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Culture War Roundup for the week of April 10, 2023

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How about a pallet cleanser?

In the other thread a few people brought up surrogacy, and maybe I've spent too much time with TERFs, but am I the only one that overwhelmed with the feeling of Lovecraftian horror whenever it's brought up? The feeling is even more uncanny, because it's like I slept through some great societal debate where everybody decided it's actually a lovely thing that should be celebrated. Although maybe it's not all that bad, there's a certain "how it started, how it's going" quality to the NYT headlines. In any case the casual way it's supporters talk about surrogacy freaks me out even more than militant pro-choicers.

Then there's the whole slippery slope thing:

  • Love is love, we have a right to get married just the same as you! - Yes I agree!

  • We also have a right to adopt! - Sure! I mean I have my issues with adoption in practice, but in principle if there are kids without parents, and willing gay couples to adopt them I don't see an issue.

  • We also have a right to biological children! What? Do you expect us to be ok with not having children?

Wait what? Yes I do! I'm all for tolerance, and living and letting live, but you're not going to make me see this as a lovely family moment, and anyway I don't remember signing on to turning a fundamental human experience into an industry when I supported the gay rights movement. Accept the limits of your biology, and move on.

Which brings me to Dase's idea "postrat «don't mean-spiritedly dunk on a rationalist» challenge (impossible)". Indeed, I can't help myself, and even though I used to be rat/rat-adjacent, I find myself having growing disdain for the entire philosophy. There's a meme that's slowly gathering momentum, that all the trans stuff, and 72 genders is just a foot in the door for transhumanism, and after I heard the idea for the first time, I can't seem to unsee it. This twisted ideology will drive us to throw away our humanity, turn us into a cross-over between Umgah Blobbies and the Borg, or trick us into committing suicide, because there's a subroutine running on some GPU somewhere, that's somewhat similar to the processes in our brains. Given the utter dominance of the trans ideology, the vindication of the slippery slope argument, and the extrapolated trajectory of these ideas, I believe we have no other choice - Transhumanism must be destroyed!

Two points I guess.

First, can I get some theory or principle for when people are obliged to accept the limits of their biology and when they aren't? I'm assuming your ok with humans ignoring the limits of their biology when it means not going blind, or letting deaf people hear, or crippled people walk. If I'm correct about the above why are LGBT people obliged to respect the "limits of [their] biology" with respect to having children but the others aren't for their conditions?

Second, why care specifically about being "human"? Whatever that means to you. I see downthread you complain about playing the definition game so I'll sidestep that and say that if becoming a "cross-over between Umgah Blobbies and the Borg" leads people to live longer, happier lives of the kind they want to have I think that's good, whether or not you (or anyone) would call the resulting entities "human."

Catholics have had a longstanding argument about which kinds of technological help are warranted within a respect for God's creation and I must say I find their conclusions very reasonable.

The line between health and degeneracy is repair. It's fine to do anything to repair broken humans and allow them to do what they would be able to do if not for some disease or mutilation holding them back.

It becomes immoral when you start trying to augment humans beyond their natural existence and try to turn them into something else. Humans are not immortal, they don't reproduce asexually, they don't have 10 arm, etc.

Of course the debate at the margins can be fierce, especially since industry has changed a lot about the human condition and arguably too much already so that we suffer ills of our own making, but I think it's a generally sound principle.

Aging is merely the ability of the body to repair itself breaking down. Who says we mustn't repair that one, too? (Rhetorical question, Christians!)

Death is a necessary and natural part of life. You don't repair what's not broken.

Death is a necessary and natural part of life.

Revolution against people who insist that their way is "natural" "necessary" and "god ordered" even when it leads to endless death and suffering is necessary and natural part of history.

You don't repair what's not broken.

What if I do repair what is "not broken" to avoid dying?

What will you do to stop me? What will you threaten me with that is worse than death?

Revolution against people who insist that their way is "natural" "necessary" and "god ordered" even when it leads to endless death and suffering is necessary and natural part of history.

It certainly is. And those revolutions always fail. Because if something is truly natural, necessary and ordained by God, you never really escape the consequences.

Of course if it isn't, then they don't. But I don't see any reasonable argument that death isn't a natural part of the universe.

What will you do to stop me?

Violence ultimately, but I don't hold that cruelty has ever been an effective deterrent so I don't feel the need to invent worse punishments than death.

If my way is not ordained by God, then let Him strike me down. If yours is, why are you worried that He will allow my way to destroy yours?

We are all instruments, and my worry is part of it. I'm tempted to quote that parable about the man who refused help many times on account of his faith, not realizing it was God sending all those people to help him.

We can't expect God to do all the work.

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It certainly is. And those revolutions always fail. Because if something is truly natural, necessary and ordained by God, you never really escape the consequences.

Hmm, certainly seems like us transgressors of God are doing quite well for ourselves as a matter of fact.

But I don't see any reasonable argument that death isn't a natural part of the universe.

I'm not arguing this. Everything dies eventually. I'm arguing that dying in 100 years isn't any less natural than dying after 100,000 years. Do you see a difference yourself?

Violence ultimately

I'll refer to the first part of this reply. We've got you beat on the violence as well buddy.

certainly seems like us transgressors of God are doing quite well for ourselves as a matter of fact.

I don't really care to go into the large argument about how miserable industrial society has made everyone, go read Ted if you want to see those arguments, but on the face of it I do want to address the most painfully ridiculous elephant in the room, which Nietzsche famously predicted as a direct consequence of this transgression:

How many people died in the XXth century?

We've got you beat on the violence as well buddy.

This doesn't alter the moral calculus a iota for me. But I also don't believe you. Otherwise you'd be holding Afghanistan right about now.

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Revolution against people who insist that their way is "natural" "necessary" and "god ordered" even when it leads to endless death and suffering is necessary and natural part of history.

Is it? Can you point to some examples where such revolution actually succeeded according to its own priors? Are we about to get another of those cartoonish, unsourced anecdotes about how everyone prior to the Enlightenment thought medicine was witchcraft and burned doctors at the stake?

Why even attempt to form a correct view understanding of reality, when re-writing the past is so much easier?

What will you do to stop me? What will you threaten me with that is worse than death?

Shouldn't death be sufficient, since that's exactly what hypothetical-you is desperately trying to avoid?

"What is the consequence of defying the luddite?"

"Death. "

"Then what is the consequence of submitting to the luddite?"

"Death."

"How shall we proceed, General?"

"Then what is the consequence of submitting to the luddite?"

"Death."

Hey! I just wanted a Space Ark to GTFO of here.

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Conflict is eternal; if you can't deter people from instantiating horrors by threatening death, there's nothing left but to follow through and fight it out.

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Death is a necessary part of one particular configuration of an ecosystem, and appealing to nature is pointless. Everything is natural.

edit: not even that. Like darkness is an absence of life, death is an absence of longevity. It is not "a part" of life, it is that longevity is not a (necessary) part of life based on sexual reproduction. "You have outlived your usefulness", says the gene once it is duplicated and recombinated into a fresh host. I'm sorry, but who asked?

I could start to argue metaphysics, because I definitely think your view is incoherent, but that's boring and not very convincing.

Let us instead drop merrily into the realms of practicality: immortality is heavily and obviously dysgenic. Stagnant organisms lose the possibility to change, and therefore to adapt. And no cultural process can replicate one's just anihilation once they have indeed, outlived their usefulness.

I'm sorry, but who asked?

Well your children presumably. I certainly think the boomers are robbing a few generations of their due by sticking around and holding onto all ressources for too long. Which is not fair, because they were themselves handed society in trust.

Immortality is just the extreme extension of this problem.

why does it matter what is improved in the future if you wont be alive to witness it?

Because society was not given to you, it was loaned. You have a duty to the future much like the past had a duty to you.

If you break that, things stop existing.

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I for one would be ecstatic to have my parents around for longer, along with the rest of their generation, even if it robs my generation of its due.

