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Conference on "Extended Life / Eternal Life"

Genetic Crossroads
April 16th, 2000

A conference titled "Extended Life / Eternal Life," held in March

at the University of Pennsylvania, brought together scientists,
ethicists, and theologians to discuss technical advances that might
lead to significant increases in human longevity.

The conference was co-sponsored by Penn's Center for Bioethics and
the John Templeton Foundation, which has supported advocates of human
germline engineering, as well as programs to educate theologians on
the benefits of free markets.

A two-part report on the conference in Reason magazine by Ronald
Bailey viciously savages those speakers--including Leon Kass, Daniel
Callahan, Eleonore Stump, and Audrey Chapman--who voiced skepticism
about "the conquest of death." Bailey, who has authored numerous
attacks on environmentalism, summarizes the skeptics' concerns--
including questions about eugenics and about equity in the
allocation of medical resources--as "the usual tired litany."
Bailey writes: "It never occurs to the would-be ethicists to
wonder…that the same greedy capitalism they so disdain is the
only known way of vastly improving the lives of tens of millions
of their fellow human beings."

Bailey appreciatively quotes Gregory Stock, who told the conference
that "extending lifespan is the least of your worries…genetic
enhancement is really what large numbers of people want." But
Stock also tried to be reassuring, saying, "We are not moving toward
a cataclysmic reckoning…Instead I offer you the image of birth.
Like birth this period is messy, bloody, and traumatic, but it is
the beginning of a new era. Future humans will look back on this
period as the time when the very bases of their lives were laid
down and thank us."

Bailey's report is available at <http://www.reason.com/opeds/030600.html>
and <http://www.reason.com/opeds/030700.html>. An article of similar tone
and substance, by Reason editor-at-large Virginia Postrel, appeared
in the April 17, 2000 issue of Forbes. Postrel's article is posted
at <http://www.reason.com/opeds/forbes/041700.html>.


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