Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Friday, April 19, 2013

Facing Facts When Facts Have Faces

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot:
[A]s a general matter I think one is better off facing facts than denying them. This includes facing the ineradicable contingency of our individual fortunes, our permanent susceptibility to error, miscommunication, unkindness, the unintended consequences and frustration of our efforts in a world of diverse stakeholders, and the unpleasant facts of aging, vulnerability, and mortality. I have recognized especially in those who have not come to terms with the fact of their mortality -- whether they turn to the salvational schemes of the customary religions or lose themselves in techno-transcendentalizing eternalization snake-oil involving red sports cars, herbal supplements, or cryonics day dreams -- a kind of over-compensatory denialism that skews priorities, feeds foolishness, or produces an obsession with death that yields a paradoxical deathliness in life itself.

For me personally, I would far rather face than efface my finitude, even in the undeniably more fraught circumstance of facing the more palpable mortality of, say, the diagnosis of a dreadful mortal illness. However, I don't see much point in pressing this last point, especially when it comes to strangers. When facts have faces, facing facts sometimes confronts us with the distinction of principles and scruples (another face of the fact of our finitude, as it happens). We all have our little frailties and psychic crutches after all. To refuse a conspicuously suffering person with little hope their enabling delusion seems pointlessly cruel, especially if the person is not one you know well, who shares your life in a deep sort of way.

Now, when it comes to people claiming that faith-based beliefs (whether in angelic intervention, crystal healing, or techno-magicks) are as warranted as claims backed by consensus science, there I draw a pretty forceful line as you know -- even when that hurts people's feelings -- and when it comes to private concerns diverting money from the credulous or constituencies diverting public funds from scientific into pseudo-scientific ventures (very much including futurological moonshine operations), then I draw that line even more forcefully still. I personally think cryonics outfits should be outlawed, unless they agree to market themselves as, and only as, a highly kooky means of corpse disposal, like compressing cremated remains into costume jewelry or shooting people's ashes into orbit, that sort of thing. I don't mean to be unkind, but neither do I mean to condone or abet fraud.

No comments: