written by Dr. Todd Daly
The quest for longer life has been around as long as humankind has. Having been thrown out of the Garden and barred access, we have been trying to forge pathways back to the Tree of Life through hygienic practices, alchemy, and now technology. While Ponce de Leon’s quest for the fountain of youth proved futile, the mythical nature of longevity has steadily eroded over the last decade in the face of stunning scientific breakthroughs. It seems that hyper longevity has gone from legend to the laboratory, as researchers continue to both discover and modulate the mechanisms of aging.
Indeed, while none of the ‘anti-aging’ products on the market actually slow the aging process, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago S. Jay Olshansky and Bruce A. Carnes have observed:
Scientists are on the threshold of discoveries about aging that are likely to have consequences for personal health and longevity that we could only have dreamed of just a few decades ago. We are optimistic that aspects of the aging process will eventually fall within the control of the biomedical sciences—permitting humanity, for the first time, an opportunity to influence the biological forces that govern life and death.
Recent scientific breakthroughs with six-fold lifespan extensions in nematode worms and mice have been splashed across the pages of Science and The Wall Street Journal, echoing what Olshanksy and Carnes predicted ten years ago.
What exactly are the mechanisms of human aging, and what are the real possibilities that we may one day experience health spans of 150 years? How should Christians respond to this quests? How might these successes alter our understanding of death, including our ability to know when to forgo further treatment? On December 10th you’ll have the opportunity to hear S. Jay Olshanksy speak to both the science of longevity, and some new work on the religious aspects of living longer. Dr. Todd Daly of Urbana Theological Seminary will offer one Christian response to anti-aging science, and Dr. Robert Cranston of Carle will speak to the issue of knowing when to ‘say when’ with regards to care for the dying.
This unique one day interdisciplinary conference affords a rare opportunity to explore the quest for hyper longevity from scientific, theological, and medical perspectives, and will include a panel discussion directed by your questions. Registration information is available at http://www.urbanaseminary.org/events/
S. Jay Olshansky and Bruce A. Carnes, The Quest for Immortality: Science at the Frontiers of Aging (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), 14.