Will Science one day enable us to live forever in our physical bodies? Will we unlock the secret of aging and death?
Today scientists are talking realistically about developing solutions to grow and replace aging organs artificially. Some even talk about digitizing all aspects of the human brain and literally downloading a person’s personality, memories and creativity into a CD that can be stored and transferred to other beings. They say that we'll be able to live forever if we want to (and have the money). Are there are people alive today who will never have to contemplate dying or going to heaven or hell? Will God allow this to happen?
Live Long Enough to Live Forever
We live in an exciting age when fiction becomes fact faster than we expect. Some said that God would never allow man to walk on the moon, that flying faster than sound would be deadly on the human body, that the world would starve to death in the 1970’s due to the inability to produce enough food. Now some scientists are saying we will eventually extend life indefinitely.
Dr. Ray Kurzweil's is one author who is planning to live long enough to see the dream of eternal life on earth become a reality. His book Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever. Dr. Kurtzweil says that we will soon discover secrets to aging and gain the capacity to repair and replace enough of our body to life indefinitely. Artificial intelligence technology will advance to the point where human consciousness, memory and emotions will be able to be transferred to machines and to other beings making it possible to restart life even after one’s body has aged. Although these concepts remain the subject of science fiction, he believes the future may be closer than we think. He estimates that 2045 is the approximate year in which sufficient advances will be made to achieve indefinite life. The curve of scientific discovery follows an exponential growth rate, not a linear rate. Scientific advancements are doubling every 10 years. He observes:
The 20th century was not 100 years of progress at today’s rate but, rather, was equivalent to about 20 years, because we’ve been speeding up to current rates of change. And we’ll make another 20 years of progress at today’s rate, equivalent to that of the entire 20th century, in the next 14 years. And then we’ll do it again in just 7 years. Because of this exponential growth, the 21st century will equal 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of progress—1,000 times greater than what we witnessed in the 20th century, which itself was no slouch for change.
Kurzweil is trying his hardest to be alive long enough to be here whenever these breakthrough technologies are developed. By taking 180 to 210 pills each day – vitamin and mineral supplements – and receiving experimental treatments one day each week from Dr. Terry Grossman at the price of $6,000 per visit, he is buying time. His book is essentially a life-extension strategy to remain alive until 2045.
There are plenty of skeptics in the scientific community who see problems ahead in the quest to achieve indefinite life.
Technology may not ever solve the problem of artificial intelligence. To date, the limitation in artificial intelligence has not been with processing power of computers, but with the software of human intelligence. Our brains are very complex, but also very slow. A neuron can fire about once every 5 milliseconds, or about 200 times a second. A CPU cycle on a 1 Ghz clock speed is about 5 million times faster than any neuron. The CPU speed will continue to double in the future, but there is no doubling of artificial intelligence because we haven’t figured out how to make computers think like us.
All AI systems we have developed are classified as “weak AI” – these systems are very good at doing specific tasks like OCR (Optical Character Recognition), playing chess, juggling complex schedules for airlines or recognizing trends and patterns in vast amounts of customer purchase data. But “Strong AI” is the human elements of creativity, insight, self-awareness and wisdom. Online video game players immediately recognize the difference between human opponents and computer players. An AI opponent can have lightning-fast reaction times, but can be easily fooled. If all the information in our brain can be stored in a computer before we die and the computer can be programmed to imitate the actions and emotions of a real person, is that person really still alive or does it just a simulation? We may replace body parts, but can we replace the brain? There is no Moore’s law of Strong AI because Strong AI doesn't exist.
Evil humans may co-opt future inventions to destroy humanity in stead of preserve it. If a super-intelligent machine is ever invented, it could enslave or exterminate the human race. While there is Moore’s Law, the exponential growth in speed of CPU power, there also is Murphy’s Law, “What can go wrong, will go wrong”.
At one time there was very long life on the earth. Before the flood of Noah’s day, the age of the Patriarchs, there people living to 900 years and longer. (Genesis 5:1-20) The conditions on earth must have been very conducive to prevent diseases or aging. There are a number of speculations as to why this was so:
• Perhaps there weren’t as many genetic disorders. The DNA of people was purer then and not corrupted compared with today. Man has degenerated genetically with time, not improved.
• Perhaps the atmosphere was different being more dense and moist.
• Perhaps there was not as much harmful radiation that today strikes the earth and of course, human beings as well.
