Economics and Politics

Some men see things as they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were and ask why not?  Robert F. Kennedy

With money comes power over the world. Men are freed from drudgery, women from exploitation. Businesses can be started, homes built, communities formed, religions practiced, educations pursued.  P.J. O’Rourke

Cutting edge science and medicine are fantastically expensive.  Creating the wealth necessary to finance the pursuit of physical immortality is the topic of this chapter.  The ultimate resource is the human mind. Julian Simon

We believe the best strategy for increasing wealth is liberating billions of human minds trapped in socialist, statist, despotic and corrupt regimes.  All that is required to tap this immense resource is the rule of law, economic freedom, property rights and limited government.

Peter Singer believes it is not charity to relieve suffering and death for lack of food, shelter or medical care.  It is our moral duty.  That moral duty transcends property rights and is limited only by negative moral consequences that outweigh further intervention.  Singer suggests giving 25 – 40% GNP to the destitute and suffering of this world.  Pete would fail Econ 101, nevertheless, his moral position seems unassailable.  We do have an obligation to intervene.  

Men and women blessed with economic freedom, property rights, limited government and the rule of law, prosper.  Prosperous men and women are less prone to war and can afford provisions against natural disasters.  Paraphrasing Singer, our moral duty to relieve destitution and suffering transcends sovereignty rights of those regimes that cannot or will not provide their countrymen the critical  elements for prosperity.

Today, the ascendant nations and corporations are masters not of land and material resources but of ideas and technologies . . . The global network of telecommunications can carry more valuable goods than all the world’s supertankers.  Wealth comes not to the rulers of slave labor but to the liberators of human creativity, not to the conquerors of land but to the emancipators of mind. George Gilder

There is historical precedent for using military and economic power to advance a worthy cause on a global scale.  The British Empire of the 19th century employed its economic and military power to eliminate slavery worldwide.

Organized opposition to slavery arose in the eighteenth-century England among the Quakers, who began to require their members to free their own slaves.  Evangelical members of the Anglican church transformed anti-slavery sentiment into a political movement, with William Wilberforce and Henry Thornton leading the parliamentary battle for the end of the slave trade.  Beaten badly in Parliament at the outset, the anti-slavery forces continued the fight until Parliament finally voted overwhelmingly to ban the international slave trade in 1808.  By then, ever-widening opposition to slavery led to petitions from all parts of the country arriving in London with hundreds of thousands of signatures form people of the humblest ranks to those of titled nobility.  This was unprecedented in an era before mass communications or mass transportation.  

Banning slavery throughout the British Empire was more than simply a matter of enacting laws.  Since slaves were legally property, their owners had to be compensated for their emancipation, and that cost the British government £20 million – a huge sum in the nineteenth century, when the pound sterling was of far greater value than today. Even this was not the full cost of the anti-slavery crusade, however, for the British attack on slavery was not limited to banning it for Britons, but sought to stop other nations from engaging in the slave trade as well. Through political influence, economic bribes, and military threats, Britain was able to gain the acquiescence of many – though not all – nations  to its boarding of their vessels on the high seas to search for slaves. Where slaves were found, they were freed and the vessels confiscated.  Thomas Sowell

Indians are successful everywhere but India. What if, as Winston Churchill preferred, India was not granted its independence August 15, 1947?  Instead, imagine that India had submitted to the same government of benign neglect as Hong Kong the last fifty years? The odds are that India would rival the United States in economic prowess today.   For graphic evidence see the ABC News Special Is America Number One? B which compares the United States, India and Hong Kong.  Would Africa be worse off today if the colonial powers remained?  It is difficult to imagine otherwise. Engaging the United States Marines to re-colonize India in order to govern them properly is fantasy. American’s will not risk their lives to make poor Indians rich in spite of themselves.  Nevertheless, there maybe measures short of that within our power.

Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils – no, nor the human race, as I believe — and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day. Plato

This philosophy of government worked magnificently in Hong Kong over the last fifty years. Unfortunately, for ambitious men driven to create history on the world stage, Hong Kong is an unattractive example. The philosopher-king in Hong Kong’s case was a nation (Great Britain) not a man. The policy of Great Britain was benign neglect, the rule of law, and low taxes. Hardly a great opportunity to make history for would-be Alexanders. This is exactly the model of governance that would advance our cause most rapidly. Its practicality is another thing in the year 2001.  Plato’s notion that wise men  would govern best has an intuitively logical appeal – but has not worked well in practice as Plato learned in Syracuse. Aristotle adds this observation:  

Now in all states there are three elements: one class is very rich, another very poor, and a third in the mean. It is admitted that moderation and the mean are the best, and therefore it will clearly be best to possess the gifts of fortune in moderation; for in that condition of life men are most ready to follow rational principle. But he who greatly excels in beauty, strength, birth, or wealth, or on the other hand who is very poor, or very weak, or very much disgraced, finds it difficult to follow rational principle. . . . Again the middle class is the least likely to shrink from rule, or to be over-ambitious for it. Aristotle

Almost by definition, wealthy nations have a large middle class. Ethical considerations compel successful states to intervene on behalf of the humanity trapped in desperate, unnecessary poverty. Our self interests are served as well: their inevitable rags to riches tale under an enlightened regime, can mean only that we are richer as a result. Their goods and services will necessarily provide us with a higher standard of living, their wealth will be used purchasing goods and services from us.  In that general expansion of global prosperity will be the additional wealth needed to finance our pursuit of immortality. One of the history lessons of 20th Century is that free market economies outperform centrally planned economies.  The keys to general prosperity are economic freedom, property rights, limited government and the rule of law.  While West Germany outperformed East Germany, The United States outperformed West Germany.  If you compared growth rates of per capita income, Hong Kong outperformed the U.S. It does not appear that a ‘middle ground’ between central planning and benign neglect is, in anyway advantageous. Axiomatic of limited government is a system of checks and balances afforded by competing powers, i.e., executive vs. legislative vs. judicial, federal vs. state vs. local, party vs. party, and interest group vs. interest group.  Out of this mêlée the public interest is served. In the United States (and elsewhere) there is no substantive group representing taxpayers to offset the powerful interests that drive the growth of government. Consequently the government’s share of the economy slowly but surely ratchets upward year after year.  

The Western legal tradition was rooted in legal pluralism. Medieval Europe had a complex network of political authorities, legal systems and overlapping jurisdictions. There existed customary law, the king’s law, feudal law, municipal law, canon law, and so forth.  The Western World owes its liberty to the conflict among these competing authorities. Neither the spiritual nor the temporal authorities had libertarian intentions, but the ongoing competition between these institutions gradually led to the development of intermediate institutions (such as municipalities), as Pope and Prince conceded various liberties and immunities in an effort to win allies. And it was these intermediate institutions, not governments, which were largely responsible for the freedom that is unique to the Western World. A remarkable system of competing governments also existed in America for many decades prior to the War for Independence. The colonials came to regard their provincial governments as independent and autonomous institutions that were necessary to check British power. And the British government, in its turn, restrained the power of the colonial assemblies. This situation resulted in a paralysis of power (since neither government could do much) and in a great deal of personal liberty. Adapted from:

One remarkable idea for addressing the issues of limited government, poverty and personal freedom is outlined below. It replaces income and payroll taxes with a variable sales tax. Billionaires pay a smaller percentage of their ‘increase in net wealth’ for a given year than the rest of us. A sales tax – a product-specific sales tax – would force anyone who lives like a billionaire to pay taxes accordingly. The scheme outlined herein addresses financial privacy issues concerns by eliminating the need for government knowledge of our wealth and incomes. Last but not least, a sales tax creates a new powerful interest group opposed to taxes: business. It becomes an industry’s financial interest to reduce taxes on their goods and services. That kind of interest will finance political coffers accordingly.

