Episode 2: Max More
Dr. Max More is the CEO of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation and founder of the magazine Extropy. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Southern California and is a leading transhumanist thinker. Our conversation ranged from the use of reason to morality in a physicalist worldview. We even touched on Nietzschean benevolence and whether anything can have intrinsic value. You will hear plenty of contrasts with my conversation with Rev. Fife, but there are also a few similarities that may surprise you.
Also, Micah promises to never confuse cryogenics and cryonics again.
Great interview Aengus, much more back and forth than your talk with Reverend Fife. One difference I noticed between the two was Dr More’s repeated mention of productivity. He kept coming back to it as a key principal of a life well lived. In contrast, Rev. Fife never noted that migrants workers might be more productive in a world without national sovereignty. The amount someone produces didn’t seem to interest him. The value placed on output seems to distinguish their view of the world.
I love the idea of institutionalizing the Devil’s Advocate (I think that’s the wording he used). So often the person arguing the other side is dismissed without consideration, when a brief bit of thought could lead to a dramatically better outcome. It would be a dramatic step forward as a people if we made it a value to consider the other side.
@murph-thanks for the comments! Micah and I owe you seriously for being the first one to break the ice on the site.
What do you think the relationship is between a secular/physicalist outlook and the degree to which one values productivity? Is there one at all? There are certainly examples of religious groups that valued productivity as a demonstration of faith (early Protestant sects come to mind), but it seems that, more often, faith communities measure progress by developments within people, not what they are physically doing. In lieu of a faith-inspired goal, how can “progress” be measured in a secular world aside from by tangible, measurable things?
I’m throwing this out there in my rather weak attempt to be an institutionalized Devil’s Advocate. Thanks, @tuff.
I think the ‘Protestant Work Ethic’ was coined by a Northern European sociologist about a century ago, looking for a thesis that could pat his own back and stick it to those lazy Southerners…
I don’t think a spiritual view of progress avoids ‘tangible goals’. It just rejects the goals of ‘more stuff’ or ‘newer, better stuff’. Other goals like, say, economic equality, civic participation, or education. Not that different from secular goals.
Ah, you must be thinking of Max Weber’s “The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but he took a rather nuanced view of where the spirit of capitalism was taking us.
Why is junking the idea of progress so scary? Is it because we end up in the disquieting land of Timothy Morton?
It piqued my interest when Dr. More decried the precautionary principle for allowing “emotional decision making.” This strikes at the heart of why there is such a rift between rational scientific minds like Dr. More and common people, who I would argue, live in their emotions and are guided by them. My desire to live is an emotional one, my love of wilderness and drive to protect the environment and defend human and animal rights, these are rational choices, but more so they are emotional choices.
I fear powerful men, but I fear men who are disconnected from their emotions more…emotional detachment is a necessary part of war, genocide, and large scale destruction of the planet.
What is the role of misunderstanding religion in the conversation, in this case fundamentalism? John Fife mentioned capitalism’s corruption of religious values and actions, which is very astute, but Max More called people who refer to their holy scriptures for guidance on how to live as fundamentalists, a term many religious people would vehemently deny. For example, Islamic Fundamentalists practice jihad (to the horror of many Muslims and though Radical Islam is a better term). Christian Fundamentalists often sacrifice one value (most often love) for the sake of another due to literalism, even to the point of militarizing or rejecting all technology, which is a far cry from evangelicalism or the modern church. Perhaps Dr. More would be better served by separating the fundamentalist factions out of his opponents and engaging conversation with more reasonalbe religious people who oppose his work, but are likely to find common ground with him on either capitalism or nature conservancy.