Monday, June 18, 2012

Graying atheism

The secular old guard is…getting old. Peter Singer is 65. Philip Pullman is 65. Daniel Dennett is 70. Stephen Hawking is 70. Laurence Tribe is 70. Michael Ruse is 70. Richard Dawkins is 71. Victor Stenger is 77. Gloria Steinem is 78. Steven Weinberg is 79. Michael Martin is 80. Lewis Wolpert is 82. Murray Gell-Mann is 82. Noam Chomsky is 83. James Randi is 83. E. O. Wilson is 83. Kai Nielson is 86. Paul Kurtz is 86. Gore Vidal is 86. Adolf Grunbaum is 89. And so on and so forth. 

As people grow old they become an increasing drain on the healthcare system. In the age of rationed medical care, if we apply secular bioethics to prioritizing medical services, shouldn’t aging atheists go to the back of the line? Indeed, shouldn’t there be an automatic cutoff, above a certain age?

1 comment:

  1. All of these atheists are at least 65 y/o. In certain nations (e.g. the UK) it's close to impossible to get a heart transplant if someone is over the age of 65. There are too many younger, socially valuable people who need heart transplants.

    Of course, given their wealth and influence, these atheists could probably jump the line and get a heart transplant if they wanted to. Not to mention other health care services.

    In fact, even on their deathbeds, these atheists could probably get health care services which would be above and beyond what others of their age and health status would receive. Thanks to modern medicine it's certainly possible to extend the life of most people by at least some limited period of time. Heck, we can keep people with hangman's fractures at a high cervical spine level alive almost indefinitely despite the fact that they might not be able to breathe without ventilation or they might have impaired or destroyed motor and/or sensory function or whatever.

    Yet all this would be a drain on the health care system. For one thing, the majority of health care cost is spent in the last six months of a patient's life (particularly for those in ICU). In addition, if we ignore cost (which, by the way, we'd be talking in the tens of thousands of dollars per person), it's also a drain in terms of beds which could be freed up for other patients, medical staff spending their time, knoweldge, experience, and efforts which could be used to help others, etc. Plus it's much easier on many levels (e.g. finanically, legally, ethically) to admit someone into a hospital ward than it is to kick people out who are already there; it's much easier not to commence a treatment plan for someone than it is to withdraw a treatment plan once it's already been commenced.

    These atheist guys could easily jump the line. But it'd be inconsistent with their secular ethics if they did. So why do they continue to get treatment (e.g. see here)?

    I guess intellectual secularists don't mind applying their beliefs and ethics to everyone so long as they're exempt.