Overcoming Death: Can We Become Immortal Through Science?

By Richard Young | Posted May 22, 2023

What does an ancient Babylonian text have in common with a recently released graphic novel by Marvel Comics—and with an ongoing research project by Silicon Valley behemoth Google?

All deal with the same issue: the quest for immortality.

Let’s face it: Even in our earliest years, we have a hard time facing the stark, cold reality of death—especially our own. We hate and fear death as almost nothing else; most of the time, we do anything and everything not to dwell on it. But when we do, we try to soften it: “Death is just part of life,” we say to try to make ourselves feel better.

But that cliche is, well, dead wrong.

Death isn’t part of life. It is the opposite—the undoing of life, the negation of life—the one inevitable that can make our lives feel as meaningless as a skunk squashed on the side of a road. Even the most cursory survey of secularists writing on the meaning of life reveals a recurring, if not dominant, theme: the hated fact that they and everyone they know will sooner or later be stone-cold dead; every memory of everyone about everyone and everything will be lost forever.

French atheist Luc Ferry writes in his book A Brief History of Thought (Learning to Live) that the foundation of the human philosophical quest for life’s meaning and purpose comes down to dealing with one issue: “This combination of the fact of mortality with our awareness of mortality contains all the questions of philosophy” (p. 13., Kindle Edition).

For Ferry and others, the premier philosophical question is how to live with the inevitability of death. Answer that and, voila, you have found the meaning of life.

However, for others, that’s no solution at all. They don’t want to learn to live with death. On the contrary, they want to beat death, to end death—and, thus, live forever.

And many believe that technology will, one day soon, allow them to do just that.

The Quest for Immortality

TIME magazine once ran a cover article titled “Can Google Solve Death?” The subhead read: “The search giant is launching a venture to extend the human life span. That would be crazy—if it weren’t Google.”

Goggle solving death? Most of us would be happy if it could just protect our data. Although that article was printed a decade ago, and Google, as far as we know, hasn’t yet solved the problem of death, that doesn’t mean that it and other tech entrepreneurs and visionaries have given up.

A more recent headline ran: “Immortality is attainable by 2030: Google scientist.” The article discusses the views of former Google engineer Ray Kurzweil, “the principal inventor of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind,” who predicts that by 2030, “we will reach a crucial milestone in our technological progress: immortality.” He bases his prediction on humanity’s exponential advancement in the scientific fields of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics, which he believes will culminate in the creation of what he calls “nanobots.”

Others are on the same quest. “The Immortality Project” was a three-year research initiative that looked at ways humans could achieve eternal life. A headline from CNBC reads, “Silicon Valley’s quest to live forever could benefit humanity as a whole—here’s why.” The article reveals numerous billionaires, many also from Silicon Valley, and their attempts to help humans “cheat death,” either by living a lot longer or even forever. 

A stop-gap measure between death and immortal life involves cryonics, which is freezing the body at death in hopes of reviving it when technology allows for the person to continue living. In some cases, they simply freeze the head with the idea that one day their complete brain wiring—called the connectome—can be scanned and uploaded on a computer, which would then contain that person’s consciousness. It would just be a matter of maintaining the hardware, which could be swapped out, in principle, forever. (So far, though, the only connectome that has been fully mapped is “the roundworm C. elegans, a one and a half millimeter organism.

In the 2014 movie Transcendence, with Johnny Depp, a scientist’s “consciousness” is uploaded to a computer. But for now, this farfetched idea—your consciousness existing on a computer—remains in the realm of science fiction.

The Promise of Eternal Life

“Forever” is coming for us all. And it is the prospect of eternity going on without us that can be terrifyingly hard to accept. From Enūma Eliš, a 4,000-year-old Babylonian text about King Gilgamesh’s quest for eternal life, to Marvel Comic’s new graphic novel Shang-Chi and the Quest for Immortality, humans have struggled with the question of mortality, with the inevitability of death, and what it all means for their lives.

Despite all the money these researchers are throwing into their projects, it wouldn’t be wise to put much hope that Silicon Valley will ever get close to beating death. But for those who know the gospel, who know what Jesus Christ did for us on Calvary, we don’t need these farfetched promises. Rather, He promises us that “the last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). What does this really mean? To learn more about the great hope that we can have in Jesus, even in the face of the death, read our fascinating study called “Are the Dead Really Dead?”

Richard Young
Richard Young is a writer for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.

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