Does The Cause Of Death Matter?

Sep 25 2011 @ 3:04pm

Robin Hanson takes issue with our remembrance of 9/11:

In the decade since 9/11 over half a billion people have died worldwide. A great many choices could have delayed such deaths, including personal choices to smoke less or exercise more, and collective choices like allowing more immigration. And cryonics might have saved most of them. Yet, to show solidarity with these three thousand victims, we have pissed away three trillion dollars ($1 billion per victim), and trashed long-standing legal principles.

Ari Schulman complicates Hanson's point:

He implies that all deaths are equally tragic — so there is no difference, apparently, between a peaceful death and a violent one, or between a death in old age and one greatly premature. … . While he may think he is making a trenchantly pro-humanist case for how insensitive and outrageous it is that we focus our emotions on some deaths much more than others, one wonders whether dulling our sensitivity to the deaths of the few can really be the best way to make us care about the deaths of the many. If we cannot feel outrage at what is shocking, can we still be moved by what is commonplace?