George Will:

Sixty years ago, on July 10, 1941, half the polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half. Of 1,600 Jews, about a dozen survived. Why did the murderers do it? . . . Political philosophies that celebrate atomistic individualism need to be re-read in the light cast by the crematoria of Auschwitz. The Holocaust, writes Gross, is “a foundational event of modern sensibility, forever afterward to be an essential consideration in reflections about the human condition.” George Will

Over the Judiciary department, the Constitution [has] deprived [the people] of their control. … The original error [was in] establishing a judiciary independent of the nation, and which, from the citadel of the law, can turn its guns on those they were meant to defend, and control and fashion their proceedings to its own will. … The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch. … It is a misnomer to call a government republican in which a branch of the supreme power [the judiciary] is independent of the nation. … It has long, however, been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression…that the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal Judiciary; working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped. – Thomas Jefferson

Sales Tax replacing payroll and income taxes

God and Religion

If one consults reason alone, one cannot assent to the articles of our faith. Luther

The theory of probabilities is at bottom nothing but common sense reduced to calculation; it enables us to appreciate with exactitude that which reasonable minds feel with a sort of instinct for which ofttimes they are unable to account. It is remarkable that a science which began with the consideration of games of chance should have become the most important object of human knowledge. The most important questions of life are, for the most part, really only problems of probability. Pierre Simon LaPlace

Faith: The spiritual apprehension of divine truths, or of realities beyond the reach of sensible experience or logical proof…Often viewed as the exercise of a special faculty in the soul of man, or as the result of supernatural illumination.  Oxford English Dictionary

What is faith but a kind of betting or speculation after all? It should be: “I bet my Redeemer liveth.”  Samuel Butler

Whatever there is of God and goodness in the universe, it must work itself out and express itself through us. We cannot stand aside and let God do it.  Albert Einstein

Perhaps not every fundamental question is vulnerable to the power of human reason. Certainly the questions of greatest personal interest have, thus far, been immune to the genius among us. Impatience with the powers of reason motivates the search for alternatives. Perhaps we are working hard, but not smart – digging with a shovel, blind to the bulldozer with keys in the ignition nearby.  Is RevelationD a bulldozer to the Truth? . . . Probably not. Revelation changes the nature of the work, without reducing the amount of work. Analogously, despairing of choosing stocks and bonds directly, Jane Doe decides to invest in mutual funds. Instead of picking stocks, she now must choose a mutual fund manager. She has changed the nature of the work not necessarily the amount. (Personal preference determines the choice of work). Likewise despairing of Reason alone, we might wish to avail ourselves of Revelation – but which one(s) do we choose?

Is ReasonD alone inadequate for the task of answering fundamental questions? Reason is not inadequate to the task; it is too slow for our purpose. Given sufficient time, fundamental questions may be vulnerable to the relentless assault of human reason. The real issue is time – we need more of it – if we want the answers in this life.

So how do we proceed? Let’s begin by reviewing the questions, speculating upon some possibilities and, with some reticence, assigning some probabilities. To review, the questions are:

  1. What is Ultimate-Reality?
  2. Is there an after-life?
  3. Does God exist?
  4. Is religion God’s agency on earth?

Concerning the order of the Questions: they are, indeed, ranked in order of importance. We make the case as follows. Consider the Question Is there an after-life? At least two possibilities come to mind:

  1. If there is no after-life, then God’s existence does not matter. God’s existence becomes a question of academic interest only.
  1. While it is improbable, it is conceivable that God does not exist AND there is an after-life.

These two possibilities clarify our primary interest in God’s existence. Our preference for His existence is contingent upon His providing us with an after-life (a good one). Therefore, the existence of an after-life is more important than the existence of God. In fact, our preferences are subject to change depending upon our circumstances – indeed if we were immortal and invulnerable would our preference really be that an Almighty God exist?

Why is the Question What is Ultimate-Reality? more important than the Question Does God exist? Because Ultimate-Reality answers the question of God’s existence – and answers the question of an after-life, the nature and quality of that after-life – and more. Consider these possibilities:

If God exists AND provides an after-life, then God may either

Provide us a tolerable to wonderful after-life regardless of our behavior here, OR

Provide a miserable afterlife, regardless of our behavior here, OR

Provide an after-life, the quality of which is contingent upon our behavior here.

If God exists AND does NOT provide us an after-life, then we have three more possibilities:

His disinterest is benign, that is, if we provide for our own immortality, He will not interfere.  However, the governing physical laws preclude the option for physical immortality.

His disinterest is benign, AND the governing physical laws permit the option of physical immortality.

His disinterest is malign, that is, He will intervene to crush our puny efforts to pursue our own divinity, regardless of the governing physical laws.

If God does not exist, we are presented with two possibilities:

Ultimate-Reality, by virtue of its governing physical laws, precludes the option of physical immortality.

Ultimate-Reality, by virtue of its governing laws, permits the option of physical immortality.

We are on our own if there is no after-life (with or without a God).  The governing laws of Ultimate-Reality are more informative than simply the answer to the Question ‘Does God exist?’

If God exists AND provides an afterlife contingent upon our behavior here, then the “Question Is Religion God’s agency on Earth?” becomes relevant.  There are two possibilities, Yes or No.

If Yes, Then,

Which religion?

Will any religion do?

One of several?

What are the consequences of an incorrect choice?

If No.  God appreciates our attempts to establish His Kingdom on Earth, but the quality of our after-life is not contingent upon our association with any religion.  Presumably religions provide (among other things) a complete compendium of criteria necessary to achieve favorable judgment. But, if religion is not God’s agency, how do we determine His criteria for judgment? It is not intuitively, or otherwise, obvious (He has yet to answer our letters or accept invitations to tea).

Another possibility is that, although our final disposition is contingent upon our behavior, the behavior that interests Him may be unrelated to ‘good’ behavior as we understand it.

Judgment is the raison d’être of all established western religions. Without Judgment, no criteria for Judgment are needed. Without criteria, no expert on criteria is needed. Before justice can be administered, a judgment is ideally determined by an authority apprized of all the facts. Justice on Earth is subject to time and economic constraints. Presumably, divine judgment is not. Earthly justice is not obliged to unravel the Gordian knot of genetic, environmental and mitigating circumstances. Is God obliged to judge us?

The idea of judgment is an indispensable concept in the here and now, but God may not feel obliged to settle scores in the hereafter. God’s concerns may be beyond our conception. Albert Einstein wrote in The New York Times in 1930:

I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty.  Albert Einstein

The well-spring of religious authority is Revelation – revealed Truth. God reveals his wishes (and criteria for judgment) by inspiring authors of holy books, communicating through prophets, and in one case, appearing in person as Jesus Christ. Sorting Revelation from delusion and hallucination is a Herculean task of scholarship and exegesis subject to the same limits of time bedeviling Reason. One man’s revelation is another’s heresy. Even when men agree that a prophecy is authentic, they can disagree on interpretation. Intelligent, absolutely sincere men and women disagree. Disagreements so substantial, act as a centrifugal force dispersing religions across continents and history. Instead of convergence towards the Truth, religions diverge, split, and have sects like rabbits. Even within a particular religion there is disagreement, both among the living and across time with their ancestors. Where is divine inspiration?

The common denominator among Western religions is (1) God exists, and (2) we will be judged. There is no common agreement about the criteria for Judgment. If our earthly existence is a “test of faith” not of “good works,” then there may be no reasonable method of determining religious truth. Consider: the less reason there is to believe something is true, the more faith required to sustain that belief. If God’s existence can be conclusively demonstrated, no faith would be required. So, if God’s existence could be demonstrated, there would be no test of faith — and thus, no Judgment.

