What if we didn’t die from old age?

November 19, 2007    By: Jacob J @ 7:08 pm   Category: Life

In 1949, several weeks before his 51st birthday, C.S. Lewis wrote a personal letter in which he reflected on the meaning and purpose of aging. He said:

Have you ever thought what it would be like if (all other things remaining as they are) old age and death had been made optional? All other things remaining: i.e. it would still be true that our real destiny was elsewhere, that we have no abiding city here and no true happiness, but the un-hitching from this life was left to be accomplished by our own will as an act of obedience and faith. I suppose the percentage of di-ers would be about the same as the percentage of Trappists is now.

I am therefore (with some help from the weather and rheumatism!) trying to profit by this new realization of my mortality. To begin to die, to loosen a few of the tentacles which the octopus-world has fastened on one. But of course it is continuings, not beginnings, that are the point. A good night’s sleep, a sunny morning, a success with my next book: any of these will, I know, alter the whole thing. Which alteration, by the bye, being in reality a relapse from partial waking into the old stupor, would nevertheless be regarded by most people as a returning to health from a “morbid” mood!

Well, it’s certainly not that. But it is a very partial waking. One ought not to need the gloomy moments of life for beginning detachment, nor be re-entagled by the bright ones. One ought to be able to enjoy the bright ones to the full and at the very moment have the perfect readiness to leave them, confident that what calls one away is better… (Letters of C. S. Lewis pg. 398, emphasis in original)

This is a favorite quote of mine, in part because I am often accused by those who know me best of spending too much time in the “morbid” mood Lewis refers to. But I agree with Lewis that it is not a matter of being morbid. I am often amazed that we all take so much pleasure in being alive given the amount of misery and pain there is in the world. The Problem of Evil is not just a philosophical excercise for me, it is deeply disquieting. It seems to me that we often keep our cheery dispositions about life by actively refusing to internalize the pain and suffering which surrounds us in the world. We refuse to empathize because it is painful, but also because it usually accomplishes nothing. Feeling terrible about children being sold into sex-slavery, or people being massacred in Darfur, or starving in Zimbabwe, or whatever, does not help any of those people. There is an interesting balance to strike between loving life and setting our hearts on this world, between indifference and pragmatically going about our lives without being depressed by what we cannot change, between wanting to live and wanting to die.

It is interesting to juxtapose this quote from Lewis with the talk from TED below (be forwarned, the video below is 22 minutes. It is an interesting 22 minutes, but I will summarize briefly below for those without time to watch. You can download to your ipod if you go to this link):

First of all, if I could grow a beard like the one this guy has, I would begin today. Seriously. The awesomeness of his beard is perhaps the most important point in this post.

For those who didn’t watch the video, this guy is a scientist who thinks we can “defeat” aging and wants to get started. He thinks that if we get going, there are people alive today who could live to be 1,000 years old. He defines defeating aging as removing the correlation between how old you are and how likely you are to die in the next year. Here are a couple of his initial points (both of with which I agree*):

  1. Malaria is a bad thing because it kills lots of people. Aging should be considered a bad thing for the same reason. In fact, aging kills considerably more people than malaria.
  2. People have developed a coping mechanism to deal with the fact that they are going to grow old and die. We cope with the fact of aging by living in a sort of “trance” in which we think aging is a good thing.

Indeed, how can we view aging as a good thing given that it leads to a slow painful death for millions of people. People who say they want to die in their sleep are obviously ignoring the 10 years that usually preceed a person’s dying in their sleep. (On a related note, I want to die in a nuclear holocaust. It would be painless and very likely to take my whole family at the same time so that no one would be left behind to mourn.) Despite the badness of death, C.S. Lewis makes the point that death is important for theological reasons. The idea that death is bad per se is a very mortality-centric view.

The inevitability of death means we never have to choose when to die, and this is what Lewis was talking about in the first part of the quote above. By avoiding that question, we avoid coming to terms with how death might look from God’s perspective. When we say God decided it was someones “time to go,” what factors do we think God considers in making such a decision? This is one of the reasons I find the discussion of euthanasia interesting (see my recent post). More than whether someone agrees or disagrees with euthanasia, I am always interested to see what kind of reasoning is brought to bear on the problem. Quite often the reasoning illustrates the trance Dr. de Grey talks about.