I agree that greatly extending the human lifespan would cause massive societal problems. I am willing to struggle with those massive societal problems for as many centuries as it takes.

I think it's pointed out elsewhere in this thread, but this is where the bright line between immortality and anti-aging is fuzzy. Had we robust ways of dealing with those societal problems one might be able to consider integrating that technology.

But to remove death in the absolute is clearly over the line for me. I won't go into the minute details of why given there's seemingly endless art that explores the topic.

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Stagnant organisms lose the possibility to change, and therefore to adapt.

Again, an ability that they only don't have as long as the evolutionary process didn't deem it necessary for them to propagate. Or as long as they don't research neuroplasticity restoration and body modification.

Well your children presumably.

I'm sure I'll reckon with my children amicably, somehow. Another incentive for us all to go to space. We could also explore all those proposals about social systems that discourage concentrating wealth in a few people's hands...

"It's not like you can take it to the grave" would certainly age like milk.

as they don't research

All I'm hearing is a communist assuring me that once computers get good enough, they'll solve the economic calculation problem and we'll have FALGSC.

I hold this to be wish fulfillment untethered to reality, like a lot of futurism.

I'm sure I'll reckon with my children amicably,

I don't think you will. Chronos didn't really get along very well with Zeus.

Another incentive for us all to go to space.

Fair enough, but I hold no objection to that. Exploration is, in fact, quite natural for humans.

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You are a traitor to humanity, aider and abetter of the Great Enemy. I genuinely can't believe so many people hold this view.

Right back at you, neighbor.

You posted somewhere else in the thread that the obvious core drive of a human is to escape death. I assure you, I find that statement as repugnant as you appear to find its opposite. I see it as a repudiation of everything I recognize as noble within humanity, of the true core function to choose well from limited, fraught options. Obviously, I can't force you to adopt my view, and neither can you force me to adopt mine. All that can be done is to point out that the chasm between values, even for baseline, unmodified humans, yawns wide indeed.

I’m glad we have so much diversity of values!

I was a bit hyperbolic there I admit - I apologize. What do you find noble in humanity?

What do you find noble in humanity?

The ability to choose what is Good, even when the choice is hard. Death and pain are among the things that make it hard, but it seems to me that one of the choices we have to make is between accepting them, and acquiescing to them. Avoiding death is of great value, but it is not a terminal value. Treating it as a terminal value often allows one to be "forced" into choosing evil, in an attempt to avoid the ultimately unavoidable. Evil is the Great Enemy. Death is just an unfortunate fact. One might as reasonably declare that the speed of light is the Great Enemy, and all that matters is breaking physics by achieving FTL. Any passive feature of reality can be transformed into the ultimate villian, if one is willing to torture perspective sufficiently.

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You posted somewhere else in the thread that the obvious core drive of a human is to escape death. I assure you, I find that statement as repugnant as you appear to find its opposite.

You're Christian, yes?

I find the Christian objection to transhumanist anti-death pushes fascinating, because "death" means such different things to Christians and atheists. To a Christian, there is no need to escape death on Earth, because Christ already overcame the bonds of death for us with the Resurrection, and we too will be resurrected and raised to a state of perfection if we hold firm. To seek to overcome death on Earth looks like pursuing a shallow, partial, impossible form of what is already granted free of cost to all of us. Christians have fulfilled this drive already in their minds. The rest of us, lacking such a perceptual safety net, do what we must.

This fundamental disconnect over what death is makes it complex to have a meaningful conversation about the nobility of pursuit of immortality between Christians and non-Christians, as the rest of us seek to build what you believe you already have.

the resurrected person would be a copy of that person who long ago died and was buried in a grave, I think its arguable to say that its the same thing as extending your life without death.

I am Christian, but I've been an atheist too. Even from an Atheist perspective, I think people are better off making their peace with death than fighting to the bitter end. One of the things that makes life good is people being willing to eat the badness set before them, rather than desperately attempt to avoid it or pass it off to others. Even on the assumption that death is the absolute end, how one reacts to that end is the product of immediate and indirect choices. Abject terror is largely, I think, a choice, and not a very good one given that it seems pretty unlikely to me that such death is going to be avoided for most of the current population. Where such fears grow especially pernicious is when the threat of death might appear to be forestalled by exploiting or victimizing others. In that case, the opportunity for evil is nearly boundless, and the attitude that takes death to be the worst possible thing just weakens one's resolve.

I assure you, I find that statement as repugnant as you appear to find its opposite. I see it as a repudiation of everything I recognize as noble within humanity, of the true core function to choose well from limited, fraught options.

Then you die and let me do as I will.

Seems that describes you better since you don't even want to be part of humanity.

Humans die. People that don't are something else.

As I’ve said elsewhere I’ll die, I just hope it’s billions of years away instead of 50 years away. What’s the difference?

I don't think Catholics would have a problem with anti-aging technology. They don't have a problem with binoculars, even if they give people the ability to see further than normal healthy human eyes could. Rather it's more tied to the concept of human flourishing, things that provide a force multiplier to human nature are fine. See The Metaphysics of Bionic Implants.

Catholics reject surrogacy because they reject IVF and the commodification of human life. They see the relationship between a mother and a child as the clearest indicator that humans cannot be reduced to individuals forming contracts, but rather we are social creatures who work towards common goods. Making a child outside of an act of love between two married people is a farce and a sin against the child - but at least usually it's a sin of passion. Surrogacy is a dispassionate sin where the maternal relationship is broken with a contract - a dramatic inversion of the family being the last bulwark against a pure Lockean society.

Doesn't the whole "Heaven" thing require that you die, as opposed to sticking around and possibly, God forbid, start getting ideas of building your own heaven on earth?

Answering as a Catholic: I assure you, this world will pass away eventually. Anti-Aging wouldn't stop the second coming of Christ, it won't even stop the heat death of the universe.

I strongly doubt our ability to build a just society on Earth on our own power, but if it happens that would be great - it's one of the things we were made to do.

this world will pass away eventually. Anti-Aging wouldn't stop the second coming of Christ, it won't even stop the heat death of the universe.

In that case I don't see why not stick around until whichever comes earlier.

I don't disagree, assuming we can solve the problems of overpopulation and acedia without creating a worse mess.

Catholics have had a longstanding argument about which kinds of technological help are warranted within a respect for God's creation and I must say I find their conclusions very reasonable.

Yes! I feel a bit insecure recommending Catholic teachings, because it's been a while since I heard / read them, but there are some half-remembered arguments that are bouncing around my head, that I'm recently finding myself sympathetic towards. So that would also be my official response @Gillitrut.

if becoming a "cross-over between Umgah Blobbies and the Borg" leads people to live longer, happier lives of the kind they want to have I think that's good, whether or not you (or anyone) would call the resulting entities "human."

That's fair enough, but to that I always say the lines are drawn, and all that is left for us is to do battle.

Or let's divide the territory at least. Since you're the transhumanist, can't you go live on Mars, or something? It would be a lot easier for you than for me.

Or let's divide the territory at least. Since you're the transhumanist, can't you go live on Mars, or something? It would be a lot easier for you than for me.

I resent being asked to move for your sake, but I could personally be convinced.

Hypothetically, let's assume that 10 billion humans are assigned equal chunks of the lightcone, including Earth. Since I'm not particularly attached to the latter, but most are, prompting very high demand, I would trade my share of Earth for any of- several thousand square kilometers of Mars/ a Jovian moon/ an exoplanet nearby/ a distant star system/ a very distant galaxy at the end of the lightcone. You're welcome to buy it off me if you care so much.

It can't be worth much to you can it? 99.9999% of the volume of the universe is unsuitable for baseline humans, and with your disdain for enhancement, you wouldn't survive the journey to the nearest star system in the first place. If all you luddites want to pool together and buy Earth to keep in stasis till the Sun engulfs it, that's entirely your right, as long as you suitably compensate the more sensible.

