Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The ultimate liberal dream?

My recent post on diversity attracted quite a number of comments. One of them, from the liberal side of things, was from Brett who argued against the very idea of nations:

Personally, I would like to see the abolition of the concept of "a country".


Why might a radical liberal want to abolish even the concept of a country? One part of the answer runs as follows.

In the late 1400s, humanists like Pico della Mirandola began to define humanity in terms of self-creation. We are distinctly human, and at the apex of existence, wrote Pico, because we are free to determine for ourselves our own being.

This argument implies, though, that anything which impedes "self-authorship" is a denial of our true humanity. And the list of such impediments is long.

Over time politics came to be directed toward the liberation or emancipation of people from impediments to self-authorship.

At first, much of the focus was on unchosen forms of authority. The authority of kings and priests (and later of fathers), which could not be individually contracted or assented to, was the primary target of early political modernism. The French philosopher Denis Diderot expressed such aims in the 1700s by declaring that:

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.


The logic of liberal modernism, though, went far beyond the rejection of uncontracted forms of authority.

Whatever is important to us, but which exists through tradition or biology, implies a limitation to self-authorship. Therefore, liberal moderns have tended to reject the influence of our biological sex. They have commonly argued either that there is no naturally occurring masculinity or femininity, and that such qualities are merely social constructs, or else that we are influenced naturally by the fact of being born man or woman, but that this must be made not to matter.

Similarly, and here we get back to Brett, liberal moderns have come to view nationalism negatively as a restriction on the self-determining, autonomous individual.

The poet Shelley pushed the modern view as long ago as 1820 when he praised the coming "new man" as someone who would "make the world one brotherhood" and be:

Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man
Equal, unclassed, tribeless, nationless,
Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king
over himself ...


For Shelley the aim is to be "uncircumscribed". He wants to be unrestricted, not only from the authority of kings (sceptreless) and churches (worship), but also from membership of a tribe or nation.

Why might he think that membership of a tribe or nation would restrict him? If the aim is to create our own self-being, then a national identity can be thought of as an impediment. We don't get to create for ourselves such an identity, as it's something we inherit (passed on to us as a long-standing tradition), and as it often involves a shared ancestry and kinship, which is a biological reality we don't determine ourselves.

So Brett is following a larger pattern of modernism in rejecting the very concept of countries. It's interesting, though, to read Brett's further development of the liberal idea. On his own website, Brett explains to us that he has a dream:

I dream...

I dream of a time when medical technology allows us to transcend the notion of being human.

I dream of a time when there are "simple" and effective procedures exist, which are probably automated, to allow us to change any physical facet of our being that we choose. The notion of a third arm, green skin, multiple eyes or any host of body modifications is possible, doable and acceptable. To go further, features that we see in nature could be adapted and included: imagine having the ability to breathe underwater, to live and work in an undersea world, or to have the eyes or wings of a falcon?

But more than that, I dream of a time when our basic bipedal form, replete with somatotype and genetic heritage means nothing. I love the idea of a world where "humans" can come in any shape, size and form, from those who choose to live in a purely "conscious" form (i.e. non corporeal), to those who might augment their bodies beyond recognition with mechanical prostheses, "other parts" and who knows what else.

But most of all, I love the idea that shape and form means nothing to anyone as it's (potentially) only ever transitory.

But the changes need not be only physical ... I dream of a time when there are vast interpersonal information networks which are as ubiquitous as todays internet. I dream of a time when information flows so freely that the boundaries between people start to blur, and antiquated concepts such a countries no longer exist.

And of course, I dream of a society which supports all of this.


Here the liberal idea finally consumes itself. Our humanity itself is now identified as a restriction on the act of self-creation. It is now the fact of being human which we are to be liberated from. Our bodies and brains are held to limit us and therefore must be transcended.

What started out in the 1400s as an attempt to glorify the status of man ends up here as a dream of post-humanity.

I'm not alone in connecting an intellectual thread beginning in Renaissance humanism to the "transhumanism" of today. In the wikipedia entry on transhumanism we find one of the leading transhumanists claiming something similar:

In his 2005 article A History of Transhumanist Thought, transhumanist philosopher Nick Bostrum locates transhumanism's roots in Renaissance humanism and the Enlightenment. For example, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola called on people to "sculpt their own statue".


The effort to deny or suppress gender difference, the call to abolish the concept of countries, the desire to overcome a human existence - all of these flow from the same intellectual presuppositions.

It's these intellectual presuppositions we need to challenge. I don't see much point in trying to rescue countries from a modernist like Brett, when he has already given up on the idea of corporeal existence.

52 comments:

  1. BRETT SAID:
    “I dream of a time when medical technology allows us to transcend the notion of being human.”


    So liberalism has come to the point of thinking that the ‘artificial’ is better than the ‘natural’? That ‘humanity’ is to be overcome? That a natural human is somehow a rough draft for a superior cyborg? I am puzzled to think of what liberals like Brett think a woman gives birth to?

    Liberals need to see the perfection of a tree, rather than the furniture it can be made into.

    Bobby.N

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  2. Perhaps it's just me, but I think that Liberalism is perhaps not the most important concept here.

    Either way, my response is here

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  3. Perhaps not - but Liberals tend to have similar traits. They don't like rules or standards very much. Consequently, they don't like taking responsibility for their bad choices very much either.

    I think the important thing is 'right' and 'wrong'. ('workable' & 'unworkable') - 'sensible' & 'unsensible'. All with a mindful notion of the future.

    I always joke:
    "Liberals are Conservatives who won't give up their vices."

    Bobby.N

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  4. Without trying to sound too Liberal, I think it's important that we constantly review the "rules or standards" to see if they are still applicable... and as time goes on, invariably some will not be.

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  5. And while we're on quotes:

    "A conservative believes in the present what liberals forced on the world in the past"

    Anon.

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  6. Mark,

    I don't necessarily read in the Wiki entry why one can't be both a "transhumanist" and a traditionalist if one takes the understanding that in order to author one's own life we are still in need of paper, pencil and script. And we also understand that the ability to author is NOT primary to the work itself. We can seek a transhuman existence, but it can mean nothing without a full understanding of being human, first.


    Brett,

    I don't see what the abolition of nations has to do with the transhumanist movement if it is merely the scientific advance of the human body? It seems a transhumanist movement can exist in both a structured and an unstructured society. Your call for abolishing nations gives the transhumanist movement an ideological tint that betrays its purpose in benefitting the human condition.