Religions, generally, assume that Humankind is not essential to God’s existence. This need not be so. Little survives for long that is superfluous in this Darwinian reality. If so, it is possible that God’s existence is dependent upon our success: Tipler speculates that God may not exist now but will in the future:

Some major late twentieth century theologians have understood this, most importantly the German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg: ‘Jesus proclaimed the rule of God as a reality belonging to the future. This is the coming Kingdom. . . . In a restricted but important sense, God does not yet exist. Since his rule and being are inseparable, God’s being is still in the process of coming to be.’ . . . When God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, Moses asked Him for His Name. According to the King James translation of the Bible, God replied ‘I AM THAT I AM . . . say unto the children of Israel that I AM hath sent me [Moses] unto you’ (Exodus 3:14). However in the original Hebrew God’s reply was ‘Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.’ In Hebrew, the word Ehyeh is the future tense of the word haya, which means ‘to be.’ That is, God’s reply to Moses should be translated ‘I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE. . .The children of Israel that I WILL BE sent me to you.  Frank Tipler

This obviates the problem of evil.

The theory that an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God exists and provides us an after-life contingent upon His judgment creates as many problems as it solves:

The Problem of Judgment. (See below)

The Problem (or paradox) of Evil in a universe created by an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God.

The Problem of Freewill. If we possess freewill, can it be free when the choices are heaven or hell?

The Problem of Hell & Justice. Can infinite punishment for finite crimes be just?

The Problem of Faith vs. Reason. If your belief constitutes certainty, that is if you assign a probability of 100% to your belief – is it faith? Do you get more or less credit in the hereafter for possessing the naïveté of a child OR for struggling relentlessly to submit your intellect to faith?

Problem of Judgment. Humans are created imperfect. Are “judgment scores” adjusted for frequency and degrees of temptation, testosterone levels, intelligence, sanity, environment, genetic constitution, stress, etc? If Hitler’s nascent army had been crushed in the Sudetenland, there would have been no War, no holocaust. To what extent are the leaders of foreign countries guilty of sins of omission? Or, diffusing responsibility further, the electorate that would not have supported such an aggressive move at the time? Are we jointly and severally liable? What of good intentions gone awry? Sometimes well-intentioned ideas spawn rules and systems that unpredictably dovetail into disastrous regimes where only the most ruthless survive. Communism spawned Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Good and evil are not infrequently inextricable – they are edges of the same sword. More often than not there are no solutions to problems – there are only trade-offs. If all this appears unnecessarily complex and contrived, well so is any explanation for Original Sin, the Prodigal Son, or the Book of Job.

While God may be able to unravel this Gordian complexity to assign credit and blame – we cannot. Complex, incomprehensible rules, in and of themselves, may be inherently unfair.

One problem with a religious worldview is aesthetic — analogous to problems with a geocentric Ptolemaic universe. Ptolemaic astronomy created more problems than it solved. To make observation fit theory required the hypothetical promulgation of ever more numerous circular orbits within circular orbits. The theory became ever more convoluted and unaesthetic. What makes a particular theory persuasive as well as appealing is that it solves more problems than it creates. The theory must possess an aesthetic elegance, clarity and beauty.

. . . aesthetic criteria are enormously valuable in forming our judgments. . . A beautiful idea has a much greater chance of being a correct idea than an ugly one. At least that has been my own experience, and similar sentiments have been expressed by others. Roger Penrose

What can we say about God? By definition a god, or God is: A superhuman person who is worshipped as having power over nature and the fortunes of mankind; a deity.  A Being such as is understood by the proper name God; a sole Divine Creator and Ruler of the Universe. In the specific Christian and monotheistic sense. The One object of supreme adoration; the Creator and Ruler of the Universe.D

Perhaps, even the least of gods are immortal and invulnerable to Death. Their existence is not contingent upon anyone or anything, except perhaps God himself. They are truly free beings. According to tradition, God is something more. He has the power to create universes, transcends time and place, is omniscient, and omnipotent. He is the alpha-God.

What, if any, are the limitations of God? What does it mean to be omnipotent? Did God create mathematics? Could He have created a Reality with an entirely different mathematics? A Reality where 2 + 2 = 5, and there is no zero? Or a Reality where math itself does not exist? Augustine refers to the perfect number 6,E chosen by God as the number of days used for Creation. Alternatively, is God himself subject to the limitations of arithmetic? Economics? Could God have created a non-hierarchal Reality? A Reality where there are only winners and no losers? No natural selection? Could God have created a better Reality than this one, or are his choices subject to the same economic constraints as ours? Or, can He both have His cake and eat too? If so, presumably it is within His power to create a Reality without Evil AND with Freewill. Perhaps God has a collection of Realities, but this one clearly propagates Evil efficiently.

Is God subservient to His own ethical code? Or is the statement nonsense? Does there exist Absolute-Right-And-Wrong, independent of God? Presumably God could violate this Code, but because He is ‘good’ He never did or will. Is God subject to a different Code of Ethics than we? If so, which is more proscriptive, His or ours? More prescriptive?

What do you really believe?

What is the probability that God exists?

Assuming God exists, what is the probability there is life after death?

Assuming God exists and there is an afterlife, what is the probability that religion is God’s agency on Earth?

If the odds are 50% for each of those questions, then the odds are only 12.5% that God exists AND there is an afterlife AND religion is God’s agency on Earth. (50% x 50% x 50%).

You may object – OK: How about 99.7% for each bet? That leaves a mere 1% risk. Compare that 1% risk to other less important risks we ordinarily insure against. Such as house and automobile insurance. The probability of serious loss to either is less than 1%. We contend that the difference between beliefs and action represents a rational (albeit subconscious) effort to cover the risks in adopting either worldview. That is, Actions belie beliefs. The flesh is not weak; it is uncertain.  Consciously or unconsciously, we are covering the odds as we individually perceive them. If Whitney assigns a high probability (say greater than 90%) to her religious beliefs, she should logically be a saint. Given the economics of infinite bliss in exchange for a mere seventy years of restraint, it would be easy to be good – and pathologic to be otherwise.

What risks do we incur pursuing immortality for ourselves and loved ones? If our life is spent acquiring wisdom, perfecting character, and advancing God’s work, will we be punished for an eternity? If God is offended He will let us know. He surprised a few people a century ago, by not intervening to proscribe the use of ether to meliorate the pain of child birth. (see Genesis )

Perhaps He has a few more surprises in store.

Live long enough, and you may see faith vindicated.  Many of the apparent problems with religious faith may, as Hugh Ross [E] suggests, be comprehensible paradoxes fully consistent with Ultimate Reality.

So, why not buy some time?

The Pursuit of Physical Immortality

The defining political conflict of the 21st century will be the battle over life and death. On one side stand the partisans of mortality, who counsel humanity to quietly accept our morbid fate and go gentle into that good night. On the other is the party of life, who rage against the dying of the light and yearn to extend the enjoyment of healthy life to as many as possible for as long as possible.  Ronald Bailey

Energy and persistence conquer all things.  Benjamin Franklin

We find ourselves in a bewildering world.  We want to make sense of what we see around us and to ask: what is the nature of the universe? What is our place in it and where did it and we come from? Why is it the way it is?   Stephen Hawking

Dear Reader,

Like Stephen Hawking, we would like to make sense of things, but our questions differ slightly from his, namely:

(1) What is Ultimate Reality?

(2) Is there an after-life?

(3) Does God exist?

(4) Is Religion God’s agency on Earth?

The answers would be useful.  Armed with answers, we might intelligently devise a strategy for living life.  You may have already settled these questions to your satisfaction. If not to your satisfaction, at least you may have made peace with them. Perhaps a fragile peace of compromise you would prefer not upset.  We believe that despite the widely disparate beliefs of mankind, a collective strategy is not only possible, but reasonable and desirable. A strategy that works whether you are atheist, agnostic or religious.

