Self-Loathing and Death Worship

Why do some people vociferously oppose the idea of living a longer, healthier life? Some thoughts via

Somewhere along the line and very early on, we self-conscious creatures made some inevitable observations about our existence. It is painful to come in to, for both mother and child, and it is generally painful to leave (and can take a long and torturous time), for the individual and everyone else who's left.


Since there seemed to be so little (if anything) we could do about it, we mistakenly concluded that this was all somehow our own fault, a punishment inflicted upon us by some creator(s) for something very bad that we had done a long time ago. Accepting this as fact then became a societal imperative, and a sign of having achieved adulthood, maturity, a cold and realistic view of the "nature" of life on this planet. Accepting this view then became a point of pride.

The very prospect, the mere suggestion, of the extension of the human lifespan on a scale that Aubrey de Grey says is possible and worth persuing results in reactions from some people which reveal how deeply they actually loath themselves, their own lives, and the rest of humanity as a whole. This is one profound reason for the vociferous objections to de Grey's ideas.

The reactions of Nuland, Pontin, Hayflick, and countless others, reveal such individuals for what they really are: people acting upon a fundamental, archaic self-loathing that they have accepted, and consider part of their virtue, experience, and expertise.

I don't think self-loathing or a distaste for aspects of life has to be particularly archaic or Jungian to provide the basis for opposition to healthy life extension. Plain old misanthropy or the lessons learned from a catalogue of unfortunate experiences probably serves just as well for some. While people grow and change continuously from day to day and year to year - and usually for the better - it is often hard to see a better future from a position of misery. Strong religious beliefs are another common root; people may like life, but like the idea of what they believe comes after death even more. That the grass is greener on the other side is a hardwired trait for us primates; a pity it supports things like this in addition to more beneficial practices.

Whatever our varied opinions, whatever the contribution of our genes and personal history, ultimately it is - and should be - the choice of the individual as to whether to extend his or her healthy life span. Respect that choice and others will be much more likely to respect yours. The people who should be stepped on, and with great vigor, are those who extend their opposition to block your freedom to attempt to live a longer, healthier life. Where I come from, we call that murder - it may take longer than more traditional methods, but the end result is just the same.

Healthy life extension is, at the most fundamental level, all about choice. Specifically, it is a matter of engineering a choice that cannot presently be made. We are attempting to create a new freedom; the freedom from age-related suffering and death for as many as choose to work towards that goal.

Moving on from the self-loathing a little, why do those folk who stand in opposition to longer, healthier lives receive so much press? What is the fascination with people who want to die, versus those of us who want to live in good health? Is this simply another aspect of "good news is no news?" Or perhaps it is a modern outlet for the hardwired impulses that lead to death worship and other mystery cults; a facet of the curiosity over people who do bad things to themselves, or those who "explore" (and I use that word advisedly, since all who go there cease to exist) what some people will always regard as the unknown.

Take this Cosmic Log entry at MSNBC, for example, which follows up on the trail of anti-life-extension LiveScience articles (first, second and third) from the past week:

This week, a series of stories from LiveScience laid out the potential problems with immortality - or, more realistically, medical advances that could extend normal life spans well beyond the 100-year mark.

The typical response from users shouldn't come as a surprise: We should all have such problems. But the dissenting opinions were, if anything, more interesting.

In a world in which we have moved quite rapidly in the past five years from healthy life extension in the fringes to the typical response to negative articles on healthy life extension being "let's get out there and do it," why does this fixation with the pro-death and suffering camp exist?

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