The Faith of an Atheist

Zoltan Istvan’s campaign promises as an atheist candidate for president represent splendid examples of atheist faith in action. Let’s consider example #1 for today.

Zoltan is apparently a single-issue candidate, promising that if he was President, he would get the scientific community to deliver immortality to all of humanity through all kinds of amazing technological breakthroughs.  But exactly how would he do this?

So the main goal of the Transhumanist Party is to divert money away from defense — you know, the 20 percent of the national budget that we spend on wars and bombs — and to put a lot of that, or at least some of that, into life extension science.

Why should we have a war in Afghanistan if we can have a war on cancer, or a war on heart disease? About a third of Americans die from heart disease. We should wipe that out! That’s where the war should be. And so that’s my elevator pitch: the Transhumanist Party is going to do everything in its power to shift the resources and the intellect of this country into fighting for the things that affect our health, and not for fighting far-off wars.

America can become the biotechnology powerhouse in the world, and end a lot of suffering, especially needless suffering from disease, if we were just to spend our resources there. You don’t get anywhere from spending money on brand-new cluster bombs. You have to spend that money on science, give it to the scientists.

I see.  The only thing preventing immortality is..[cough]…money.  If only we could throw more money at the problem, lots and lots of money, we could get rid of cancer and heart disease.  And from there, its just a short step toward immortality.

I kid you not.  Zolton goes on and on about money:

It’s really just a matter of fast-forwarding that, putting it on overdrive, spending a lot more money — a hundred times the money — and you’re going to get, potentially, at least ten times the results. And I think, literally, as I have said before, if we put a trillion dollars into the life extension field, we will conquer human mortality within ten years.

It’s a numbers game, really. We have so little money going into the field right now. The NIH is putting in just a few billion, and it’s mostly towards Alzheimer’s and things like that. But if we really put in real money, even just put in a fifth of what we put into the Iraq War, we would probably be able to conquer human death.

Oh my.  It takes a lot of faith to believe that more money will purchase immortality.  But we have heard this kind of pitch before.  Anyone else remember California’s Proposition 71 from 2004?  Voter’s were told that if they would only fork over 3 billion dollars, stem cell research would cure paralysis and Parkinson’s disease.  People who opposed this effort and/or were skeptical of such claims were demonized as “anti-science.”

Well, a few billion dollars and 12 years later, where is the cure for paralysis and Parkinson’s disease?

In fact, it’s not clear any great scientific advances have been purchased with the billions:

An Associated Press review of the agency’s accomplishments published in March 2012 said that the main accomplishments so far are:

  • “the opening of sleek buildings and gleaming labs at a dozen private and public universities built with matching funds.”

  • “Stanford University unveiled the nation’s largest space dedicated to stem cell research — 200,000 square feet that can hold 550 researchers.”

  • “There are no cures yet in the pipeline and CIRM has shifted focus, channeling money to projects with the most promise of yielding near-term results.”

 

A journalist for the LA Times then made the following observations in 2015:

Turning 10 years old may not quite mark adolescence for a human child, but for a major government research effort such as California’s stem cell program, it’s well past middle age.

So it’s a little strange to hear C. Randal Mills, the new president and chief executive of the program known formally as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, say it’s time to instill in CIRM “a clear sense of mission.”

Mills, a former biotech company chief executive, took over as CIRM’s president last May. His first task, he told me, was to “take a step back and look broadly at how we do our business.” He reached the conclusion that “there was a lot of room for improvement.”

That’s a striking admission for a program that already has allocated roughly two-thirds of its original $3-billion endowment.

I’m not surprised by any of this.  But it shows that Zoltan’s faith that money can purchase immorality is a truly blind faith.  And that he would greatly weaken the country’s defenses, especially in these dangerous times, to pursue his pipe dream pegs it as a dangerous form of blind faith.

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12 Responses to The Faith of an Atheist

  1. Talon says:

    I suspect if elected president Zoltan Istvan would not only direct funding to trans-humanist causes for the duration of his stay in office, he would then proceed to weasel his way into one of the many biotech companies receiving taxpayer money and lobby to create a permanent relationship between trans-humanism and American politics, feeding yet another corporate behemoth that will believe it’s entitled to your tax dollars, even if they never produce anything of real value. Noble cause that, banking on human gullibility and voter apathy.

  2. TFBW says:

    Zolton said:

    It’s really just a matter of fast-forwarding that, putting it on overdrive, spending a lot more money — a hundred times the money — and you’re going to get, potentially, at least ten times the results. … if we put a trillion dollars into the life extension field, we will conquer human mortality within ten years.

    Ignoring the fact that he’s making numbers up out of thin air, why spend a hundred times the money to get only ten times the results? Is he really proposing an order of magnitude drop in economic efficiency? What’s the big rush?

    Silly question, of course: like all Transhumanists, he wants immortality to be attained in his lifetime. This ain’t for posterity.

  3. stcordova says:

    The guy is delusional.

  4. mechanar says:

    He can team up with newt gingrich to build a moon colony by 2018

  5. Gottfried says:

    You know, someone could have written a great sci-fi story circa 1950 set in the distant future of 2016 about a presidential candidate named Zoltan (stress on the first syllable, with the second slightly drawn out).

    “Vote for me, fools, and I will make thee immortal!”

    Of course, back then I would guess everyone would have still had the sense to know from the first paragraph that the story would not end well.

    Now we have the real thing. Although, to be honest, he’s not that much worse than the two main party candidates.

