22 March 2012

Immortality and Longevity

Cryogenic StasisThe philosopher John Gray has written a book entitled The Immortalisation Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death.  In Gray’s view, the search for immortality is delusional, illogical.  However, humanity still applies its greatest achievements in learning to seek to overturn death: for example, Ray Kurzweil’s well-known speculation as to whether immortality will eventually be realised by being able to preserve a distinct human consciousness within a software system, and to instantiate that consciousness within a virtual realm.  Or the much older idea of cryogenic stasis.

One particular question arises in my mind: does ultra-Darwinism have an explanation for the undeniable human longing and search for longevity and immortality?  Ultra-Darwinism is built solely upon the principle of the survival of the strongest genes, the most adaptive genes. Life is geared to propagation.  Death is fundamental to the mechanics of Darwinism.  If humans are merely concerned with propagating genes, what purpose is served by longevity and immortality?  Especially beyond the time when propagation is possible.  And yet humans yearn for it.

Of course, in Christian theology, death is ordinarily the necessary precursor to immortality through resurrection.  The Athenians were askance at Paul’s proclamation of resurrection, but for Paul this is how the human yearning for immortality will be realised.  Even those who remain alive at the moment of the transformation of the cosmos must themselves pass through the transformative process through which those who have died have passed (1 Cor 15: 51).