In today’s world, being a Christian is scorned but many blasphemous and heretical ideas are openly embraced and promoted. One such movement is the idea that man can become immortal through science. As strange as it sounds, there is an entire movement backed by many billionaires and scientists to try to live forever and gain extraordinary powers so they might become like God:
The idea that age could be manipulated by twiddling a few control knobs ignited a research boom, and soon various clinical indignities had increased the worm’s life span by a factor of ten and those of lab mice by a factor of two. The scientific consensus transformed. Age went from being a final stage (a Time cover from 1958: “Growing Old Usefully”) and a social issue (Time, 1970: “Growing Old in America: The Unwanted Generation”) to something avoidable (1996: “Forever Young”) or at least vastly deferrable (2015: “This Baby Could Live to Be 142 Years Old”). Death would no longer be a metaphysical problem, merely a technical one.
The celebration was premature. Gordon Lithgow, a leading C. elegans researcher, told me, “At the beginning, we thought it would be simple—a clock!—but we’ve now found about five hundred and fifty genes in the worm that modulate life span. And I suspect that half of the twenty thousand genes in the worm’s genome are somehow involved.” That’s for a worm with only nine hundred and fifty-nine cells. The code book is far more complex for animals that excite our envy: the bee larva fed copiously on royal jelly that changes into an ageless queen; the Greenland shark that lives five hundred years and doesn’t get cancer; even the humble quahog clam, the kind used for chowder, which holds the record at five hundred and seven.
For us, aging is the creeping and then catastrophic dysfunction of everything, all at once. Our mitochondria sputter, our endocrine system sags, our DNA snaps. Our sight and hearing and strength diminish, our arteries clog, our brains fog, and we falter, seize, and fail. Every research breakthrough, every announcement of a master key that we can turn to reverse all that, has been followed by setbacks and confusion. A few years ago, there was great excitement about telomeres, Liz Blackburn’s specialty—DNA buffers that protect the ends of chromosomes just as plastic tips protect the ends of shoelaces. As we age, our telomeres become shorter, and, when these shields go, cells stop dividing. (As Blackburn said, “It puts cells into a terribly alarmed state!”) If we could extend the telomeres, the thinking went, we might reverse aging. But it turns out that animals with long telomeres, such as lab mice, don’t necessarily have long lives—and that telomerase, the enzyme that promotes telomere growth, is also activated in the vast majority of cancer cells. The more we know about the body, the more we realize how little we know.
Still, researchers plunge ahead. Understanding isn’t a precondition for successful intervention, they point out; we had no real grasp of virology or immunology when we began vaccinating people against smallpox.
In the murk of scientific inquiry, every researcher looks to a ruling metaphor for guidance. Aubrey de Grey likes to compare the body to a car: a mechanic can fix an engine without necessarily understanding the physics of combustion, and assiduously restored antique cars run just fine. De Grey is the chief science officer of Silicon Valley’s sens Research Foundation, which stands for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence—a fancy way of saying “Planning Your Comprehensive Tune-up.” An Englishman who began his career with a decade of work in A.I., he speaks with rapid fluidity, often while stroking his Rasputin-length beard. De Grey has proposed that if we fix seven types of physical damage we will be on the path to living for more than a thousand years (assuming we can avoid getting hit by a bus or an asteroid).
When I met him at the sens office, in Mountain View, he told me, “Gerontologists have been led massively astray by looking for a root cause to aging, when it’s actually that everything falls apart at the same time, because all our systems are interrelated. So we have to divide and conquer.” We just need to restore tissue suppleness, replace cells that have stopped dividing and remove those that have grown toxic, avert the consequences of DNA mutations, and mop up the gunky by-products of all of the above. If we can disarm these killers, de Grey suggests, we should gain thirty years of healthy life, and during that period we’ll make enough further advances that we’ll begin growing biologically younger. We’ll achieve “longevity escape velocity.”
Many immortalists view aging not as a biological process but as a physical one: entropy demolishing a machine. And, if it’s a machine, couldn’t it be like a computer? Progress in computers, or anyway in semiconductors, has been subject to Moore’s Law, the exponential flywheel that has doubled capacity every two years. In linear progress, after thirty iterations you’ve advanced thirty steps; in exponential progress, you’ve advanced 1.07 billion steps. Our progress in mapping the human genome looked like it was linear—and then was revealed, once the doublings grew significant, as exponential.
A number of startups are trying to harness exponential curves. BioAge has been using machine learning and crunching genomics data to search for biomarkers that predict mortality. Kristen Fortney, the company’s thirty-four-year-old C.E.O., told me that she had also begun testing computationally designed drugs to find an unexpected substance that would powerfully affect those markers. She’s about to seek her next round of venture financing, and she’s optimistic: “Biotech is something a lot of V.C.s don’t understand, but machine learning and big data are things they do understand.”
Aging doesn’t seem to be a program so much as a set of rules about how we fail. Yet the conviction that it must be a program is hard to dislodge from Silicon Valley’s algorithmic minds. If it is, then reversing aging would be a mere matter of locating and troubleshooting a recursive loop of code. After all, researchers at Columbia University announced in March that they’d stored an entire computer operating system (as well as a fifty-dollar Amazon gift card) on a strand of DNA. If DNA is just a big Dropbox for all the back-office paperwork that sustains life, how hard can it be to bug-fix?