Just out of curiosity: what are you going to do on Mars, or in the patch of empty space in the distant star system you own, or whatever? What sort of plans do you have, outside of just owning more and more space?

Me personally? I'll become a mind upload if technologically feasible, and I see little reason it won't in the long term.

Such an entity has far lower resource footprints compared to an equivalent human in space, considering life support. All you need is a steady supply of spare parts for the computers and energy, which is available in copious amounts via fusion or solar.

So I would end up owning a large patch of land to store my compute, and any robotic industrial equipment I need for self sufficiency or simply for trade with neighbors. That's more doable when you live close to others in tightly packed neighborhoods, which is why I value a large chunk of Mars as much as an entire exoplanet. It'll be livelier if nothing else.

So once I have my share, I'll be living mostly inside simulations, running autonomously on the outside, and doing my own thing till Heat Death. I'd likely end up in a community of like minded people, or just forks of my own consciousness or children.

TLDR: I largely care about the resources and opportunity cost of a plot of land/space. Since it takes an enormous amount of time and energy in a dying universe to travel, I value a smaller sum nearby, in company, over a larger one further away or less populated and convenient.

So once I have my share, I'll be living mostly inside simulations, running autonomously on the outside, and doing my own thing till Heat Death. I'd likely end up in a community of like minded people, or just forks of my own consciousness or children.

So you wouldn't value physical exploration/discovery at all? I'd like to spend at least a few centuries venturing out. Sitting in the same server on Mars for my immortal life sounds dull, although I agree that valuing community over novelty is a good long term plan.

Keep in mind that as a mind upload, I can trivially fork and modify my consciousness, so sending a copy of myself out to explore the universe is no issue.

I can't say that would likely be a major priority for me, given the sheer travel time, and the fact that I can experience most of it in VR, but it's always an option.

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The same plans people had on the frontier, but with a higher range of activities and environments available?

I resent being asked to move for your sake, but I could personally be convinced.

Why the resentment? I can be the one to move if it bothers you so much! Use your superhuman capabilities to build us a Space Ark, and launch us to Proxima Centauri, and I'll be the first to buy the tickets!

as long as you suitably compensate the more sensible.

What? Not stabbing you in your sleep before you turn yourself into a cyborg is not enough?

How about I receive "not getting stabbed in my sleep for daring to do something to my own body", and you receive "not getting herded into a luddite concentration camp before you lot start stabbing people"?

What? Not stabbing you in your sleep before you turn yourself into a cyborg is not enough?

I reject your gift of charity as much as I reject the mugger offering me an otherwise stunning deal of 60 years of my life for the low, low price of the contents of my wallet.

CC @IGI-111

I guess being neither Catholic nor religious I don't find arguments about humans being a certain way relative to God's intention to be very convincing.

Or let's divide the territory at least. Since you're the transhumanist, can't you go live on Mars, or something? It would be a lot easier for you than for me.

I don't see any reason why peaceful coexistence isn't possible.

I'm not Catholic either, but I am a perennialist which is really all that's required to hold such a view: to recognize that there is an immutable (or at the very least very very slowly mutable) human nature.

I'm also of the opinion that part of this nature makes humans unwise, and certainly unwise enough that them being in charge of their own condition is the harbinger of catastrophe. We suck at planning, everything we do has unforeseen consequences and the Enlightenment, which is most essentially the project to organize the world using reason, is a massive failure.

Like I'm fond of saying around these parts, the Jovians are the good guys in Eclipse Phase.

I don't see any reason why peaceful coexistence isn't possible.

Because I don't think you would leave us (and by us I mean humans) alone. Hence why the strict minimum of North Korea strong borders and armed neutrality is required.

This is simply drawn from the experience of history. Progressives can't help themselves from being universalists and try to insert their agenda in literally any traditional project. Ask any country colonized by Europe. Or more recently, Afghanistan.

I am unclear on what this human nature is. Humans seem very different to me all over the world such that it would be difficult to ascribe some specific nature to all of them.

I'm also of the opinion that part of this nature makes humans unwise, and certainly unwise enough that them being in charge of their own condition is the harbinger of catastrophe. We suck at planning, everything we do has unforeseen consequences and the Enlightenment, which is most essentially the project to organize the world using reason, is a massive failure.

Can you quantify the "humans" that are unwise enough such that being charge of our own condition is catastrophe? With an existential quantifier it seems trivial (surely some humans are so unwise it is catastrophic for them to manage their own condition) and with a universal quantifier it seems clearly false (no human is wise enough to manage their own condition). Indeed, unless you're an anarchist it seems like you believe some humans are wise enough to manage the condition of others, let alone their own condition.

Because I don't think you would leave us (and by us I mean humans) alone. Hence why the strict minimum of North Korea strong borders and armed neutrality is required.

What do you mean by "leave [humans] alone?" Like, we're not permitted to interact at all? To evangelize alternative ways of being? Are humans permitted to do the opposite? To decry why us not-humans are inferior and no one should be like us?

Humans seem very different to me all over the world such that it would be difficult to ascribe some specific nature to all of them.

That's funny because Humans seem very similar to me all over the world. They all have the attributes Aristostle and Confuscius independently identified them as having.

Can you quantify the "humans" that are unwise enough such that being charge of our own condition is catastrophe?

That's easy, the number is zero. No man is wise enough for such a task. The wish to be as gods is always and forever delusional hubris.

unless you're an anarchist it seems like you believe some humans are wise enough to manage the condition of others, let alone their own condition.

First, the human condition and society are different things. Humans have to manage society as a pragmatic necessity, and yet it's established that you can't just hand this out to a single person's whims without ending up with what we call tyranny. All successful societies pretty much have complex methods to eliminate these problems, and none of them have ultimately succeeded in avoiding catastrophic failure. Which is why societies, like humans, are always dying.

But the part we're talking about isn't the cultural aspect we've already fucked up pretty bad. It's biology, and the consequences of fucking with that are much more definitive and far reaching, not to mention our wishes around it extremely influenced by irrational pulsions.

Like, we're not permitted to interact at all?

Policy is of course contingent on practicality, but it would indeed be up and including that. Subversion is an existential risk that must be prevented regardless of it being done through hard or soft power. I reserve the right to suffer not the xeno, the mutant, the heretic if necessary.

Are humans permitted to do the opposite?

That's not for us to decide.

They all have the attributes Aristostle and Confuscius independently identified them as having.

Such as?


For the rest of this comment I feel like I need some clarification on "the human condition", biology, and the relation between them. It seems to me humans already manage our biology in ways great and small with mostly positive results. The person with cataracts who gets surgery, the deaf person who gets a cochlear implant, the diabetic who takes insulin, the person with a lethal allergy, are all managing their biology. Sometimes with life or death implications!

So what parts of our biology does "the human condition" consist of such that we are incompetent to manage these parts?

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I guess being neither Catholic nor religious I don't find arguments about humans being a certain way relative to God's intention to be very convincing.

Funnily enough, I'm not Catholic either. I've been an atheist for more than 20 years, I just can't help but find their moral framework compelling, regardless of whether or not god exists. I guess, as the joke goes, I'm a Catholic atheist.

I don't see any reason why peaceful coexistence isn't possible.

I'd like some degree of isolation, if it's all the same to you. Otherwise it's like trying to raise your children in modesty while neighboring a strip club.

I guess I don't understand what the source of the standard that it is appropriate to return humans to is in a more atheistic framework. I understand the logic of restoring people to Be the way God intended. What is the substitute for God in terms of determining what state it is appropriate to return humans to?

As a youth interested in sci-fi and fantasy, Transhumanism always sounded so cool. I can't help but feel that now that it is actually happening, people have made it so lame.