In addition to issues I am musing about here, there are all sorts of other interesting issues raised by the quote and video. Feel free to pontificate on any or all of them if you feel like it.


* This is the only time I ever remember using the construction “both of with which.” It is terribly awkward, yet from some reason I like it and can’t bring myself to reword it.

§ This is filed under the category “Life” which seems to make sense, but might, nevertheless, be a misuse of the category.

31 Comments »

  1. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 19, 2007 @ 8:19 pm

  2. I’ve thought about this. It is really the fantasy theme of what are elves? People who don’t age and die from it and who don’t grow up.

    I meet a fair number of people who opt out and who don’t grow up. It would be easy to put off delayed gratification — school, studies, saving, families, missions and everything else if we didn’t have a time line.

    Of course the flip side is true as well. For some the “miracle of compound interest” would become real.

    C.S. Lewis’ friend J.R.R. Tolkien called aging and death the gift or blessing of mankind. I’ve wondered how much besides Christianity rubbed off of Tolkien and on to Lewis (Tolkien converted Lewis to Christianity for those who didn’t know that, and the two were part of a writing club that met together weekly and read manuscripts to each other. LOTR was written so Tolkien would have a manuscript to share. Publishing it was a long afterthought).

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — November 20, 2007 @ 5:28 am

  3. I’m glad to see I am not the only one whoe gets morbid sometimes. I often wonder if death will be better than life. The spirit world seems like it might be such a nice place. My hope for something better in the next life sometimes makes me yearn for the next life. Responsibilities, and a family that depends on me often brings me back. That and the fact that if it isn;t so great you can;t get back. And getting there without – you know – is tough also.

    There are times when I would be tempted to cash in my chips, old age or not.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 20, 2007 @ 6:47 am

  4. If we could choose whether we die or not I think there would be a higher ratio of bad people to good people in the world than there is now, and that would not be a good thing.

    Comment by cantinflas — November 20, 2007 @ 7:33 am

  5. “of which I agree with both.”

    There. Now I can die happy.

    Comment by Last Lemming — November 20, 2007 @ 9:35 am

  6. Ugh! this guy? I read an interview with him a few years ago. He talks like he is the first scientist to ever think of the most obvious things. “One of the reasons we get old is because our bodies accumulate ‘junk’ in our cells. We just need to find a way to clean out that junk.” Oh, well, how many thousands of cell biologists do you think already thought of that?

    But you’re right—his beard is amazing!

    Comment by BrianJ — November 20, 2007 @ 9:52 am

  7. It seems reasonable that we could use science to undo the effects of the fall. God must of used science to create those effects, after all.

    Personally, I don’t care if it’s painful when I die, but I do hope it’s interesting. I mean I’ll have an eternity to tell the story, so I hope it’s a good one.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 20, 2007 @ 10:06 am

  8. Stephen,

    Thanks for bringing up Tolkien, you are right on the money, but I had forgotten about that connection. He did explore this theme in LOTR with the elves, who get to choose when to exit middle earth.

    Eric,

    For me, I would be a lot more tempted to cash in my chips if it meant annihilation instead of more life in the spirit world. At least here I can sleep.

    cantinflas,

    Why do you think there would be more bad people than good? I am not sure I agree, but I am interested to hear your reasoning.

    Last Lemming,

    See, that’s the problem, I still prefer the way I wrote it in the post. I can’t explain why though.

    BrianJ,

    I don’t know enough to say whether this guy is full of it or not. Obviously this presentation at TED was too short to help evaluate the feasibility either way, but I am more interested in the philosophical/theological issues raised by the possibility of eliminating old age than I am by the science.

    All,

    So, do you think it would be a good thing or a bad thing if aging were eliminated? I was thinking about this and decided that if it really did happen, it would likely only be possible for the wealthy to take advantage of all the therapies and prolong life for too much longer than normal. Would that change your answer?

    It seems like you would only end up with a small number of people who really lived a super long time. What would the study of recent history be like if we still had a handful of people who lived through the civil war who we could ask questions of?