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  7. Thordaddy,

    The two topics are (normally) unrelated, however Mark has brought them together in this entry.

    I'm happy to consider them separately, as I did in my reponse to this entry.

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  8. As the pride of lions said to the other animals arguing the case for equality and denying nature;

    “You would say that, wouldn’t you?”

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  9. Brett's blog is fairly unresponsive to comments. That's not because he's a liberal who is afraid of discussion but because he chooses to use Microsoft as a blogging platform. Sheesh!

    The first thing I would like to say is that Brett has, in his reply, issued a heap of 'strawmen' about conservatism. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest he has done this out of ignorance, rather then malice. Conservatives are not afraid of technological change- it's not about ludditism, or technophobia. Citing 1984 is a complete nonsense.

    I will quote Brett here, if Mark will indulge me the space
    "I find it interesting that you've dredged up that old idea that you're place of birth (or where you grew up) has some sort of bearing (other than a very superficial one) on who you are and who you become:

    We don't get to create for ourselves such an identity, as it's something we inherit (passed on to us as a long-standing tradition), and as it often involves a shared ancestry and kinship, which is a biological reality we don't determine ourselves.

    I noted here that this is just a hangback from the way that we used to live and not representative of modern life whatsoever. Taking myself for example: I've spent more time overseas (in varying countries) over the last 5 years than I have in Australia, and not only that, but I've moved across the country more times than I think about, so I can't even equate myself with a region, let alone a country. This notion that you are a product of your environment belongs in the 1920's - not in the modern world.

    No, I see no relevance to maintaining this antiquated, and completely irrelevant concept. I am, however, welcome to the concept, if someone can demonstrate why. "

    I must say I am astonished at this section. Is Brett seriously saying he would be the same person he is if he had been born in a sub-Saharan African country, or a remote Latin American village? Or even a suburb of one of those enormous North American cities? I seriously doubt it. He would have imbibed the values and traditions of the place and social class that he was brought up in.

    The reason he is a Liberal is that he was born in a society which is condusive to raising citizens with Liberal values.

    And it is poor thinking to ascribe one's own characteristics to the rest of humanity. Brett is clearly a globetrotting type, so he considers 'nations' to be a thing of the past. For those of us who are homebodies, they most certainly are not.

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  10. Brett, i just read your response to my comments. You seemed to accept that multiethnic places are, in the opinions of most people who actually live there, bad places to live.

    However, your argument for pursuing the ideal of multiethnic living spaces is that this 'badness' is temporary, and that one day they will be desirable places to live.

    Some questions:

    What do you base that on? And do you live in one of the more multiethnic suburbs of Australia, like Lakemba, Springvale, Cabramatta etc? Why is the experience here, just like in every other Western nation, the same when it comes to this experiment? What is everyone doing wrong? And why is it only Western nations that pursue deliberately diversity, whilst nations like Korea and Japan proudly boast their homogeneity? And when you travel, do you like visiting multiethnic places like the suburbs of Paris, Detroit, south central LA, Johannesburg etc?

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  11. Scott,

    Re transhumanism:

    There are no straw men here - just questions to determine whether the author really is against transhumanism or not:

    Does he (or you) reject bionic ears or prostheses? These both fall well within the accepted definintion of transhumanism, so the question is valid. Would you give your child, who was born deaf, a prosthetic ear?

    And the same goes for the future tech question: Would you replace your body if it was permanently damaged, or would you choose to die? This is a perfectly valid question in this context.

    As I said in my entry, I rather suspect that most people would say yes to both of these questions (I notice that you haven't bothered to answer - what is your answer?), so therefore an absolute rejection of transhumanism is bunk. There's no logical fallacy there.

    Re Nationalism:

    You're right - there are 2 words missing here. The statement should read:

    "I noted here that this is just a hangback from the way that we used to live and not representative of most western modern life whatsoever."

    You're right that someone born in a sub-saharan villiage would have a different worldview - no question.

    However, I noticed that you didn't rise to my challenge in my post - you haven't even tried to define why countries should exist anymore. All you've done is leave this comment:

    "Brett is clearly a globetrotting type, so he considers 'nations' to be a thing of the past. For those of us who are homebodies, they most certainly are not."

    Why do you think that countries are not a thing of the past?

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  12. Shane,

    "You would make a ship sail against the winds and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I have no time for such nonsense"

    Napolean Bonapart

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  13. Shane,

    Could you please confirm that your comment is in regards to the Diversity post? If it is, lets continue the conversation there :)

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  14. Why do you think that countries are not a thing of the past?

    If by ‘countries’, you mean modern liberal democratic states, then i would agree that they are fast becoming a thing of the past. A state that only exists as a proposition nation is meaningless. Countries were drawn up to satisfy the natural will of ethnic groups to have territory. Now that ‘countries’ are only about citizenship and ‘values’, they will eventually be replaced with the kind of tribal ‘nations’ that existed before ‘countries’.

    As Pat Buchanan said in this piece:

    The nation-state is dying. Men have begun to transfer their allegiance, loyalty and love from the older nations both upward to the new transnational regimes that are arising and downward to the sub-nations whence they came, the true nations, united by blood and soil, language, literature, history, faith, tradition and memory.

    So what comes to replace 'countries', may not be exactly what you had in mind.

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  15. Shane,

    "So what comes to replace 'countries', may not be exactly what you had in mind.

    Maybe, maybe not. Keeping in mind that every system of government is inherently flawed, personally I quite like the concept of the EU system (sans retaining the "country" government) spreading around the globe.

    But that might just be me...

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  16. I don't think that the argument that people would prefer a mechanical replacement for a defective or missing part of their bodies to nothing at all is an argument for "transhumanism". Obviously, a prosthetic leg is better than no leg. But it's much, much worse than a healthy, normal leg. I'll make a generalization and argue that there is no such "bionic" part yet that is anywhere near as good as its normal, healthy natural equivalent and there probably never will be. A healthy human body is a true miracle of subtle and beautiful functionality, with incredible subtle energy potentials that anyone experienced in meditation and yoga can tell you exist. No mechanical part is ever going to match that, much less supercede it. So to the extent that "transhumanism" involves advocating mechanical replacements for living, healthy human body parts, its a pipe dream.

    Transnationalism, or the idea that nations should be eliminated in favor of one global nation, seems like a nice idea until something like it is put into practice. Don't use the European Union as some kind of evidence for the desirability of transnationalism - the E.U. is cracking at the seams. They can't get a constitution approved according to their own rules, so some of the elite are advocating simply imposing it without regard to the will of the people. Italy and Germany are under strain from the financial imbalances imposed by the unification of the currency. Many French want to rescind the rules allowing people to move between E.U. countries, because the character of France is being changed by floods of foreign immigrants.

