

The argument here is should 'radical life expectancy' be allowed to run unchecked. And again the argument or specific issue is different but has been dealt with in history. The simple answer is "my rights end, where yours begin". And this has been debated and solved throughout history, and as new ideas manifest into newly discovered technologies and their applications are developed to overcome say "scarcity of resources", these issues of get rehashed and have to be debated and solved again. Yes, most times the cure might cause another problem, and that to has to be solved. But, the better we get at this, the longer the meantime between problems and whereby less people who know what to do are available or are in the right position to do the right thing, and you might have a crisis to some degree.

I can think of a number of examples to what I've just written. I won't bore you with them unless asked.

Another thought, if your life expectancy was longer Kurt would you enjoy it? Is that what is really important? Look if your thinking something like "my life is passing me by, there's so much I want to do, there's so much I want to accomplish, or I'm uncertain of what happens when I die and they'll be nothingness afterwards" I understand, that thought or fear first sank into my head, I still remember when I was 7 and watching Bugs Bunny. I'll never forget that feeling, never, and I don't know where it came from at the age of 7 either. But I'm apt to think that if everyone lived to 900 years old, then they'd graduate from high school at 180, retire, hopefully on there terms at age 550, to enjoy the remainder of their 350 or so years in retirement, Hooray. Then what? they still die right? Nothings really changed has it?

Look I don't wish to commiserate, recruit or psychoanalyze you by any means, just discuss thoughts. I do think extending one's life is worthwhile, so long as it doesn't involve me having to kill you or anyone else (because I in turn will be killed by the next usurper and that would be a life of fear, right?). I do think that one should do everything one can do to maximize their life (not merely extend it).

Would you like to know what I really think? I think when I go to the shore, I think, there's nothing I can do to stop the waves and tide from coming in. I look at a picture of the solar system, one of my favorite topics as a kid, and realize how insignificant I am in regards to the universe. I discover a good book at the library written by an author well over a hundred years ago. I marvel at the wisdom of the engineer who knew thermodynamics and it's principles much better than I (and that is one topic I know a great deal), I appreciate the maintenance man who fixed a common problem with a piece of equipment that no one else knew enough about and that only he could fix. I appreciate the inventor that applied science, the venture capitalist that took the chance on the inventor. On and on, I simply realize better men then me have come before me and have given me so much, and I am grateful and I will do the same. My point is once you realize this, drop those ideas that are not important to you anymore, and concern yourself with what is, and concern yuorself with what you can control in your life then you will be able to maximize your life.

Okay, I can't help myself, I'm going to attempt a guess... you don't have children, do you? If I'm right then I don't mean any disrespect that you don't have enough experience in that realm to comment on life and what not. It just seems by what you have written that you don't. Am I right?

I consider myself conservative in this respect by the way, because again I think that previous people and generations had had to deal with worse or more dire and have overcome it (or died trying) and we should look inward (or backward for SOME of the answers).

Manifesting from that inward or outward or whatever, an optimization of the two I think are necessary. That's what I think. I agree with you if you do not look forward, then culture would become more of a caste system, withholding folks from moving within the classes, learning institutions would be mire by politics instead of science. Religion/Philosophy would be seen as an alternative to science and not its complement. And other things, I get it, I understand what you meant. So how would you optimize the two? By the template of what society has put in place before, by promoting and preserving individual rights or other proved methods, well dwelt upon thoughts that prevailed before. Sometimes you wouldn't have that information then that's where we would step in a make the best decision we can at that time, with the information we have and then if the outcome is not good, reiterate. And then use this template as a counter-balance versus bad ideas and to rectify previous mistakes.

These days, as with every generation, I think all we hear about is, us moving away from what made us so great. We simply have to hold that in check, is all. China, India... I say welcome to them and to whomever else, may God bless them. I am idealogically hopeful that every nation could be sitting at the winner's table. I listened enough to my father tell me the Japanese were going to own America, that was some twenty-five years ago, not many say that today, eh? They have there own problems to deal with. And in some ways they're not that different then ours.

Thanks again

Western psychics always depend on statistics
Statistics may be useful for physical science, human behaviour is quite difficult to understand. so donot give me only figures, you must understand real fact, and that only possible to avoid statistics.understand human you to use emotional brain

Phisics is physics and sociology or whatever you're talking about is something else. BTW when India broke their promise not to make use of the nuclear phisics from the reactor that Canada gave them, and did go use it to develop nuclear weapons, did they use western physics, or some kind of 'eastern' physics to do it? What caste are you?

