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Atheism Biological Immortality and Religion

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by Caspian, Dec 1, 2010.

  1. Caspian

    Caspian
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    So heres the deal. Within the past couple of years we have made tremendous progress in the area of genetics. So much so that just this past week, Harvard scientists have managed to reverse age a mouse

    http://dvice.com/archives/2010/11/has-the-scienti.php

    We have also managed to increase the lifespan of certain organisms by a tremendous amount

    We have also unlocked the secrets of suspended animation and currently the suspended animation research has moved into human trials. Roughyl saving 14 babies lives per year in the UK so far.

    YouTube - Mark Roth: Suspended animation is within our grasp

    Couple this with the fact that there are 2 naturally occuring instances of biological immortality amongst animals (a certain jelly fish and the hydra).

    My question is simple. If biological immortality becomes a possibility for humans (it is projected to be sometime in the next 30-50 years). And death is now almost completely avoidable. Is there still a place for religions that advocate some form of an afterlife wether it be heaven and hell, or nirvana/reincarnation. If the concept of death no longer applies—what use is religion? Would you, as a religious person, have quarrels with becoming biologically immortal?
     
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  3. findingmyway

    findingmyway
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    I always enjoy TED talks!

    You question is ridiculous as Sikhi does not believe in the concepts you have mentioned. Before you ask anymore I suggest you do some reading. I have noticed from many of your posts that you always equate Sikhism to abrahamical faiths which does not make any sense as Sikhi rejects those very belief systems! :clevermunda:

    However, I would like to comment on the other points as it is so interesting. Firstly we do not know the effects of suspended animation on a cellular level so the longterm effects are not known. I have recently been playing with DNA in the lab and learning about gene therapy. One of the biggest lessons is how things work differently in humans than in animal models, often in ways not always expected due to a change in the biological system.

    Secondly, suspended animation is a medical treatment just like jump starting the heart so how do you equate that to immortality?

    Thirdly, Living longer is not necessarily a good thing. Many of my elderly patients tell me not to grow old as it is hard motherlylove The body continues to age and we are now seeing diseases never heard of before. Quality of life is more important than longevity.

    Fourthly, suspended animation does not reverse or stop ageing processes. If you know anything about human biology, systems degrade with time-not avoidable. We are a very very long way from stopping this as there are still huge gaps in our knowledge about these processes. When we correct one thing, something else happens to degrade the system in another way.

    Fifthly, I see the information you have about the jelly fish and hydra are from wikipedia again! I would be interested in the original journal articles as that would be real information. Hydra are very simple biological systems so maintaining them is not difficult. Humans are extremely complicated multi system organisms so the rules are completely different! Jelly fish are also quite simple biological systems. The jelly fish are not immortal in the sense they still have predators and can die from other causes. This cannot be changed. Same with hydra.

    Finally, as for the article you quoted related to telomerases, as I said earlier animal models often don't work as expected in humans. I've seen papers relating to this area of research and so far they haven't made it work well so are also looking at other options. Telomerases will also only work until you get a mutation or change in the DNA sequence. You are also presuming the rest of the system is still working well later on in the chain of events which is very naive. You are also assuming only 1 gene is involved in the process and this is rarely the case.

    Happy reading! :geekkaur: :book1:
     
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  4. Sinister

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    so if we obtain immortality will life prison sentences be longer?

    i know one thing, the divorce rate will higher for sure... god damn! imagine waking up to the same nagging fight from 3000 years ago that your wife never let go!

    :argue:

    I am definately gonna need some sort of suspended animation to sit through those "talks"
     
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  5. Archived_member14

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    Caspian ji,


    Can you please explain how creating conditions for increase in lifespan by humans up to even 10,000 years say; is suggestive of the idea of rebirth being wrong?
     
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  6. Caspian

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    Sikhism does believe in reincarnation? So how does reincarnation bode with the concept of biological immortality? There is still a problem with biological immortality even within sikhism.

    I'm not talkin about humans extending life. I'm talking about biological immortality, living indefinately and if, in the inevitable case of death, being brought back to life through various means like suspended animation. Living indefinatly means never having to die and go through the process of death and rebirth.
     