    Comment by Jacob J — November 20, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

  9. Jacob,

    I’m interested in your second paragraph. You imply that we put our heads in the sand and refuse to empathize to survive in the world in order to convince ourselves we are happy. Yet God, the ultimate empathizer, is said to be the happiest of all beings despite the existence of evil in this world (and presumably every inhabited mortal world throughout eternity). Something has to give here…

    Comment by Geoff J — November 20, 2007 @ 12:59 pm

  10. As far as I can tell from my reading of the scriptures, the longevity of mankind didn’t make much difference when mankind lived to greater ages. Yes, the record is very limited and, with the exception of Enoch, the level/amount of evil doesn’t seem to have changed too much. So, living longer wouldn’t change things much.

    After much thought, my personal opinion is that the problems associated with aging are meant to spur in us a desire to leave mortality and, therefore, a desire to have the spiritual side of us be the “primary thing” in our existence. Maybe we get so use to the physical tabernacle that we diminish the spirit portion of our being and therefore aging pushes us towards the spiritual part?

    I also believe when we lose the physical body, we _will_ recognize the loss. But, then we will better understand the balance between the two – that both spirit and flesh will be willing and that will go a long way to eliminating the weakness of both.

    Comment by mondo cool — November 20, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

  11. Geoff,

    By coincidence, Matt Evans posted on this topic a few days ago (The Joy of God). I think there is a genuine issue there to be grappled with.

    A couple of clarifications may be in order, though. First, I am not saying that the fact of one person’s suffering negates the fact of someone else’s happiness. If suffering is real, then it seems to follow that happiness is real too. I don’t mean to say in the post that our happiness is all an illusion.

    Second, since I don’t know how to resolve the problem of evil, it is not clear to me how we should view the issue of human suffering. Is there some context which changes how it looks from God’s perspective? Is seems that the problem you are talking about quickly reduces to a variation of the problem of evil. Do you have a solution?

    Comment by Jacob J — November 20, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

  12. Jacob:

    Is not the spirit world described as a place to rest from all mortal care and sorrow?

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 20, 2007 @ 3:07 pm

  13. Jacob: Is seems that the problem you are talking about quickly reduces to a variation of the problem of evil.

    True. But it seems you are mixing the problem of evil with mortal longevity in this post as well. That is what I’m wondering about. Evil will continue on no matter how long or short our mortal lives are so I don’t really see why it ought to be brought up in this discussion.

    (Thanks for the interesting link, BTW)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 20, 2007 @ 3:12 pm

  14. Mondo,

    Your comments seem very much in line with C.S. Lewis. And, of course, I recall your guest post on this same topic. I think it is fascinating to consider the scenario in which “the un-hitching from this life was left to be accomplished by our own will as an act of obedience and faith.” I think old age ends up playing the role you mention for some people (not everyone grows old), but it seems like this is something we should do even before we grow old.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 20, 2007 @ 3:29 pm

  15. Is not the spirit world described as a place to rest from all mortal care and sorrow?

    That’s what they tell you now, sure. I expect a bait and switch routine myself. After all, we do supposedly do missionary work in the spirit world, right? I don’t know about your mission…

    Comment by Jacob J — November 20, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

  16. J.J.: Lewis says “i.e. it would still be true that our real destiny was elsewhere”

    Assuming everyone knows our real destiny is elsewhere, those that don’t think their destiny will be all that great because of things they’ve done here may want to delay the journey, while those who have no fear of the next step will proceed to their next destination.

    I suppose that with the assumption that we all know our “destiny is elsewhere” comes the assumption that everyone acts accordingly, but who knows. It was just my first thought after reading your post.

    Comment by cantinflas — November 20, 2007 @ 3:33 pm

  17. Geoff,

    I suppose I am mixing the two issues, that’s true. Here in mortality, I think our happiness is often fascilitated by putting bad things out of our minds. I assume that this is not true for God’s happiness. Thus, I view the two issues you bring up in #9 (our happiness in relation to our lack of empathy verses God’s happiness given his supreme empathy) as two different issues. I think that is why the two are getting tangled up here. I might be wrong in that assumption, I don’t know.

    I’m curious, if you could live to be 200 before “getting old”, would you do it?

