Do we need death?

This is the subject of an excellent essay by Ronald Baily for Cato Unbound’s discussion on anti-aging research.  I love the closing sentence of the third paragraph.   Here’s the essay up to and including it:

Do we need death?

No. Next question.

All right, seriously folks, why would anyone think that that we need death? Pro-mortalists generally fear that longer lives will result in a nursing home world, filled with aging, miserable, debilitated people draining resources from the young to keep themselves alive. Second, they worry about the social consequences of longer lifespans.

In his lead essay, Aubrey de Grey ably demolishes the nursing-home-world dystopias. The point of anti-aging research is not to make us older longer, but to make us younger longer. Enough said.

So what about the social consequences of radically longer and healthier lives? In that regard, Diana Schaub in her reaction essay raises many questions for reflection about those consequences, but curiously she fails to actually reflect on them. Schaub isn’t “willing to say that agelessness is undesirable,” but she simultaneously “can’t shake the conviction that the achievement of a 1,000-year lifespan would produce a dystopia.” She then simply recapitulates the standard issue pro-mortalist rhetorical technique of asking allegedly “unnerving questions” and then allowing them to “fester in the mind.” Sadly, all too many bioethicists think they’ve done real philosophic work by posing “hard” questions, then sitting back with steepled hands and a grave look on their countenances.

(OK, the image of Mr. Burns is the closest I could find, even though his fingers could be more steepled and expression more grave.  I hope to live long enough to see better matches.  Do send!)

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