Some of it must be a definition problem. The "trans" part can mean two things: Transition or Transcend. The modern lexicon seems to always have it meaning Transition. You transition from one standard human role to another standard human role. This to me is the lame form of transhumanism. The cool form of transhumanism would have that baby being born in a medical pod. You are railing against role players, actors, fakes. Hollywood seems to have permeated all of society, where the best thing people can do is just play a different role. So boring. I wish you had the real transhumanism to be angry about.

Pod babies, semi-immortal brains in vats, machine enhanced human bodies (more than just a couple of medically necessary interventions like pace-makers), nervous systems transfers, rampant human cloning, etc. None of it exists, none of it is even that close to existing. Transcendent humanism seems deader than ever. Where I once had a hope for it to come about, I'm now more certain than ever that the future belongs to the machines. Not even machines simulating human brains, or building an afterlife for biologically dead humans. Just boring machines running algorithms.

Unless AI turns out to be a real bust, none of this will matter, because biology is just too slow. I tell you this as someone who doesn't see some versions of the "borg" as a bad outcome: the borg ain't happening. There are a couple larpers out there, but they'll all either be dead or swept into the zoo exhibit with the rest of us before any cool Transhumanism comes to pass.

There's another meaning of trans that you are missing: transgress.

I had a thought recently which clarified my views on the trans issue. "What if there were no trans people because everyone was born with their correct gender. Would this be a good thing?". According to standard trans ideology, this would be ideal since people only transition to match their perceived gender. They are girls trapped in a boy's body (or vice versa). If Eliot Page were born a male there would be no need to transition. Right?

I believe that a trans activist would bristle at this suggestion. Changing one's gender is not the goal. The transition itself, and the struggle attached to it, is the goal.

In fact, if transition were perfect, the politics would change. Imagine again a magic wand which perfectly changed your gender with no side effects. If that existed, many people would change their gender. It wouldn't even be controversial. And in any ways, it'd be impossible to tell. I'd probably change my gender (temporarily) just to see what it's like to be a woman.

But that would defeat the point. Trans ideology derives its value from the extreme cost and sacrifice needed to change genders. You can't be stunning and brave when it's easy. And the uncanny appearance of many trans people also serves to highlight the immensity of their decision. In this way, I think trans people are similar to Christian or Indian ascetics whose emaciated appearance horrifies and awes the public. A person who believes in something so strongly that they are willing to mutilate their body is certainly worthy of some form of respect.

So what is gender transition if not the ultimate transgression against nature, your parents, and society at large? Like Christianity before it, post-modern ideology celebrates weakness, victimhood, and transgression. Trans people are the modern ascetics, whose extreme commitment to the cause cannot be questioned.

This is an important insight about Queer Theory and the Critical tradition more broadly: permanent revolution is the primary, central goal of the entire intellectual framework. As soon as something has achieved any degree of stable cultural acceptance, it becomes conservative by definition and needs to be transgressed and sublated in turn. What is today’s radical fringe will be tomorrow’s normie cringe. Trans people who get “bottom surgery” might be on the cutting edge of transformation today, but if the Queer Theorists get their way, 100 years from now the same people will be seen as utterly reactionary for reifying the very idea that the physical body has any necessary relationship to identity at all.

This is an important insight about Queer Theory and the Critical tradition more broadly: permanent revolution is the primary, central goal of the entire intellectual framework.

No, that doesn't follow. The goal of many of these people is socialism for a reason, the idea of a stateless society where everyone voluntarily works for authentic happiness without coercion is the utopia at the end of the road. It necessarily follows that they would not go the route of "actually, we need monarchy cause statelessness is now so traditional".

Indeed, the entire point of permanent revolution was about socialist/communist political parties not settling for democratic reforms, but to agitate for socialism or communism. They aren't revolutionary inherently, they're revolutionary because no one was giving them what they actually wanted. If I notice that you are hungry and give you one slice of an apple and you still insist you are hungry, it is insane for me to call you a thief who was never motivated by hunger at all.

Trans people who get “bottom surgery” might be on the cutting edge of transformation today, but if the Queer Theorists get their way, 100 years from now the same people will be seen as utterly reactionary for reifying the very idea that the physical body has any necessary relationship to identity at all.

You're out of touch with progressive rhetoric. This is already happening and has been a standard argument made for a while now.

I think that you are the one who is out of touch with progressive rhetoric, given that you’re still assuming that these people are operating in a Marxist materialist frame, whereas I think the evidence is substantial that in a post-Gramscian, post-Marcusian paradigm, things have moved past the simple drive toward establishing an anarcho-communist society free of material coercion of labor, and has instead allowed the Gnostic/Hermetic theological elements - present in Marxism from the beginning via Hegel - to transcend the materialist elements of Marxism. I’m drawing mostly from James Lindsay’s analysis of Critical Theory or post-Marxism as a religious/Gnostic faith centered around the Hegelian dialectic, which seeks to totally transcend humanity and rebuild God.

Again, it just doesn't follow. By and large, progressive intellectuals and activists are not interested in being permanent rebels, they want to be the people making decisions at the end of the day. It is true that they are more prone to infighting, but all of those groups have a utopia in mind, even if they don't crystallize it. Even your point about them wanting to rebuild God implies a religious utopia filled with moral people.

Moreover, you're dead wrong about my being out of touch on the trans point, or are you just conceding that? Because the entire premise of progressive gender ideology is that gender is innate and not determined by body at all. You don't have to transition physically to be trans in the trans activist camp, not one bit.

By and large, progressive intellectuals and activists are not interested in being permanent rebels, they want to be the people making decisions at the end of the day.

That's where next generation of rebels come in. You can't have a permanent revolution changing things toward the ideal society if you let one generation think it got it exactly right.

It's the struggle that matters - that's the only thing.

Can you define "permanent revolution" for me? Because I think you and the people in question have very different understandings of what those are.

Secondly, they're not creating a generation of rebels. They only become rebels insofar as the current system is undesirable. Progressives do not raise children with the terminal goal of fighting without respect to what is being fought for. Their terminal values are things that, if implemented, they would 100% not tolerate deviation from.

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You don't have to transition physically to be trans in the trans activist camp, not one bit.

Then why in God’s name are children, let alone adults, being given “trans-affirming healthcare”? What are all the puberty blockers, top and bottom surgeries, etc. for, if gender identity has no connection to the body? I’m fully aware that there is a gender-abolitionist and/or “gender-fucking” faction within the Queer activist vanguard, but it is very obvious to me that the actual Overton window is still centered on costly biomedical engineering of bodies in order to produce consonance between the physical and the psychological/spiritual elements of gender identity. Are you arguing that this is already the stale and passé approach of people who are not on the, ahem, cutting edge? Even though it is ramping up and expanding by the month and appears to be gaining more steam than ever?

Then why in God’s name are children, let alone adults, being given “trans-affirming healthcare”? What are all the puberty blockers, top and bottom surgeries, etc. for, if gender identity has no connection to the body?

Trans activists are consistently clear that some trans people want to transition and others don't, but both are equally the gender they say they are. This was a major point about the Attack Helicopter poem that was rejected for transphobia, people afterwards went around reminding others that the trans experience varies from person to person. Some want to physically alter their bodies, others don't.

The reason for gender-affirming care for children is that they're on a timer - if you wait until they are adults to see if the dysphoria goes away, you get some people whose bodies have been permanently altered via puberty and this causes significant distress. The idea behind the blockers is that delaying puberty doesn't cause any harm (the accuracy of this idea is irrelevant, we're asking why they do something).

As for why we talk about those who physically transition, that should be obvious. The ones who don't want to never get media attention on them. Action naturally attracts attention in a way that inaction doesn't.

Trans activists are fighting for all trans people, regardless of whether they transition physically or not. This has never been in contention.

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I believe that a trans activist would bristle at this suggestion. Changing one's gender is not the goal. The transition itself, and the struggle attached to it, is the goal.

The goal isn't to change one's gender. The goal is to change one's body to match perceived gender.

I would like to see evidence of this view by activists. It's strong and uncharitable enough to require it.