    Nations that are based on ethnicity, culture, religion, and tradition are much more stable and prosperous than nations where two or more quite different peoples share a government. That almost never works. Iceland is a peaceful, tranquil place - and highly homogenous. So was Norway until the arabs started arriving in Oslo.

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  17. Mark,

    Re: Nationalism

    Nations that are based on ethnicity, culture, religion, and tradition are much more stable and prosperous than nations where two or more quite different peoples share a government.

    While this might well be true, a quick, simple slap in the face with reality says that for the majority of the world, this is a thing of the past, not the present. And in fact, almost from the point of European invasion on, this has never been the case in Australia.

    And no one needs me to tell them that the world is never going to revert to it's previous form - that's just silly.

    So we have a couple of choices: Either we all get along together, or we have a round of genocide in each country so that we go back to having a single "ethnicity, culture, religion, and tradition". Of course, given that we have had generations of inter-race breeding, that might be a bit hard to work out in quite a few cases.

    But that still doesn't answer my challenge: Why do you think that countries are not a thing of the past?

    As I said in my entry, I have not come across a rational answer to this question. I've come across many emotive answers, but not a single rational one. It seems that no one on this blog can provide one either.

    Re: Transhumanism

    I'll make a generalization and argue that there is no such "bionic" part yet that is anywhere near as good as its normal, healthy natural equivalent and there probably never will be.

    I left a quote from Napolean earlier which is particularly relevant to this statement:

    "You would make a ship sail against the winds and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I have no time for such nonsense"

    Napolean Bonapart


    One wonders what Napolean would think about ships with internal combustion engines today (he was talking about steam powered ships!!). :P

    Just because it doesn't exist now doesn't mean that it won't exist tomorrow. Just for starters, we already have neurons being joined with electrodes, and with other associated technologies progressing at the rate that they are, it's a mighty bold prediction to make a statement like the one above.

    I don't think that the argument that people would prefer a mechanical replacement for a defective or missing part of their bodies to nothing at all is an argument for "transhumanism".

    Ah, but Mark, in your own link to Wikipdeia, the first line (which goes towards defining Transhumanism) includes:

    [addressing] what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as disease, aging, and death.

    As I said in my previous entry, the questions were to determine whether you (and for that matter, anyone) is really against transhumanism. You've just answered that question.

    A healthy human body is a true miracle of subtle and beautiful functionality, with incredible subtle energy potentials that anyone experienced in meditation and yoga can tell you exist.

    Transhumanism isn't only about mechanical bits (tho this often gets the most attention) - it's also about concepts like grafting (or growing) new biological bits onto someone. So if your statement above is true, then imagine how much better you would be with 4 flesh-and-blood arms, rather than just 2!

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  18. Brett,

    If you mean countries are a "thing of the past" similar to transhumanism being a "thing of the past" in that their emergence resides in the past, then countries are a "thing of the past."

    But, they are also a thing of the present and transhumanism gains nothing in their abolition. What's the connection in your mind?

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  19. Thordaddy,

    Please keep in mind that in most conversations, these two topics are not connected. Mark connected them originally to oppose liberal thinking, however as you can see from most of my responses, I'm treating them as two separate concepts.

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  20. Brett, the development of test tube reproductive technology doesn't suddenly mean that relationships between men and women are "a thing of the past".

    The fact of romantic love will still exist regardless of what the scientists come up with.

    Similarly, the development of transport technology doesn't mean that "countries are a thing of the past".

    First, it's not even true that the effect of travel is always to make people more internationalist in orientation.

    Sometimes living in a foreign country makes us more self-conscious of the value of our own home culture.

    Second, if your thesis were true then people would be happily embracing the new cosmopolitanism. Mass immigration would consistently have popular support; there would be no need for speech laws about race; people, when given the chance to vote, would consistently vote through measures in support of the EU; and so on.

    As we know, though, it's a political elite which is forcing through the changes. I remember one Australian survey in the 1990s on immigration in which roughly 75% wanted lower immigration, 23% thought it should remain the same, and only 2% wanted it to rise (it rose).

    Your thesis fails to account also for the lack of cosmopolitanism in non-Western countries.

    If transport technology is the key factor, then why are countries like Japan and Korea not opening their borders? The Japanese, in particular, travel widely and yet have not followed the West in giving up on their traditional national identity.

    Also, if transport technology is the key factor, then why do we find liberal arguments for internationalism extending well back before the development of modern communications.

    I made mention of the poet Shelley's views in my column, from the year 1820. He was expressing the liberal politics of internationalism well before the invention of modern shipping, planes, phones, internet, television and so on.

    This gives us a clue to what is really happening. What we have is a liberal political elite which is following through the logic of political principles which were adopted long ago.

    These principles make traditional nationalism politically illegitimate, regardless of the preferences of the general population.

    As the major political parties all share the basic, underlying assumptions of liberalism, the preferences of the majority on this issue haven't been directly represented and acted upon.

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  21. Mark,

    This appears to be going nowhere. You seem to be hung up on complaining about liberalism, and not treating each subject with the diligence it deserves.

    If that's your approach, then I shall bow out. These topics deserve more than just a passing attack on liberalism.

    Re Nationalism:

    First, it's not even true that the effect of travel is always to make people more internationalist in orientation.

    Of course - not everyone is the same, and so some will react differently.

    Sometimes living in a foreign country makes us more self-conscious of the value of our own home culture.

    This statement should also include a realisation of all the very bad bits (by comparision with that you experience overseas) of your home culture.

    Second, if your thesis were true then people would be happily embracing the new cosmopolitanism. Mass immigration would consistently have popular support; there would be no need for speech laws about race[...]

    You seem to be under some sort of illusion that social change, especially of this magnitude, happens instantaneously. I can't understand how you would come to this conclusion - afterall, the notion of "countries" has been around for thousands of years. That doesn't mean that they are still relevant - it just means that society as a whole will take time to adjust to this.

    Change, be it social, technological or otherwise takes time. It starts as a trickle and grows into a flood and there are countless examples of this throughout human history. The medium that this debate is occurring in (the internet) is a prime example, where the initial take up was small and now is almost ubiquidous.

    As such, no one should be surprised that there are areas where this change has taken place more than others. Parts of modern western "countries" are leading the charge with the rest catching up later. Some eastern countries (like Singapore, for instance) are moving along too, but there are other areas where the progress is slower. Again, no one should be surprised by this because change takes time.

