Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Who Wants to Live Forever?

“Who wants to live forever?” sang Freddie Mercury of Queen, somewhat prophetically, in 1986. He died of AIDS five years later, a shell of himself at the end. Freddie didn’t write the song (guitarist Brian May did), but its answer to “Who wants to live forever?” is a rhetorical “Not me.” It ends with the line “Forever is our today.” If anything, the song is a plea to live life to the fullest in the here-and-now, rather than an expression of yearning for infinite time on earth.

Brian May is no idiot. We live in a fallen world. “What is this thing that builds our dreams yet slips away from us?” he writes. “Who wants to live forever when love must die?” Better to expend whatever one has left in a good cause, no?

Indeed. Outside of Christ, it is difficult to see how endless existence for its own sake holds much appeal. Even rank atheists don’t think it does.

On that subject, two things crossed my desktop at home yesterday.

Atrocity Exhibition

The first was this atrocity, a nine-minute YouTube video about people who actually do want to live forever and think immortality will be possible for mankind as little as thirteen years from now. Here’s the sort of wacky reasoning behind “Living Forever by 2035”:

“The catastrophic 2020 events have helped the government and investors realize the huge price that old and sick people pose to society compared to a young and healthy population. This likely changed their mind from previously thinking that longevity serves no monetary goal to realizing the huge lift in burden to the younger generation and the increased productivity that these rejuvenated people would bring to society.”

That’s certainly interesting. However, this theory is wildly at odds with what we are constantly told is actually happening in the workforce and which we can easily confirm every time we use an ATM, scan our own groceries or pump our own gas: automation is rendering many entry-level jobs superfluous. If this is truly the case, as it appears, why would the world need a sudden, massive influx of pensioners technology has rendered sufficiently productive to re‑enter the workforce? Where would we put them all?

So then, what sort of future are we really looking at: one that requires fewer workers or more? The popular narratives offer no consistent picture.

More importantly, the “Living Forever by 2035” theory is also in conflict with observable reality. What we actually saw during the COVID crisis was not evidence that governments want their citizens to live forever, but politicians accused of not caring about old people dying, and a vaccination campaign that had the effect of shifting the demographics of death from the octogenarian set to young people who were never at risk from the virus. Moreover, the crisis outed significant numbers of Western politicians as globalist depopulationists in thrall to the dystopian mindset of the World Economic Forum. Some of these thinkers calculate the optimal population of the planet at between 1.5 and 2 billion, meaning more than three-quarters of earth’s present population needs to go away. There are variety of ideas about how to accomplish this floating around, but none of these involves greater numbers of people living longer lives.

The elderly may drive up the cost of health care in the short term, but at one point in every life, those costs cease forever. Short version: I cannot see a single plausible reason governments should have an interest in conferring effective immortality on their citizens, whether the cost of doing so be small or great.

The Current State of Longevity Research

Next question: what is the current state of longevity research? If you believe the video, according to Aubrey de Grey’s SENS Rejuvenation Research, we are considerably closer to “robust mouse rejuvenation” than we were ten years ago, and the gap between the achievement of robust mouse rejuvenation and robust human rejuvenation is also coming down quite fast. Research teams are said to be optimistic about the efficacy of stem cell therapies, genetic engineering and/or organ replacement with organs created on 3D printers loaded with living cells, which they suggest could one day make human organ donation redundant. The hope is to achieve something called “longevity escape velocity” (LEV), a state in which life expectancy is extended longer than the time that is passing. De Grey claims to believe people presently in their twenties and thirties have something like a 90% chance of reaching LEV, effectively becoming immortal.

De Grey also speculates that the cost of anti-aging therapy to the end-user will be … nothing at all. The video’s narrator suggests “Aging is so expensive that it would be economically suicidal for any country not to make these things available.” Really? Most governments are so deeply indebted at present that they can’t guarantee they will be able to make good on their social security obligations, let alone provide universal free immortality. This is truly a pipe dream.

In summary, the cooperation of governments is unlikely, success at achieving immortality is at best speculative, and the means by which these longevity therapies might be financed are wildly conjectural.

At least the video serves to drive home the point that men and women without Christ will grasp at any straw, however flimsy.