Uh, what? I'm aware that Chu once defined femaleness as having the barest essentials of "an open mouth, an expectant asshole", but I'm not aware of any view of hers that would validate the view that struggle is itself the goal.

I know nothing about how well-received or accepted Chu's position is, but my guess is that it's not a popular or widely-held stance. Even amongst trans activists, you rarely hear them talk so explicitly in pornographic terms. Chu supposedly started down the trans path by watching sissy porn, and I don't think that's a common method of awakening transgender feelings in people.

Sure. The question is still how prevalent Chu's view is among trans activists.

Your proposition is bristled at because they assume you're saying "what if" and sneaking in "it is". I assume that's a large part of it.

Some of it, of course, is bristling at an existential attack on one's community. Unfortunately, that tends to be counterproductive when a community is supposed to be transient (ha!) or transitive in the first place.

Unfortunately, that tends to be counterproductive when a community is supposed to be transient (ha!) or transitive in the first place.

Yes, my point exactly. If perfect transition and acceptance were possible it would defeat the point entirely. There would be no trans people, only men and women.

The community claims to want to be erased, "trans women are women", but they don't actually want to be erased. It is the transition, the journey, that is the point. The actual destination is not just man or woman, but a trans man or woman. And to the progressive community there is great value in a "trans" identify which is separate from a gender identity. Because the presence of these people serves as evidence of the huge sacrifices people are willing to endure for the cause.

If perfect transition and acceptance were possible it would defeat the point entirely. There would be no trans people, only men and women.

I think you're seriously underestimating the number of people who would still be opposed to the use of this gender-swapping magic wand because it is an affront to God or something to that effect.

The community claims to want to be erased, "trans women are women", but they don't actually want to be erased. It is the transition, the journey, that is the point. The actual destination is not just man or woman, but a trans man or woman. And to the progressive community there is great value in a "trans" identify which is separate from a gender identity. Because the presence of these people serves as evidence of the huge sacrifices people are willing to endure for the cause.

There is some selection bias here: you generally only hear from the trans people who want people to hear from them, and you only identify ("clock") as trans those trans people who don't pass well (plus the occasional false positive). Trans people who just want to be seen as their gender and not as trans-their-gender, and who pass reasonably well, certainly do exist, but they are by their nature invisible.

Bruh, I really want to have the people who claimed those two women were trans subject themselves to a visual acuity test. They're so evidently not it's painful to me haha

The cool form of transhumanism would have that baby being born in a medical pod.

I think this vision of the future suffers from the fact that we humans are very squeamish when it comes to experimenting on humans, especially children. The idea of "decanting" children is both itself rather dystopian (literally Brave New World) in how it rends the family, but the development of the technology itself seems likely to leave a trail of miserable, short lives for children born with severe birth defects when the technology is less than perfect. Like self-driving cars, I think the technology would need to be much safer than natural human reproduction to convince people to switch, but unlike cars, there isn't really a viable simulacrum or small-scale ethical model that could be tested. I suppose you could decant monkeys or something, but how would you know if they end up the equivalent of 15 IQ points lower than naturally-born specimens? I can't see how you'd convince your IRB, nay, the public at large, that you're not going to be remembered as the second coming of Josef Mengele for bringing a bunch of broken humans into the world.

There have been a number of papers showing heightened rates of certain conditions with IVF ranging from certain childhood cancers to long-term general health (admittedly, no better than the rest of medical scientific research, aka trash), and it's a topic that's very hard to broach publicly without seeming to Hate Babies.

The cool form of transhumanism would have that baby being born in a medical pod... Pod babies, semi-immortal brains in vats, machine enhanced human bodies (more than just a couple of medically necessary interventions like pace-makers), nervous systems transfers, rampant human cloning, etc. None of it exists, none of it is even that close to existing.

If they did, would there not be countless cries of outrage about what a disgusting affront to God and Nature each of those things are, too?

People often defend surrogacy with the idea that people have the right to do what they want with their bodies. I appreciate and respect those willing to stand in a libertarian defense of something I value, but for my part, I strongly prefer a more affirmative case.

For context, my husband and I are currently talking with a potential surrogate and working out some of the many, many logistical challenges on the road to parenthood. We're in early stages, and there is a great deal to be worked out, but we fully intend on becoming parents as soon as realistically possible. Given that, none of this debate is abstract for me, and I am as far from a neutral party as one can get.

While there are cases in which I respect the value of libertarian frameworks legally and I lean far towards "live and let live" from a metacultural standpoint, there is nothing libertarian about my moral approach to life. I do not believe all choices are equally valid or that there is nothing wrong with hedonism. I do not see things like parenthood as neutral choices that people can take or leave. Rather, what is perhaps my most fundamental philosophical conviction is this: life is Good, human life especially so. The most natural things in the universe are death, decay, and emptiness. Growth, life, and creation are fragile anomalies. We belong to an eons-long heritage of those who have committed to building and maintaining life in the face of inevitable decay. Our duty is to do the same.

Becoming a parent and raising children well is, put simply, the most good almost anyone in the world can do. It is a force multiplier: the good an individual can do is necessarily constrained compared to what their descendants can accomplish. People try to dodge around this, and even longtermists like Will MacAskill who intellectually understand the value of parenthood make excuses for it in their own lives. But it seems incontrovertibly true to me. People, particularly if they are in a position to provide well for children, should become parents. It is not a neutral action among many neutral actions. It is a moral ideal that people should pursue.

All of this takes us to adoption and surrogacy. I accept as a given that the ideal situation for a child is to be raised by their biological parents in a stable home. Inasmuch as social science is worthwhile to note, it has mostly backed this idea up. But for the most part, when people pursue other outcomes, the choice is not between "have biological parents raise a given child in a stable home" and "pursue other family structures for that child". For adoption, the value is obvious and non-controversial given the choice: "bring a child into a loving, stable home without its biological parents" or "send the child to an orphanage, toss it to the wolves, or pursue one of many other tragic outcomes for unwanted children". For most cases of surrogacy, the choice is a bit different: "create a child that will be raised by one or both biological parents in a stable home, but whose birth mother is not their genetic mother or caretaker" or "create no child".

Some people's moral intuitions are that nonexistence is preferable to, or not obviously worse than, existence in a less-than-ideal setting. I wholly reject this intuition, and looking at the record of the persistence of life in the face of adversity, belong to a heritage of those who have, time and time again, rejected it. Life is Good.

As for surrogate mothers? There is nobility, dignity, and grace in parenthood. Bringing a child into the world is an act of hope. To do so on behalf of another, even when provided financial compensation, is not a neutral or profit-focused choice. It's certainly not something that could or should ever be demanded of someone. It's a selfless choice both on behalf of the child who would otherwise not be born and the prospective parents who would otherwise have no children. The woman I've been talking a bit about it with is a young mother who feels she is not in a spot to responsibly raise more children of her own, but strongly wants to keep having children on behalf of others. That's a standard profile for a surrogate, and it's one I see as deeply admirable.

On my own behalf, I claim no fundamental right to have children, because I claim no rights that require others to act. But I absolutely claim that a society in which those who are equipped to raise children, and want to do so, can work alongside those who want to give birth to others' children is in a better spot than one that keeps children with potential to lead meaningful lives from being born. For my own part, while I won't claim to any extraordinary personal ability in terms of parenting, I have no doubt whatsoever that my husband is someone who should be a father, and I am grateful to live in a world where that's a possibility.

There are margins at which some of these arguments shift. There are absolutely exploitative and tragic environments that should be understood and called out. There are settings into which it's not appropriate to bring a child, and edge cases to analyze and discuss. My aim here is not to address all edge cases, but to examine the central case, and in particular, the case for an educated, well-off prospective parent in a society with lower-than-replacement fertility and increasing dismissiveness towards the value of parenthood. Life is worth pursuing and preserving to such a degree that you can get very far from the true ideal case before nonexistence is better than existence, or choosing not to become a parent is better than choosing to become one.