  6. cookiejezz says:

    What also exposes the cynical calculations in Zoltan’s plan is that there is already a clear way to avoid dying of heart disease: stop eating so much; stop eating junk; exercise.

    But I guess that advice isn’t worth a trillion dollars.

  7. Ryan says:

    Compare this cult with Christianity: And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

    But the bigger problem is that it miscalculates the real problem that humanity faces: sin. How would any of this money stop the bloodshed of ISIS? or put an end to the constant murder, rape, child molestation, domestic violence, drug abuse, etc. that occurs in every city of this world every single day? Death is just a symptom. Sin is the disease.

  8. Dhay says:

    > … a trillion dollars …

    A trillion dollars washing around, either from government or from Bill Gates type mega-rich sponsors, would mean plenty of money for consultancy work for the man who claims he has already clearly seen the future of bio-technology, and can guide those who will see that trillion dollars as furthering their own investment opportunities.

    More realistically, Zoltan Istvan has no expectation whatsoever of achieving his trillion dollars, nor expectation or even hope of achieving his dreams of immortality, he’s got his eye on CEOs hiring him as the go-to-visionary speaker, he’s got his eye on making money for himself in the short and medium term.

    There’s plenty of opportunity — which opportunity Istvan will not just be taking advantage of whenever or should ever it exist, he is actively creating his niche right now — to make lots of money as an after-dinner speaker, as a business consultant on what the glowingly profitable future you just cannot ignore will look like so better listen to him, and as a speaker at business conferences and in-house training sessions. It sounds very lucrative indeed.

    Why wait for that niche to open up (or possibly not) — why not proactively create it. Nice work if you can get it.

  9. Dhay says:

    That the project would reach satisfactory fruition is a very optimistic supposition. If government computer development work is contracted out, as is usual, we can expect to see the usual long delays, failures, cost over-runs and likely cancellation.

    Then there’s the question of hardware, hardware obsolescence, and the problem of how to go about updating. I’ll leave it there — I reckon if you try to pin down in any realistic detail how it might happen, you will certainly see major problems. Oh, and does the CIA/GCHQ get to specify one of the chips?

    Then there’s software, billions of lines of code, errors in them (and don’t discount errors in the compiler), documentation, maintenance, alterations as new technology becomes available, add-ons, whether it will be made commercially viable by including adverts, third-party add-ons and apps. I note that the current versions of Windows are constantly being updated to patch against possible virus attacks — there’s vulnerability after vulnerability, endlessly. Will Windows 2050 be any less virus-prone, any less flaky. Oh, and does the CIA/GCHQ get to specify part of the operating system.

    I see that Zoltan Istvan is a member of the World Future Society; when I clicked reference [62] on Istvan’s Wiki page to see the WFS article Everyone Faces a Transhumanist Wager, my FireFox browser promptly denied me, with the message:

    Your connection is not secure

    The owner of http://www.wfs.org has configured their website improperly. To protect your information from being stolen, Firefox has not connected to this website.

    It’s a message I have seen before, but very rarely. The really important message is that transhumanism is being promoted by people without a good awareness of basic computer safety protocols. So could you trust your transhuman hardware/software development/maintenance to cowboys like these.

  10. Dhay says:

    > So the main goal of the Transhumanist Party is to divert money away from defense — you know, the 20 percent of the national budget that we spend on wars and bombs  … … the Transhumanist Party is going to do everything in its power to shift the resources and the intellect of this country into fighting for the things that affect our health, and not for fighting far-off wars.

    So Zoltan Istvan would cut back on military spending majorly, would he?

    Reading the Amazon reviews, if the novel is a blueprint or roadmap for the future transhumanist world then that future includes (alongside fighting the Abrahamic faiths in general, including Christians in the USA) “far-off wars” against Islam.

  11. Dhay says:

    The article in Michael’s first link includes: “Istvan’s credentials make him difficult to dismiss as a mere crackpot.”

    Credentials, eh? University drop-out, after an unspecified number of terms, so no university-level qualifications, and probably no university-level education worth mentioning; “a successful businessman” at some unspecified business; which last is odd because he seems to be primarily a journalist, sometime reporter (same thing as journalist?), and the author of just one (rather bad science fiction) novel; and through relentless self-publicity he has become a minor media celebrity.

    Credentials, eh? I would say Istvan’s lack of credentials make him very easy indeed to dismiss as a mere crackpot.

    He seems to make a good living out of being an in-your-face crackpot. Thriving on attention, he will wilt if ignored.

  12. Dhay says:

    Dhay > There’s plenty of opportunity — which opportunity Istvan will not just be taking advantage of whenever or should ever it exist, he is actively creating his niche right now — to make lots of money as an after-dinner speaker, as a business consultant on what the glowingly profitable future you just cannot ignore will look like so better listen to him, and as a speaker at business conferences and in-house training sessions. It sounds very lucrative indeed.

    Here’s snippets from Zoltan Istvan’s answers during a 52 Insights interview dated February 2016:

    Obviously ground zero for transhumanism is Silicon Valley, right where I live. Everyone I know is into it, every company I know is looking for the next cool technology to make the human species better.

    Most technologies will probably remain in the hands of private enterprises unless it becomes something that’s very useful for the military. And actually it is. I’ll be honest with you, I had four navy officers in my house two days ago, one of them a top officer. They had been commissioned to do a study on transhumanism and machine-human interfaces over the next ten years. They came to me wanting lectures and consulting.

    http://www.52-insights.com/zoltan-istvan-human-or-not-transhumanism/

    Predictable, and predicted. Lucrative indeed. Selling a vision of the future as a transhuman one equates to a profitable present.

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