What is death?

Russell Turpin deafbox@hotmail.com
Tue, 28 Jan 2003 16:17:19 +0000

Pavan Kulkarni:
>What is death?...why do we die?..what is its purpose?..what happens after 
>one dies?...Is death good or bad?...Can someone give me a Scientific 
>explanation of all these questions.

Here's a start on the science. We die for the
same reason that beetles, dogs, and whales
die: because there is diminishing evolutionary
benefit and considerable evolutionary cost to
individual longevity. After we die, our
consciousness is gone, exactly as it was before
we were born. Our mental processes are a
result of a biological substrate, and when the
latter dies, the former disappears. There is no
"purpose" here. Science doesn't address
questions of good, bad, or fundamental purpose.
Asking for a scientific answer to these
questions betrays a misunderstanding of science.
Read Hume.

The hardest part isn't the science, but how to
deal with death emotionally and in the
stories of our own lives, how to cope with
loved ones dying, how to make plans given one's
own limited life expectancy, and how to think
about politics involving death, such as
waging war. A lot of people, faced with such
issues, will turn to fantasy, either religious
or futuristic. Biology is not easy, and
nanotechnology will progress in fits and starts
like every other technology. We are still
centuries away from *significantly* extending
maximum human lifespan. Given past discussions,
I suspect more FoRKers need to be more concerned
about getting their obesity under control, and
living to a normal old age still ambulatory and
in possession of their limbs and wits, than
about the possibility that nanotech will keep
them alive forever. The bad news is we are
still decades away from a pill that cures

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