Rich and fun...
Whats wrong with becoming rich and having fun? It beats the stuffing out of the alternative.

Perpetuate the species?
Any interest in that?

You are confused...
You are confused on the definitions of "objective" and "subjective". Objective means that a particular thing exists and is knowable through imperical observation by an indepedent mind. That which is not objective is, by defintion, subjective, because it is not accertainable through imperical means.

Your comments about death providing meaning to life are simply a personal value statement which has no imperical element to them. Hense, they are subjective.

Get over this conservative obsession with "value". It is simply the manifestation of an over-active "parent" ego state (read "Transactional Analysis" by Eric Berne), nothing more. Conservatism are as brain-dead as the liberal-left.

More nonsense
"human behaviour is quite difficult to understand. so donot give me only figures, you must understand real fact, and that only possible to avoid statistics"

Well, in your original post, you noted problems with the Ganges River and claimed global warming as the cause. You offered no proof of this. Instead you offer this quoted piece of nonsense. To pretend that human behavior can only be understood by NOT quantifying it is complete idiocy.

I asked you to back up your claim of neo-colonialism and you respond with the above quoted piece which in no way supports your claim or indeed much of anything.

What I think...
What i think is this:

The real issue of whether a society has a future or not is based on the attitudes of its people with regards to dynamism vs. statis. It is not an issue of right vs. left or conservative vs. liberal. It IS an issue of growth vs decay, openess vs. closedness, and seeking the unlimited vs. accepting one's limits.

The former will result in a dynamic society. The later will result in a static, stagnant society. If you are happy with creating and being a part of the latter, that is fine with me. I will simply move to be a part of the former.

I will also tell you (and yes, this is very emperical) that societies that choose statis over dynamism tend to become loosers in history. History is usually not kind to societies who choose statis over dynamism, often with horrific consequences for the individuals in such societies, a fact that is taught to every school child in China. Perhaps this is the reason why I care about the future of the West (particularly the U.S.).

No Subject
I stand by my high school graduation analogy of death. The afterlife is simply an extension of physical existance, only not in physical form. I guess the SF analogy to death would be like if everyone walked through a black hole and into another, more expansive universe beyond, one with greater diversity and options than this current world. The fact that I cannot come back to this one is irrelevent, the new one offers me more choices and a more expansive life. Why go back? The HS analogy is valid in another way. Noone there today knows who I am. This is irrelevent to me because I derive my happiness from my more expansive life today and my future dreams and goals, not reflecting on the past. Likewise, the fact that you cannot come back from the afterlife is irrelevent as well. You presummably live a more expansive life of greater freedom and openess, why would you ever want to come back?

The point is, if you cannot look forward to it and get excited about it, its not real as far as I'm concerned.

Your arguments about life extension presume a zero-sum game, which is also described as a scarcity of resources. Since new technologies create new resources, this is no longer a valid argument. As long as things are done on the basis of positive-sum game, noone's rights get trampled on and, therefor, there is no valid argument against doing a particular thing.

I am (mostly) doing the things that I enjoy in life. I am into both maximizing AND extending my life. Since when are these mutually exclusive? You talk about dropping that which is not important to me. That is precisely what I have done. This is why I have dumped both the ideas of conservatism as well as those of the liberal-left. They are not important to me.

What made America great is our outward-orientation, our pioneering spirit. The fact that the word "impossible" did not exist in our vocabulary is what made America great. And, yes, some of this stuff is going away, which is what prompted my original rant in the first place.

By nature, I am an outward-oriented person. I have never derived any sense of fulfillment by being inward-oriented. So, it is only natural that I do not feel any afinity for a society that values inward-orientation.

I am not offended by your suggestion that I am inexperienced in life, because you do not know my background. Let me fill you in.

I have lived in: Spokane, Portland, Southern California, Phoenix, Tokyo, Taipei (Taiwan), Kaoshiung (Taiwan), Penang (Malaysia). I have visited 20 countries and have dated women from four continents. I have done both engineering and sales work and can speak three languages. As in the words of Roy Batty to Deckerd in Blade Runner, "I have seen things you people wouldn't believe". So, yes, I would say I have considerable life-experience. I would also say that I have had enough various experiences to know myself well enough to know what I am into and what I am not into. So, when I say that my values are as appropriate to me as yours are to you, you can trust me on this. I am not pulling your leg, sort of speak.

