To de Grey’s last post: One can disapprove of all sorts of things without calling for the force of law against them. I would have thought that was a distinction familiar to libertarians.
Readers might find it more interesting if we were to engage in a consideration of the merits and demerits of the project to conquer death. To that end, let me return to Ron Bailey’s incredulous question: “All right, seriously folks, why would anyone think we need death?” Maybe Bailey is not aware that Jews, Christians, and Muslims (who together constitute a substantial portion of the world’s population) not only believe that the children of Adam need death, but actually deserve death. So, Bailey’s question does have a serious religious answer, an answer that includes an alternative route to a deathless existence. But, we can dispense with all that since the scientific faith now promises heaven on earth — and at such small cost: the scientific priesthood only requests our money not our dedication to the moral struggle of living well.
So, if we limit ourselves to this-worldly considerations, why would we need death? In my last post, I suggested a linkage between the fullness of our erotic lives and the fact of mortality. The notion is not novel, but runs through the texts of love, from Plato’s Symposium to the poetry of John Donne. It is also on display in the ordinary experience of mothers and fathers.
The bonds of political community may also depend on death. For anyone interested in pursuing this thought, I recommend the essay by Joseph Bottum, entitled “Death & Politics,” in the June/July 2007 issue of First Things. He argues for three propositions:
1. The losses human beings suffer are the deepest reason for culture,
2. The fundamental pattern for any community is a congregation at a funeral,
3. A healthy society requires a lively sense of the reality and continuing presence of the dead.
If deathlessness ever arrives for human beings, I would cast my lot with the elephants who are said to gather and grieve over the bones of their departed. Elephant culture might already have surpassed the culture of immortalists. Based on the posts so far, cultural ignorance — of the history of religion and love and politics — is one clear cost of the quest for a non-transcendent immortality.