Tuesday, January 11, 2022

New Paper on Framing Longevity Science


I am happy to share the news that my chapter submission titled "Framing Longevity Science and an “Aging Enhancement”" has been accepted for publication in The Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Human Enhancement.  This essay was written during the prolonged lockdowns of the winter and spring of 2021, and helped me retain my sanity during it all.  The gist of my argument is that it is much more important to ask the right question than it is to provide answers to the wrong questions.  The abstract:

Advances in the biomedical sciences, like the potential development of an applied gerontological intervention (or “aging enhancement”), warrant serious ethical reflection and debate to help ensure scientific innovations are pursued in socially responsible ways.  This chapter critically assesses some of the ethical issues surrounding the “framing” of life extension and, more specifically, an aging enhancement. To frame an issue “is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described”.  Four different aging enhancement frames are assessed: (1) “Is extending life natural?” (2) “How long is enough life?” (3) “What about equality?” and (4) “Why promote public health?”.  I argue that the first three frames buttress support for the “aging status quo” by suggesting that something of significant moral value is compromised or threatened by altering the rate of biological aging, and little (if anything) of significance could be expected to be gained by slowing the rate of senescence.  This contrasts with question (4), the “Why promote public health?” question, which is framed to make vivid the actual harms of the “aging status quo”, as well as the benefits of slowing the aging process.  When it comes to ethical debates concerning an aging enhancement, it is much more important to ask the right questions than it is to try to provide answers to the wrong questions.