    Comment by Jacob J — November 20, 2007 @ 3:49 pm

  18. I’m curious, if you could live to be 200 before “getting old”, would you do it?

    Sure — as long as my friends and family could do it too. I like it here because they are here. If they went elsewhere I would would be more interested in following them there.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 20, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

  19. Thanks for responding Cantinflas, I see where you are coming from.

    I have noticed that our true destiny being elsewhere doesn’t seem to make most of us anxious to die an early death. Should that be surprising? Should we want to move on to the next world? There seems to be a very interesting tension between our value for life and our commitment that we are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” looking for a better country.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 20, 2007 @ 3:56 pm

  20. Jacob: In the sense that this life is just more life with more opportunity for growth, we view life as eternal. The greatest tragedy isn’t death, but failure to love and grow. As I see it, the issue of death in the sea of eternal life is designed to create urgency for us. We also learn not to take for granted the loving relationships we have because we can experience what it is like to always be on the edge of death and losing everything we hold dear.

    I don’t see life as tragic, but as beautiful. I don’t mean to downplay the evils and depravities of this life, but in the midst of the plan of salvation the universe is a loving refuge designed for our progress and learning. The harsh fact is that there is no growth inside the comfort zone. So we are constantly taken outside of our comfort zone by life and often waaaayy outside into really evil and scary territory. Yet even the opposition and bitter that we confront is set up to offer us opportunities for growth. I am not a Pollyanna — I’m just pragmatic. I don’t think it serves to put “bad things” out of our minds but to assess them in perspective sub speciae aeternitatis. The truth is that the greatest tragedy is when we bury someone who never truly lived no matter their mortal age. The true tragedy is that so many are asleep to the abundance and blessings.

    In light of mortality in the sea of immortality, mortal life is something very different than mortal life that ends in the cosmic whimper of meaninglessness that atheists experience.

    Comment by Blake — November 20, 2007 @ 7:54 pm

  21. “with both of which I agree” seems like a good way to right the awkward construction.

    As for death, it seems to me that we downplay the negative aspects of death as a coping mechanism, since we currently have no way to avoid it. But the scriptures speak of it in very negative terms: “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.” Yes, death is a monster, and aging is a torture.

    I don’t think that means that we can’t also see positive things in both. For example, I think Blake’s point about death providing us with a greater sense of urgency is a good one. But everybody who would really rather go back to the days when average life expectancy was, say, 35 years, raise your hand. … Didn’t think so. :-p

    I find it very interesting also that we have a uniquely Mormon story to tell about immortality *now*. I am not aware of any other religion that has the kinds of teachings, both canonical and extra-canonical, about bodily translation that Mormonism has. Joseph Smith said some interesting things about transfigured and translated beings, whom he described as having terrestrial bodies, as opposed to our current telestial ones or our (hopefully) celestial resurrected ones.

    And Jesus approves highly of the desires of the three Nephites who wish to avoid death:

    “Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death…”

    The whole account is really fascinating when considered in the context of whether death is a bad thing. Another interesting thing to note is that in the promised millennial day, there will be no death as we know it (and perhaps not aging as we know it either), with people growing “to the age of a tree” (did you know there are some trees still living that were around during Jesus’ lifetime?) and then being transformed (transfigured/translated/resurrected) in the twinkling of an eye.

    The Mormon Transhumanist Association has considered a lot of this and finds much in Mormonism to commend efforts to overcome death. There are some papers posted on our website relevant to this topic that you all might find interesting.

    Comment by Christopher Bradford (Grasshopper) — November 21, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

  22. “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit . . . that has not been revealed since the world was until now; Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory; A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest . . . if there be bounds set to the heavens or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars . . . all their glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fulness of times – According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal presence and into his immortal rest.” (D&C 121)

    Joseph was prophetic. With our new knowledge, we now navigate depths of the sea that sunlight does not reach and rocket through the sky at speeds greater than that of sound. Computers that once filled entire warehouses now fit in the palms of our hands. We’ve used them to form the Internet and map the human genome. We’ve visited the Moon, our robots are scouting Mars, and private reusable spacecraft are preparing the way for space tourism. We’ve demonstrated the feasibility of what Harry Potter might call “invisibility”, “levitation” and “telepathy”. Trends of exponential advance in biological, miniaturization and information technology suggest increasingly transformative revolutions in the near future. We read of skin cells converted to stem cells for curing diverse human frailties. We hear of research toward indefinite life extension.