  7. findingmyway

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    This is a hot topic and there is much debate. Gurbani tells us that this life is the most important-it is what we do with this life that counts. There is a group of Sikhs that believe Sikhi neither rejects nor endorses reincarnation. We believe that reincarnation is a mistranslation for spiritual rebirth. This means that as you move away from spirituality you die in a spiritual sense. You experience happiness and sadness and these vary so you are not constant. When you regain spirituality, you gain the strength of mind to deal with anything and this is spiritual rebirth. In this state, you are at peace and are not influenced negatively by the world around you but do all you can to help. So I do not believe the Hindu form of reincarnation. Again there are several threads discussing this in detail.

    But what you've just described is a form of death and rebirth :blinkingkaur:
     
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  8. Caspian

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    Not in the sikh sense. Its more of a christian "ressurection" concept and not a sikhi "reincarnation" concept (even in the spiritual sense as you have described) .
     
  9. spnadmin

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    Though my comments may not be central to the main arguments in this thread, they are critical if communication is going to be clear among us.

    When speaking of "sikh reincarnation concept" one must be very particular about defining what is "sikh" about "sikh reincarnation" and what is meant by "reincarnation." In other words, whose theory or definition is one referring to? Does one mean that Sikhs have bought into the traditional Hindu beliefs regarding reincarnation? Which Hindu theories? Or does one refer to explanations given by relatives around the family dinner table? Or are we thinking of an alternative vichaar of the saloks of Kabir on the subject of being born again? Or thinking of Sikh writers that has rejected the idea of reincarnation in Sikhism totally. I hate to be so persnickety about this. However arguments go around in circles and ultimately nowhere on the topic when we do not define our terms and state the assumptions we are bringing to the discussion.


    For example, to contrast a Christian resurrection concept with a Sikh reincarnation concept means nothing to me, as I have no idea which reincarnation concept or lack of is referred to.
     
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  10. Archived_member14

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    Caspian ji,



    I realize that you weren’t talking about extending life. But how would immortality ever be known? Are we talking about maintaining the lifespan of cells / tissue? If this can be done by science, then yes, one could say that conditions have been created for the whole organism to live longer than what it normally would. (Although karma would need to factor in, and this would make the matter not so simple.) Anyway, what about what goes on at the molecular, atomic or whatever level that science has managed to break things down to? Isn’t it an accepted fact that at those levels, things are in a state of constant coming to be and breaking down? If so, why would you believe in the ability to maintain the life of any living being, indefinitely?

    As regards ‘death’, this being in fact about consciousness and not about matter, how would science ever really know when exactly death has occurred? And if it is impossible to know that exact moment, how sure can you be that any apparent ‘waking up’ is actually a case of ‘bringing back to life’?

    With regard to death and rebirth, what happens at the end of life, is little different from what in fact is going on*now*.

    Roughly, consciousness being dependent on particular kind of matter as base, although this arises and falls away completely in an instant, must necessarily condition a subsequent instant of consciousness without a break, on and on. Indeed it is death of the one which allows for birth of the other and is one mechanism by which life is maintained! The conventional death, which is what we usually refer to, is different from this only in that it is followed by rebirth as different set of ‘formations’ manifested as a different person or being. Therefore as far as I’m concerned, a resistance to the idea of rebirth is in fact a result of wrong understanding of what *life* really is. And this is a problem not only for the atheist, but also the theist and in fact more so for him, since such a person is faced with the question of morality but invariably ends up with distorted ideas about cause and effect in this regard.
     
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  11. Caspian

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    Because it is already a naturally occuring phenomena. From the wiki article on "biological immortalty"

    Hydra

    Hydras are a genus of simple, fresh-water animals possessing radial symmetry and no post-mitotic cells. The fact that all cells continually divide allows defects and toxins to be "diluted". It has been suggested that hydras do not undergo senescence (aging), and as such are biologically immortal.[6] However, this does not explain how hydras are consequently able to maintain telomere lengths.
    Jellyfish

    Turritopsis nutricula is a small (5 millimeters (0.2 in)) species of jellyfish which uses transdifferentiation to replenish cells after sexual reproduction. This cycle can repeat indefinitely, potentially rendering it biologically immortal. It originated from the Caribbean sea, but has now spread around the world.