For two millennia, two worldviews have competed in the intellectual marketplace of ideas: Faith and Reason. Neither worldview is entirely satisfactory. Faith promises an after-life with meaning and purpose, but at the price of subjugating reason to prophets privy to divine revelation. Reason leaves us free [thinkers?], but at the cost of our lives, meaning and purpose. Tolstoy summarized it thus:

My position was terrible. I knew I could find nothing along the path of reasonable knowledge except a denial of life . . . By faith it appears that in order to understand the meaning of life I must renounce my reason, the very thing for which alone a meaning is required.  Leo Tolstoy

Is there an alternative worldview?  One that incorporates meaning & purpose, and does not require us to renounce faith or reason. What is the best strategy for living life given our ambiguous knowledge of Ultimate-Reality and short lifespan?  Given the slow progress of acquiring fundamental knowledge relative to human lifespan, why not aggressively pursue physical immortality? Why not buy the time necessary to live to know Ultimate-Reality? The science of anti-aging medicine, although embryonic, exists. The option for extended life, if not physical immortality, provides theists more time to perfect themselves and serve God in this life. Agnostics may procrastinate further pending better knowledge, and atheists have nothing to lose. Only misanthropes will be aghast. This strategy aligns the interests of atheists, agnostics, and theists, and directs them to a common end. That would be an epochal paradigm shift in our lifetimes.

Consider this proposition: If science and medicine will ever advance to substantially extend human life-span, then Mankind should aggressively direct its resources toward that end, beginning now.

First, will science ever advance to substantially extend human life-span? The better bet by far is yes. But then, ever, could be eons, which would provide little or no motivation for us here and now.  Erik Drexler, a pioneer of nanotechnology, suggests that the technology may be available in thirty years:

Imagine someone who is now thirty years old. In another thirty years, biotechnology will have advanced greatly, yet that thirty year old will only be sixty. Statistical tables which assume no advances in medicine say that a thirty year old U.S. citizen can now expect to live almost fifty more years-that is, well into the 2030s. Fairly routine advances (of sorts demonstrated in animals) seem likely to add years, perhaps decades, to life by 2030. The mere beginnings of cell repair technology might extend life by several decades. In short, the medicine of 2010, 2020, and 2030 seems likely to extend our thirty-year-old’s life into the 2040s and 2050s. By then, if not before, medical advances may permit rejuvenation. Thus, those under thirty (and perhaps substantially older) can look forward -at least tentatively-to medicine’s overtaking their aging process and delivering them safely to an era of cell repair, vigor, and indefinite lifespan.  Eric K. Drexler

In chapter 4, Science & Medicine, we will make the case that people living today have a reasonable chance of living eons.

Second, are we violating some fundamental tenet of existence, i.e., that to be human means, ipso facto, we must die? Gerald Gruman addresses this issue of death is part of the natural cycle of life:

Every proponent of prolongevity has had to contend with the fact that within most systems of philosophy, science and religion, there have been tendencies to accept old age and death as inevitable occurrences on this earth, and to try to provide satisfying explanations for the existence of such harsh realities. These explanations engendered the belief that senescence and death are necessary and advantageous to the individual and to the human race, consequently, that it would be unwise to attempt to lengthen life. From the beginning, prolongevitism had to struggle against the paralyzing influence of this conformist and passivist attitude. Gerald J. Gruman

Further,

One of the puzzling characteristics of apologism is the strong emotion attached to this line of thought. For some reason, once a person decides that prolongevity is not possible, he proceeds to the (unnecessary) further assumption that prolongevity is not desirable. It is noteworthy how seldom the simple statement appears that, as of the present time, old age and death cannot be overcome; nearly always, the remark is found in a context of apologism. A statement of fact is made the core of a meshwork of ethical and esthetic judgments which obscure the original decision. Some psychologists and psychiatrists find that death is not of much concern to “normal”, “well-adjusted” individuals. However, it also seems that the basic mental crisis concerning death occurs about age five, and that somehow it disappears from consciousness between the ages of nine and twelve, probably because our culture applies strong pressures against expression of anger or fear about death. Of some pertinence is the concept of ‘cognitive dissonance,’ the psychological finding that, after making an uncomfortable decision at odds with his inner strivings, a person will tend subconsciously to refashion his beliefs to support the ‘reasonableness’ of his decision.  Gerald J. Gruman

Aesop’s fox, unable to reach the grapes, consoled himself by concluding they were sour anyway.

If indefinite life-span were possible, would its aggressive pursuit be unwise? There is only one way to find out. Do it. What could possibly be more purposive or meaningful than dedicating our lives to the pursuit of ultimate wisdom? — To divine the meaning and purpose of our existence, or god-like, create ex nihilo meaning and purpose for ourselves. We simply cannot do this without substantial additional lifetime.

What other strategy is there if, we prefer life to death, and a greater certainty for our worldview? This preference is no trivial issue. Substantial social and personal pathology derives from the nihilism that pervades western and other advanced civilizations.

It is in the light of our beliefs about the ultimate nature of reality that we formulate our conceptions of right and wrong; and it is in light of our conceptions of right and wrong that we frame our conduct, not only in relations of private life and economics. So far from being irrelevant, our metaphysical beliefs are the final determining factor in all our actions.  Aldous Huxley

What follows is an overview; a sketch of a strategy. This strategy is necessarily a collective strategy, requiring enormous economies of scale, an option not viable individually. The strategy is detailed in Chapter 6 Strategy & Conclusion. We aggressively pursue physical immortality by,

  1. Investing heavily in the appropriate medical sciences and infra-structure.
  2. Increasing dramatically the wealth available for such investment by:

2a. Deploying our military and economic assets to tap the ultimate resource  human minds, billions of human minds trapped in socialist, statist, totalitarian, oligarchic and/or otherwise corrupt regimes. All that is required to tap that immense resource is the rule of law, economic freedom and limited governments.

2b. Investing heavily in the development of fusion power. Ultimately, cheap and unlimited energy, will fuel unlimited wealth.

  1.          Investing heavily in the terra-formation of Mars. This permits diversification of our long term investments, and acts as a safety valve to offset the inevitable sclerosis of political institutions. Opportunities for cheap land and adventure (one of life’s necessities) in new worlds will rejuvenate Mother Earth.

Man is the only sentient being aware of the inevitability of his own Death. That knowledge is the background cosmic radiation of Man’s existence. If there is no afterlife, the inevitable senescence, disability and death of our friends, family, and ultimately ourselves, in an absurd theater of no observable meaning or purpose, makes life less than a zero sum game. Unless there is more, mankind’s existence is necessarily tragic. Humans are an intermediate life-form: we can degenerate over time into animals who require no meaning or purpose, or evolve to master the universe, find God or become one, find our purpose or create one. Nihilism, Evil, Despair and Death are but names for the same monster. It is time to declare war upon this ancient enemy.

The collective strategy proposed is optimistic, as reasonable as any, aligns fundamental interests, provides direction and a future. It harnesses our innate aggressiveness in the service of life and humanity, an aggressiveness that historically made mankind the dominant species on Earth. When you ‘grade’ this strategy, grade it on a curve. Compare it with existing alternatives. The optimistic alternatives require more faith and, sometimes, suspension of reason. The pessimistic alternatives require you to console yourself to inevitable extinction, never to know Ultimate Reality. This strategy does not require you to abandon faith or reason.

If baulked by the difficult, try the impossible. The Greek word for this urge is pothos; it recurs throughout Alexander’s life as a ‘longing for things not yet within reach, for the unknown, far distant, un-attained’, and it is so used of no other person in the ancient world. Pothos, in this sense, is an individual characteristic peculiar to Alexander.  Peter Green  

The Holy Grail of life is immortality. Pothos is the only way there. This website is a rough draft of an e-book, titled Elysian Enterprise, the pursuit of immortality. It will be subject to relentless revision until a critical mass of interest accumulates. Your assistance along with others connected to a world wide web can make that happen as editors, contributors, researchers, promoters, and partisans. If you discover an error, possess additional supporting (or contradictory) evidence please contact us.