    Wonder. Here we are, in the dispensation of the fullness of times, as Joseph called it. Where is it going? What is on the other side of the risks? What kind of world are we, with God, creating? Joseph shared other thoughts about the future:

    “For the great Millennium, of which I have spoken by the mouth of my servants, shall come. For Satan shall be bound, and when he is loosed again he shall only reign for a little season, and then cometh the end of the earth. And he that liveth in righteousness shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and the earth shall pass away so as by fire.” (D&C 43)

    “And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face. And in that day whatsoever any man shall ask, it shall be given unto him. And in that day Satan shall not have power to tempt any man. And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death. In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree; And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious. Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things— Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof— Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.” (D&C 101)

    “Nevertheless, he that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome, and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguration shall come; When the earth shall be transfigured, even according to the pattern which was shown unto mine apostles upon the mount; of which account the fulness ye have not yet received.” (D&C 63)

    Do we believe Joseph will prove prophetic again? Do we believe in a world of harmony between humans and other animals? Do we believe superabundance and new knowledge possible? Do we believe in a world without death, where we are transfigured to immortality at the end of a long healthy life? And, if so, do we believe we have anything to do with the work required to make this all happen?

    “Prepare to die, is not the exhortation in this Church and Kingdom; but prepare to live is the word with us, and improve all we can in the life hereafter, wherein we may enjoy a more exalted condition of intelligence, wisdom, light, knowledge, power, glory, and exaltation. Then let us seek to extend the present life to the uttermost, by observing every law of health, and by properly balancing labor, study, rest, and recreation, and thus prepare for a better life. Let us teach these principles to our children, that, in the morning of their days, they may be taught to lay the foundation of health and strength and constitution and power of life in their bodies.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11: 132)

    “You may now be inclined to say, ‘We wish to hear the mysteries of the kingdoms of the Gods who have existed from eternity, and of all the kingdoms in which they will dwell; we desire to have these things portrayed to our understandings.’ Allow me to inform you that you are in the midst of it all now, that you are in just as good a kingdom as you will ever attain to, from now to all eternity, unless you make it yourselves by the grace of God, by the will of God, which is a code of laws perfectly calculated to govern and control eternal matter.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 3: 336)

    If Brigham is right, and we want to live in the sort of Millennial world Joseph described, we have work to do. Moreover, if we see, as Nephi describes it in the Book of Mormon, that death is an awful monster, we have a duty that is well articulated by Captain Moroni:

    “And now, my beloved brethren—for ye ought to be beloved; yea, and ye ought to have stirred yourselves more diligently for the welfare and the freedom of this people; but behold, ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance; yea, for known unto God were all their cries, and all their sufferings— Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain. Do ye suppose that, because so many of your brethren have been killed it is because of their wickedness? I say unto you, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain; for I say unto you, there are many who have fallen by the sword; and behold it is to your condemnation; For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God. And now behold, I say unto you, I fear exceedingly that the judgments of God will come upon this people, because of their exceeding slothfulness, yea, even the slothfulness of our government, and their exceedingly great neglect towards their brethren, yea, towards those who have been slain . . . Have ye forgotten the commandments of the Lord your God? Yea, have ye forgotten the captivity of our fathers? Have ye forgotten the many times we have been delivered out of the hands of our enemies? Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us? Yea, will ye sit in idleness while ye are surrounded with thousands of those, yea, and tens of thousands, who do also sit in idleness, while there are thousands round about in the borders of the land who are falling by the sword, yea, wounded and bleeding? Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.”

    I imagine Nephi would invite us to liken that scripture to us. 100,000 of us are dying of age-related causes each day, and untold billions of our brothers and sisters are dead and separated from their bodies — “For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage” (D&C 138). Aubrey de Grey and others, as if prophetic, are proclaiming a hearty and working faith toward life. I’m with them. That’s where I feel the spirit of God. That’s where I see the Christ and saviours on Mount Zion.

    Comment by Lincoln Cannon — November 21, 2007 @ 3:14 pm

  23. A recent article in Discover magazine asked “If You Never Aged, How Long Would You Live?” estimated that death from accident might let us live 10,000 to 20,000 years.

    Comment by Allen — November 21, 2007 @ 10:26 pm

  24. Living without aging would impact athletics and skilled physical sports and such a great deal.

    What if your reaction time didn’t go down with age?