    The above two organisms have naturally exhibited biological immortality even before we decided to try it out on other animals.


    As for the rest of what you said. I think I only vaguely grasped it. If your talking about the problem of conciousness and how we know for sure whether a person has died in the concious sense—indeed that can be a philosophical problem. None the less, as it is a naturally occuring phenomena—its only a matter of time before we unlock the secrets to allow for humans to live indefinitely. When that day comes, and you had the option to become immortal or lead ur regular life—what would ur choice be? I'm just curious, and this question applies to everyone.


    As for me, I would choose to be immortal :p

    As for the sikh reincarnation aspect. I was always taught that it was similar to the hindu concept. I would love to learn more about differing points of view with regards to that.
     
  12. findingmyway

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    In the dictionary immortal means
    im·mor·tal

    [​IMG] /ɪˈmɔr[​IMG]tl/ [​IMG] Show Spelled[ih-mawr-tl] [​IMG] Show IPA
    –adjective 1.not mortal; not liable or subject to death; undying: our immortal souls.

    2. remembered or celebrated through all time: the immortal words of Lincoln.

    3. not liable to perish or decay; imperishable; everlasting.

    4. perpetual; lasting; constant: an immortal enemy.


    Therefore hydra and jellyfish are not immortal as they can still die from predators etc. Undergoing physical death=not immortal, whatever the cause. Whether it is biological immortality or physical immortality is important for your argument as only the latter would allow any form of resurrection or reincarnation in a physical sense and this is what you were questioning at the beginning
     
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  13. Seeker9

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    Interesting question
    I would answer with a couple more:

    1) Is the goal of Spiritual Enlightenment Immortality?
    2) Is death a required precursor to achieve Spiritual Enlightenment?

    My answer to both is NO!

    So, hypothetically speaking, to me extended lifespans/immortality just means you have more time to achieve Spiritual Enlightenment. Or to put it another way, the achievement of an extended lifespan does not necessarily mean one would not still want to achieve Spiritual Enlightenment

    After all, it is the nature of the human condition that the "why are we here" questions arise in the first place and longer life will not change those fundamental questions
     
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  14. Caspian

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    biological immortality always implies that you can still die from accident or suicide or w/e. It doesnt mean you have magical ability to survive 15 gunshots to the head. I saw no need to define the word immortality because that concept is largely figurative and philosophical where as; biological immortality is wat the hydra and jellyfish actually have accomplished.
     
  15. Siri Kamala

    Siri Kamala United States
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    Honey chile, you need to stop reading all those Ray Kurzweil books -- they have clearly got you thinking too hard. :33: :akidd:

    In all seriousness, the Age of Spiritual Machines is clearly where we're headed if Moore's Law persists and advances continue to be made in the areas of AI, nanotech, assistive implants, etc. (And assuming the earth isn't destroyed by rogue self-replicating nanobots, massive asteroid strike, or zombie apocolypse in the meantime... do we have a zombie smiley here? )

    Kurzweil proposes that the time is going to come when death becomes a decision rather than an inevitability. Immortality will be the default mode. There will have to be a system of rights and laws established around how death is defined, and how its finality is insured in keeping with a particular individual's wishes.

    Part of me wishes I could live long enough to see such a brave new world, and part of me is horrified by the prospect, perhaps simply because the concept of that *kind* of immortality is so foreign to me and to all I've known in this life thus far. Frank Herbert explored one such possible future in his novel The Eyes of Heisenberg - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eyes_of_Heisenberg

    Interesting stuff to contemplate for sure.

    I doubt many people 150 years ago could have predicted that the world today would be and look as it does. Just read an article about race relations from just before the Civil War in the US to get a taste of that. LOL

    What are your thoughts about where all this is going? gingerteakaur
     
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  16. Siri Kamala

    Siri Kamala United States
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    :aagree: And very, very well said. Thank you so much spnadmin ji! I can tell there is a lot many of us could learn from you.
     