Philosophy and Reason

But for all this terror [20th century with its 100-million-killed], there is one thing that is worse: the thought that all the suffering and all the pleasure of life have no meaning. And that is the sad corollary of our vanishing religious life. . . It [Science] has now brought us to the very edge of a world stripped of all innate moral values, without giving us anything to take its place.  While humanism and existential philosophies may be formulated in the universities, the ignorant thug in the street has already reached the conclusion that awaits the ponderous thinker: You have nothing else but what you get.  When you’re dead, you’re dead.   Evan Harris

Feeling does not succeed in converting consolation into truth, nor does reason succeed in converting truth into consolation. Miguel De Unamuno

Awe. The sight of a waterfall inspired the chimps to perform a spontaneous dance-like display. Goodall believes that such expressions of awe may resemble the emotions that led early humans to religion. Jane Goodall

Many skeptics enjoy skewering the faithful on their lance of reason, while subscribing to a scientific model of reality that leaves a great deal unexplained. Many of these same skeptics have faith that with time everything will ultimately be explained. In this chapter we make the case that we are nowhere close to understanding Ultimate Reality, therefore the pursuit of immortality is a reasonable strategy.

Richard Dawkins, scientist and author of The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design, perhaps motivated to prevent an epidemic of suicide among his readers, wrote Unweaving the Rainbow, Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder prefaced by:

A foreign publisher of my first book confessed that he could not sleep for three nights after reading it, so troubled was he by what he saw as its cold, bleak message. Others have asked me how I can bear to get up in the mornings. A teacher from a distant country wrote to me reproachfully that a pupil had come to him in tears after reading the same book, because it had persuaded her that life was empty and purposeless. He advised her not to show the book to any of her friends, for fear of contaminating them with the same nihilistic pessimism. Similar accusations of barren desolation, of promoting an arid and joyless message, are frequently flung at science in general, and it is easy for science to play up to them . . .

Which he proceeds to do by quoting Peter Atkins:

We are the children of chaos, and the deep structure of change is decay. At root, there is only corruption, and the unstemmable tide of chaos. Gone is purpose; all that is left is direction. This is the bleakness we have to accept as we peer deeply and dispassionately into the heart of the Universe.

Dawkins blesses this nihilistic cathartic as a very proper purging of saccharine false purpose, but then, this purveyor of brutal logic, pitches a change-of-pace:

. . . such laudable tough-mindedness in the debunking of cosmic sentimentality must not be confused with a loss of personal hope. Presumably there is indeed no purpose in the ultimate fate of the cosmos, but do any of us really tie our life=s hopes to the ultimate fate of the cosmos anyway? Of course we don’t; not if we are sane. Our lives are ruled by all sorts of closer, warmer, human ambitions and perceptions. To accuse science of robbing life of the warmth that makes it worth living is preposterously mistaken, so diametrically opposite to my own feelings and those of most working scientists, I am almost driven to the despair of which I am suspected. But in this book I shall try a more positive response, appealing to the sense of wonder in science because it is so sad to think what these complainers and nay Sayers are missing. . . The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable.  It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver.  It is truly one of the things that makes life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is finite.

We disagree with this eminent scientist.  Throughout history, the mass of men lived lives of quiet desperation, for many life has been “mean, brutish and short.”  That vast sum of labor, exploitation and drudgery, punctuated by wars, pestilence, terror and death is worth the feeling of awed wonder?  This may be adequate sustenance for a brilliant scientist and successful author living in the twentieth century but it was inadequate for Isaac Newton in the seventeenth. Quoting Dawkins again:

Such laudable tough-mindedness in the debunking of cosmic sentimentality must not be confused with a loss of personal hope.

With all due respect, Dawkin’s logic fails here.  Those who choose Faith, are logical in one fundamental respect, they know that if this is all there is, if everything we hold dear is inevitably destined for extinction, then there is no meaning or purpose for our existence.  To believe otherwise is pretense or cognitive dissonance.

Some more Reason, courtesy of Steven Weinberg:

At the other end of the spectrum are the opponents of reductionism who are appalled by what they feel to be the bleakness of modern science.  To whatever extent they and their world can be reduced to a matter of particles or fields and their interactions, they feel diminished by that knowledge . . . I would not try to answer these critics with a pep talk about the beauties of modern science.  The reductionist worldview is chilling and impersonal.  It has to be accepted as it is, not because we like it, but because that is the way the world works.  Steven Weinberg

No pretense there. Unless some fundamental tenet of belief changes, Reason will never replace Faith, for reasons Dawkins can, ironically appreciate: natural selection.  Those sustained on Dawkin’s feeling of awed wonder are not as fecund as those sustained on Faith inspired by awe.

Read this by Bertrand Russell.  This is the consolation he derives from reason:

Such, in outline [a world in which God is malevolent], but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man=s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins – all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul=s habitation henceforth be safely built.  Bertrand Russell

Read more of Steven Weinberg with awed wonder that anyone might be persuaded to abandon her faith in God:

It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes [of the universe], but that we are somehow built in from the beginning. . . It is very hard to realize that [the entire Earth] is just a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe. It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless. Steven Weinberg

Believe it or not, it gets worse, there is no self:  

I think modern neuroscience makes it clear that the self cannot be what it appears to be. We may feel as though we have a special little me inside, who has sensations and consciousness, who lives my life, and makes my decisions.  Yet, this does not fit with what we know about the brain. . . . It may feel as though my consciousness starts the actions this body performs, but as Libet’s experiments showed, conscious awareness takes about half a second to build up, far too long for it to initiate reactions to a fast changing world. And the brain is constantly being changed by everything that happens to it, so that I am not the same as I was ten years, or even a few moments, ago. . . consciousness is a >benign user illusion. So rather than being a permanent, persisting entity, the self may be more like a story about a self that does not really exist . . . I believe these ideas have implications for the way we live.  As society becomes more complex, and memes [D] spread faster and farther, so our selves become more complicated. The unhappiness, desperation and psychological ill-health of many modern people may reflect the fact that increasing numbers of memes are using our poor over-stretched brains to construct a false self for their own propagation.  Perhaps the user illusion is not so benign after all.  Some would even say that belief in a permanent self is the cause of all human suffering of fear, jealousy, hatred and unkindness. . . . If this memetic analysis is correct, the choices you make are not made by an inner self who has free will, but are just the consequence of the replicators playing out their competition in a particular environment.  In the process they create the illusion of a self who is in control . . . Dawkins ends The Selfish Gene with his famous claim that: We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.  Yet, if we take his idea of memes seriously, and push it to its logical conclusion, we find that there is no one left to rebel.   Susan Blakemore

What if a majority of us really believed this? (For more nihilism see Appendix N, our collection of nihilistic quotations by the rich and famous). Implicit in these nihilistic assessments of Ultimate-Reality is that they are invulnerable to serious modification in the future.  Compare this recent quotation with the last two, older quotes.

The problems [of determinism] are more urgent now because there is the possibility that we may find a complete unified theory in as little as twenty years. Stephen Hawking

Perhaps but, in the late 1920’s Max Born told a group of scientists visiting Gottengen that “physics as we know it, will be over in six months.”   Stephen Hawking

The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their being supplemented in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.   Albert Michaelson

While Isaac Newton nursed at his mother’s breast, Baltasar Gracian (1601-1658) opined,

We are at the tail end of the centuries.  Back in the Golden Age, they invented; later, added; and now all is repetition.  All things have advanced; there is nothing left to do but choose.  

M-theory, a candidate for The Theory of Everything, is the speculative unification of five or six different superstring theories.  If successful, M-theory will be the final common denominator of all physical laws. M-theory does not explain consciousness, nor does Loop Quantum Gravity. M-theory, (or whatever becomes the ultimate Theory of Everything), may itself be a subset of a larger set of laws governing consciousness.  Understanding consciousness may explain why.