    And your comments about Japan etc are not necessarily demonstrative of reality. I was in Taiwan recently (which also has a very low "foreign" population) and my international experience was looked on very favourably - they look for new and better ways of doing things!

    And speaking of Taiwan, you really should try Taiwanese hotpot pork intestines... Simply delicious!

    And after all of that, my challenge still stands - I have't yet seen a rational arguement for maintaining the notion of countries. I see emotive ones all the time (for instance, pining for a time which has long since passed and can't return), but never a rational one.

    I made mention of the poet Shelley's views in my column, from the year 1820. He was expressing the liberal politics of internationalism well before the invention of modern shipping, planes, phones, internet, television and so on.

    All that this does is demonstrate what I was saying above in respect to the way that change occurs - it starts as a trickle and gathers momentum or dies. Clearly, this has not died or else we would not be having this discussion.

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  22. Brett,

    The rational argument for maintaining countries is that there is no rational argument for abolishing them.

    They help define your internationalist desires. They enhance your greater sense of travel and exploration by creating boundaries and obstacles. They also help identify dangerous areas where an internationalist experience can go deadly wrong.

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  23. Brett, if I bring liberalism into the discussion it's for a purpose.

    We both agree that Western nationalism is weakening. You think it's because nationalism has been made redundant by technology. My argument is that it's a consequence of a mistaken political morality derived from liberalism.

    I have already set out a number of reasons why I don't think technology explains what is happening. Readers can make up their own mind if you answered these adequately.

    Brett, most people love the tradition they belong to. It's something that connects them through ties of ancestry and history to past generations. It brings us into a particular relationship with people we are related to through ties of kinship, culture, religion, language and custom.

    When you have a meeting of people and place over time, there is generated the distinctive human cultures, each with their own character, each with their own achievements.

    We think of such traditions as a good in themselves and we derive an important aspect of our own identity through membership of such a tradition.

    There is no reason to think that such benefits have been somehow made redundant, just because we have an enlarged opportunity to travel.

    There are reasons, though, to suspect that the alternative, of Westerners accepting a future minority status, is unwise.

    Look at what has happened in southern Africa where the European populations have lost political control.

    Europeans have been driven out of Zimbabwe, and there has been a massive flight out of South Africa by younger whites who are victimised by crime and by laws restricting their access to employment and welfare.

    And in the future mixed ethnic states you endorse, which group is going to feel responsible for maintaining public standards? Which group will be willing to make sacrifices to defend the state?

    If it's just me, as a rootless cosmopolitan individual, then why would I care if, say, there is a decline in family life in a particular place? Or a loss of cultural heritage? Or a shift to cheap, ugly public architecture?

    If I am no longer the guardian of a particular tradition for past and future generations, a role I accept willingly because of a love for this tradition and for what my own ancestors created, then why wouldn't I just think and act selfishly for my own short-term benefit?

    Will the state have to become more coercive in your cosmopolite society? Will it have to act to compel people to do what was once done voluntarily?

    Brett, I'm not sure you've considered how far-reaching the changes you support will be.

    Have you considered the possibility that a future society dominated by people unrelated to you, more cohesive than you, and less privileged than you, will look adversely on the freedoms and wealth you enjoy now.

    You might respond that the state will protect you. But remember - you have placed yourself in a minority position. Who, then, will control the state?

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  24. Thordaddy,

    They enhance your greater sense of travel and exploration by creating boundaries and obstacles.

    I would actually argue that nations cause more problems than they solve. I think that they cause artificial separations which shouldn't exist, some of which you've alluded to here.

    And for the record - Other than passport control in airports, I don't view them as obsticles.

    Speaking of passports, a quick inspection of mine reveals more than 40 stamps, and I'm on my second passport! Another stamp in and of itself, means nothing to me.

    Personally, I just like having different sand under my feet and different mountains to look upon. Looking out over a different ocean. Seeing different animals and things like this. Oh, and of course eating different styles of food! This is why I travel.

    Mark,

    Ah... we're on to traditions... *sigh*

    Tell me, which tradtions should I embrace? My Skandinavian fathers? How about my English mothers? How about the Aussie ones cause I've spent some time living here? But then should I adopt the east coast ones, or the west coast ones, cause I've lived on both sides of the country? How about the traditions of the other countries I've lived in?

    Or should I create my own?

    Your ideal doesn't apply to me, nor to any of other other people (and there are plenty) who have even a small part (or even more) of the worldwide experience that I have.

    However I think that traditions are fine as long as they are relevant. Take for instance:

    A lad is invited to his girlfriends house for thanksgiving dinner. When the turkey is presented, the boy notices that it has no legs.

    Not wanting to be rude, he wispers in his girlfriends ear: "Why does the turkey have no legs?"

    The girlfriend replies "I don't know - it's the way we've always done it. Let me ask my mom. Hey mom, why doesn't the turkey have legs?"

    The mum says "I don't know - that's the way we've always done it. Let me ask my mum. Grandma, why do we cut the legs off?"

    Grandma: "Well, when I had my first house, the oven was so small that the only way I could get the turkey into the oven was to cut it's legs off"


    Let me ask you - should this family retain this tradition? Personally, I like eating the leg, so I would answer with a resounding NO!

    You're arguing "that it's a consequence of a mistaken political morality derived from liberalism whereas I'm saying that it's us getting rid of things which don't apply anymore - much like the turkey example above. Holding onto something, just because it's a tradition, is in this case detrimental.

    But another test: If you're so vehmently against migration, then you'll be on the first plane or boat out of the country, because unless you're a full blooded native Australian, then you're either an immigrant, or the decendant of one, so therefore you have no claim to be in this country at all.

    If you're going to selectively apply an arguement, then that arguement will lose all credibility. So, do you oppose migration or not?

    I would further argue that migration has been a part of humanity for as long as we've existed. Mankind didn't just spontaneously erupt all over the world in one hit - we migrated, and this was long before anyone create a country.

    So given that you're so fond of traditions, I think that we should acknowledge that migration is a very long standing human tradition.

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  25. Brett, what if you hadn't been such a nomad?

    What if you had taken the time to set down roots somewhere, so that you did have a chance to develop a sense of communal identity?

    Isn't it possible that you would have something deeper to hold to in your life than a restless urge to see a different mountain or taste a different food?

    You might have developed a sense of belonging to a particular people, culture and place.

