[ExI] "Death gives meaning to life?"

Thomas thomas at thomasoliver.net
Tue Jun 10 23:05:56 UTC 2008

> From: Damien Broderick <thespike at satx.rr.com>
> Date: June 9, 2008 11:20:50 PM MST
> To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
> Subject: Re: [ExI] "death gives meaning to life"
> Reply-To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
> At 10:51 PM 6/9/2008 -0700, Lee wrote:
>> I also agree with you strongly that we really cannot
>> charge the author of this wicked phrase with claiming
>> that death gives the only meaning to life, or even
>> that death gives the primary meaning to life.
> No, in my experience the way the phrase is trotted out usually  
> means exactly that--as one can see from the ancillary claptrap. "If  
> there were no death, people would lose interest in everything, grow  
> terminally [!!] bored, drift into idle pleasure-seeking, stop  
> caring about each other, lose their righteous fear of God's  
> punishment," blah blah. It might be true, but we have no basis for  
> asserting it, except by analogy with brainless leeches who inherit  
> great wealth and ruin themselves; that has some force, but fails to  
> take account of other experiences with great wealth, such as Bill  
> Gates's, say.
> But it's also true that a suppressed premise generally goes along  
> the lines of "interfering with the divine plan for humans,"  
> something which is intrinsically, deontologically naughty but also  
> prudentially wrong since the true deep meaning of life is an  
> afterlife that can only be attained by dying. The meaning of a  
> pupa's existence is the butterfly imago. If that were true, and  
> demonstrably so, my attitude would be very different (as it was  
> when I was young and more gullible, poor pupa). But note: the  
> status of the saved supernatural imago is then purportedly  
> *immortal* (in the major faiths, anyway) and hence, one must  
> suppose, ex hypothesi eternally *meaningless*. Oh woe! Wouldn't it  
> rot your boots!
> Damien Broderick

Yes, metamorphosis serves as a poor analogy for death since it  
involves self generated change, a quality of life, not death.  I  
think the death anti-value gets used by predators to survive.  If one  
survives as a killer, then the meaning of life becomes linked to  
death.  It occurs to me that replication began as a device for  
accommodating death where the individual's indefinite survival seemed  
untenable.  Then, when cells began sticking together it became a  
device for growth and increased individual organism survival.

It seems to me that an extropian organism, interested in personal  
survival might do well to learn to fuel itself without resorting to  
death (predation).   Years ago ASU developed cell-like machines to  
photosynthesize ATP.  Then one could distance oneself from the  
society of predators who rely on death genes and death memes  
(sacrifice).  Humans seem to pose the biggest threat to humans and  

A clean, predator free environment might permit one to forego  
reproduction (the need for an "after life") and focus effort on auto  
evolution and life extension.  As I see it, the probability of death  
would fall.  The value of life would soar and its meaning would  
expand as one achieved ever greater beauty and happiness.  The  
increasingly remote possibility of death might remain providing the  
zero reference point for the immense value and deep meaning of life.

-- Thomas Oliver
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