The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever

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Why Age? Should We End Aging Forever?

Visit our community guidelines for more information. Special to National Post. Filed under Culture Books Book Reviews. I can tell you from personal experience how disturbing it is to discover a website devoted to making fake audio clips of you — for comic or malevolent purposes. In the s, severe autism was thought to affect up to 10 children in 10, By , it was one child in But diagnostic criteria are more loosely applied. While someone might eat a Beyond Meat burger for ethical reasons, it does little for that person's health.

In fact, it might be more harmful than good. Spiritual immortality is a narrative of numberless incarnations, from eternal sanctification to damnation to reincarnation. The very word immortality conceals infinite possibilities. It can mean whatever we want it to mean, whatever we believe it to mean. In recent years, the idea of the indefinite persistence of an undying material body has captivated us. But physical immortality is also a mythology.

The Ruthless, Fruitless Pursuit Of Immortality

It, too, helps followers cope with an uncertain world, just as a Christian uses the idea of redemption. We tend to imagine that these are secular times. The facts suggest otherwise. Belief in posthumous immortality is very much alive today. Data collected by the General Social Surveys show that 80 percent of Americans believe in life after death.

The figures are around 70 percent in Canada, 65 percent in Australia, 60 percent in the UK, and above 50 percent throughout much of Europe. According to the World Values Survey, close to percent of those surveyed in parts of the Middle East believe in the afterlife.

Not exactly a faithless world. Immortality is a matter of belief, not fact. Like death, immortality is something we dance with. Every single day around two hundred thousand people die worldwide. There are two deaths every second. Six people just died. Make that eight. Grief forces us to have an opinion about the end. Imagining that everlasting life exists is a common reaction. We tell ourselves the loved one is somewhere else now, somewhere better. To make sense of insensateness, we wrap ourselves in beliefs.

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Thoughts of eternal life shuttle between the terminals of knowledge and belief. The knowables are gathered into knowledge. We deal with everything else through belief. Science is our means of exploring all that can be known; belief is how we approach that which cannot be known. Beliefs allow the brain to assert truths when lacking material evidence.

Because patternlessness cannot be borne, the brain represses thoughts of its eventual extinction. We have a central incapacity, a bug built into the operating system: our consciousness cannot imagine a lack of consciousness. Trying to imagine our own death is like trying to think thought.

The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever

We cannot do it. We cannot conceive ourselves as not existing. The brain conceptualizes things as being somehow similar to other conceivable things, so we compare death to life, minus the body—which is why we imagine that our consciousness whatever that is will outlive us. All our fantasies of stymieing the inevitable stem from an inability to grasp the fact of finality.

Consider what would happen if certain species did not die. They would simply keep on breeding and accumulating. In the time it takes to read this sentence, several hundred million ants will have been born across the planet. It would take a single tiny bacterium mere hours to generate a mass equivalent to that of a human child—and there are countless billions of bacteria within a hundred-foot radius of everyone.

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Imagine if they could live forever? The oldest person who ever lived whose true age could officially be verified died at in She only gave up smoking at From the dawn of the Homo genus up to the s, the majority could expect to live for approximately twenty-five to forty years. Largely due to basic realizations about hygiene, life expectancy has increased significantly over the past century and a half. Some demographers argue that life spans have attained their utmost and are starting to decrease slightly.

Others disagree, suggesting that is a reasonable target for baby boomers. Most scientists maintain that human life has a maximum expiry date, but immortalists speak of Plastic Omega omega being the end of life, and plastic being malleable. As of , all parties can anticipate living somewhere between seventy to ninety years unless an accident, disease, or disaster strikes—or immortality becomes reality. Intriguing, genuine discoveries are being made in the field of gerontological studies.


Format: Books. Physical Description: x, pages ;24 cm. Abstract: Journalist Adam Leith Gollner weaves together religion, science, and mythology in an exploration of the most universal of human obsessions: immortality. Raised without religion, Gollner was struck by mankind's tireless efforts to cheat aging and death. In a narrative that pivots between profundity and hilarity, he brings us into the world of those whose lives are shaped by a belief in immortality.