Dead Women Walking

The second thing on my desktop this morning was a sobering set of statistics posted to social media about female suicide. Even pre-COVID, large numbers of women were declaring they had no interest in living another day, let alone pursuing the dream of immortality. This at least is consistent with the teaching of scripture, which is that in the last days, far from aspiring to live forever, people will seek death and not find it. “They will long to die, but death will flee from them.”

Suicidal ideation is not a new thing for either sex. Even godly men going through very hard times have prayed to die. This was not primarily because they experienced great physical suffering, but because stress, exhaustion and deep disappointment tend to drain the will of any desire to prolong life. Jonah was discouraged and prayed to die for reasons that were not terribly spiritual. Elijah was exhausted and disappointed and begged for an ending to his life. These men had good reason to put their trust in God. How much more might those without hope crave death as a viable alternative to an existence without meaning or purpose?

Statistics suggest they already do, and times have not even begun to get tough yet.

Life’s Been Good to Me So Far

In fact, the utopian dream of eternal existence is predicated on a lifestyle so pleasant and enjoyable that people are begging for more of it. The same optimists posit a future without labor, brimming with flying cars and endless new technological breakthroughs for everyone. Look around you. How likely is that to happen for 99% of our world’s population? The Swiss and the Germans are already trying to figure out how to heat their homes this winter. Even in North America, costs of staples are climbing weekly. Food banks are rationing food for families in need. And life in the third world for most was and remains a matter of day-to-day survival. The closest these folks will get to the new technological breakthroughs is previewing them enviously on their cheap cell phones, and that’s provided nobody sets off an EMP in their neighborhoods.

Paul wrote to Timothy that in the last days, people will be “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Money and pleasure are great motivators if there is a realistic chance you can get your hands on them, but in a world where most are likely to be plunged into poverty, who but the elites will be able to pay for their pleasures? Some people will surely press on with a pointless existence regardless, but who wants to live alongside slanderers, brutes, liars, egomaniacs and abusers? Many fainter souls will surely prefer to check out at the earliest opportunity rather than deal with all that.

The Bible tells us the last days will be hell on earth, and they are getting closer every day. It says nothing of men wanting to live forever under such conditions.

Eternal Life

Finally, that brings up the question “What really is eternal life?” The human heart surely hopes for it. Solomon wrote that God has “put eternity into man’s heart”. The longing for immortality is a legitimate desire, but it has never been one to which man has the answer in himself. “He cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” Apart from Christ, meaning and purpose escape us. Mere existence cannot serve as a substitute for the “eternal life” of which scripture speaks. Even gratifying the desires of the mind and body will not begin to suffice. Paul wrote to Timothy that the self-indulgent woman “is dead even while she lives”. Living for yourself is a kind of death, he says. Even if you can afford them and can easily obtain them, endless entertainment, sexual or sensual gratification lead nowhere good. They do not satisfy the human heart. They lead inevitably to despair. This is the subject of the book of Ecclesiastes.

The Bible teaches that true life consists in the knowledge of Christ, the most perfect expression of God’s nature ever articulated, the greatest message of love ever delivered. This is most clearly spelled out for us in the writings of the apostle John. For example, “This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Again, “In him was life.” In his first epistle, John writes, “We are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” In saying these things, he is only restating what the Lord Jesus himself declared: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Man was created and designed to know and love God as expressed in the person of Christ, to be filled by him, occupied with him, and to reflect him to the universe. Anything that falls short of this is mere existence. It’s not really life at all.

Animating Walking Corpses

Let’s suppose Aubrey de Grey and his rejuvenation team find a way to extend human existence indefinitely by replacing damaged cells or organs. All they will be demonstrating is that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is still in operation and working perfectly. As soon as they cease to address the endless assault of decay for even a moment, death will begin the work of turning dust to dust once again. Worse, all they could ever do — assuming they are ever able to accomplish their goal at all — is animate walking corpses. They cannot begin to address the issue of spiritual death. The Christ-less human being is already dead, no matter how often we can repair its physical shell.

But in Christ, death in all its grim aspects ceases forever to operate. How can it, when those who are his have been drawn into everlasting union with the very source of life itself? The Second Law has no claim on those who are in God’s Son: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

No one. Not death itself.

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