Is Immortality an Ethical Issue?
Aubrey de Grey, PhD, is Chairman and Chief Science Officer of the Methuselah Foundation. The core of his research is the identification of all forms of cellular and molecular damage whose accumulation contributes to human aging, and the design of interventions to remove, repair, replace, or render harmless all such damage so as to arrest or even reverse the biological aging process. He has published extensively on these and other areas of gerontology in the scientific literature, and is also Editor-in-Chief of the high-impact journal Rejuvenation Research, the only peer-reviewed academic journal focusing on intervention in aging.
Question: Describe an ethical dilemma you’ve faced in your life.
Aubrey de Grey: I’m not really a philosopher; I’m not really an ethicist, and it’s in particular I always get rather irritated when people suggest that there are ethical dilemmas associated with combating aging. I feel there are certainly plenty of psychological dilemmas – you know religious, economic and so on, but when it comes to the moral obligation or the moral issues plus or minus with regard to combating aging, I always feel that the issues are completely unequivocal, and really for me that’s been true throughout my life. I guess the best example I can use where it was a little bit of certainty was with regard to my views about whether God exists; you know whether I should be religious or not. On that really my decision was not to make a decision, so way back in my teens when this sort of thing is on people’s minds I guess I came to the conclusion that well okay what’s the difference; how would I run my life differently; how would I behave differently if I were religious versus if I were not religious, and I realized that there was no difference at all; that I already had decided that what I wanted to do with my life was to benefit humanity, to make a difference to the quality of life of people in general, and I realized that that’s fundamentally what scripture tells you to do in pretty much all religions. So I thought well okay why does it matter and therefore I have not in my view wasted my time trying to come to a decision on that.
Question: So you’re agnostic?
Aubrey de Grey: So I guess the best way to describe my own view is I’m agnostic.
Recorded on: October 2, 2009
There are plenty of psychological dilemmas when it comes to immortality, but the moral issues are unequivocal.
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