The End of the Age

Good morning. This is working theology.

Scientists at UCLA might have discovered a way to reverse aging, which provoked an interesting discussion with a friend. Here’s a summary of the article.

Volunteers who were given a cocktail of drugs for a year actually “aged backwards”, losing an average of 2.5 years from their biological ages, according to the new study. The research showed that the marks on their genomes that represent their “epigenetic clock”, as well as their immune systems, actually improved despite the passing of time.

After reading the article, my friend asked, “How does that sit with you from a theological perspective?”

I replied that I can see it as a positive thing. Death is evil, so alleviating that for people is good. You could argue that it also gives people more time to see the goodness of God, so it’s an act of grace that God has given to scientists to offer people.

What happens, though, when people start living to be 120, 150, or 200 years old? For starters, the pension and insurance industries would be completely altered. We’ve already seen the evidence of this play out with pensions because of advances in modern medicine.

Just in the last few decades we’ve seen a decline in private industry employees participating in pension benefits, down over 15% since 1990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

My friend brought up the point that suicide rates might increase too—that people already want to end life early, so if you extend life by another hundred years they would be more inclined to die by suicide.

This may be true: Suicide rates are up 30% since 1999, according to the CDC.

With this in mind, our society must be more committed to helping its people find meaning if we’re going to be extending their lives. The “meaning” industry (i.e., religion and spirituality) would have to have an increase in funding and cultural support. This ought to be the case regardless of modern medicine, but it’s becoming increasingly important as the age draws on.

Thanks for reading.