Consciousness.  What is its substrate?  Stimulate the right pigment in particular cone cells of your retina with 7 x 1010 Hz photons and you will perceive the color blue.  What would happen if the gene for blue-sensitive pigment in those cone cells was “turned off,” and the gene responsible for pigment sensitive to red light turned on.  Would we perceive red with those cones, or blue?  The answer is not immediately obvious.  If blue-sensitive retinal cells are wired to brain apparatus configured to interpret signals from those cells as blue, you would expect the mind to perceive blue when stimulated with red light.  However, there is an interesting experiment that hints at other possibilities:  When a human subject is fitted with head gear that inverts his visual fields, (such that up appears down, down – up, right appears left and left B right), over several days, the brain inverts the image to give the mind a correct interpretation of the world.  When the head gear is removed, visual perception is upside down and backwards again for a day. This suggests that the brain is more than a passive processor.  

If you suffered a stroke limited to the amygdala of your brain, you will no longer be capable of experiencing fear.  Not only that, but you will have difficulty comprehending and recognizing fear in others. (see Joseph LeDoux) If this is a general principle, then we cannot comprehend or imagine a particular qualia without the appropriate sensory-motor-cortical apparatus.  Then, it should not be controversial to assert that an entire world may exist beyond our comprehension.

It is passé to believe among philosophers today to believe as David Chalmers:

I have resisted mind-body dualism for a long time, but I have come to the point where I accept it, not just as the most tenable view but as a satisfying view in its own right. It is possible that I am confused, or that there is a new and radical possibility I have overlooked; but I can comfortably say that I think dualism is very likely true.  I have also raised the possibility of a kind of panpsychism.  Like mind-body dualism, this is initially counterintuitive, but the counterintuitiveness disappears with time.  I am unsure whether the view is true or false, but it is at least intellectually appealing, and on reflection it is not too crazy to be respectable.   David Chalmers

The truth is, we are nowhere close to explaining Ultimate Reality.  We do not know.  Nor are we likely to know any time soon.  So, how do we proceed?  Is there a strategy that satisfies the need for Truth & Wisdom,  meaning & purpose?  The unquenchable thirst for life?  A strategy that does not require we abandon faith or reason?

The placebo effect. The power of belief. Padre Pio, a Capuchin friar, lived most of his adult life with wounds on his hands, feet and chest – the stigmata of a crucified Jesus Christ.  Wounds that never became infected and never healed. The evidence (see Ian Wilson and Charles Mortimer Carty) suggests that Padre Pio believed absolutely.  There was no cognitive dissonance, no subconscious subjugation of Reason to self-delusion.  For  Padre Pio there was no leap of faith. His Catholic worldview was certainty.  There is no scientific explanation for the phenomenon of stigmata. Science is disposed to ignore or dismiss the phenomenon, the religious to attribute them to supernatural causes.  There is something going on here. Padre Pio was obsessed with the fear of sin. He may have been deluded but he never knowingly lied or misled.  With that in mind, anecdotes of bilocation involving Padre Pio tantalize our interest. Consider this interview in Stigmata:

Sanguinetti: Padre Pio, when God sends a saint, for instance like St. Anthony to another place by bilocation, is that person aware of it?

Padre Pio: Yes. One moment he is here and the next moment he is where God wants him.

Sanguinetti: But is he really in two places at once?

Padre Pio: Yes.

Sanguinetti: But how is this possible?

Padre Pio: By prolongation of the personality.

Discriminating between truth and self-delusion here is a herculean task. Nevertheless, this is no ordinary mortal. He did bleed from his hands and feet for fifty years.  He did not lie or deliberately mislead.  Studying the extraordinary often sheds light upon the ordinary.  Our consciousness may be a frail embryonic form compared with the substance that may be possible.  The power of belief represented by Padre Pio and detailed in the books listed below is a real phenomenon.

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

The Placebo Effect by Anne Harrington

The Healing Power of Faith: Science Explores Medicine’s Last Great Frontier. Harold George Koenig

Love, Medicine & Miracles by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.

There is Power in Belief by Lester Brown.

There is something there, obscured by a heavy background radiation of mysticism, superstition and delusion.  Why should our mental attitude effect the result sometimes dramatically?  What is this power of will, free will1?

The desire for a certain kind of truth here brings about that special truths existence; and so it is in innumerable cases of other sorts.  Who gains promotions, boons, appointments, but the man in whose life they are seen to play the part of live hypotheses, who discounts them, sacrifices other things for their sake before they have come, and takes risks for them in advance?  His faith acts on the powers above him as a claim, and creates its own verification . . . Wherever a desired result is achieved by the cooperation of many independent persons, its existence as a fact is a pure consequence of the precursive faith in one another of those immediately concerned.  A government, an army, a commercial system, a ship, a college, an athletic team, all exist on this condition, without which not only is nothing is achieved, but nothing is attempted.  A whole train of passengers (individually brave enough) will be looted be a few highway men, simply because the latter can count on one another, while each passenger fears that if he makes a movement of resistance, he will be shot before any one else backs him up.  If we believed that the whole car full would rise at once with us, we should each severally rise, and train-robbing would never be attempted. There are, then, cases where a fact cannot come at all unless a preliminary faith exists in its coming. And where faith in a fact can help create the fact, that would be an insane logic which should say that faith running ahead of scientific evidence is the >lowest kind of immorality= into which a thinking being can fall.  Yet such is the logic by which our scientific absolutists pretend to regulate our lives! . . . In truths dependent on our personal action, then, faith based upon desire is certainly a lawful and possibly an indispensable thing.  William James  

Why not harness this power in the pursuit of life?  If God made us in his image, why would He expect otherwise?  If God is not, why not pursue life?

The Laws of Physics are not laws.  They are mathematical models constructed to predict the behavior of objects in this universe over a range of possibilities.  Those models are refined and extended to predict ever wider terrain with each generation.  But they are nevertheless models.  The M-theory may well be the theory of everything, everything but consciousness.  Perhaps consciousness is some inherent property for which no further explanation is possible.  However, it is no less probable that the >Laws of Physics= are but a subset of a larger set of laws governing consciousness.

The object of Philosophy is Strategy.  What should our strategy be, if there is no life after death, no God, and no prospect of knowing Ultimate-Reality in this lifetime?  With the extinction of dinosaurs some ecological niches opened up that the mammals filled.  If there is no God, there is an ecological niche to fill.  There is no particular reason we cannot fill it given sufficient time.

Given that we are endowed with limited intellects and time why not buy more time?  With time we might acquire more intelligence.  With time and sheer force of numbers we may find the answers.

So, how do we proceed?  Is there a strategy that satisfies the need for Truth & Wisdom,  meaning and purpose?  The unquenchable thirst for life?  A strategy that does not require we abandon faith or reason?

. . . each thinker and doer must take a chance on the one conception that strikes him as most likely true, or right, or just. That is the tragic in history B everybody (or nearly) is sincere, pursues a legitimate end, a worthy cause; not everybody is right, but in the right, as in a good stage play, and few live to see the denouement.  Such is the permanent spectacle of the world and condition of our thought, for >what umpire can there be between us but the future?  In other words, we are all fated to be a priori teleologists, whether we like it or not. William James

Let’s live to see the denouement.

