What are your thoughts on life extension? What about Transhumanism?

I used to always consider myself an atheist, having no responsible reason to believe that a divine being could ever exist, it did, and still does sound like wishful, and therefore mystical thinking!

However, what always bothered me about many atheists I'd met was that they seemed to accept death as an inevitability, and well, i never fully accepted death.

What I'm getting at is the now fairly known concept of healthy or even radical life extension through slowing down, halting, or even reversing the aging process in humans.

Dr. Aubrey De Grey is becoming increasingly a well known name after being on such shows like 20/20 with Barbra Walters "How to Live to 150," a spot on "The Colbert Report," and just recently a History channel documentary, that I haven't seen, but covers this kind of life extension in humans as well as other futurist technologies including, Cryonics, Artificial Intelligence, The Singularity, and more...I plan on seeing this one. And just recently in very late November Aubrey was featured on a CNN interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta who is now a celebrity himself being televisions most sought after doctor.

The segment was phenomenal, and Aubrey went on to discuss, his overall plan to defeat aging, how it could be done with bio-engineering and stem cell rejuvenation therapies, how it will drastically change socio-economic and general political structures, and why defeating aging and along with it age related diseases that strike us mostly in the last two decades of our lives happen; diseases such as most cancers, Alzheimer's and other dementia's, heart disease, and obviously many others.

So I remember talking to a few atheists, (by the way I consider myself now to be agnostic as I cannot conclusively prove or disprove God, but I seriously doubt such a fantastical notion could be real,) and so many of them seem to be content with the natural way of things, much like some fundamentalists are simply ok with leaving a terminal illness in the hands of God!

As a young boy, age 5, I remember asking my dad if we could do something to stop us from growing old and dying. It seemed so natural to me to question this and want and need a solution!

Since then I've been a project leader and overall volunteer at the fast growing non-profit Immortality Institute for Research into Unlimited Lifespans. Now I know immortality is an age old chased dream, and most likely is impossible for so many reason, and imminst plans on changing the name to something more realistic! But so many of our members, in one thread, asked the same question to their families and friends growing up...and well, it just seems as "natural" or "unnatural" to me to want to beat aging as it was for medical researchers to want to beat cancer. I hope you see my point!

So how come life extension and other Transhumanist technologies, (some now call bio-progressive technologies,) aren't discussed more in most atheist circles? Surely most of you are familiar with Ray Kurweil inventor of Kurzweil synthesizers, reading machines for the blind and now a famous author and Transhumanist himself? His books include "The Age of Spiritual Machines," and "The Singularity is Near," plus many others. He's met with big name philanthropists such as Bill Gates, (him twice,) sharing his ideas of a potentially amazing future of technological wonders!

So do most Atheists want or feel the need to at least live longer, seeing as life is so fundamentally short subjectively and objectively I'd argue, right now? Or do you have good reason not to at least slow down the deterioration process that leaves us frail, hopeless, and ultimately suffering the last years of our lives?

Sorry for the length of this post!


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I would be among those that favors being able to live longer than my ancestors. I like the fact that I'm more likely to live past 30 in this day and age. That doesn't discount the fact that I wouldn't want to go past 80-85. If OTHER people want to try and find the fountain of youth and aging, go for it, but don't forget we have bigger fish to fry than exercising our vanity.
that point about vanity, I strongly disagree with. I know very few people in favor of life extension, who really care about just looking great.

Feeling great is different. The big difference in our arguments is I see the vast importance of being alive, and I see life as many religious people see it; very sacred, and very fragile, but beautiful if you get all or even some of these things right.

I personally see life in this day and age, even with advances in medicine, to STILL be very fleeting and short, and obviously there are many out there who feel the way I do, and some who don't.

The argument is so many people do value life, at least where I live, that it makes sense to prolong it, if it's prolonging healthy, robust youth, and high quality of living.

There is just so much we don't know about the potential goodies of the future, that to not shoot for this would be denying people a chance to perhaps live wonderful lives that we can't even fathom, or as you say, things could go bad in many ways, or I assume you fear this.

So yes, the bigger fish could all be fried if we put health, and life itself on top, because what isn't more important than living a healthy physically and mentally well life?

