What do various religions think about it?
That term, used primarily by bioethicists and medical researchers, is still surfacing in mainstream conversation—most people report that they haven’t heard it before—but that’s changing quickly. Radical life extension doesn’t usually conjure Itskovian avatars, but rather a body of slightly more intuitive (but still abstract) “treatments aimed at prolonging life.” The Pew project was undertaken because leading bioethicists foresee schismatic discussion around anti-aging research and treatments to become increasingly pointed in the not-distant future. Here we have the first large-scale breakdown of public perceptions.
I found this kind of interesting:
…people who do believe in an afterlife are actually more likely to favor radical life-extending therapies.
Which is a little counter-intuitive. Then there’s this:
Radically extending life “probably wouldn’t be a problem for most” Muslims, according to Aisha Musa, a professor of religion at Colgate University. According to Musa and others, Muslims believe Allah knows the exact life span of each person from birth to death, or what the Quran calls one’s “term appointed.”
“Since you can’t really violate God’s plan for you, life extension is alright because it’s part of God’s will,” Musa said.
According to Mohsen Kadivar, a Shia theologian currently teaching at Duke, many Shia ayatollahs would likely sanction life-extension therapies as long as their object was not to extend life indefinitely. “There is a difference between life extension and immortality,” Kadivar says, adding, “The first is acceptable and the second is not acceptable, according to Islam and the Quran.”
Yes, that is a crucial distinction. As I’ve noted before, I don’t know many (or perhaps even any) people who seek immortality in the community. We just want to live as long as we want to live.
One concern — natural resources depletion, and running out of room — would be eliminated by expansion off planet, of course, something not considered by those putting together the survey. It would be interesting to see if responses change if that’s pointed out.