You and others like you have responded to my comments in defense of a world-view that is substantially different than my world-view. I made my comments bacause I truly believe that my world-view will lead to a more dynamic society that, in turn, will be more successful at creating a better life for most of its people. It is clear that you do not accept my arguments. That is fine because we each have the right to believe as we wish, and I certainly respect this right.

Do realize that I not only do not subscribe to your world-views, I do not consider their defense to be worth the sacrefice of my life and freedom.

Thanks but no thanks
Thanks but no thanks, I happy with the rich and fun.

Besides, wouldn't immortality make reproduction unneccesary?

When you are god, who cares about nature?
Nature has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to humble man.

Unless you plan to remove yourself, or control the physical laws of the universe, be careful.

That's great, the fewer arrogant people procreating the better.

Under your skin
I don't mean to get under your skin, kurt99. But rather than tossing around insults like a blind man juggling rusty knives, why not think instead?

Recently, a few scientists claim they have discovered universal (meaning applicable to all humans of every situation) links between objective external stimuli and the facial expression instantaneously recording the emotion that results from an internal, and thus subjective, value assessment of the objective external stimuli. The last link, the facial expression, depends on how the individual mind behind the relevant face evaluates, i.e. assess the value of, the objective external stimuli.

Unsurprisingly, the variable, i.e. subjective in conjunction with human reaction, component isn't just the internal evaluation/emotion component - it's also the external stimulus component. In other words, different people exhibit different emotional reactions to the same objective external stimulus, but the expressions on their faces perfectly and instantaneously record their emotional evaluation, which are thus objective according to your definition. Sort of turns your relativist universe on its head, doesn't it? How can an ironic smile always accurately record the value assessment of variable external stimuli no matter who performs it - a savage or the most effete noble?

This presents very troubling philosophical issues for you thoroughly propagandized relativists, who seemingly prefer to engage in insult rather than rational thought. Why? (Compound question, withdrawn.) Let me make this simple for you: If the variable component is the objective stimulus but the constant component is the facial expression recording the valuation in emotional terms, then what does that tell you about the intermediate and supposedly entirely subjective value assessment? Hint: Value contains both objective and subjective components.

I've encountered many thoroughly propagandized relativists who have mistaken the knee-jerk regurgitation of programmatic indoctrination, i.e. formal education, for valid rational thought, thereby mimicking the brain-dead, and sadly, you.

Care to comment?

What is objective...
Where am I throwing about insults?

I'm just saying that your view on radical life extension is simply not applicable to me. I have been interested and active in life extension since the mid 80's. I would not be interested in something this long of time if I were not truly into it. I have enough life experience and self-knowledge that whatever I happen to be into is not some flaky thing, but something I really am interested in pursuing. As such, your arguments against it are not going to carry any weight with me, what so ever. I also do not consider your arguments about live extension to be relevant to any public debate as to whether the government should restrict the development of such technology and individuals' access to it.

I am NOT a liberal. There are objective values in the world. They include freedom, openess, life, and creativity. I believe very strongly in these values and consider my transhumanist/libertarian world-view to be the best projection of these values.

I became a libertarian, not because I read a book on it and decided I liked, but because I actually "invented" it inpedendently without knowing what a "libertarian" was or who Ayn Rand was when I was in HS and early college. I independently came up with the idea that indivuduals are autonous agents and that "morality" is simply a form of contractual relationships between such autonous agents. This idea (the core of libertarianism) made both logical and intuitive sense to me. It was several years later (on a climbing trip) that we were dicussing this stuff and someone commented to me that this sounded like Ayn Rand. I asked "who is Ayn Rand?". he said that she was a libertarian philosopher. I then asked "What is libertarian?". He said that it was essentially what I was talking about.

The point is that I was actually able to independently create or "discover" libertarianism on my own. This is what I mean when I say that something is objective or can be understood emperically.

I do not believe that most of the precipts of conservatism (as something separate and distinct from libertarianism) can be independently "discovered" in this manner by someone having no previous knowledge on the subject. Certainly none of the religious memes can be independently derived in this sense.

In this sense, the libertarian world-view can be said to be objective, but all of the other world-views are not.

Thanks, I'll do just fine...
Thanks, I think I can handle things just fine.

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