An Opposition to Longevity That is Almost a Caricature of Itself
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The quoted material below is a condensed example of sort of thing we see from many opponents who flail away at the prospects for extending health life. They say that it couldn't possibly work; that even it if did no-one would be better for living longer; that we're all selfish for trying; that the advocates and researchers are all working on it for the wrong reasons; and so on and so forth. Really it says a lot more about the author than the topic at hand. It must take an effort of will to so blind oneself to the essentially positive nature of medical research that aims to remove pain, suffering, and death, of seeking longer life for the pleasure of living, so as to do more and achieve more, and to see the next day dawn because you are curious.

It is instructive to read most of the opposition to longevity science while replacing the objective at hand with, say, therapies for heart disease, or improvements in organ transplantation. All modern advances in medicine of the past few decades are intended to push back pain, suffering, and death. All change the nature of the human condition - and all can be argued against used the same terms as are brought out for efforts to treat, slow, and reverse aging itself. Yet none of these opponents try to argue against heart disease treatments. It shows just how hollow their positions are.

Medical development to extend healthy, vigorous life spans is completely and absolutely beneficial: it will make life better, extending all that is good while suppressing the worst physical aspects of the human condition. The work is being accomplished by people who are drawn to this field of research for the ability to make a meaningful difference: to cure, to build new ways to improve health and longevity, to stop the terrible ongoing flood of pain and death caused by degenerative aging. That some people can so twist reality as to present medical progress as some sort of selfish pursuit towards self-destruction is a tribute to misapplied ingenuity.

While any detailed examination of the science invoked will promptly dispel the idea that such an ambitious extension to our lives is likely at all, and even a moment's reflection will generate a host of reasons as to why it may be even less desirable that it is likely, it is still a compelling narrative. Who really wants to die - when they could just keep living? Of course mortality is necessary, and the species needs it - but not for me. Surely my survival, my ever-accumulating wisdom, will be a noble exception, a major benefit to society? We could all advance such self-serving arguments, but if we really take the idea seriously, we have to see it as an attempt to impose stasis on the inevitable flux that is reality.

Given that death is inevitable, that mortality and finitude is blindingly and undeniably the frame in which we live our lives - why engage in these grand acts of self-delusion? Of course, some life extension may be possible, but death will not be denied, and, even if delayed a little en route by healthy living and medical advances, is coming for us all soon enough. I can only see a single psychological motive underpinning the longevity movement, and this is the same reason it sells newspapers and fascinates so many of us. This motive is our absolute and total fear and dread. The more we have suppressed death, the more we may fail to express our anxiety - but it has gone nowhere. I would contest that underneath the cheery hopes of living for centuries is a screeching, desperate flailing panic at the knowledge of our own, personal, death. The fact of death is, alas, still a fact; and longevity and immortality are as useless as the cheap trinkets of 'heaven' and post-death-life. What little we can do, surely, consists of the staring down, and confronting of the truth of death. This choice promises no escape, but at least offers us the chance to live a life where death's long shadow does not taint every thought via poorly-repressed anxiety.



I hope you're following the comments underneath that post, Reason. Much debate within.

Posted by: Balzac at December 7, 2013 4:25 AM

"Hey old man, how can you stand to think that way? Did you really think about it before you made the rules? He said, Son, that is just the way it is. Some things will never change." --Bruce Hornsby - THE WAY IT IS LYRICS

P.S. "Don't you believe them."

Posted by: Brad Arnold at December 9, 2013 11:57 PM
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