A feature in the NYT today (“Imagining the Downside of Immortality,” by Stephen Cave) again reminded me: the cosmic models people hold entirely determine how far their thoughts can reach. The hypothesis the author examines? Suppose we conquered death somehow? Would it be a good or a bad thing? He thinks that physical problems (like overpopulation) could be overcome, but that the end result would be a psychological disaster. All human progress, aspiration, effort, and achievement (in his view) is motivated by the fear of death. That fear drives all of our behavior, consciously or unconsciously. He views all religious concepts of immortality as projections—efforts to cope with our fear. And he underlines that all of us, religious or not, seek immortality. The only difference is the modality of that search. It produces civilization, hope. False hope, to be sure. Cave’s underlying hard conviction, of course, appears to be the sophisticated orthodoxy of materialism. To be sure, if all that is worthwhile is just illusion pursued in dread of death, a rather pathetic picture of life is unveiled. But at least it’s grimly realistic. My questioning all of this Cave would no doubt assign to my own naïve dread of disappearance.
Amusing to read such articles in a world where breaking all the rules makes you a visionary and thinking outside the box is highly touted.