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  17. Siri Kamala

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    Have you seen Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie The 6th Day?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_6th_Day

    It explores biological immortality that exists courtesy of cloning and this flashy technology that captures a snapshot of a person's selfhood (their preferences, talents, personality, quirks, memories, etc.) on a disk. If they are killed, a "blank" clone is standing by and the flashy technology conforms the blank clone to the shape and persona of the person who was killed in a matter of a few hours. Ta da! You may have half a day of "missing time," but other than that, you're immortal until someone refuses to give you another clone body and/or the disk with your selfhood on it is destroyed.
     
  18. Archived_member14

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    Caspian ji,


    First, know that I am coming not from the Sikh perspective, but a Buddhist one, where the idea of karma and rebirth is an accepted fact.


    You said in response to:
    Quote: Anyway, what about what goes on at the molecular, atomic or whatever level that science has managed to break things down to? Isn’t it an accepted fact that at those levels, things are in a state of constant coming to be and breaking down? If so, why would you believe in the ability to maintain the life of any living being, indefinitely?


    Caspian: Because it is already a naturally occuring phenomena. From the wiki article on "biological immortalty" : <snip>

    “Turritopsis_nutricula is a small (5 millimeters (0.2 in)) species of Jellyfish which uses Transdifferentiation to replenish cells after Sexual_reproduction . This cycle can repeat indefinitely, potentially rendering it biologically immortal. It originated from the Caribbean sea, but has now spread around the world.”


    Caspian: The above two organisms have naturally exhibited biological immortality even before we decided to try it out on other animals.


    Confused: I should have distinguished the general idea of “immortality” from that of “biological immortality”. This latter, I’d not debate with you or anyone about, even though here it looks like a case of surmising from theoretical extrapolation. But when this is taken as ground for denying rebirth, then I must object.

    Science / biology can make statements about birth, life, living beings and death, but it will never come to know what these are in the ultimate sense. What best it can do is infer from observations made within certain set criterions. Ultimate truth on the other hand is the result of direct understanding and insight.

    Take for example this:
    According to the Buddha’s teachings, matter is conditioned to arise in one of four ways, heat or the fire element, nutritive essence, karma and consciousness. What we take for the human body is composed of matter conditioned by all these four factors, whereas inanimate objects, including plants and bacteria, are conditioned purely by heat or the caloric order. Biology does not make this distinction and therefore in some cases take for a ‘living being’ what is not.

    You and probably everyone else here will no doubt not accept this, and what I say will indeed sound like I’m trying to defend a cherished set of beliefs. I’d like to be able to provide the necessary groundwork, but this is not the time and place to do this. So I’ll go ahead without doing that.

    In the case of your jellyfish, one of the following two explanations could be used. One, death occurred at the particular stage and rebirth followed (which can happen not only by way of conception in a womb or egg, but also moisture and spontaneously) manifesting as polyp (?). The other is that ‘death’ didn’t in fact occur, but matter of a different type conditioned by more than one factor, started to form. In other words, in the first case, given just the right conditions, a new being was born, and in the second case, the same stream of consciousness continued, but now with a different material base.

    I’m inclined towards the latter but do not think that this process could go on indefinitely, although it could for a long, long time. In other words, what I could say is that the life span of this jellyfish is indeed extremely long. Transdifferentiation may be a fact, and ‘biological immortality’ may be a valid concept within the particular system of measure, however to translate this as meaning that a being could “live” forever is to insist on a meaning with regard to life, living beings and death, not in line with how these in reality are.

    As I suggested in my last message, life is an instance of consciousness one following the other on and on. So in the case of say the human being, it is not this body which is ‘living’. Nor is it that the cells and tissues are ‘alive’. What is “life” is sentience and this can ever happen only*one at a time*, meaning, you can’t hear and see at the same time, nor seeing and thinking ever arises together. They arise very fast in close proximity, but due to ignorance, the impression is of many things happening at the same time. And they are extremely fleeting, but the general perception is of lastingness. Indeed the concept of “time” is based on the arisings and falling away of these fundamental units of experiences, whereas science on the other hand, studies objects exiting in time.

    My point here is that, the observation science and biology makes is of what I call “wholes”, be this the organism, tissue, cells or the relationship between different parts. This will therefore only ever be about concepts one built on the other and never about discrete and ephemeral realities. In other words, all that is ever observed are conceptual manifestations of what in the final analysis are functions and characteristic of ultimate realities and relationship between these.

