Rejuvenation: a life without dying

Researchers in Silicon Valley want to have rejuvenated subjects. This provokes religious and ethical criticism. What if in the end even death was abolished?


Most people think again about the cause of death when they see another human dying. If, therefore, death has met them directly, and the grief existentially, but at the same time, the recognition of one's own finitude can no longer be denied. The loss of innocence, which is usually mentioned in novels and films, therefore, is not in the execution of the first sexual intercourse, it is experience, quite well away. It is the moment when we become aware of the fact that life will eventually cease. At least in the form of earthly existence, everyone agrees, the faithful, the agnostics, the atheists: no sunrise on a sad day, no warm day on the beach, no photogenic sex between white sheets. But also: no pain, no pain, no Twitter.

But what if it did not have to stop? Or at least go crazy late at the end? The quiet hope for it must have always existed; and research is being done on extending life for a long time. Now, a Silicon Valley company - where life extension is a smaller but all-fantasizing branch of the biotech industry - claims it has lowered the biological age of nine (male) subjects through a drug-induced thymus regeneration. It could confirm the results in further studies, be the actual beginning of the end of aging, or promise at least another significant extension of the healthy lifespan of humans. At some point, of course, that's the dream, death could be abolished.

Surprisingly, this dream always provokes great contradiction. Not only by ethicists who have to worry about their job at every new development. Also reader comment columns are full of rejection. Even against the (still) very small Life Extension scene in Germany, people have heard protests that the abolition of death would actually have to happen. For example, in Soho House in Berlin, a club where relatively young or young-looking, comparatively wealthy or wealthy-looking people meet, there were events organized in past years, organized by the former founder of Web.de and Life-Extension - Supporter Michael Greve. People in the audience repeatedly expressed incomprehension to rage over the idea to extend the healthy life span.

The reasons for rejection are always the same. First, life-extension fans are subject to bad narcissism, so their reluctance to die is pathologized. Secondly, it is claimed that the earth is already overpopulated today and that it is already threatening the climate catastrophe, which is why even more people with longer lives would be the real catastrophe, not only for the planet, but also for the societies on it. Third, it goes without saying that only the rich or, alternatively, the global North would be able to afford life-prolonging therapies. And fourthly, the desire to live longer and healthier, against nature or any natural order.

Unfortunately, it is true that all these theses are either not proven. Or refutable.

First, the individual mental dispositions of people who do not want to die are neither researched nor researchable, they do not play a role in the evaluation of research results.

Secondly, mathematical models for calculating a limit for the so-called sustainability of the earth have long since been overtaken by the development of the world population. When the British economist Thomas Robert Malthus invented the idea of ​​overpopulation in 1798 and predicted that the growth of the world's population would overtake food production, about 800 million people lived on Earth. The United Nations estimates that by 2050 there will be just under ten billion people on the planet, and theoretically they can be fed thanks to further efficiency gains in food production (the global distribution of food remains the big problem). How nature-friendly these masses of people will be, so much for the climate catastrophe, will depend essentially on how resource-efficient they will economize (even if, for example, antinatalists exactly calculate how much CO₂ each individual emits, but these people would rather not leave the future to themselves) , After all, only authors of science fiction novels will know what future societies will look like.

Third, no one today can predict how much life-prolonging therapies will cost because nobody knows what will happen and how they might be traded.

And fourthly, since the beginning of its existence, the human species has made considerable efforts to remain as collective and individual as possible for as long as possible. Although man has hardly missed anything in his attempt to destroy his own civilization, he and the present systems that he invented have so far proven to be resilient: man obviously has great talent for causing great suffering to himself and others, but he does not self-abolish.

From this point of view, biological research and medical practice, especially in the past century and a half, have followed only the human instinct of self-preservation. Is that supposed to be against nature? Anyone who thinks that and necessarily wants to put an idea of ​​natural order and supposed originality back into law, can set a good example and refuse the use of antibiotics in the next infectious disease.

ref: zeit

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