    You might have been a culture producer rather than just an outside observer - a tourist.

    And tell me, what do your wife and children think of your globe-trotting lifestyle?

    Are they happy also to belong nowhere, and to have such an unsettled lifestyle?

    Is it really practicable for them to follow you from beach to beach and mountain to mountain?

    Brett, we are called to be something more than disengaged tourists in this life.

    If you were to settle in Scandinavia you could easily embrace the tradition of your Scandinavian fathers; in England those of your mothers; in Australia those of your Anglo kin and of your own future children.

    To embrace a tradition doesn't mean blindly following precedent. It is continuity which matters: one generation hands on the baton, the next tries to achieve as best it can.

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  26. Mark,

    We could ask "what if" till the cows come home. What if you'd been the nomad? Would your world view be different?

    What if you had taken the time to set down roots somewhere, so that you did have a chance to develop a sense of communal identity?

    Is it not possible that I've developed a sense of communal identiy with a much larger group than just those around one area? That I've seen and experienced more in my short years than most will, and rather than being held back by the "normal" way of things, I've made my own mould and am better for it? And that I can connect with a far broader array of people as a result?

    Shouldn't we all aim to be like this? To be able to instantaneously connect with whomever we come across?

    You might have developed a sense of belonging to a particular people, culture and place.

    Why belong to one when you can belong to many?

    If you were to settle in Scandinavia you could easily embrace the tradition of your Scandinavian fathers; in England those of your mothers; in Australia those of your Anglo kin and of your own future children

    Why would I choose to live one life, when I can taste many, and then take the good bits from all? No area, government, country, people or any other grouping is complete, let alone perfect, so why not bring the good bits together? And while some might argue that it's the imperfections which make it worthwhile, I will choose not to agree with them.

    And finally, re wife and children - I made the choice some time ago to have neither, so for me personally, they don't come into the equasion.

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  27. Brett,

    You say,

    "I think that they cause artificial separations which shouldn't exist...,

    But your stance is to abolish concrete separations that do exist and you have given little reason as to why that is a good thing. I gave several examples of why abolishing nations would degrade your sense of international and exploratory travel.

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  28. Why belong to one when you can belong to many?

    Because you can't belong if you're just visiting.

    re wife and children - I made the choice some time ago to have neither

    I'll just point out here that if a man isn't really committed to sustaining a particular tradition, then there's less of a motivation to make the sacrifices to raise children.

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  29. BTW, Thordaddy, your argument is a good one.

    The year I spent in Japan was especially memorable because Japan was still its own world separate to my own.

    The Japanese were hospitable but their culture was not entirely familiar; if it had been rendered familiar, the experience of foreign tourism would not have been as striking.

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  30. Brett,

    It seems by definition that transhumanism can't be political and you are distorting it for your own personal "fear" of change.

    If you suggest that it can be political because those that "fear" change shouldn't be able to stop the inevitable change that is occuring then you must explain your own "fear" of change and why it should compel others to "fear" your change.

    Hypothetically, let's say that you lose your arm and hearing in one ear due to a car accident. This event would constitute the inevitable change that Brett says occurs as a part of life and should not be feared. Brett claims that he does not "fear" this change, but how does that square with his adherence to transhumanism? Brett would immediately seek the finest hearing aid and prosthetic arm. But why, if not a desire to live in the past because a "fear" of the inevitable change that has befallen you?

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  31. You might have developed a sense of belonging to a particular people, culture and place.

    You might have been a culture producer rather than just an outside observer - a tourist.


    I think that’s an important point with Brett. He isn’t going to reproduce or get married, feels no special attachments to a people or tradition and thinks that the point of a ‘culture’ is to either cherry pick or critique. One can’t expect an argument in good faith from that denatured perspective.

    So why does he feel this way? It could be anything from a certain upbringing, feelings of alienation to something biological.

    I think we have to accept that some people are like this and that no amount of logical argument can convince someone who has, for whatever reasons, no feeling for the blood. As I alluded to earlier with Aesop’s fable, it’s like trying to convince the herd that lions have a right to be lions. All that we should expect is arguments that try to convince us that it’s actually in our interests to overcome everything that makes us...us.

    Our point needs to be clear. Liberals can do as they wish, until they wish to immorally impede their will on the majority who find it repulsive. There is no common ground or room for debate at that point.

    There comes a time when the lion, for the sake of the pride, has to stop humouring the other animals and remind them that they have no way of defending themselves.

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  32. Thordaddy,

    Hypothetically, let's say that you lose your arm and hearing in one ear due to a car accident. This event would constitute the inevitable change that Brett says occurs as a part of life and should not be feared. Brett claims that he does not "fear" this change, but how does that square with his adherence to transhumanism? Brett would immediately seek the finest hearing aid and prosthetic arm. But why, if not a desire to live in the past because a "fear" of the inevitable change that has befallen you?

    Sure, fixing "things that have broken" is only one part of transhumanism. The movement goes a lot further than that tho:

    Transhumanism includes facets which consider amalgamation, addition, improvement and removal. Just "fixing things" is only scratching the surface.

    So I don't think it's a logical fit to say that someone who, in addition to fixing an arm and their (previously imperfect) hearing, has grafted themselves 2 extra (in this case biological) arms and a pair of wings is living in the past...

    Mark,

    I wonder what sort of culture you produce. Are you an artist? Are you in a musical band? Do you sculpt things? What culture have you created?

    Wikipedia defines culture as:

    Most general, the term culture denotes whole product of an individual, group or society of intelligent beings. It includes, technology, art, science, as well as moral systems and characteristic behaviours and habits of the selected intelligent entities. In particular, it has specific more detailed meanings in different domains of human activities(emphasis is mine).

    I write - I have a blog. I teach people in the gym about muscle form and function, and then train them (and myself) so that they have good gym habits. I create things in my technology based job. According to the above definition, I am certainly a culture producer.

    And when does someone change from being a visitor to a producer? After they've been in an area for a year? Maybe a generation? What does that mean when an indigenous person becomes a recluse and doesn't produce anything - have they changed into a visitor? Again, you're trying to justify your position with something that doesn't logically hold up.

    Speaking of which, you haven't addressed a single question that I've left here for you. Let me repeat a couple in very succint form for you:

    1a) Are you against migration? If you are, and you're not a full blooded indigenous Australian (which appears to be a fair assumption given posts like this), what right do you have to be in this country?

    1b) Do you agree that humans have been migrating around the planet for longer than countries have existed? If not, please explain and demonstrate the simultaneous emergence of mankind around the planet.

