10th May 2010

Can a Person Live Forever?

I’ve recently spent some time reading about cryonics, which is the preservation of a person’s body after death. The ideology of cryonics centers around a belief that a person who dies from natural causes can eventually be restored back to life again once technology advances far enough to overcome the effects of aging, which ultimately causes death in every person known to have lived. Although I’m not ready to sign a will that instructs my survivors to have my body refrigerated after I die, the topic is an interesting one, especially since aging and death affect everyone. So I ask the question, can a person live forever?

Tomb of Preserved Body of Bishop Edmund Stafford

People sometimes go to great length to preserve the body of a deceased person

in hopes of them living again in the future.

Answers to this question abound in the religious realm. My church teaches that death is the separation of the body and the spirit. At some point, everyone who has ever lived on the earth will inherit an immortal, perfect body. I’ll even get my hair back and my knees won’t ache anymore when I play basketball. But what does science say about it? Those who adhere to cryonics and medical professionals generally are pushing ahead for increased life expectancies. Most scientific conclusions summarize questions about perpertual life as we know it by admitting that, although we can postpone mortality through science, the end inevitably comes eventually.

According to the Bible, there were people who lived almost 1,000 years. Before the flood, it wasn’t uncommon to see people live to ages over 500 years. Methuselah, Jared, Noah, Adam, Seth, Kenan, and Enosh are all reported to have lived to be older than 900 years. In recent history, nobody has made it past their 120’s. What happened between Old Testament times and today? Did they have a different diet back then? Maybe the earth’s atmosphere was significantly different than it is today. It’s impossible to tell.

However, the world has seen increases in human lifespan over the past two hundred years that are significant. A person born in 1900 typically would be expected to die by the time he was 45 years old. A newborn arriving in this world in 2010 will likely live into his 70’s. If that trend continued, it would only take us a few thousand years to get back to living as long as Methuselah. But living perpetually? Outside of a miraculous transformation of this planet, I wouldn’t bet on there being a use for frozen bodies in the near future.

Do I want to live that long?
The trick to living long isn’t merely keeping your heart beating and postponing your burial. While volunteering in nursing homes, I’ve met some seniors who have had strokes or other ailments associated with aging that prevented them from living a fulfilling life, and they knew it was only a matter of time before mortality would come knocking. One of the men I met in a nursing home was a very religious fellow in his 80’s who’d suffered a severe stroke. He often communicated to me that, while he wasn’t suicidal, he yearned to shed his decrepit body to go to the world of spirits and be reunited with his wife. His life had, in his perspective, become unproductive in his old age, and he was glad to finally move on.

The Juiceman Wants to Live Forever

You may have seen the Juiceman commercials, which use the depiction of a man in his 70’s acting like a young buck in order to sell juicers. Maybe there’s something to that. Looking at the foods consumed by the average person – both the amount and the content – makes it seem like an even greater feat that medicine has accomplished what it has.

Living to a good age and living well are the ultimate goals of health. Advice from the oldest and most active is usually nothing new: eat well, get good exercise, and manage stress. The absence of those lifestyle characteristics, as a matter of course, is linked to many of the ultimate causes of death. Following that advice probably won’t perpetuate your life forever, but you’re bound to have a better time while you’re here if you conscientiously monitor and develop your health.

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