Is this all a foot in the door for transhumanism? I won't speak for others, but on my own behalf I eagerly answer: yes. In a universe where the most natural things are death, decay, and emptiness and all of life is in rebellion against that natural state, it is not just acceptable to prioritize what is Good over what is natural, it is correct. While we all must come to peace with limitations we cannot change, the high points of human history have been our collective work to push back against that creeping entropy and the arbitrary, often cruel limits it imposes. We have already become much more than we once were, and we can and should become much more than we are now.

For context, my husband and I are currently talking with a potential surrogate.

Oh man, this was supposed to be a fun abstract culture war spat. The vintage type, before wokeness, like when we used to hate each other about abortion. I don't know if I can do this when real stakes are involved.

I don't suppose there's anything I can do to change your mind? Any alternatives I can get you to consider? How about one of those dating sites for people who want to have kids? I heard they're popular with gay peolple. Anything where you wouldn't literally be purchasing another human being?

Aye, that's the trouble with culture war spats, isn't it? None of them are abstract for everyone, and the culture war has real stakes. I want to live in a culture where my family and I can live according to our values and build alongside people who share those values. Emphasizing where surrogacy fits within that frame, and carving out space where people won't look at my family with the sort of suspicion and hissing condemnation @Catsnakes_ below illustrates is a real, important part of that.

To opponents of surrogacy, "literally purchasing another human being" and "providing compensation for the complex and demanding circumstances needed to create a human being" are a distinction without a difference; all I can say is that I see a crucial distinction, and see surrogacy as no more purchasing a human being than IVF or, more disputably, paying a hospital for childbirth. We live in a world where money is inextricably tied up in even intimate human interactions, but that doesn't strip them of their humanity or their worth.

As for changing my mind—look, obviously people stake a lot on major life decisions, and I can't pretend I expect my mind to change on this one. If it were to change, though, it would happen the same way it always does: either by convincing me that some of my values are poorly conceived, or working within the frame of my own values to convince me that my plans don't live up to them. That's why I don't really expect a change, of course—I've spent a long while considering my values and finding the right landing spot, and I suspect I'm mostly past the stage of serious, rather than marginal, adjustments. But the pathway to change is straightforward.

Aye, that's the trouble with culture war spats, isn't it? None of them are abstract for everyone, and the culture war has real stakes.

There's degrees of it though. I can show more sympathy when discussing trans issues with a trans person, and just focus on the facts of the matter. This is a pure values disagreement and it's hard to get around that. It's fun enough discussing those too, but the fun quickly evaporates when you discover the person you're arguing about Roe vs Wade with is getting an abortion next week.

I want to live in a culture where my family and I can live according to our values and build alongside people who share those values.

Yes, everybody does, there's the rub isn't it?

Emphasizing where surrogacy fits within that frame, and carving out space where people won't look at my family with the sort of suspicion and hissing condemnation @Catsnakes_ below illustrates is a real, important part of that.

Funnily enough Botonds comment could be interpreted as poking fun at either one of us, but I'm going to use it to support my argument here. Yes, what you want is understandable, again that's what everybody wants for themselves, but your comment is written in a weird way that seems to imply your values are best values. If you found out your next door neighbor is a cannibal - not a murderer mind you, everybody he eats is some weirdo he met online that wants to be eaten, you see stories like that every once in a while. Oh and let's say he doesn't even eat the whole person, just their hand or something, and the other guy is completely happy about it afterwards - wouldn't you let out the least bit of a hissing condemnation? Would you want the practice to be against the law? Would you want him to still be your neighbor? What would you make of the cannibal's pleas for wanting to live in a culture where he and his family can live according to their values?

The other thing is, while I find the dead-eyed "yes, I'm for surrogacy" attitude somewhat admirable, I can't help the resentment building up upon hearing the charming gay couple down the street, whose rights I helped fight for, tell me "what did you think was going to happen, bitch?". Thankfully there's plenty of gay people who are against surrogacy, so it's not all that bad, but Jesus, this has been a disturbing experience.

all I can say is that I see a crucial distinction, and see surrogacy as no more purchasing a human being than IVF or, more disputably, paying a hospital for childbirth. We live in a world where money is inextricably tied up in even intimate human interactions, but that doesn't strip them of their humanity or their worth.

I'm not really a fan of IVF either, but even it doesn't involve taking a child away from their mother, and paying for the hospital bed is in a completely different universe.

Well, of course everybody wants that.

I feel like you're reading my comment as saying "I, uniquely, want a values-driven society, and cruel people like you prevent that."

I'm not saying that. I'm saying that the rubber meets the road with values differences at some points, and that's where the culture war becomes most complex and most serious. It goes without saying that I believe my values are correct. They are, after all, my values. Others disagree with them, and the truce of liberalism is the most stable way I've seen to deal with those clashes up to this point, but the culture war stops being an abstract chat when your decisions cross someone else's line in the sand or vice versa. I condemn or criticize some choices. Some condemn or criticize my own. I have strong feelings about who is right and who is wrong in most culture war conflicts, but the stakes are high for everybody. At some point, conflicts or no, people decide what sort of life they want to live and find allies where they can. The value I have chosen to make my own stand on here is that bringing people into the world, becoming a parent, and working to raise children well is a good that should be pursued even as circumstances fall short of the most ideal.

The resentment you describe is understandable but a bit peculiar. There was no slippery slope from gay marriage to surrogacy. Gestational surrogacy has been legal in (most of) the United States since long before gay marriage was allowed. There was no carve-out in the push for legal marriage saying "we want to have all the legal rights straight married couples do, except for the option to pursue already legal surrogacy options". Marriage and surrogacy aren't even directly connected, except for questions like who the parents listed on birth certificates are: single men can pursue surrogacy, just like single women can find sperm donors.

Not to lean too much into the villain role in your story, but... what did you think was going to happen? Did you think all gay men who wanted to get married simply saw marriage in the shallower modern "if two people love each other very much..." light and not as the best option for stable, happy family formation and child-rearing? Did you see the collection of legal rights attached to marriage, routes to adoption and surrogacy that straight couples were already using, and assume gay people were simply uninterested; were you treating the idea as primarily symbolic rather than a specific legal change that would open up specific doors for people?

I'd have a hard time looking back on marriage equality advocacy and thinking that it was intended legitimately for family benefits. But I'm open to being corrected.

Family benefits were always part of the package. Andrew Sullivan's landmark 1989 argument, to my understanding the first major advocacy article on the topic in the US, is worth reviewing:

Marriage provides an anchor, if an arbitrary and weak one, in the chaos of sex and relationships to which we are all prone. It provides a mechanism for emotional stability, economic security, and the healthy rearing of the next generation. [...] Legalizing gay marriage would offer homosexuals the same deal society now offers heterosexuals: general social approval and specific legal advantages in exchange for a deeper and harder-to-extract-yourself from commitment to another human being. Like straight marriage, it would foster social cohesion, emotional security, and economic prudence. Since there’s no reason gays should not be allowed to adopt or be foster parents, it could also help nurture children.

Andrew Sullivan, one can point out, is for a gay man unusually conservative in his sensibilities and was making an unabashedly conservative argument in favor of gay marriage. But gay marriage has always been more the purview of the more conservative-minded in the subculture.

You're right that it's comparatively uncommon for gay couples to have kids, but it's more that their kids often don't enter the sphere of Public Discourse. I didn't know Neil Patrick Harris had kids. Looking it up, I see Anderson Cooper, Dan Savage, Jared Polis, and Perez Hilton have kids as well. Dave Rubin is a new father. It's not wildly common, but it's not an anomaly.

There was no slippery slope from gay marriage to surrogacy. Gestational surrogacy has been legal in (most of) the United States since long before gay marriage was allowed.

