During his homily this Easter, Pope Benedict argued that medical science, in trying to defeat death, is leading humanity toward likely condemnation. It’s a position at odds with the value of life, one that the Church will likely revise years from now, replaying the institution’s embarrassment over censoring Galileo.
“Let us reflect for a moment,” Pope Benedict urged, “what would it really be like if we were to succeed, perhaps not in excluding death totally, but in postponing it indefinitely, in reaching an age of several hundred years?” This is a big question, to be sure, but the Pope assumes the answer is obvious. “Humanity would become extraordinarily old,” he said, “there would be no more room for youth. Capacity for innovation would die, and endless life would be no paradise, if anything a condemnation.”
If scientists are successful in finding techniques to rebuild cartilage, repair organs, and cure cancer, people will indeed be living longer — but they will also be healthier, more energetic and youthful. Health-extension, when it happens, will allow people to live longer, better.
Consider that 60-year-olds today are not in the same shape as their counterparts were in the 1800s or 1900s. As humans discovered how to take better care of themselves, through improved nutrition, the use of antibiotics and other techniques, “chronological age” became less synonymous with “biological age.” That is, many of today’s 60-year-olds act and feel much younger than one might expect.
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