Thursday, August 02, 2012

Immortality? No thank you, Science.


Every now and then a story pops up in the news about some scientific discovery that could extend our lives. Among researchers, the hunt for physical immortality goes on. My question is “why?” Why would we want to live forever?

No matter how long you live, you still won’t pay off your credit card balance.

How many more times do you want to hear “Stairway to Heaven?”

Do you really want to be around to watch seven generations of grandchildren flunk algebra?

The desire to live forever seems particularly odd when expressed by those people who claim to be religious. In America, nearly 80% of the population identify as Christians. If you’re a Christian, it goes without saying you believe in the concept of heaven, with its streets paved with gold, eternal bliss, and 24/7 pasta buffets. So why would you want to live forever on this fragile pebble drifting through the black emptiness of space?

On the other hand, existence is a series of transitions, from egg to zygote to fetus to newborn and on and on to death. But is death the literal end of the cycle? I am a nonbeliever who considers religion and superstition synonymous, however, I also have a difficult time looking at the continuous thread of existence that science has opened our eyes to and accepting that whatever energy animates us as human beings — and how can you dispute the existence of energy if at one point we are animated and living and another point we are simply a dry pile of flesh and bone no more alive than a pile of leaves? — disappears once our bodies have worn out. Science tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed. What happens to the energy that animates us with what we call “life”?

This brings me back to the idea of immortality. If we are in fact animated by energy, aren’t we already immortal? Organized religion is a na├»ve, childish and ultimately destructive way created to try and comes to grips with this idea, but the very core belief of most world religions — that the energy (soul) that compels us to move and live does not die when our physical bodies do — may actually prove to be correct.

Do what I did and stand in front of a mirror while considering physical immortality. No thank you. Science, please stop wasting your time on this and turn your attention to more serious matters, like how to make Brussels Sprouts taste like Boston cream pie.

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