Life Studies Blog (Old)

December 05, 2005

Retardation of aging, biotechnology, and fear of death (by M)


In the previous entry I talked about the book, Leon kass's (+President's Council on Bioethics) Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. In the United States, this book might be seen as propaganda from conservative right-wing ethicists backed up by Christian churches. However, in Japan, this book will be welcomed by various researchers and activists regardless of their own religious backgrounds, because in Japan, Christians account for not more than 1 % of the whole population.

In this book they discuss the retardation of aging as well as other topics. In the future it might become possible to delay the aging process by manipulating our genes or other chemical substances in our body. What if we can live more than 200 years, or a thousand years without serious illnesses? Futurologists and some bioethicists tend to think that there will be no problem to live longer with the help of advanced technology. But the authers of this book do not necessarily think so. Probably most people would choose to live longer with advanced technology and/or medication, but in exchange for it, they will have to face very difficult problems they have never anticipated.

Paradoxically, one of the big problems we have to tackle in such a society will be the growth of fear of death. For, their long life is supported by their intentional activities of delaying aging by using various technologies and medication, and as a result, they are forced to see their own death everyday in an indirect manner. In this sense, the life of people in such a society will be totally covered with the shadow of death, in other words, uneasiness, fear, and melancholy resulting from the fate of human existence. They also say that we will be segregated from the sense of nature, time, and maturation, without which we cannot live our lives meaningfully and deeply.

Of course this doesn't constitute a sufficient condition for *stopping* the progress of such technology. However, thinking about the negative aspects of such technology is very important. What is more important is to think deeply about the meaning of the progress and the fate of our civilization. This is what I have repeatedly stressed in this bog. (Related page:
Painless Civilization)

Anyway, I want to object to the idea that the progress of science automatically provide us with fulfilment and happiness, or the idea that those who object to the progress of science must be religious fundamentalists. We have to see both sides of technology and civilization.

I wanted to quote some sentences from the book, but I couldn't because I didn't have the original English edition yet.

(See this entry "Eternity, immortality, and desire to live longer" of Jan.8,2006)

Photo: Doutonbori, Osaka

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