Religion and the Implications of Radical Life Extension

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1 Religion and the Implications of Radical Life Extension

2 About the Cover Photo by Henry Stindt, The Tule Tree: One of the oldest living things on the planet, the El Árbol del Tule (Spanish, the Tule Tree ) is located on the Santa María del Tule church grounds just outside Oaxaca, Mexico. Sometimes referred to as the Tree of Life, the Montezuma Cypress, with a diameter of feet (9.38 meters) and a circumference of feet (36.20 meters), is said to have the stoutest trunk of any tree in the world and, on the basis of growth rates, is estimated to be 1,433 1,600 years old. According to local legend, Pechocha, a priest of the Aztec storm god, planted it about 1,400 years ago.

3 Religion and the Implications of Radical Life Extension Edited by Derek F. Maher and Calvin Mercer Afterword by Ted Peters

4 RELIGION AND THE IMPLICATIONS OF RADICAL LIFE EXTENSION Copyright Derek F. Maher and Calvin Mercer, Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition All rights reserved. First published in 2009 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN in the United States a division of St. Martin s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY Where this book is distributed in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, this is by Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited, registered in England, company number , of Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave and Macmillan are registered trademarks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries. ISBN ISBN (ebook) DOI / Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Religion and the implications of radical life extension / edited by Derek F. Maher, Calvin Mercer. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index. ISBN Longevity Religious aspects. I. Maher, Derek F. II. Mercer, Calvin R. QP85.R dc A catalogue record of the book is available from the British Library. Design by Newgen Imaging Systems (P) Ltd., Chennai, India. First edition: September

5 Man has to live his life in the shadow of death, and he who clings to life and enjoys its fullness must dread the menace of its end. And he who is faced by death turns to the promise of life. Death and its denial Immortality have always formed, as they form to-day, the most poignant theme of man s foreboding. The extreme complexity of man s emotional reactions to life finds necessarily its counterpart in his attitude to death. Only what in life has been spread over a long space and manifested in a succession of experiences and events is here at its end condensed into one crisis which provokes a violent and complex outburst of religious manifestations. Bronislaw Malinowski Magic, Science and Religion and Other Essays, 1925

6 Contents Preface ix Introduction: Living for 1,000 Years or Longer 1 Derek F. Maher and Calvin Mercer Chapter 1 Radical Life Extension: Technological Aspects 13 Aubrey de Grey Chapter 2 The Evidence-based Pursuit of Radical Life Extension 25 Pete Estep Chapter 3 Be Careful What You Wish For? Radical Life 39 Extension coram Deo: A Reformed Protestant Perspective Nigel M. de S. Cameron and Amy Michelle DeBaets Chapter 4 Extreme Longevity Research: 51 A Progressive Protestant Perspective Ronald Cole-Turner Chapter 5 Becoming Yet More Like God: A Jewish Perspective 63 on Radical Life Extension Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff Chapter 6 Karma, Austerity, and Time Cycles: 75 Jainism and Radical Life Extension Sherry E. Fohr Chapter 7 Told You So: Extreme Longevity and 85 Daoist Realization Livia Kohn

7 viii Contents Chapter 8 Churning the Ocean of Milk: Hindu Tantrism 97 and Radical Life Technologies Jeffrey S. Lidke in collaboration with Jacob W. Dirnberger Chapter 9 Two Wings of a Bird: Radical Life Extension from 111 a Buddhist Perspective Derek F. Maher Chapter 10 A Thousand Years, Less Fifty: Toward a Quranic 123 View of Extreme Longevity Aisha Y. Musa Chapter 11 Radical Life Extension: Implications for 133 Roman Catholicism Terence L. Nichols Chapter 12 May You Live Long : Religious Implications 145 of Extreme Longevity in Hinduism Arvind Sharma Afterword: Theological, Spiritual, and Ethical Reflections 155 on Radical Life Extension Ted Peters Selected Bibliography 169 Notes on Contributors 183 Index 191

8 Preface We have been influenced on the topic of radical life extension (RLE) by a wide range and, fortunately, a growing number of thoughtful scholars from various disciplines. While there has been far too little of it, most of the discussion about religion and RLE has emanated from the Judaeo-Christian tradition. We are pleased to facilitate and expand the conversation by bringing scholars from several other major world religions to the table. Many of these scholars are new to the discussion, and we appreciate their efforts to address these issues. We trust this is only the beginning of an ongoing dialogue between scholars and adherents to the world s religions. We hope that ecclesiastical leaders and informed laypeople of all religions will become increasingly interested in thoughtful discussion about the implications of RLE science. All the faith traditions will be progressively impacted in general by biotechnology and in particular by radical extensions in longevity. Calvin thanks the colleagues who helped start the Transhumanism and Religion consultation at the national meeting of the American Academy of Religion. That consultation will provide an ongoing scholarly forum for this discussion. In particular, Ronald Cole-Turner, who has done much through his writings to generate serious reflection on these critical questions, has been a valuable advisor regarding both the consultation and this book. Calvin also thanks the students in his spring seminar classes on transhumanism for their probing questions. At East Carolina University, our able front office assistant, Susan Adams, worked on innumerable tasks from manuscript preparation to indexing. Research assistants Robert Alvarez, Jennifer Jones, Jamie Lynn Maniscalco, Allison Priesing, Linda Ratliff, and Kimberly Wade tracked down resources, performed bibliographical research, edited references, and undertook many

9 x Preface other tasks that have helped make this a better and more coherent book. All errors that remain are our responsibility. We (Derek and Calvin) wish to thank our wives Jill Jennings Maher and Susan Vickery-Mercer, respectively, for humoring us while we worked on this book and for entertaining our sometimes animated preoccupations with these themes.

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