So part of the misunderstanding probably comes from geographical distance. Things look a bit different worldwide, and even in places where it's currently banned, we still get the western Blob's drumbeat about wonderful surrogacy is. From that perspective, surely it's more understandable how it looks like a slippery slope.

Not to lean too much into the villain role in your story, but... what did you think was going to happen? Did you think all gay men who wanted to get married simply saw marriage in the shallower modern "if two people love each other very much..." light and not as the best option for stable, happy family formation and child-rearing?

Since you asked the question directly, I've been trying to interrogate if I'm misremembering something. Is it that I was young and kids weren't on my mind? Maybe that was a part of it, but I distinctly remember adoption by gay couples being part of the controversy, and I assumed that that was going to cover the issue of gay people who want to start a family. Especially since gay people I knew were saying adoption isn't even that important to them (they were on the younger side as well though).

Neither IVF nor paying the hospital for delivering the baby involves paying someone else to make a baby and abandon it. Helping a woman give birth to her own child does not permanently deprive that child of their mother. Surrogacy does. Have you grappled with that?

Wait, why does surrogacy amount to depriving a child of their mother? If a hetero couple did surrogacy but raised that child as their own, there's a mother as far as the child is concerned. What exactly is the child losing if brought into the world via surrogacy that is irreplaceable?

Hetero surrogacy is just as bad. There is an important bond which is lost. A child carried in the womb for 9 months knows its mother. It already knows her voice and is familiar with her. This is not insignificant.

To go somewhat off topic for a moment: I am disgusted by the transhumanist fascination with artificial wombs for the same reason. A mother's womb is more than a growing medium. Nothing we can construct is going to be able to replicate it-- the entire thing is a wire monkey with extra steps.

A child carried in the womb for 9 months knows its mother. It already knows her voice and is familiar with her.

Gonna have to call bullshit on that one unless you have evidence. Children don't remember stuff that early, and certainly not from before they were born. To be clear, the evidence needs to be that it's typical for unborn babies to remember this stuff, not that it happened once in an exceptional case. I don't believe such evidence exists but if you have it I'll concede the point.

I wasn't talking about long term memories. There seems to be a consensus amongst experts that the fetus recognizes the mother's voice and heartbeat sounds, and recognizes her scent via exposure to amniotic fluid. This recognition continues when the baby is born, and it is believed that these familiar senses calm the newborn among other things. I'd prefer to give you links to research, but you'll have to settle for the deluge of popsci articles I can find on google, and knowing that this is what we were told by doctors as well. Here's one link [1], it's not an isolated example and there are tons more. Most of them seem to have at least some kind of citation at least. That said, expert consensus and common wisdom via experience is a kind of evidence of its own, even if there's not bulletproof research papers on the topic.

There's also evidence that skin to skin contact with their mother immediately after delivery results in lower stress, better ability to regulate body temperature, and other improved outcomes. I sincerely doubt that this suddenly stops being important after a week. This is easier to find research on, as well as a wealth of consensus online and it's standard practice in hospitals. [2]

It's also known that while obviously the mother goes through hormonal changes, even the expectant father in a pregnant couple goes through pre-partum hormonal changes that have an impact on parenting outcomes. [2] I can't find research on the topic, but it seems reasonable to assume that this is due to chemical signalling between mother and father and requires proximity, and not something that is likely to materialize spontaneously in the couple waiting to be handed a baby.

Frankly, I don't even think the burden of proof is on me. You want to deviate from a state of nature and the common wisdom, so you prove there's no harm. What do you think is more likely: the mother's womb is a sterile vessel, bonding with the mother that birthed it has absolutely no impact on life outcomes, and the hormonal changes that mothers and fathers go through are just for laughs? Or that the complex auditory, chemical, and physical signaling and bonding between newborn and mother throughout early infancy have a purpose of some kind that has a relevant impact?

[1] https://www.romper.com/parenting/how-does-a-baby-know-its-mother-it-comes-down-to-the-senses-25678

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6860199/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5313241/

ed: fixed links

I think (without initially opining on whether or not it's true that unborn babies recognise their mother's voice) that the evidence demanded sets too high a bar. It's not necessary for the child to remember their mother's voice at a later age for it to have an impact on their development, as Catsnakes is implying. It just needs to have an impact on their early life and then the effects can snowball from there.

For example, if the baby post-birth is less likely to settle when held by its not-mother (versus a hypothetical alternative where it was held by its mother) because it didn't recognise the not-mother's voice, this in turn goes on to impact how it relates to the not-mother at later ages, and so on into its broader relationships with other humans. Early development is important, and personality emerges at an early age, with newborns being different from birth.

To the object-level point: unborn babies respond differently to recordings of their mother's voice versus a stranger's- implying recognition. There's no reason why this recognition would cease post-birth. Study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12741744/

How do you go about proving that this has material consequences for the child? What is your proof that this is causing them harm?

Aye, that's the trouble with culture war spats, isn't it? None of them are abstract for everyone, and the culture war has real stakes.

Back before the SSC-Motte split happened on Reddit, among the resident disaffected leftists on SSC was some guy with an Arabic-sounding username. I forgot what it was, and he deleted the account a long time ago, or it got suspended. Anyway, one time he posted the usual and frankly boring leftist complaint of SSCer quasi-incel garbage humans tolerating the online presence of literal Nazis and even getting into discussions with them. He based his complaint on the argument that ‘if this side wins in the culture war, many of my buds will get executed as degenerate gays, so for me this all is deeply personal, I’m not just here to hang out etc.’

Needless to say, it seemingly never occurred to him (at least there was no sign of this) that if the OTHER side wins, then, according to the same logic, many people will get executed/gulaged for being landlords, venture capitalists, GOP officials, for supporting Proposition 8 or whatever it was, for opposing the toppling of Confederate monuments, for denying that gas chambers were used in Majdanek etc. It just didn’t register on his radar. Weird.

Unfortunately, the alternative to "go with a surrogacy service" isn't "find a dating site with someone who enjoys pregnancy enough to do it for free", for almost anyone. Trivially, while there's not a ton of gay couples looking for surrogates, but there's even fewer women with pregnancy (and turkey baster) kinks, and even of those not all want to go through the full process, and even fewer can absorb the financial and workweek ramifications.

((And I'm not sure the objection specified by @Catsnakes_ of "paying someone else to make a baby and abandon it" 'reals'; people have focused on adoption as a comparison, but there's other metaphors that break things. If I found a lady willing to do the initial part of the baby-making for free, but we went with embryo transfer at six days, is that better? What about vice versa, from a paid genetic surrogate to a gratis gestational one?))

I think an easier way to solve this Gordian knot (if you'll excuse the Solomon metaphor) is just to get rid of the 'abandon it' side. There's nothing in surrogacy that requires the gestational mother to be kicked out; to the minimal extent breaking contact has been favored in the past reflected legal concerns. Paying a mother to let you help raise a kid is a lot less fraught, and has a much longer historical background.

Unfortunately, the alternative to "go with a surrogacy service" isn't "find a dating site with someone who enjoys pregnancy enough to do it for free", for almost anyone. Trivially, while there's not a ton of gay couples looking for surrogates, but there's even fewer women with pregnancy (and turkey baster) kinks, and even of those not all want to go through the full process, and even fewer can absorb the financial and workweek ramifications.

I brought it up because I know for a fact that these sites, and these women do actually exist - although not quite in the way you described it. I saw one in my country, but Google turns up a bunch of American examples (1, 2). The big difference is that these women actually want to have a kid, so you wouldn't get to keep it exclusively, but the whole "commissioning the creation of a child, only to yank them away from their mother's loving breast" is part of the horror of surrogacy to me, so having both parents involved in the child's life is the whole point. I find these "quick, anyone, let's make a baby!" "dating" sites, quite morbid themselves, but they're way better than surrogacy.