    Those two questions alone should show your statements on migration are completely bunk.

    So lets start with that. It's only one of the topics we've covered, and just some yes or no answers will do, tho I suspect a "no" answer will require some justification.

    Shane,

    Liberals can do as they wish, until they wish to immorally impede their will on the majority who find it repulsive. There is no common ground or room for debate at that point.

    The intolorance that you've showed in your comments is demonstrated to be in the minority in this report.

    To quote:

    IT IS bad news for radio shock jocks and clash of civilisation theorists. A poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries has found most believe political and economic interests - not religious and cultural diversity - are the underlying cause of violent conflict in the world today.

    Well look at that - cultural diversity is not the issue. Seems like you're in the minority here for thinking so! And this is a global survey too!

    It also reinforces the notion that i put furward earlier - that social change takes time, which is indicative of the varying results in various countries.

    Bad luck. Now, I think i'm going to go and find a nice tasty steak for breakfast... I will growl at it for you too...

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  33. Brett,

    I appreciate your responses, but I'm not sure you're being entirely consistent.

    You say that a part of transhumanism is "fixing" things but I don't read that in the Wiki entry. You are giving transhumanism the ability to decipher "good" change from "bad" change when you said that transhumanism is the acceptance of inevitable change and those that "fear" it should step aside.

    Why can you not accept the inevitable change in our hypothetically situation? Why must you "fix" the inevitable change unless you perceive it as "bad" change? But, couldn't a missing arm (the inevitable change) force you to find novel ways of bodybuilding? Could the lack of hearing in one ear (the inevitable change) force you to listen to others with more focus? Would these be examples of inevitable "good" change that need no "fixing?"

    Transhumanism can't be a political movement unless those in the movement are going to take the monumental leap and claim that they know "good" inevitable change from "bad" inevitable change and only their "fear" of change counts.

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  34. Thordaddy,

    Could I suggest that a slightly broader reading is required. If you have a look at the document here, the very first paragraph contains the line:

    Medical interventions to replace failing body parts—whether a heart pacemaker, a pig liver, or a metal hip—are becoming increasingly routine in technologically advanced societies, and prosthetics for virtually any therapeutic need are generally accepted without objection from patients or society

    In other words, fixing things, and this is modern day transhumanism, and fits within the Wikipdeia words:

    [...] the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and ameliorate what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as stupidity, suffering, ageing and death. [...]

    Why must you "fix" the inevitable change unless you perceive it as "bad" change?

    Let me ask you - would you consider the loss of hearing or an arm to be a bad change? I would. I would consider the onset of dementia, or cancer or heart disease to be very bad changes. And I rather suspect that most people that go through these things would look for a "fix" if one was available.

    And equally, I would imagine (and I believe that it's well supported via documents like the one linked to earlier) that someone who was born without the ability to hear or with only one arm would also view this as a "bad condition" and would look for a fix.

    So given that those born a particular way and those who have an event befall them both looking for "the fix" suggests that change is the issue here, but rather the impediment to someone fulfilling their wants and dreams, whether that comes from having the ability to hear, to have enhanced eyesight so that they can see in all spectrums, having 6 arms or the ability to breath underwater.

    Transhumanism can't be a political movement unless those in the movement are going to take the monumental leap and claim that they know "good" inevitable change from "bad" inevitable change and only their "fear" of change counts

    I don't think that transhumanism is a political movement, and personally, I don't think it should become one. I think that the choice to adopt the technology is one that the individual should make, on their own terms. If you view the insertion of a pacemaker as an acceptable level of transhumanism, then fine - if you need one, go get one. If you view that neural enhancement and a completely rebuilt body is o.k., then go get that.

    But I don't think people should have it forced on them. It's the same as a recent case here in Aus where a boy was attacked by a shark and refused a blood transfusion for religious reasons - equally, if you view a pacemaker as an unacceptable level of intervention, then don't have it.

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  35. Sorry, that last post should read:

    So given that those born a particular way and those who have an event befall them both looking for "the fix" suggests that change is not the issue[...]

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  36. Brett,

    I think we both agree that transhumanism is just a fancy name for what is imbibed in human nature. Namely, man has always sought to better himself mentally and physically with whatever tools and technology was available. Transhumanism may only differ in the manner that it is now acceptable to use other humans to gain that advance in life. This is why I wouldn't call myself a transhumanist, but agree in theory to bettering myself mentally and physically.

    I think we can also agree that conservatism isn't a "fear" of change anymore than transhumanism is a "fear" of change?

    We can also agree that conservatism and transhumanism, given a particular inevitable change, will nonetheless seek to revert to a past time in an attempt to "fix" things? This means that both conservatism and transhumanism recognize past events/changes as sources of knowledge and wisdom.

    In short, transhumanism is not really a intellectual or cultural movement as much as it is a personal discovery with a different label and lack of any moral boundary.

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  37. Thordaddy,

    Please explain: Why would moral boundaries change? That's like saying that as soon as a person puts glasses on, the existing moral structures go out the window...

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  38. Brett wrote:

    If you're so vehemently against migration, then you'll be on the first plane or boat out of the country, because unless you're a full blooded native Australian, then you're either an immigrant, or the descendant of one, so therefore you have no claim to be in this country at all.

    Brett, I'm not sure you've thought this one through.

    First, if you really want to argue that "everyone is a migrant and so has no claim over any homeland", then you have to include the Aborigines, since they too migrated to Australia.

    In fact, there is evidence that there were several waves of Aboriginal migration, each pushing out previous populations.

    And if you really do want to make an exception for "indigenes" then you would have to make it also for Europeans in countries where they are clearly indigenous.

    Are you willing to grant the Swiss in Switzerland or the Dutch in Holland privileged status as indigenes?

    Most leftists hold to unexamined double standards on these issues. They look at traditional Australia and claim that it was blighted by monoculturalism and needed to be rescued by diversity.

    You would think, therefore, that they would, to be logically consistent, condemn Aboriginal culture prior to 1788 as a boring monoculture and celebrate the arrival of Europeans as bringing diversity to the Aboriginal population.

    But they don't. Like you they term the European arrival as an "invasion".

    My own position is more consistent. I like the existence of ethnic diversity and so I think migration should be regulated to best preserve it.

    In terms of the Aborigines, I would be saddened if they were to cease to exist as a distinct population.

    At the same time, I do not want my own ethny to stop existing.

    I don't see how mass, diverse, ongoing immigration into Australia helps either cause.