I'm assuming with longer lives we'll better so many physical and mental problems that people will WANT to live when they see it doesn't all have to be a harsh, brutish, and short stay on this planet, (paraphrasing a quote from a famous thinker.)

Imo, life is too short right now, and on top of that so few people have the time to really enjoy it, with working 40 hours a week, and all the stressors of life in the 21st century. It doesn't have to be that way, say the life extension enthusiasts. We could work x number of years, and save enough to relax for prolonged periods, maybe then work some more and so on.

So, it's really not about mere vanity, again it's having a high value in the only thing we as humans have grown to like or dislike.

I think the fact that many of are atheists/agnostics is the motivating force to get this done, and see what pans out.
By vanity, I meant in thinking you're (as in the human) so important that you deserve to have your life prolonged for that much longer. Do not think that I don't value my life any more or less than you. I just see the beauty in it ending, in the fact that compared to anything else, it's insignificant length is nothing spectacular. I love living (as I'm already existing, and I have nothing better to do than to live), but I'll be fine to not live anymore when that day comes.

You keep referencing "the future", how are you so sure the future would even be worth living for? Quit assuming what I fear or don't fear, or value and don't value, it makes an ASS out of U and ME. I do not fear a bad future, I simply state that the future may not be as great as you're ASSUMING and HOPING it will be.
I'm not trying to sell this idea anymore, because I realize their are such strong opinions for and against.

I'm not here trying to be some bad guy, I merely think life could be longer, and yes there are many problems but we'd have more time to figure them out.

Aside from almost repeating myself, I will say that there will be no such thing as past your prime if we don't age...
Good luck finding the fountain of youth. As I doubt this technology would be available and affordable within my lifetime, there would definitely be such a thing as "past my prime", whether you like to acknowledge this or not, we have bigger problems than trying to keep everyone young and alive.
I think no one accepts death at younger than "normal" ages, and yes, we have terrible poverty, still diseases, and things like natural disasters, war, crime you name it.

But if people could stay at biological youthful ages, so many killer diseases, in theory, would be eliminated. So what it hopefully will boil down to, is, if people are not dying from age related diseases, what would they be dying of? You do agree dying at a young age is a bad thing I'm sure.

So, why can't we work on aging and poverty, war crimes, etc. at the same time?

And finally, I have serious doubts myself, but this stuff interests me, and I just want to give some of the arguments I've learned.
edit: I meant to say with out age related diseases, there would STILL be people dying of malaria, polio and hunger in impoverished countries, but we could work on both at the same time.

And the argument for if people lived longer more time to help with 3rd world needs.
and people would be dying of murder, unhealthy lifestyles, and plenty of other non-age related diseases, that we will have more time to cure, as we'll have more experienced docs, researchers who have more accumulated life experience, as with age comes wisdom.
I don't agree that dying at a young age is a bad thing. I wouldn't want it for myself, if I can help it, but if someone wants to die at the "cool" age of 27, more power to them. If you want to be obsessed with staying younger longer, more power to you, but try not to delude yourself into thinking it's the solution to EVERYTHING.
ok, fair point, but death is kind of a hamper, I think many of us can agree on that one.

Sure there IS the vast importance on quality of living, I would think that people suffering from where they live, if they could buy more time, they could have that much more time to improve many things, not everything.

Sorry if I came off as saying it would solve everything, obviously not.
I would think that people suffering from where they live, if they could buy more time, they could have that much more time to improve many things, not everything.

Or to suffer longer.
That's an interesting point because it goes back to the haves and have nots.

We would hope this technology would help as many people as possible in the quickest amount of time, but the rich will probably get it first, and I'm not rich, so that's not good for me.

But, (I know I sound hopelessly idealistic,) but I think what it boils down to, is a combination of we need more philanthropists championing third world causes like Bill Gates, and we need hope that things will get better with advancing medical breakthroughs, socio-economic changes, and other ideas of progress.

However, you really are right, who is to say things won't get worse? Who am I to predict how society will evolve in the future? What if we become even more selfish and self centered, an argument people give towards life extensionists, obviously I don't buy that. But the hope is, again, more time to fix the world's problems, but, obviously no one can predict what actually will happen.




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