Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Longer Lifespans

How soon will we evolve longer lifespans? In 12 generations, were we like fruitflies.

Professor Michael R. Rose is interviewed on his cutting edge research on the evolution of longer lifespans.
Q. Do you believe there is such a thing as a limited life span for humans?

A. No. Life span is totally tunable. In my lab, we tune it up and down all the time.

And it's quite clear that the human primate life span got tuned up by evolution over the course of the last few million years.
He has found a split response on this issue of future tinkering from the representatives of different religious traditions:
Q. What does religion have to say about all this tinkering with life span?

A. That depends on the religion. About five years ago I was at a meeting convened by the Templeton Foundation to address the ethical question of postponing human aging, and in particular, the possibility of biological immortality, as opposed to immortality in heaven.

And the Christian theologians at this meeting were clearly horrified whereas the Jewish theologian was saying, "Yes, we like this."

In East Asian cultures, you have a split between the Confucian tradition, which is very much for self-sacrifice, versus the Taoist tradition, which very much espouses the idea of living longer. So there's this split there, too.


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