I have written in this blog often about the Epicurean idea of getting rid of the fear of death. I have gotten responses from people who have argued that aging and death should be altogether eliminated with advances in science. According to them getting rid of the fear of death would be a bad thing. They think that, in fact, the fear of death does keep this field of science going.
However, science is extremely rarely forwarded by fear. It's main driving forces are curiosity and need and will to know new things. Even science of medicine is not motivated by fear of illness, but by the joy of that comes from conquering it. No medical research would be left undone, even if people would not so needlessly fear aging or death as so many do now.
On the other hand, a person who does not want to face reality as it is, is always a problem, after all. Anyway, it just might be good to get used with the idea that the removal of aging or death already envisioned by some firebrands will not happen during our own lifetime.
Also, postponing a thing will not make it go away. If we just could enjoy and make the most of years on Earth we do have now, we just could improve our life much more than just by adding more boring and uninteresting years to it.
Kurt Vonnegut has written a wonderful novel about a world without death. It was a terrible dystopia, to be quite frank, as if nobody dies, no new people can be born after Earth has been filled to a certain point. Such a society would very soon stagnate to a terrible degree. It is a terrible idea to think how some utterly bored and mentally worn out people would be running things century after century.
A very important point to remember is that evolution just cannot exist without death. Evolution is a blind force. It does not have any ideas concerning good or bad. However, there would not have been any evolution and no change, if the force of survival of the best adapted would not have picked up the winners at every new stage of evolution.
Earth would be inhabited by at most by extremely primitive single-cell creatures without death. Evolution works when the less well adapted die first. At the same time the better adapted mutations are constantly rewarded with longer lifespans or more offspring.
Death is just a doorway to oblivion. Sane people want to postpone it as much they can. However, death is an extremely central part of the grand machinery that has evolved through millions of years of trial and error to keep Earth livable and habitable.
Whole ecosystem on the planet Earth is based on death and on creatures devouring the remains of other, dead creatures. In fact, only this process of endless renewal of resources can keep life going on perpetually on this little blue planet for billions of years.
Humans are just one (even in many ways special) species of animals. We are still part of the nature, even if some people want to deny it, for example, for religious reasons. They all too often claim that this planet was created just for their own enjoyment.
This kind of thinking is, however, extremely and utterly dangerous. Humanity is just now already on the verge of committing a suicide just because we do not see how we will always be an integral part of the ecosystem of this little blue planet.
Of course, we seem to be the only species of animals that can consciously think of things like death. However, that does not mean that the we should be exempted from the never-ending cycle that keeps life evolving on this planet just because we can see it's existence in a way that other creatures do probably not see.
Fear of aging and death cannot ever be cured by just making them happen later; postponing these things will just make the fear last longer. This process could even make these fears worse than ever, if false hopes are raised at some point.
Most of all I still think that Epicurus got it right when he wrote:
"Death is nothing to us; for that which has been dissolved into it's elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensation is nothing to us."
- Epicurus (341–270 EAA)
(This piece was completely refurbished on 23th of February, 201e)