    Your argument that migration has always existed misses the point.

    First, migration has been mostly very limited in human history. Most people stayed close to where they grew up.

    Second, where large-scale migration has occurred it has had major consequences.

    When the Goths and Vandals smashed into the Roman Empire, do you really think the Romans should just have shrugged it off on the grounds that "migration has always happened"?

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  39. Mark,

    Before I respond to your latest entry, could you please humour me and just answer:

    1a) Yes or no
    1b) yes or no

    Thanks

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  40. Brett, that report you linked to focuses on a world scale ‘clash of civilisations’, not the state of Western societies. It says absolutely nothing about diversity within societies – especially when one considers that many of the nations included on the poll have almost no Muslim population and the majority of them are ethnically homogenous.

    You’re confusing issues and possibly assuming that I’m some ‘right wing’ Liberal voter.

    I wasn’t for intervention in Iraq, just like I wasn’t for it in the Balkans – that’s the stuff of internationalists. I have no ill will towards Islam, in fact there are many traditionalist aspects of it that I admire. I believe the West and Islam can coexist peacefully. There’s nothing inevitable about a clash of civilisations, as long as said civilisations have their living space.

    That doesn’t change a thing about what I believe, what I’ve argued for or the research that you’ve been presented with that deals with this specific issue.

    I understand that you want to believe certain things. I came to my position after years of personal experience and research. I didn’t want to believe the things that I do now. I spent the first 20 years of my life in one of the most multicultural places in Australia and have many attachments to people who aren’t of my ethnicity – most of whom agree with my position.

    They laugh too at all the white people living in majority white suburbs praising ‘diversity’ – then watch as the tune changes the instant the latest intake of refugees or immigrants move into their street. Then we see the same thing that has happened to countless suburbs in Australian cities and around the world over the last 30 years – the white people simply move out. Diversity is strength it seems, until every other person in your street is of a different ethnicity, you can’t read the shop signs anymore and the interethnic warfare doesn’t seem so ‘enriching’ anymore.

    When you’ve seen the pattern over and over, the phrase ‘diversity is strength’ is nothing short of comedy gold.

    It would be much easier for me to ignore reality and pretend that we’re destined for some utopian future on this current path. But experience here and overseas shows us that we’re not. Even if by some million to one chance we were, it wouldn’t make up for the pain it has already caused to so many.

    We have to accept reality; ethnicity matters to most people and when certain demographic factors are in place, life is hell. Ignoring this will bring greater pain in the future than acknowledging it.

    If you want diversity, live it. You can choose the environment you live in, but you can’t, morally, prescribe the environment for others just because you ‘think’ - against all evidence - that it might work out one day.

    Anyway, now that we've got to the (inevitable)point in the debate where snarkyness and buzz words like 'intolerant' are used, there is little point in continuing. I'm quite convinced, as seen countless times in countless debates, that there is no valid argument or moral reason for intentionally pursuing diversity - and an infinite number against it.

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  41. Shane,

    Can you see the inconsistency of your own statements? In one breath you say:

    I spent the first 20 years of my life in one of the most multicultural places in Australia and have many attachments to people who aren’t of my ethnicity – most of whom agree with my position.

    Emphasis mine. Then in the next breath you say:

    We have to accept reality; ethnicity matters to most people and when certain demographic factors are in place, life is hell.

    You've just contradicted yourself!

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  42. How is it at all contradictory, Brett?

    Do you think that for my position to hold weight, I must loathe everyone of a different ethnicity?

    Again, you're confusing personal prejudices with acknowledgment of macro realities. I addressed this in the other thread. People don't come to conclusions about this issue out of 'ignorance' as patronising high school text books on 'tolerance' say - it is usually the opposite.

    I have little doubt that I have more non-white friends than you. I even speak a non-European language. It doesn't change a thing and it certainly doesn't contradict what you quoted:

    ethnicity matters to most people and when certain demographic factors are in place, life is hell.

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  43. Brett,

    I think that the transhumanist movement can only be defined as a unique cultural and intellectual movement if it adopts a no moral boundary stance. If the movements decides that it wants moral boundaries then it's really nothing more than an age-old philosophy with a catchy label.

    But, I think it has adopted the no moral boundary stance as you have indicated your approval of stem cell research. I would suggest that such a stance contrasts starkly with the notion that transhumanists are trying to move beyond human. Clearly, they have been unfaithful to the science that defines humanity.

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  44. Thordaddy,

    I think that the transhumanist movement can only be defined as a unique cultural and intellectual movement if it adopts a no moral boundary stance

    You know Thordaddy, having spent some time thinking about this, I think this is probably the most intelligent thing that anyone has said in this debate.

    I'd like to respond in 2 parts - the present and the future:

    The present

    I think that today, to generate the funds, interest (both intellectual and other) and momentum, the movement requires almost a cult like status amoung its adherents.

    In that sense, the definintion "unique cultural and intellectual" will be applicable. Of course, that it's not mainstream will also contribute to this.

    Given that transhumanism is currently mostly medicinal in form, common medical morals are probably the sum total of whats required (i.e. you generally wouldn't give something without consent from the patient).

    The future

    If the technology becomes as ubiquitous as I would imagine then it will lose it's cult status (for most people - there will probably always be those who will treat it in this form), and then it will fade into the background as part of every day life.

    Therefore, it should be morally transparent - by which I mean the background moral structures should superimpose over the top of the technology, much as is the case with the internet today.

    But, I think it has adopted the no moral boundary stance as you have indicated your approval of stem cell research. I would suggest that such a stance contrasts starkly with the notion that transhumanists are trying to move beyond human. Clearly, they have been unfaithful to the science that defines humanity.

    I guess there are 2 parts to the answer to this too - the present and the future:

    The present

    We currently don't have the technology to just replace bits (for whatever reason - aesthetically or medicinally), however use of stem cell technology may well allow us to head down the path of transhumanism - i'm thinking of replacement bits, fixing neurological disease (for instance Parkinsons and Alzheimers) etc.

    While you're right in saying that is us using "human" based substances, technological development has to proceed in baby steps, and I think that this probably isn't a bad "next step"

    The future

    While some might choose to go completely non-corproreal, mostly inorganic or something based not at all on humanity, that doesn't mean that all will. Afterall, in the current day, there are people who eschew mobile (cell) phones "just because".

    I don't see why medical technology based around stem cells (or something later derived from that study) can't be offered to people who choose not to go down the same transhumanist path. I don't want to use the terms "complimentary" or "alternative" (as each has connotations which I don't think are reasonable in this discussion), however that (stem cell) technology may well be very useful for those who choose not to go down the more complete transhumanistic path.