Ray Kurzweil and Aubrey de Grey have the same backup plan if the work doesn’t advance as quickly as they expect: when they die, they will be frozen in liquid nitrogen, with instructions left to reawaken them once science has finished paving the road to immortality. Their optimism is admirable, and perhaps the anxieties that their blueprints stir up are just the standard resentments of the late adopters and the left-behinds. “People are daunted when they hear of these things,” Kurzweil told me. “Then they say, ‘I don’t know if I want to live that long.’ ” For Kurzweil, who has two children, the acceptance of inevitable death is no saner than the acceptance of early death. “It’s a common philosophical position that death gives meaning to life, but death is a great robber of meaning,” he said. “It robs us of love. It is a complete loss of ourselves. It is a tragedy.” (source)
I love seeing articles like these. I need a good laugh during my day. But in all seriousness, these articles represent how deep our apostasy as a society goes.
There is an entire social movement taking place right now called transhumanism. One of its largest proponents is a man by the name of Ray Kurzweil. He has been speaking and writing about the issue for years, and runs several businesses which help promote his ideas, the most significant of which is a concept called ‘singularity.’
Without going into the specifics, the idea of singularity is that currently there is a ‘duality’ in society, that distinction being made between men and machines. In his vision, through man’s progress of technology man will eventually blend himself with machines and by doing so in conjuction with a series of emerging technologies, such as bioengineering, he will be able to live forever and acquire limitless powers that only were dreamed about in the past. In his own words, the religions of the world will no longer be necessary because man will be able to through his own efforts make himself a god.
History repeating itself…
Now the Bible has a lot to say about the foolishness of men who think they can become like God. As if it was not bad enough that it was the first sin which caused man’s fall from grace, the Bible itself says that God laughs from His place in Heaven at men who try to attempt this. This should be enough of a reason for why one should not try to do this. If the Bible is not enough, then the fact that man recognizing that he has potentiality for improvement within him that is limitless should be enough, since as God is all that is, then there is no potentiality it God, only actuality because He sees all, knows all, and has power over all.
But I can use another even simpler example found in nature itself to illustrate this- GMO crops.
For those who are unaware, GMO means “genetically modified organism.” In America today, 90% of all corn and 93% of all soybeans are grown from GMO seeds unless specifically designated as “organic.” What this means is that these and many other plant seeds are not harvested naturally from the previous years’ crop, but they are actively made and modified in science laboratories owned by several major corporations, the most infamous of which in the Monsanto Company.
GMO is a very “hot” issue for many reasons that are currently being aggressively battled out in courtrooms across the country. In terms of plant health, the seeds themselves are supposed to be “pest resistant” because they often times not only contain modifications to the genetic code that make them unpalatable or poisonous to pests, but also contain within them poison that kills bugs on contact. You can see this today especially with corn- if you buy or grow organic corn, you will likely have a cornworm or two in a bunch of ears. Notice how one rarely finds any cornworms any more- because the seed you are consuming is literally toxic to bugs and likely, toxic to your health as well.
GMO crops are also a major issue because the seed is “copyrighted.” However, since the spread of seed cannot be controlled (especially in the case of corn, as zea mays is naturally wind pollinated), then not only will GMO corn contaminate farmers who grow non-GMO corn, but companies will come around and sue the farmers whose corn was polluted over claims of “copyright infringement.”
However, the biggest issue with GMO is that GMO actually does not work. In fact, while it has certain measurable and temporary benefits, its long term effects of modifying the seed are highly negative and destructive to both the plants as well as the environment. There are many theories about this, but the essence is simple- because the plant was modified to produce certain effects, such as pest resistance, what happened is that certain pests just adapted to the new conditions. The result has been a decrease in crop yields, the dramatic rise in pesticide-resistant bugs and weeds, and the emergence of “superweeds” that are completely ravaging GMO crops. However, this is not talked about by the GMO proponents- all one will hear are the benefits without any mention of these other significant issues.
Innovation, invention, and improving crop yields or most other things are good, and science does have a very important place in agriculture. That said, “science” is not the ruler of agricultural activity- it is just a tool to improve what already exists because it does not create, but only modifies the environment in which it is placed. The reason why “science” is made so important is not because this is about being “anti-science” or not, but because it is about God, for if science admits that it is a tool to modify what is created, then the proper use of that tool must be governed by a set of laws or standards, which would necessarily be in the formerly Christian world the rules of Christian morality. By making “science” the focus and end, it allowed for a man to make himself god by declaring right and wrong on his own power and then using said tool as he wills for his own end, and since man is not and cannot be god as he cannot create but only modify, and given that God is all that is good, then all that man can do without God is at best make a change that only reflects divine good, and in the worst case he will simply destroy others and eventually himself.
The Bible is very clear that after Original Sin, man’s days are numbered and are known only to God, for He made us and it is to Him that we will return to be judged at the end of our lives. Science then is to reflect God’s designs for the earth by man working with God’s design, not against Him. While scientific development is healthy and important, it cannot come at the expense of the pursuit of truth.
As for those who think that searching for a cure for death and pursuing the idea of “living forever” through science and apart from God, such as with these people and those who adhere to the transhumanist perspective, they are making the same mistake as did Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Death cannot be cheated as it is the price of sin, the great equalizer between rich and power, powerful and powerless, for all people at all time, and no amount of science can or will change that. And that is why Jesus came. Because while men may be sinful, deceived, and lost, God still loved us so that He sent His only Son so that he who believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.
So let the rich fools and sophists dream so creating a life without God, yet at the same time live in perpetual fear of death. Yes, death is a concern and a serious matter, but only in a life lived without, apart from, and (God forbid) in opposition to the will of God. Indeed, when the curtains of this life close all that will matter is what we did with what we had in the place and time in which we lived.