The prelude to war

I’ve recently had a brief discussion with a friend of mine on the topic of anti-ageing medicine, and this gives me the opportunity to make an important point.
To get to that point, I’ll make use of a very handy example.

Gay marriage.
We all know that the topic is all the rage these days, and it boils down to gay people wanting the right to marry, and opposers who think for whatever reason that gay people should not be granted said right.
Me? I’m strongly in favour, and in my opinion it is a duh-question—a question so trivial that my instinct is to wonder why was it asked in the first place—but this is beside the point.

The point is that, out there, there are people who think that two people of the same sex marrying each other is wrong because [insert reason here], and some of them take it as far as to say that not only is it wrong, but it should be forbidden by law. As my friend pointed out, certain issues can be reduced to one’s own axioms about what is good and what is bad; some think that gay marriage is good, some think it’s bad. Forget the reason: up to this point it’s a matter of opinion, and whether or not mister Macho Von Straight thinks that gay marriage is bad is no one’s concern except Von Straight’s himself. The important thing here is that people have more options rather than fewer: if gay marriage were clearly allowed by law, people could choose to get married to a person of the same sex if they wanted to. Macho Von Straight has nothing to fear and nothing to lose: he’s not forced to marry a man, but he could if he ever wanted to. And up to this point, if mister Von Straight strived to grant this right to others despite thinking that it’s bad, or perhaps even revolting, all my respect to him: he disagrees, he even hates it, but he realizes that granting freedom of choice is more important than one’s personal beliefs.

Maybe Macho Von Straight isn’t that good of a person, though, so he decides that he’d rather stay neutral. He is for freedom of choice, so he won’t take action against gay marriage, but he really thinks that being gay is bad for your soul or something, so he won’t vote in favour of it either. That’s okay. Not getting a special place in my heart, but still understandable. After all he is genuinely convinced that being gay is bad, so—as my friend pointed out—he’s not acting irrationally: when you think that something is bad for you, you try to put an end to it or at least keep far from it. That emphasized “for you” here is the key, because even assuming for the sake of the argument that gay marriage is bad for you, mister Von Straight isn’t that “you”, so all he needs to do is keep far from it, and whether or not others make use of it isn’t something he should concern himself with—and if he can’t stand the sight of two dudes kissing, he can turn his head the other way.

The problem, though, is that there are people with, let’s say, stronger opinions than Macho Von Straight’s: it’s not uncommon to bump, for example, into Virginia O’Chastity, who thinks that gay marriage is so bad that freedom of choice becomes secondary; so bad that she has the right to prevent other people from marrying individuals of the same sex. We could sit down and theorize all day why does miss O’Chastity thinks so—repressed lesbian, religious extremism, genuine conviction that she’s saving people from damnation or sickness and what-you-have. It doesn’t matter. What matters here is that if we let one side of the fence act upon the belief that their convictions allow them to take the freedom of choice from others, we can’t be surprised if the other side, eventually, decides to do the same or worse, and the situation can quickly escalate to until all that matters is who can overwhelm their opponent first: limiting the freedom of a group of people A simply because a group of people B doesn’t like the fact that A has that freedom is the prelude to war.

Fortunately, it seems that we’re moving towards a world where personal freedoms are limited only by other personal freedoms, and where gay marriage is gaining more and more support. But there will be other issues facing a similar path towards acceptance.

So now the question is: when it will come to rejuvenation biotechnologies—because it will—what side of the fence will you be on? Those who think that they’re such a bad idea that, in spite of each individual’s own will, no one should be allowed to have them and thus they should not be developed, or be boycotted if not outlawed altogether, or those who think that, regardless of their own stand on the matter, it’s important to leave people free to choose for themselves, and thus it’s vital to grant this choice as long as it is in our power to do so?

You probably have less time than you think to make your mind up.