“I intend to live forever, or die trying” – Groucho Marx
There are several articles floating around today about research and claims made by one Dr. Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist, who is researching ways to maintain cellular health and keep the human body going “indefinitely”. One of the claims being that the first person to live to 150 may have already been born – and the first person to 1000 may be only 20 years behind. We’ll touch on those in a minute, but first a trip down memory lane.
A few years back I was taking a class on fuzzy systems. After a break, the class discussion turned to just this topic, keeping the human body going indefinitely. The instructor was referring, for the purposes of discussion, to research similar to de Grey’s, indicating that if we could get past the cellular breakdown in the body, we really could live forever. It was then that he said something that I found quite interesting. He said that he didn’t want to get into a religious debate about the issue, apparently worried that the prospect of keeping people alive for all time would run afoul of the Christian storyline, possibly held by students in the class.
It was this comment that I found interesting. To my mind, the prospect of a human living forever is completely consistent with a Biblical understanding of the subject. We were in fact designed to live forever. That humans would come to this conclusion on their own is merely a realization of our underlying capacity as beings – which the Bible made quite clear in early chapters.
Will de Grey’s research pan out? Who knows? Perhaps it will. Perhaps we will see, in our lifetime, dramatic leaps forward in longevity.
Now, on to the specific claims about longevity. I submit that de Grey’s history is flawed. The first person to live to 150 has already been born … and died. In fact, people used to regularly live to 600 and beyond, just not any more. This is the Biblical account in Genesis about the longevity of early humans. As for 1000, we know of nobody who has made it there yet. Methuselah only got to 969 – and perhaps could have made it out to 1000 if he had been a better swimmer.