A Pro-Death Distillation

As a counterpoint to a flurry of articles on healthy life extension and biological immortality (or vulnerable agelessness) in the past week, here is an editorial that neatly distills a number of different (and debunked) pro-death ideas into a few short paragraphs.

Humanity has always found its greatest triumphs, if not its very reason for being, in struggle. Those regarded as our greatest leaders - people like Churchill, Lincoln, and in Canadian terms, Trudeau - are defined more by what opposed them than what they did. Much of invention is born from a struggle of some kind or another, whether it's against nature or just trying to get information out quicker. Even in our everyday lives, competition inspires us to something more; we'll often try harder or do better when we have someone or something we're trying to best.

And with the removal of the threat of death, we'll have done away with arguably the biggest competition we have. One doesn't need to point out the countless works of art, to say nothing of entire philosophies, that have tried to come to grips with man's mortality. Ignoring the obvious religious significance of such an event, if man no longer fears death, what reason does man have to continue living? We'll have, for lack of a better term, won.

This isn't to say that the arrival of an elixir of life will be met with mass suicides and depression across the world. No, people will probably continue on pretty much as is, but that would be precisely the problem. Things would stagnate; people would find no reason to do much of anything. Why work, why create, why learn, why suffer, why strive, why believe, why love, why hate, when in the end, it's likely those who take the safest path will end up ahead, in the form of living longer? The world will be locked in permanent suburbia, where too much or too little will lose out in favour of just enough.

Obviously, this happens enough in our world as is; people will almost always settle for mediocre over something that might just be good, but might also be bad. But now, at least, there is one thing that can push us into something more: the fact that, eventually, we're not going to be around anymore. If nothing else stirs us, at least the cold, hard truth of mortality will give rise to something more than sitting on the couch.

But to remove that, to remove the one thing that humanity has always struggled against, is to take out something that is essentially human. If this ever happens, we might just live forever, but I doubt we'll have any reason to.

How silly! How shortsighted! An infinity of far, far greater challenges awaits us after this comparatively simple fix for less desirable characteristics of our biology - exploring the solar system, traveling to the stars, cataloguing all life on Earth, terraforming mars, understanding the roots of intelligence, building a science to determine whether or not we have free will ... I could go on. Personally, I'd like to be around and in good health to try my hand at helping to overcome a few of these future challenges.

More to the point, you, oh writer of editorials, may feel this way, but a great many people fail to share your pessimism, lack of foresight, world-weariness and death wish.

Comments

this deathist asshole can speak for himself! Personally, he and others of his ilk can shove it where the sun doesn't shine!

Posted by: Kurt at February 17th, 2005 5:37 PM

The argument of David Berry in his editorial Immortality would kill humanity is so full of fallacies as to be ludicrous.

He says ?Humanity has always found its greatest triumphs, if not its very reason for being, in struggle." The editorial argues against the fight against ageing. This statement thus acknowledges that to win the fight against ageing would be a great triumph. Yet he argues against triumphing in this very epic battle but implying that it would be a defeat as we would then die as "people would find no reason to do much of anything."

Does David Berry go to his job, enjoy reading, going to the movies, travelling, playing or watching sport, or doing anything that he enjoys only because he is secure and content in his belief that one day he will be a aged shrunken decrepit shell of what he was in his youth? Do children and youth, who by and large are not haunted by thoughts of ageing and death, find "no reason to do much of anything"?

Again he says "people like Churchill, Lincoln, and in Canadian terms, Trudeau?are defined more by what opposed them than what they did". By implication again we are led to believe that what they struggled against was in fact (and hence their greatness), ageing and death. This is palpably ridiculous.

Then comes his little leaps of reason from "Much of invention is born from a struggle of some kind" to "And with the removal of the threat of death, we?ll have done away with arguably the biggest COMPETITION we have". Emphasis mine.

A lot of invention comes from the struggle against death and to survive but firstly the removal of ageing will not remove our struggle for survival, just better the odds for it and not against it. It would give people more time to find solutions, for example, of surviving the death of our planet, the solar system or even our galaxy.

Then not all of our invention sprang from our struggle against "the threat of death". The wheel, the telephone, flight, motor car, the piano the guitar, I could carry on ad infinitum, did all these inventions spring from the struggle against ageing?

Again ageing is not our competition. It is a nasty disease and not one to be glorified. I wonder if David Berry would glorify AIDS or Alzheimer's? We do not compete against ageing. It is simply a disease that robs us of our dignity and intellect.

Posted by: Raj at October 16th, 2005 9:46 PM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.