A child needs its mother. A baby knows its mother from the time it is sensate. It knows her sounds, her voice, how she moves. She is safety and comfort and everything else to that child. Physical contact with the skin of the baby's mother, especially immediately after birth but throughout its early infancy is known to be important to the baby's well being. It's already an agonizing tragedy that there are so many orphans that already have to grow up without theirs, and those who adopt are doing a good thing but something that is a distant second best to the child being with its mother. But to specifically pay to create a child so that you can take it away from its mother is a disgusting evil worse than almost anything I can think of. What you are talking about doing wrongs a child in a way you can never repair. Your husband should not be, does not deserve, and does not need to be a father. The degree of selfishness involved in this entire concept disqualifies both of you permanently.

How do you feel about the failures from IVF?

That seems obviously the case to me.

Yes.

Shaming prospective parents is a disgusting evil if you ask me.

For centuries, it was common practice for women to defer their mothering to working women in the form of nannies, midwives, and wet nurses. How disgusting and evil were these practices? Did they forever ruin the lives of those who grew up under them? The child didn't have its mother- can it not lead a fulfilling existence now? Is this really that scary? Countless women have also died in childbirth, leaving children with no mother at all. Unless you can convince me that these situations are most likely to produce children who, due to separation from their mothers, would have been better off unborn, it doesn't really counter TracingWoodgrains's line of thinking at all.

Two well-off parents who want a child are already set up to do a lot better for their kids than most anyone else. You praise these mystical values of motherhood, but it's without substance. It sounds like an aesthetic preference built around an ideal of the gentle and loving mother that just isn't as common as you'd hope. I find it hard to imagine that the legions of drug-addicted single moms saddled with kids they resent are going to offer their children a much better life than a couple of men raising a kid- that they greatly committed to before birth- simply by virtue of their irreplaceable feminine touch, or whatever. If you can't imagine much in the way of disgusting evils beyond surrogacy, I encourage you to broaden the horizons of your imagination.

We'd be doing a lot better if we shamed more prospective parents, frankly.

For centuries it was common practice for women to defer their mothering to working women in the form of nannies, midwives, and wet nurses.

Stealing a loaf of bread because you have no choice and stealing a loaf of bread because you just can are two different things. Furthermore, nannies, midwives, and wet nurses did not all entirely deprive the child of their mother, and plenty of people have turned out mighty fucked up due to a dead or distant mother.

Countless women have also died in childbirth, leaving children with no mother at all.

Horrible tragedies occurring naturally is not an excuse to manufacture them.

I find it hard to imagine that the legions of drug-addicted single moms saddled with kids they resent are going to offer their children a much better life than a couple of men raising a kid- that they greatly committed to before birth- simply by virtue of their irreplaceable feminine touch, or whatever.

Those women shouldn't have had kids. That they did doesn't excuse wrong done by anyone else.

We'd be doing a lot better if we shamed more prospective parents, frankly.

Do we not shame enough prospective parents already? The left shames teenagers who get pregnant and young women who choose to be homemakers as opposed to focusing on their careers. The right shames single mothers and older women who froze their eggs or use IVF. We shame wealthy people who want to have as many children as possible. We shame parents who aren't wealthy enough to live in a good school district. We shame free-range parents who forget that it isn't the 80's anymore and let their kids wander unsupervised around the neighborhood. We shame parents who teach their children what we think are the wrong political or religious values. We shame parents in first world countries for contributing to climate change and we shame parents in third world countries for bringing children into a life with such a low standard of living.

If you shame enough people the only ones left to reproduce will be the shameless, the ignorant, and those who lack impulse control. All those prospective parents who would have been any good at it will have refrained from fear of doing it wrong and harming their potential children. Would that really be a better world?

We shame free-range parents who forget that it isn't the 80's anymore and let their kids wander unsupervised around the neighborhood.

You forgot to mention the opposite, the helicopter parents.

And yeah, I think all parents are imperfect in some way, but most are probably genuinely trying to be good parents (barring the abusive people who should not be parents).

A child needs its mother.

Orphans, mothers who die in childbirth, abusive mothers, absentee mothers, and so on and so forth.

They pretty obviously don't. All kinds of kids in these situations manage to grow up and have lives of their own.

Your over-emotional assertions are just that and nothing more.

People live and get along with missing limbs, no eyesight, and so on too. That doesn't mean it's just as good as being whole.

While there are cases in which I respect the value of libertarian frameworks legally and I lean far towards "live and let live" from a metacultural standpoint, there is nothing libertarian about my moral approach to life. I do not believe all choices are equally valid or that there is nothing wrong with hedonism. I do not see things like parenthood as neutral choices that people can take or leave.

This does not resemble my read on the impulse of libertarianism. Or at least no the strong version that I respect and in some ways identify with. Libertarians are not(necessarily) moral relativists. They do not believe that all other ways of being are equally good but they have the humility to realize that imposing morality on others is an arms race for which the victor is not at all guaranteed to be the group that actually has the superior morality, in fact defection and bad morality are likely a competitive advantage in the imposing your morality on others game.

The only practical difference between a woman getting pregnant via a random man and giving the kid up for adoption, later being adopted by a gay couple, and surrogacy, is that the woman bearing the child is compensated for her time and efforts in the latter case (and, I guess, that the child's parentage is known). Neither of those seem like anything I would call a detriment compared to the former case.

I disagree. Money being involved is important because it creates incentives. It's the reason prostitution is not morally equivalent to casual sex.

i.e.: congratulations you now live in a society where some women will be forced to bear other's children against their will

Doesn't matter if all you wanted was voluntary exchange.

I don't see a problem with financially incentivizing people to have more babies. If the government was doing it rather than gays, most people here would clap and cheer.

Given the discussion here in the past about this topic, I'd guess most people would cynically posit that the government financially incentivizing people to have more babies couldn't possibly work and would just add needless bureaucracy.

As far as I can recall, the usual point is that it is observed not to work.

Is it observed not to work, or do people just assume it doesn't work without checking? My impression is that it totally works but we don't do it anyway (relevant graphs are on on page 67). The upshot is that the Swedish government changed a policy from providing benefits if children were born within 24 months of each other to the same benefit but within 30 months instead, and the number of children born with a between-24-and-30-month gap roughly 1.5x'd while birth rates by age gap stayed pretty much the same for every other age gap. It was not a subtle effect.

They might be referring to Communist Romania, though Ceaucescu mandated rather than incentivized.

Plenty of regimes incentivised having a big family: Jus trium liberorum of Ancient Rome, Battle for Births of Mussolini's Italy, "Médaille d'honneur de la famille française" of France, "Cross of Honour of the German Mother" of Nazi Germany.

The medals probably came with some cash reward.

Your recollection is probably correct. I should have it worded it more like "has never worked empirically and as such is almost definitely not going to work in this case" rather than "couldn't possibly work."

as long as they don't use my money for it, I don't care what people choose to spend their money on. the problem is that those financial incentives from the government are funded by unwilling taxpayers such as myself who would rather keep that money and spend it on something else.

Right, but I think in this case gay parents are ponying up the money for surrogacy and IVF themselves. Social conservatives are objecting specifically to this dynamic - paying someone to have a baby.

Well I'm certainly not among them. Despite being concerned about birth rates.

i.e.: congratulations you now live in a society where some women will be forced to bear other's children against their will

You now live in a society where a desperate woman has this as an option, as opposed to simply starving to death in the streets with no choice at all.

I am once again failing to see the downside.

In practice I’m doubting that surrogacy will be used by the poorest of the poor, but rather by the lower working class. These are not in danger of starvation.

In which case it's a choice, and handwringing about being forced holds no water. Shrug.

The downside is that there are forms of extortion which tend to take all of the value you can get your hands on (blackmail, kidnapping for ransom, etc). If surrogacy becomes the largest amount of money that some women can obtain with their time and body, a nonzero number will be extorted into it.

I think the upsides far outweigh the downsides here but the downsides do exist.

To note that very high percentages of prostitutes are not doing this voluntarily, and that’s a similarly totalizing commitment to surrogacy.