People may resist longevity treatments, for themselves and/or for society, due to objections grounded in ideology and misinformed beliefs.
Ideological objections can be grouped into three categories according to their source:
Appeal to Nature
- Fear of the Unknown
A key tenet underlying religious opposition to human enhancement and radical life extension is the shared idea that humans are made “in God’s image.” Changing the basic nature of human beings can therefore pervert this image and violate religious doctrine.
To determine which medical interventions such doctrine does and does not sanction, some theologians distinguish between therapy and enhancement. A therapy, by responding to a disease or accident, restores a person’s godly image, whereas an enhancement perverts it.
Similarly, the use of biotechnology to enhance human vitality is often viewed as an unholy act of “playing God” and can be construed as an unacceptable influence on the way things are meant to be.
Religious objections may also appeal to the materials that comprise longevity treatments. For example, treatments that use aborted fetuses or animal gelatin material may be rejected because they violate tangential religious laws.
Appeal to Nature
Studies have shown that even among the non-religious there may exist a feeling that nature is “created.” Researchers suggest this is rooted, at least in part, in the human inclination toward psychological essentialism, a way of apprehending the world that entails ascribing certain, unobservable inherent characteristics to what we perceive: for example, the indeterminable idea that humanity has some essential “nature.” Such perceptions are instilled over long periods of time through evolved cognitive biases and cultural socialization.
One of humanity’s most deeply ingrained narratives is that contravening this nature may carry substantial unforeseen consequences is. Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge to gain awareness but were expelled from paradise. Icarus made wings to soar above the clouds but flew too close to the sun and lost his life. Dr. Frankenstein built a superhuman to improve humanity but created a monster. This enduring theme illuminates the misgivings many people have about longevity enhancement.
A common nature-based objection is that death is essential to life, and that by rejecting death longevity enhancements would compromise human identity and dignity. Calling to question the certitude of death, the objection goes, would adulterate human nature physically and psychologically. A sense persists that our emotions, too — our capacity to be happy, excited, and aspirational, to feel a sense of urgency, to cultivate loving relationships — will be rendered passionless if we end aging.
Fear of the Unknown
Ideological objections to longevity enhancement that are not grounded in religion or the sanctity of nature can all be tied to a fear of unknown consequences. These fears include:
A prolonged period of disability and a sense that the world will turn into a “global nursing home.”
The treatments may have unintended health consequences.
Overpopulation that drains natural and financial resources and causes high levels of poverty and hunger.
Society’s inability to adjust to new demands on key systems like retirement, the prison system, and international cooperation.
A stagnation of cultural and intellectual evolution.
Inequality and civil strife, which may take several forms:
An “enhanced” class that subjugates the “unenhanced” and potentially degenerates to political and social upheaval, with an undertone akin to eugenics.
Exacerbating rich versus poor: the rich have access to lifespan extension treatments, the poor do not, and sociopolitical divides become increasingly entrenched from one generation to the next.
Struggle for job opportunities between older and younger generations due to a “glut of the able”, that is, an unprecedented ballooning of able-bodied workers that may distort supply and demand in the labor market.
Abuses of power wherein informed consent from treatment recipients is not adequately obtained.