    Shane,

    Firstly, my unreserved apologies. I got your responses mixed up with those of "C" and some others.

    I'll retract my statement about contradiction and I'll go back and have a reread of your comments.

    Again, please accept my apologies.

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  45. Brett,

    I think the first requirement for a transhumanist is the ability to define a human. Without that definition, one cannot go beyond his human status because how would he know?

    This is the contradiction I see in being a tranhumanist and advocating for the use of stem cells. Scientifically, it seems, one is using a human, without given consent, to enhance another one's life. This implies that as a purported transhumanist, one has not reached a scientific definition of a human and therefore defines his transhumanism by a lack of any moral boundary and not by its scientific credibility.

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  46. Thordaddy,

    Lets not forget that stem cell research isn't restricted to embryonic stem cells - there are a whole host of other stem cells (e.g. adult, umbilical etc) that can be used. Using (for example) adult stem cells is not consistent with your words:

    Scientifically, it seems, one is using a human, without given consent, to enhance another one's life.

    I mentioned that stem cells are only one stepping stone along the path of developing these technologies. I don't for one moment suggest that it's the only path, and I also don't doubt that there are other methods which will still get us to the goalpost, both for those who choose the transhumanist path and those who don't.

    So I think I'll stand behind my previous statements before about the moral landscape.

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  47. Brett,

    Again, thank you for your responses, but I think I have failed to fully understand what a transhumanist signifies?

    Let's say that I was one of the first in line to get a brand new pair of spectacles way back when, would that make me a transhumanist?

    When you say that there are other lines of stem cells that don't involve the creation of an embryo (a human, scientifically-speaking), I ask whether such a synergy with these technologies, that fall inside a "moral" boundary, signify one a transhumanist?

    What I am asking is whether it requires one to take a no moral boundaries position, with the understanding that "other" humans may be used for one's self enhancement, in order to be a bona fide transhumanist?

    It seems anything less would be like the guy with glasses or the guy using adult stem cells claiming to be a transhumanist.

    What is a transhumanist?

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  48. Thordaddy,

    I guess that when I am thinking of what transhumanism is to me, I am thinking of "tinkering" with the person themselves to either enhance or remediate a facet of that person. In my eyes, the reason why a wheelchair, glasses or a walking frame are not transhumanistic (if that's even a word) is because they are not so much tinkering with the person but are exteral appliances.

    What would make these things transhumanistic in my eyes is if:

    *instead of a wheelchair, the person had wheels grafted onto them

    *instead of glasses, they had replacement electronic eyes (I'm thinking of something like this)

    etc.

    Using the examples above, I can't see a change in the moral framework of society, so I would question whether a reconsideration is required. Of course, if someone was to do something silly (like creating synthetic eyes which allow you to see through clothes (by whatever means you would achieve that)) then clearly that would exceed the moral framework of our society and we would need to address that somehow, however I think that that's more applicable in the comic book realm rather than in a discussion like this.

    To be frank, off the top of my head, I can't think of a situation where there is a "moral free zone" where humans (or things that were once human) are involved.

    It seems anything less would be like the guy with glasses or the guy using adult stem cells claiming to be a transhumanist.

    I hope I've addressed the glasses side of this. In terms of stem cells, I think that stem cells themselves would only take a transhumanist bent if they were used to do something like grow additional arms, legs eyes, or whatever for a person. The stem cells could be used to create flesh and blood appendages which were genetically identical to the "owner", however are not part of the "original" human. Clearly, this woulnd't be so applicable to someone who chose a new metallic (or synthetic) body.

    I think that using stem cells therapy discussed in the modern day to repair damaged spinal cord is not a valid example in terms of transhumanism, whereas growing a new spinal cord (say in a vat) via stem cells probably would be because it's a replacement part.

    That's my opinion anyway...

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  49. You know Mark, after all this debate, I never actually got a feel for what your issue with transhumanism is.

    What was it that actually "got your goose" about it?

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  50. Whether it’s transhumanism, liberalism or feminism – the underlying theme of these modern ideals is that they ‘impose’ themselves on others. (Historically, it’s rooted in people’s respect for their tradition & history).

    Whether one is religious or atheist, I believe one should be able to do to oneself what one sees fit, as long as it doesn’t directly impose on another. (whether that’s an individual, or a community is irrelevant). For example, if one believes in God, then one’s decisions (and soul) are your own and you pay the consequences for your decisions afterward. If you’re a liberal, feminist or transhuman – then I’d contend you have to pay the consequences for your decisions too. If the opposite sex doesn’t find you appealing because you have 3 arms, then you have to accept it. If feminists find it hard to find ‘real men’, then it may be because of the ideals they live by that negate the attraction of ‘those’ men to them.

    If one travels (unimpeded) around the world like a nomad, then it’s simply a perpetual ‘holiday’ ideal. My notion is akin to Marks. I’m all for migration, as long as it’s controlled & regulated to allow a continuation of harmonious existence in that country or suburb. Dropping all restrictions & ethics results in a vulnerability of the community’s harmony. If I want to live in a certain suburb, and the ‘vote’ of the suburb is that they don’t want me there, then I must accept their standards. It’s THEIR standards. It’s THEIR home. Who am I to question ‘their’ world?

    Whether it’s the domain of one’s own body/mind (a community of one), or the agreed upon community of many (countries, etc) – I don’t believe outside forces should have the right to ‘impose’ themselves upon those constructs.

    As to Brett’s comment of:

    “Let me ask you - should this family retain this tradition? Personally, I like eating the leg, so I would answer with a resounding NO!”

    I believe the final decision rests with the head of that family. It’s ‘their’ house – and so that person should have say in whether or not a belief is maintained in their household. The ‘imposition’ of individual preferences over a nobler respect for tradition, seniority & current ownership – is where it becomes more about what each subjective ‘individual’ WANTS, as opposed to what NEEDS to happen in a group of multiple people for a harmonious existence to continue.

    Unless it has to do with ‘only’ the individual, a liberal shouldn’t expect their subjective ideals be ‘forced’ on already established countries & individuals – any more than they would like ideals ‘forced’ on them.

    No means no - remember.

    I’m all for ‘tolerance’ of foreign constructs (even in my community if it doesn’t disrupt the harmony, or impose itself on me) – but not ‘re-education’ (or assimilation) of foreign constructs against a current harmony.

    Bobby.N

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