In the latest Longevity Meme newsletter, I wrote about "the problem with immortality."
The problem with immortality is really a problem with people, and it extends to any discussion of the topic. As soon as you mention immortality outside of a religious context you are in danger of being lumped in with the vocal wingnut and oddball fringe. Sadly, these are the people who tend to make the most noise outside of theological circles - vendors of magnetic rings, self-proclaimed mystics and the like.
From where I stand, the problem is the same as that suffered by anti-aging science and medicine - a confusion of alternate meanings, many of which are colloquial or specific to certain groups or professions.
In scientific, rational circles - such as the cryonics community or Immortality Institute forums - the term "physical immortality" is often used to denote "vulnerable agelessness," or freedom from the degenerative effects of aging. For many people, this accurately describes the ultimate goal of medical science: prevent or cure all disease, disability and degeneration, thus allowing people to live in perfect health for as long as they desire.
So what can we do - what should we do - when the wingnuts, frauds and a collision of definitions have rendered it hard to discuss a sensible topic in public?
What do you think about immortality, the varied meanings of the word and its use in rational conversation?