While I was offline for a month, I kept a note of any links and news stories worth commenting on. Now that I’m back, I’m aiming to post two short items a day here, about stuff that happened during my online absence, until I’ve cleared the backlog. This is one of those.
A post a few weeks ago over at Common Sense Atheism made some good points about death, and the way it’s accepted by many atheists as being inevitable but not so bad.
The idea of “curing death” is one of those things it’s easy to dismiss as obviously absurd, but only because it tends to be interpreted in the most extreme way. It sounds like you’re talking about someone coming down with a nasty case of death, being taken to the doctor and given a pill, and suddenly metabolising again in no time.
You might observe that it seems impractical to expect anything, let alone a human life, to last literally forever, because of the limits of a finite universe. But this only really address a small, not-that-interesting corner of the subject.
Yes, entropy will increase until all molecules are torn apart, when the Universe is orders of magnitude beyond its present age, if current models prove correct. But there still could be many things we can do about the fact that human bodies tend to run down and stop of their own accord within about a century or so.
Okay, it might have to happen eventually, but couldn’t we at least tighten things up a bit? Historically, human bodies have tended to do lots of things naturally over time, like growing fingernails, or dropping dead of smallpox. But in many cases we’ve come up with advanced technologies like nail-clippers to address this. Death (the natural kind) is the only one we have a tendency to just shrug our shoulders at.
As the CSA post observes, the rationalisations we come up with about why death needn’t be as scary as it might seem are worth keeping. But we don’t have to be resigned to it so soon. Maybe eternity sounds like it’d get boring (if your imagination when applied to Heaven is really that limited), but we’re not talking about eternity. Maybe we’re just talking about an extra few years, or few dozen, or a couple of hundred. Couldn’t you find a few things to do with that time, assuming your physical condition was still reasonably useful?
Many elderly people are ready to die when the time comes. But how many are ready to get old at the rate they do?
Curing death might be a hyperbolic pipe dream, but research into biological treatment to counteract the body’s physical degeneration is already underway. It’s just not as snappy.
What do you reckon?