I Never Wanna Die!: The Desperate Quest for Immortality

never wanna die born to be wild lyricsnever wanna die vitruvian manI AM GRATEFUL FOR MODERN MEDICAL SCIENCE. Along with the good things passed down to me by my parents, I also inherited high blood pressure, arthritis, and chronic acid reflux. These conditions are fairly well controlled by medications that didn’t even exist when I was born. Modern surgical procedures were needed to deliver my daughter, and my recently arrived grandson. Without these procedures child and maybe mother may have died in both cases. “Natural” child birth used to be a common cause of early death.

But a broad stream running through practice and research in modern medicine seems to be an obsessive quest to overcome human biological ageing and even endlessly defer physical death. This quest is not just kook fringe stuff either (though there is, indeed, a kook fringe here). It shows up in now common procedures, like organ transplants, and in mainstream longevity studies. Scientists are researching the humble nematode, 1 mm long worms that inhabit in large numbers nearly every square inch of organic soil on earth. Nematodes live only about 20 days, and researchers have been extending their life spans through dietary restrictions. Nematodes on tight diets livenever wanna die telomeres much longer (for a nematode) then ones that get to eat all the bacteria they want. Another area of research is human telomeres, DNA sequences at the terminal ends of chromosomes. Telomeres shorten with every cell division, which limits the growth of cells, the eventual outcome of which is systemic degradation, ageing, and death. Scientists want to understand this process, and eventually develop treatments to slow or even stop the ageing process.

never wanna die kurzweilTHE DESPERATE QUEST FOR IMMORTALITY is also manifest through cutting-edge computer technology, in so-called “artificial intelligence” (a term I consider to be little more than an oxymoron). Ray Kurzweil, computer scientist, inventor, and futurist, has predicted, in his book The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, that by 2045 human brains will be integrated with the “intelligent” machines we have created, achieving effective immortality. This event he calls the “singularity”, and it was recently popularized in the Johnny Depp movie, Transcendence. Popular culture itself often expresses the human desire to achieve at least the metaphorical “immortality” of fame. The best expression of this I’ve heard was the chorus of the song, “One Moment in Time”, that Whitney Houston recorded for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea:

“Give me one moment in time ,when I’m racing with destiny. Then in that one moment of time I will feel, I will feel eternity.”

The song was played at a tribute to Houston in Great Britain after her death in 2012.

ALL OF THESE PURSUITS OF PERPETUAL EXISTENCE partake of equal parts desperation and hubris. Kurzweil, for instance, describes the human brain as “a complex hierarchy of complex systems, but it does not represent a level of complexity beyond what we are already capable of handling.” This is nothing more than the materialist conceit that human consciousness and the human mind itself can be reduced to brain chemistry and then emulated by human engineered nanotechnology. Echoes of “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5) resound. Even if it were possible to endlessly prolong human material existence through human/machine synthesis, the phrase “a fate worse than death” would seem to be operative. Never-ending existence in this fashion, locked into merely human imagination and resources, would not be the kingdom of heaven or eternal life, it would be Hell.

THIS IS BECAUSE ETERNAL LIFE IS MORE than the indefinite prolongation of purely material existence. Life itself is a relationship. This is not just a metaphor. Even biological life is not merely a chemical process that can be isolated and synthetically reproduced. The original and only source of life is the living God, and to have life, and not merely existence, is to be in relationship with God. In his prayer for the disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus said that his Father had given him authority “to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” Jesus then defined eternal life: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Gospel of John 17:2-3). Eternal relationship with a supremely loving, imaginative, and creative Father sounds a great deal better than being maintained by perpetual spare parts replacement or downloaded onto a computer chip.never wanna die last supper tissot

never wanna die eternal life quote


About Michael W Nicholson

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband, father, and grandfather, a brother and a friend. My professional career has been in education. I taught Industrial Arts in Middle School for six years, four years as an adjunct professor in theology and philosophy, and fifteen years teaching classes in Old Testament, Apologetics, and Worldviews in a Christian High School. Like everyone else who breathes in American culture, I am infected with chronic postmodernity, but I am aware of this and regularly administer the treatment: Historic Christian Orthodoxy as contained in the Scriptures of the Old & New Testaments. I am fascinated by almost every subject imaginable, except economics. I have a Ph.D. in systematic theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I believe in a God who wants to be found; who leaves signs and suggestions, trademarks, signatures, and signposts scattered throughout every aspect of our existence. And if we are truly looking, He will find us. God is the great Story-teller, and the story he is telling is the great drama of Reality, unfolding before us and of which we are all inescapably a part. And so I am collecting fragments, in Philosophy, in Science, and in Art and holding these fragments up to the light and turning them this way and that, and trying to see and say how the Story—the metanarrative, the Christian Worldview—is involved in, and makes sense of, every aspect of our being-in-the-world (to borrow a term from Heidegger and take it where perhaps he did not intend for it to go). And by doing this I hope I am helping to light the way Home; back to the sea, the ocean, the Ocean of Infinite Love. My blog covers a wide range of topics around this central theme that the transcendent realm surrounds and permeates our existence. I put up new posts periodically. I hope you enjoy them. I hope they help.
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