• Perhaps the level of Oxygen content in the atmosphere was higher giving longer life, faster healing and more energy.
Ages of the Patriarchs from Adam to Noah
Something happened after the flood that caused life spans to dramatically contract. In the generations that followed Noah we see a rapid decline in life span approaching 100 years. Scientists generally believe that the upper limit for maximum life for the human body is about 125 years. The reasons mentioned above are mere speculation as to the cause for extended life.
What does the Bible say about sin and death?
God created Adam and Eve with the possibility of living forever. In the Garden of Eden, in addition to all of the normal types of trees, there were two special trees: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. (Genesis 2:16-17; Genesis 3:22-23).
The results of sin include death.
Genesis 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, (17) but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Genesis 3:22-24 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever--" (23) therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. (24) He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
There was nothing physical about the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Eveil that would cause death. “The tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). It is unlikely that the Tree of Life had any super-nutritional fruit that sustained life. It was a real physical tree, but it stood for the relationship of eternal life that God gave to Adam as long as he remained obedient. The source of life is God Himself.
The eternal life that Adam enjoyed as an innocent man was taken away. God drove the man from the garden and the Tree of Life as a physical reminder that Adam was no longer permitted to dwell in God’s presence. He died spiritually by being separated from God. He later died physically. Our efforts to obtain eternal existence are frustrated by the fact that we seek them without seeking the Source of Life.
By barring access to the tree of life, God prevented Adam from living eternally in his fallen state. Because of the curse of sin, life is filled with sorrow and toil and pain. An eternal existence in our sinful state would be a curse instead of a blessing. God limits the number of years we live here physically. By limiting our lifespan, God gives us enough time to come to know Him and His provision for eternal life through Christ, but spares us the misery of an endless existence in a sinful condition.
The End of the World
The Bible says clearly that we live on a condemned planet. There is a limit to the patience of God in regards to our behavior. Just as the judgment that fell on the earth in Noah’s day, God has reserved our world for judgment, not by water, but by fire.
2 Peter 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (11) Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, (12) waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! (13) But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
If science creates a pathway to indefinite life on earth, it will eventually be interrupted by the coming of Christ in glory. Those who are alive at his coming will either be received by him into glory or rejected into eternal fire (Revelation 19:14-21; Matthew 24:37-51).
Following the return of Christ to the earth, the world will once again experience life spans like those of the ancient Patriarchs. Revelation 20:1-6 tells us about the reign of Christ that lasts 1000 years in a future day. Isaiah 65 tells us some details about the life spans of people and the reason for living so long.
Isaiah 65:20 No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
Long life will flourish in the millennium. Death will occur, but not as we know it. 100 years of age will be considered youthful. If someone does die at such a young age, it will be assumed that it is because of a direct judgment for some sin committed. The curse will be throttled and sin contained in the Millennium. Satan will be bound (Revelation 20:1).
Following the age of the Millennium God will create an eternal state, much like the Millennium, but with the curse of sin completely eradicated. The bondage that creation is under will be removed.
Revelation 22:3 No longer will there be anythi ng accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
Romans 8:19-21 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. (20) For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Eternal vs. Everlasting
Eternal life is not the same as eternal existence. “Eternal life” is the quality life. “Everlasting life” is the duration of life. A popular image of heaven is a group of winged-like people floating on clouds for everlastingly boring years. However the view the Bible gives of heaven is always “new” that is “eternal” rather than simply “everlasting”.
There are seven verses in Revelation that tell us about “new things” - a new song, a new name, a new Jerusalem, a new heaven, a new earth. The difference between the “new songs” of popular music of today and the “new song” of heaven is that by tomorrow, the “new” music of today will be old music very soon. Not so with the songs of heaven. It is a song that never grows old. The new earth, New Jerusalem will never loose its splendor. The new name, representing our relationship as a child of God, will never loose its impact. We will never grow bored of being in God’s family. (Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 21:1-2) .
The promises that God has in store for us are eternal. God, being infinite, will never cease to amaze and impress. This is seen in his promise to continually show us his riches in the ages to come.
Ephesians 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Science may be able to replace and repair body to live long beyond the 125 year threshold. It may even be able to simulate human behavior with machines. It might even give us the possibility of transferring thoughts and memories from one old brain to a younger one. The words indefinite life (barring accidents or unforeseen plague) may be the reality of coming generations. However, the prospect of an “eternal” life will be the stuff of knowing God and living with him and exploring the “riches of his grace” forever.
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