Science and Medicine

. . . and knowledge, as Lord Bacon observes, being power, the human powers will, in fact, be enlarged; nature, including both its materials, and its laws, will be more at our command; men will make their situation in this world abundantly more easy and comfortable; they will probably prolong their existence in it.  Joseph Priestley

The rapid progress true science now makes, occasions my regretting that I was born so soon.  It is impossible to imagine the height to which may be carried , in a thousand years, the power of man over matter.  We may perhaps learn to deprive large masses of their gravity, and give them absolute levity, for the sake of easy transport.  Agriculture may diminish its labor and double its produce; all diseases may by sure means be prevented or cured, not excepting old age, and lives lengthened at pleasure even beyond the antediluvian standard.  Benjamin Franklin

Genes define the limits of individual and specie lifespan.  We can accelerate aging with a variety of bad habits and risky behavior.  If we intend to live beyond antediluvian standards, genetic engineering is ultimately required. Caleb Finch prefaced Longevity, Senescence and the Genome with:

A major conclusion is that mechanisms by which genes influence lifespan and the particulars of senescence can be identified in some organisms. Many examples show an important role of alternative gene expression or of changes in gene activity as underlying causes of differences in lifespans between related organisms.  Other examples indicate changes in the genome itself, for which the best examples are somaticD cell chromosomal abnormalities.  However, these mechanisms in most other species remain obscure. From the vantage of our present scant knowledge, genomic mechanisms in senescence appear much more complex and phyletically diverse than genetic mechanisms in development.  So far no new biological mechanisms are yet required to account for senescence beyond those which operate during development or in pathogenesis during the early adult years.  Moreover there is an impressive number of examples of molecular and cell functions that remain unimpaired during long lifespans.  The conclusion from developmental biology that most somatic cells of young adults are genetically totipotent may provisionally be extended to later ages.  If so, many aspects of senescence should be strongly modifiable by interventions at the level of gene expression.  The proposal is supported by modifications of senescence through manipulations of the external or internal (physiological) environments.   Caleb Finch

The science relevant to our pursuit of immortality is summarized below.

Telomerase In order for cells to divide, the large DNA molecules that constitute genes (that linked together are chromosomes) must be duplicated (replicated). This service is performed by an enzyme called DNA Polymerase.  For technical reasons, DNA Polymerase cannot replicate the short segment of DNA on which it begins.  That means that each duplicated chromosome is a segment shorter than its immediate predecessor.  

At some point this progressive segmental loss of length interferes with cell function and further cell division – aka, senescence.  Telomerase functions to add length to chromosomes in egg cells (and unfortunately, cancer cells) reconstituting the normal length of individual chromosomes.  Sometime during embryonic development, production of telomerase is ‘turned off.’  Organisms with short telomeres live shorter lives on average than those with long telomeres; that is true among human beings as well.  (In the presence of telomerase even short telomeres remain functional, so length is not identical to function.)

Telomerase is the basis of Michael Fossel’s book Reversing Human Aging :

This book is a promise and a warning.  It is a promise of a time when we will live longer and much healthier lives – of one hundred, two hundred, possibly five hundred years. . . We will be able to prevent, even reverse, aging within two decades. At the same time we will cure most of the diseases that now frighten and destroy us.  Michael Fossel

“Transfection” of cells with a retrovirus containing the human telomerase reverse transcriptase h(TERT) maintains telomere length and effectively gives normal cells an unlimited life span.  One obvious strategy is to ‘turn on’ the production of telomerase periodically to reconstitute chromosome length; then, after an appropriate period, turn telomerase off.  Geron Corporation [A] is pursuing telomerase with that end in mind. See Human Ageing and Telomeres by Calvin B. Harley, chief Science Officer for Geron.

Mitochondria

Mitochondria are intracellular organelles where fatty acids and sugars are processed to generate ATP. ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) is the energy currency of all living cells, driving the chemistry of life.  With age, mitochondria become progressively less efficient at generating ATP (perhaps accounting for the declining sense of “energy” with age).   The free radical theory of aging posits that aging is a consequence of cumulative damage to cellular machinery, especially mitochondria, caused by free radicals.

Free radicalsD are generated in the process of metabolizing sugars and fats to generate ATP in mitochondria (called oxidative phosphorylation).  Living cells are not defenseless against this damage, they produce a variety of enzymesN that neutralize free radicals.  The concentration of protective enzymes in a given species is directly proportional to their respective lifespans, which inspires the search for natural anti-oxidants.  Severe calorie-restricted diets are known to add 30 – 50% to the lifespan of mice. In an ongoing study, Rhesus monkeys on calorie-restricted (CR) diets are dying at half the rate of controls. This is a universal phenomenon, right down to yeast. The effect has been correlated with oxygen free radicals. However, yeast grown in an abundance of glucose, incompletely metabolize it to alcohol using one metabolic pathway. In relative scarcity, glucose is completely metabolized to CO2 in a second pathway. When scientistsN manipulate yeast and force them to use the second metabolic pathway despite an abundance of glucose, the effect on longevity was the same as CR. The implications are clear, we may not need to starve to live longer. Further, this “CR effect” in yeast is dependent upon SIR2p, “a protein that ups the number of times a yeast cell divides. It confers this perseverance by its ability to ‘silence’ chromosomal regions, a process that shuts off genes and prevents cellular machinery from cutting and pasting DNA together in new and often troublesome ways.”

Speculating further: the mother is the source of mitochondria in a newborn infant. However. the infant’s mitochondria are substantially more efficient than the mother’s.  Were maternal mitochondria rejuvenated during oogenesis?D   If so, could this rejuvenation process be commandeered to rejuvenate mitochondria in the somatic cells of an 75 year old man?  Germane to this question is the disposable soma theoryB that hypothesizes a bioeconomic decision-making model  wherein resources (i.e., energy) are allocated between germ cells and somatic cells, in response to evolutionary pressure.  The more resources dedicated to maintaining somatic cells, the longer the organism lives.  However, accidents, disease, predators, etc., coupled with the general principle of diminishing returns, makes a large investment in immortal somatic cells impractical, given that the reproductive process requires major investment of resources.  

Germ cell lines are immortal, so mechanisms must exist to prevent aging.  If there is a process of mitochondrial rejuvenation during oogenesis, the disposable soma theory suggests it may be difficult to enlist in the service of somatic cells.

Nanotechnology

The somatic mutation theory of aging proposes that aging is a consequence of cumulative damage of DNA by environmental and endogenous toxins, causing progressive dysfunction or non-function of genes – essentially an expansion of the free-radical theory to include exogenous toxins.  How would this cumulative damage be remedied?  The answer may be cell repair machines proposed by Erik Drexler:

Cell repair machines will be comparable in size to bacteria and viruses, but their more compact parts will allow them to be more complex. they will travel through tissue as white blood cells do, and enter cells as viruses do – or they could open and close cell membranes with a surgeons care. Inside a cell, a repair machine will first size up the situation by examining the cell’s contents and activity, and then take action. Early cell repair machines will be highly specialized, able to recognize and correct only a single type of molecular disorder, such as an enzyme deficiency or a form of DNA damage. Later machines (but not much later, with advanced technical AI systems doing the design work) will be programmed with more general abilities.  K. Erik Drexler

That was 1986. Currently, the only nano-manufacturing is done by ribosomes – there are no substantial nano-machines.  How long will it take to develop cell repair nano-technology?  According to Drexler, 17 years – 2018AD.  Other estimates vary from 2010 to 2050.B

Reversible Biostasis: Cryobiology

If the technology will not arrive in time to save us, what then?  Cryobiology may offer an alternative.  Polar marine fish have anti-freeze proteins.  Caterpillars of the gall moth have body fluids that are 40 percent glycerol in midwinter, representing 19 percent of the total body weight of the animal that allows the insects to supercool to -38 degrees C.

Certain species of frogs survive repetitive freezing and thawing during the winter. In frogs, glucose functions as a cryoprotectant.   With freezing there is rapid synthesis of glucose from glycogen, generating serum glucose levels of 4500 mg/dl (45 times normal human levels),

Identifying glucose as the mystery cryoprotectant was only the first step.  In the years that followed, Dr. Storey has also isolated more than 20 genes out of the 10,000 in frog chromosomes that are turned on when the animal starts to freeze.  It appears those genes shut down the frog’s metabolism and pack its cells with sugar.  The idea is to get those same genes working in human organs.   

