ADDRESSING
           
ETHICS

SOME OPPOSE A CURE FOR AGING,
considering it is an area of science that humanity should not explore... 

The question underlying the whole issue is whether scientific progress itself is positive. 

Should we be grateful for the miracles that modern technology has offered us or should we repudiate progress believing it only brings more problems than it's worth?

Won't we become over-populated and overrun the planet?

It stands to reason that extending our lifespans would increase the world population; after all, we've seen it happen before. In just over a century, the average life expectancy of a person living in the United States has increased from 47.3 in 1900 to 78.0 in 2008. Technologies including vaccines, antibiotics, chemotherapy, and antioxidants, as well as social advances such as sanitation, environmentalism, and an anti-smoking crusade have all contributed to this. Most recently, we've made attempts to push our lifespans out even further with technologies such as hormone replacement, caloric restriction, and Resveratrol.

While technologies have increased the size of our population, something interesting also happened: population growth rate began to slow. Birthrates fell rapidly, and in less than four decades, the average number of children in a family was more than cut in half, from 6 to 2.9. Today, most researchers think we are headed quickly towards a stable population.

Isn't curing aging unnatural or sacrilegious?

Certainly, it can be argued that a cure for aging is unnatural. But it can also be argued that a human being, in his or her most natural state, is cold and hungry, infested with parasites, vulnerable to predators, and generally lives a life that Hobbes famously described as "nasty, brutish, and short.
 

In our natural state, we are susceptible to the disease of aging, and, similarly, we are susceptible to the disease of smallpox. Yet few among us would look back and claim that we made a horrible mistake when we unnaturally eradicated smallpox.
 

Sometimes, objections to finding a cure for aging are made on religious or philosophical grounds: some see such a cure as a defiance of natural order or of God's will. However, there are also many people whose religions and philosophies are exactly what drives them to seek a cure for aging. For example, Christian writer Sylvie Van Hoek believes that the search for the cure is not only compatible with belief, but that belief compels us to seek a cure:

The Book of Genesis speaks of God's love. The creation stories describe the perfect world He created for us. After each creation He confirmed that it was good. There was no death or suffering in the Garden of Eden because it was not part of His plan. It couldn't have been because all that God creates is good; everything that is not good is the result of the absence of God. It was original sin that corrupted our perfect world. In failing to resist temptation and wanting to be like God---by eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge---man and woman turned away from God. This transformed the beauty of our nakedness into something shameful. Shame was impossible before the sin because nakedness meant that we enjoyed an intimate relationship with God. It was the sin that marked the beginning of our struggle with physical and moral suffering. Suffering is always the death of something, so physical death is just the far extreme along that same continuum.
 

Critics [of anti-aging science] should read A Theology of the Body by John Paul II (Pauline Books, Boston, 2006). The recent pope eloquently expands on every bit of scripture concerning the body. In fact, I view [anti-aging science] as very much comporting to God's plan. He never wanted this for us. He created a different world, one that we corrupted. He could have turned away from us as we did to Him, but instead He sent the Christ to save us. He continues to work in the world today because He wants us to be happy. You may think you're doing something coldly scientific by fighting aging, but you're already up to your eyeballs in the fight against evil.
 

There may be some who will always have philosophical and religious concerns about anti-aging science. But aging can be a painful, torturous process: it seems difficult to argue that going through the final stages of decline is an inherently good thing, or that finding a way for all of us to remain fit and healthy is inherently evil.

QUESTIONS PEOPLE OFTEN ASK:
Won't the earth be over-populated?

Won't Social Security be bankrupted?

Isn't curing aging unnatural or sacrilegious? 

Won't future generations face challenges, such as long-lived dictators, that could have been avoided?"

"There's a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere!"
           Isaac Asimov - Professor of biochemistry at Boston University

Won't Social Security be bankrupted?

Social Security is quickly heading toward bankruptcy right now - and the reason lies in the very nature of aging.

A typical person today works for forty to fifty years before retiring at age 65. Although retirement is often framed as a reward earned by a lifetime of hard work, the truth is that, not too long after reaching age 65, people inevitably become too sick and weak to continue working even if they wanted to. That's not the most desirable of rewards.
 

The fundamental problem with Social Security is that many of our modern medical advances have extended our lifespan, but have not expanded our healthspan to match. In 1935, when Social Security began, only about 57% of the population survived to age 65, and those who did only lived an average of 13 more years. Today, nearly 80% of the population survives to 65, and those who do typically live 17 more years. 

But these aren't our highest-quality years of life. Extending lifespan without improving healthspan has given us a large number of people who remain sicker longer, putting a historically unprecedented burden on the healthy to care for the sick.
 

If we felt as healthy and energetic at age 65 as we do at 30, why would we want to permanently retire? It would be far cheaper for the government to pay for a worker to take a ten-year vacation after forty years of work than to pay for seventeen years of decline and the staggering health care costs that accompany it. Not only that, but ten years of vacation as a healthy, youthful individual sounds like a much better reward for decades of hard work than seventeen years of decline.

Won't future generations face challenges, such as long-lived dictators, that could have been avoided?

The short answer is yes. But the same can be said of any technology. When humans invented the car, we also created the problems of traffic safety and air pollution. When we invented factories and industrialized the manufacture of goods, we were forced to rebuild ancient economic and social structures. When we discovered fire, we also had to learn not to get burned.

But, looking back, we wouldn't have it any other way. Any progress comes with its own challenges, but rejecting progress because we don't trust future generations to deal with it is not the solution.

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