Immortality, Dueling Reviews at Betterhumans

Two critical reviews at Betterhumans today: Bruce J. Klein of the Immortality Institute reviews Aging, Death and the Quest for Immortality by C. Ben Mitchell. In return, Mitchell reviews the Immortality Institute's The Scientific Conquest of Death. Sparks fly (politely), as might be expected when two essentially opposing viewpoints meet. On the one hand we have scientific rationalism and the quest for physical immortality through better medicine and other forms of advanced technology. On the other hand, we have religion and the acceptance of spiritualism, faith - and aging and death as inevitable.

You will have to excuse my bias in this sort of debate; the very mildest criticism I can think to make of pro-death religious views is that they smack of surrender in the face of a hard problem. Those of us reading this today have been dealt a raw hand, destined to age, suffer progressive degeneration and die. Yet our situation is far better than that of our ancestors - we are in a position to do something about the aging process and death through age-related disease. Do we sit back and invent justifications for a terrible, horrible state of affairs just because it'll take work, imagination and fire to make a better world? Of course not.


The problem with the "spiritual" world view advocated by people like Ben Mitchell is that they, themselves, do not believe it.

If you believe that human consciousness exists as something separate and distinct from the human body, then why remian trapped in a body that is obviously dysfunctional, as in the case of Terri Shraivo? Given the concept of an immortal human consciousness, would not the destruction of her physical body liberate her "soul" to go on to live a fulfilling "life" in the afterlife?

If not, why not?

Why the buggaboo with suicide? Especially if it is someone who is trapped in an aging body and they are going to "die" anyways.

The fact that the christians insist that people remain in physical bodies until the bitter end suggests that they, as well as us, believe that human consciousness is nothing more than neurostructure and wetware.

At least we recognize this reality, and use it as the basis to develop technologies to expand our lives and personal choices.

Posted by: Kurt at March 22nd, 2005 4:55 PM

Kurt, I've long thought that the Christian traditions that glorify suffering and passivity have a lot to do with the questions you pose.

Posted by: Reason at March 22nd, 2005 6:45 PM

Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses - and perhaps others believe that the Bible does not state that there is an immortal soul. They believe "from dust to dust". So, generalizations about "Christians" may be incomplete.

Posted by: Dave at March 23rd, 2005 8:56 AM

That was my point, Dave.

If there is no immortal soul, the spritualism is completely worthless and a materialist strategy of immortality (anti-aging, cryonics, up-loading, etc.) is the only course of action. The only legitimate "spiritual" argument against biomedical immortalism is the idea that we are of immortal soul.

By acting in a manner contrary to the existance (and logical corollary to) of an immortal soul, the christians undermine their own arguments against physical immortality.

It is this logical inconsistancy on the life and death issue that was one of the reasons why I parted company with christianity in the first place.

Posted by: Kurt at March 23rd, 2005 1:37 PM
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