    Science will therefore always miss the mark when it tries to make statements about such things as birth, life and death. Indeed I compare science in general to being like the seven blind men each holding the different parts of an elephant. Each one is wrong about what is being experienced, but even if they were to suddenly realize this and decide to share their knowledge in order to arrive at what the whole might be, they will never be able to do so. On the other hand, were they to hear the Buddha’s teachings, they could in fact begin to understand such ultimate realities as touch (a kind of consciousness), the earth element (a material reality), thinking (a mental reality) and such things as sound, feeling, perception, heat and so on. And so it is that while science moves in darkness, the truth as taught by the Buddha allows us to gradually begin to see.

    ----------
    Caspian: As for the rest of what you said. I think I only vaguely grasped it. If your talking about the problem of conciousness and how we know for sure whether a person has died in the concious sense—indeed that can be a philosophical problem.


    Confused: No need to make it into a philosophical problem, instead one could see the uselessness of pursuing such line of enquiry and decide to drop it. The only valid object of study is what arises and falls away *now*.

    ----------
    Caspian: None the less, as it is a naturally occuring phenomena—its only a matter of time before we unlock the secrets to allow for humans to live indefinitely.


    Confused: There is no place for such kind of thinking for someone who sees the danger of ignorance and the need to develop understanding of the way things are.

    -----------
    Caspian: When that day comes, and you had the option to become immortal or lead ur regular life—what would ur choice be? I'm just curious, and this question applies to everyone.

    As for me, I would choose to be immortal :p


    Confused: The Buddha was enlightened to the Four Noble Truths and these are Dukkha; the cause of this, which is craving; Nirvana or the unconditioned; and the Path. The first two are all that we ever experience, and this means that the most pleasant of feelings are as unworthy of pursuit as are the unpleasant ones. But of course this understanding can be had only when the last of the Four Truths has arisen to any extent. And sure, the blind pursuits due to the wrong perceptions of permanence in that which is impermanent, happiness in what in fact is suffering, self in that which is non-self and beauty in what is in reality unbeautiful, continues until the third of these Truths is experienced. And when this has happened, the goal at that time would for sure not be to have more and more experiences, let alone becoming immortal, but the only logical one, which is ‘final extinction’ thereby ending this senseless going round in the cycle of existence.

    Caspian ji, most other members know that I am a student of the Buddha’s teachings, but you it appears, didn’t know this, and here I am, thrusting so many ideas at you in one shot. This was unavoidable, but still I think I should express my apology. ;-)
     
  19. Siri Kamala

    Siri Kamala United States
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    Greetings Confused ji, :grinningkudi:

    One question before I respond to anything else, just so that I will have a better sense of where you are coming from and will have more context to understand what you're saying.

    You wrote:
    As I am very new here, I did not know it either. (I'm very pleased to make your acquaintance!) peacesignkaur

    With that said, I see that you have been a member here for many years, and I guess I am just very curious to know why? Not knowing you at all, it seems to me sort of like...shopping for vitamins and other health supplements in the section of the store that has mostly bread and cereals, but clearly I simply don't have enough data to understand...so I am asking, and I hope it is not unduly intrusive of me to ask. Thank you!
    :wave2:
     
  20. findingmyway

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    So you've just defeated your own argument! If something can die, your original point is null and void swordfight
    Again look at the definition of immortality-it means something cannot die. Biological immortality means the cells are replaced, not that the organism can't die.
     
  21. Caspian

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    Your commiting a fallacy. Just because something "can" die doesnt mean it "has to" die. Just like how I "can" drive a car within the next 5 minutes doesnt neccesarily mean I will "have to" drive a car within the next 5 mins. In theory, if a person who is biologically immortal locks himself in a room and is provided with all basic neccessities (food, water, shelter). He will live forever. The original problem remains for most religions. Unless members of that religion want to wait out the rest of their infinite lives infront of his door waiting for his death thatll never be. Understand?

    Like i said previously. Biological Immortality is different then "Immortality" alone. Although im sure, one day, when we plug our brains into the internet or something, well become "immortal" in the true sense of the word too. :) cheers
     

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