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Immortality:
Could We Live Forever?


Humans are very long-lived animals. There are a few animals that live longer than humans - turtles, for example - but not many. For over two million years, however, the human lifespan was only about 20 to 30 years. In the last 100 years the human lifespan has greatly increased. Thanks to advances in medicine and health care, people living in developed countries now live an average of age of 60 to 70 years, slightly shorter for males, slightly longer for females.

There is no reason to believe, however, that there is an upward limit to human longevity. With future advances in medical technology the average human lifespan could be extended to 100 years - or longer. Some scientists have estimated that it may even be possible to extend the human lifespan to as much as 400 years!

People have always dreamed of the possibility of immortality - the ability to avoid death and live forever. In ancient Greece, the gods on Mount Olympus were called The Immortals. The Bible contains stories of legendary people who lived very long lives; Noah was over 100 years old when he built the Ark, and Metheuselah was said to have lived for 969 years. The Wandering Jew is a legendary man who was condemned to wander the world forever because he struck Christ during the Crucifixion In Christianity, a person's soul is immortal even if their body is not. In Buddhism every soul is immortal and lives many lives until it reaches Enlightenment. If God and His angels are immortal, so it must follow that Satan and his demons must be immortal as well. The recent movie Interview With the Vampire bases its appeal partly on the possibility of living forever.

Perhaps one day, through advances in genetic engineering, it will be possible to extend the human lifespan indefinitely - in effect, to live forever. If human beings could live forever, certainly the world would be a very different place.

But would we still be human?




Questions for Discussion


1. Have you ever wished for immortality?

2. Can you name any books or movies that deal with the subject of immortality? Are there any legends in Korean culture about immortality or immortal creatures?

3. Humans may never become immortal, but it is possible that in the future we may live extremely long lifespans. What are the social implications of extended lifespans?

4. People have never been able to become immortal, but it is possible to achieve a kind of immortality by doing something famous so that they are remembered long after they are dead. Can you name some people who achieved lasting fame long after their death?

5. After you pass away, how would you like people to remember you?