“Here is the joy of biochemistry.  The basic structure and function of all cells of all vertebrates are the same.  You have the same type enzymes and proteins as a frog and a fish.  You have genes of similar sequence and you have the same control of genes over all.  All you have to do is learn what genes and enzymes to regulate, then learn how to turn them on or off.  All we have to do is learn to twiddle them,” Dr. Storey said.  He has a jumpy, manic energy, explaining that his field is called cryobiology, which differs from cryonics, the practice of preserving the whole body, head, or brain of persons recently declared legally dead, in the hope of revival at some time in the future. Cryonics is on the scientific fringe, and not largely accepted by the research community.  Cryobiology, on the other hand, gets significant government funding and provides insight into how living cells work. Anne McIlroy

One might speculate whether cryonics would be “on the scientific fringe, and not largely accepted by the research community” if researchers received “significant government funding.”   It appears that successful reversible biostasis would be dependent upon mastering a process of gene insertions into somatic cells calibrated to deliver a cascade of biochemical events controlled by drugs, such that human beings may be preserved for later technologies that promise them health and longevity.

Genetic Engineering What is the state of the art for genetic engineering?

Insertion of genes by viral vectors, liposomes.  Where does genetic material inserted into cells end up? Is it incorporated into a specific chromosome based upon its DNA sequence, randomly inserted into chromosomes, or catabolized?

Does there exist the ability to excise targeted genes? If genes could be inserted in targeted cells, turned on, off or otherwise manipulated with drugs, and later deleted, you might accomplish much that was intended for Drexler’s cell repair germ.

Xenotransplantation

Stem Cells & Tissue Engineering

Glycosylation of proteins

Human cells are bathed in serum that contains 1mg/cc of glucose. Over time cells and structural proteins are “glazed” with this sugar.  This process entails cross-linking of proteins by glucose, which is thought to reduce elasticity and function.  It is thought to account, in part, for hypertension and plays a role in the accelerated senescence of various organ systems in diabetics.  There is a research drug (ALT-711), currently being studied in a clinical trial for therapy of hypertension.   The drug is an analog of thiamine, that breaks the glucose cross-links.  The fact that it reduces blood pressure over time, suggests that it is restoring the native elasticity of arteries.

A.G.E. Crosslink Breakers

Advanced Glycosylation End-products (A.G.E.s) are permanent glucose structures that form when glucose binds to the surface of proteins. Many of these proteins, including structural proteins such as collagen and elastin, play an integral role in the maintenance of cardiovascular elasticity function and vascular wall integrity. Diabetic individuals form excessive amounts of A.G.E.s earlier in life than non-diabetic individuals. This process can impair the normal function of organs that depend on flexibility for normal function, such as blood vessels and cardiac muscle. The formation of A.G.E. Crosslinks leads to increased stiffness of tissues, abnormal protein accumulation and organ dysfunction, which together cause many of the complications of aging and diabetes. Loss of flexibility of the vasculature leads to isolated systolic hypertension, which creates increased workload for the heart and may lead to myocardial hypertrophy and heart failure.

AlagebriumN is the first in the A.G.E. Crosslink Breaker class that has been shown to reverse or “break” A.G.E. crosslinking, thereby restoring more normal function to organs and tissues that have lost flexibility. Pharmacologic intervention with Alagebrium1 directly targets the biochemical pathway leading to the stiffness of the cardiovascular system. Its mechanism of action is new and novel, and is unrelated to that of any pharmaceutical agent either currently prescribed or in clinical development. Importantly, Alagebrium does not disrupt the natural enzymatic glycosylation sites or peptide bonds that are responsible for maintaining the normal integrity of the collagen chain. Thus, normal structure and function is preserved while abnormal crosslinking is reduced.

Pace of change

Nixon launched the “War on Cancer” in the early ’70s, yet we still use toxic drugs that kill tumors only slightly faster than the patient.  AIDS has been an epidemic for 20 years, yet no vaccine.  Fusion power plants have yet to materialize despite the promise of 50 years ago, . . . and so on. Prediction is fraught with hazard “especially about the future.”  Consider this quote from 1997:

Perhaps the most pivotal and controversial of all the divisions of the NIH is the Human Genome Project (officially the National Center for Human Genome Research), one of the most ambitious projects in medical history, a $3 billion crash program to locate all the genes within the human body by 2005.   Michio Kaku

Three years later in Barron’s,B  

An international consortium, the Human Genome Project, and Celera Genomics Group announced jointly they have each roughly deciphered the genetic code that houses the blueprint for the human organism. Francis Collins, director of the consortium, called the map a first glimpse of the instruction book previously known only to God.

Some things do happen ahead of schedule.

Apoptosis

Signal transduction

Neurobiology

Cell Stress Biology

Cytokines, Growth Factors and Hormones

Immune Cell Function Tissue Engineering>

Vaccine Production

Gene Therapy

Cytogenetics

High Throughput Screening

Drug Discovery & Combinatorial Chemistry

Drug Delivery

PCR

Nucleic Acid Purification

Automated DNA Sequencing>

Recombinant Protein Expression and Purification

InVitro Transcription and Translation

Nucleic Acid Electrophoresis

Gene Expression

Nucleic Acid Labeling, Hybridization and Deletion

Cloning

Custom DNA Synthesis

Custom Peptide and Antisera Services

Strategy

When I consider the short extent of my life, swallowed up in eternity before and after, the small space that I fill or even see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces unknown to me and which know me not, I am terrified, and astonished to find myself here, not there. For there is no reason why it should be here, not there, why now rather than at another time. Who put me here? By whose order and design have this place and time been allotted to me? . . . The eternal silence of those infinite spaces strikes me with terror. Blaise Pascal

If you’re not playing a big enough game, you’ll screw up the game you’re playing just to give yourself something to do. John-Roger and Peter McWilliams

What a man can imagine or conceive in his mind he can accomplish. Impossibles are possible as thinking men make them so. Henry J. Kaiser

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable. Sydney J. Harris

The critical question for you and I is When?.  Once upon a time Mankind considered surgery and pain inseparable. Paracelsus first recommended ether for “painful illness” three centuries before it was finally used. There were many other missed opportunities since then. Ether required two separate demonstrations to the same eminent surgeon, who then had to proclaim loudly to the jeering, skeptical audience that “this is no hum-bug” before it was believed:

Why should the World have to wait so long for such an obvious blessing? There can be only one answer, strange as it may seem. Pain haunted man since his beginning; he accepted it as he accepted other manifestations of nature, with no spirit of revolt. Pain was the will of God, as inevitable as the closing in of night at the end of the day. Surely only a madman would rebel against the night?  Philip Smith

Substitute “Death” for “pain” in the quote above.  We are doomed if it takes three centuries to separate life from death.

Strategy: Collectively we aggressively pursue physical immortality by,

  1. Investing heavily in the appropriate medical sciences and infra-structure.
  2. Dramatically increase the wealth available for such investment:
  3. Deploying our military and economic assets to tap the ultimate resource – human minds; billions of human minds trapped in socialist, statist, totalitarian, oligarchic and/or otherwise corrupt regimes. All that is required to tap that immense resource is the rule of law, economic freedom and limited governments.
  4.  Investing heavily in the development of fusion power. Ultimately, cheap and unlimited energy, will fuel unlimited wealth.
  1. Invest heavily in the terra-formation of Mars. This permits diversification of our long term investments, and acts as a safety valve to offset the inevitable sclerosis of political institutions. Opportunities for cheap land and adventure (one of life’s necessities) in new worlds will rejuvenate Mother Earth.

Humans don’t always accept the seemingly irrational as impossible.  To be visionary is to see what others can’t yet see, and civilization could not have advanced to its present state without the willingness of some to pursue stubbornly what others see only as a will-o’-the-wisp.  Erich Harth

Nanotechnology

Government funding was increased from $270M to $497M for fiscal year 2001.  However only $36M is earmarked for the NIH up from $32M in 2000. These are trivial numbers.

[source: http://www.foresight.org/Updates/Update40/Update40.1.html#NNIFY2001]

See Nick Smith letter on file

See Nanomedicine : Basic Capabilities, Vol. 1 Robert A. Freitas,Jr

http://www.agingresearch.org/