    I think about when I was younger and had reaction speeds at around .1 second (at 40 I was still below .2 by a good margin). Just doing some Judo with my kids brought up how much things have changed ;)

    But that allows entrancement. I know people who would still be skiing. Though I need to finish my post on celestial life, which is life without aging.

    Just in a different context.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — November 22, 2007 @ 8:48 am

  25. My question: would such a scientific ‘effective immortality’ (i.e. no death by natural causes) be intrinsically different from treading “the way of the tree of life?”

    If not, at what point do the cherubim start using those flaming swords?

    Comment by mistaben — November 22, 2007 @ 10:26 pm

  26. Grasshopper,

    For example, I think Blake’s point about death providing us with a greater sense of urgency is a good one. But everybody who would really rather go back to the days when average life expectancy was, say, 35 years, raise your hand. … Didn’t think so. :-p

    Precisely, well put. That illustrates the tension nicely. We all think it is a good thing that life expectancy has doubled over the last few hundred years, but would it be a good thing for it to double again, and then again? At what point do we decide that our real destiny is elsewhere and prolonging life is not desirable.

    Allen,

    Thanks for the link to Discover, I hadn’t seen that. I think their number is way too high since removing aging does not entail removing all disease. Interesting nonetheless.

    Stephen and Mistaben,

    You both seem to be making a similar assumption which I would challenge. I don’t think life without aging qualifies as “eternal life” (or “celestial life”) in the scriptural sense. So, I don’t think the cherubim would need to dust off their swords. Eternal life is the kind of life God lives, which is not the kind of life we are currently living (preventing death simply gives us more of the same kind of life). This is what C.S. Lewis was getting at when he said “All other things remaining: i.e. it would still be true that our real destiny was elsewhere, that we have no abiding city here and no true happiness.”

    Comment by Jacob J — November 25, 2007 @ 11:22 am

  27. Jacob: At what point do we decide that our real destiny is elsewhere and prolonging life is not desirable.

    Presumably never for most LDS… Isn’t that the general point of looking forward to getting a resurrected body?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 25, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  28. Geoff,

    Well, a resurrected body coincides with an end of mortality and the beginning of life in a kingdom of glory (for the vast majority of people). I don’t mean to ask when people will decide they want to be annihilated, what I am asking about is the role of mortal life in the context of the plan of salvation. We believe this mortal life is an important and integral part of the plan of salvation, but we don’t think it is the end-all and be-all. At some point we have to assume that there is something better for us on the other side of the veil, do we not? At any rate, that is what I am trying to ask in the sentence you quoted in #27.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 25, 2007 @ 11:53 am

  29. Thirty five years was a typical life expectancy at birth. The reason why it was so low was so many died when they were infants or children.

    If you lived to age twenty, however, you could reasonably expect to live another thirty to thirty five years (cf. Gregory Clark, A Farewell to Alms, pp. 94-95). Typical adults died in their fifties, not in their thirties.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 25, 2007 @ 5:17 pm

  30. I love this topic! I was actually tinkering with a story involving a similar premise.

    A couple of thoughts to add to the mix:

    I think a key component to our mortality is the ability to procreate. At first I thought that Adam needed to be mortal simply because Eve was on her way out, but Moses 5: 11 makes it plain that if it weren’t for “their” transgression, they never would have had children.

    It’s a mystery to me as to why the two abilities (to die and to have children) are linked. Perhaps it’s because in order to be a compassionate and selfless parent, you need to have a self that you can give up for your children. If you were essentially immortal, it wouldn’t be such a big deal to take that lousy job that keeps the family afloat instead of focusing on becoming a rock star, because you can always become a rock star when you turn 60, or 600. Or worse, you focus on being a rock star now, because you can always become a parent when you turn 600.

    There may also be a simple mathematical reason that the two abilities are linked: conservation of resources. Other than those who can organize new worlds for children to live upon, we have a finite amount of space here on this earth. It seems logical that if you wanted to be immortal, you should “indefinitely reserve your place at the world’s table” by not creating heirs or replacements that you aren’t going to use to replace you.

    Is there some deeper link between setting a limit on your time here and being granted the ability to extend your life through the lives of others? And would we disrupt this link by extending our mortal probation? In any degree?

    Comment by britain — November 27, 2007 @ 1:55 pm

  31. i just want to see if its really true

    Comment by karessa — February 21, 2008 @ 9:32 am

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